The sun shone brightly in the crystal blue sky. The trees seemed greener than usual. Birds and small animals were playing in the nearby woods as Gabrielle passed. Normally, the sights, sounds and smells of a beautiful day would lighten her spirits in the darkest of times, but not today.
Today was the first day of the end of Gabrielle's patience. She rounded the gentle curve in the road and came to the beginning of her parent's old farm. There was the old house, or what was left of it, resting on three of its four walls. One end of the house, the end where her childhood bedroom had been, was gone, collapsed into a pile of old, dried rubble. As she came further out of the woods onto the property, she noticed something strange. The chicken coop had been repaired and there were several of the birds in a newly built pen at the side of the old barn. The barn itself showed several places where old planks had been replaced. Even the doors, which had been hanging on broken hinges, now sat open, hanging on new hardware.
From within the old barn came a constant "whack, whock," of someone pounding with a hammer.
The scroll in her hand momentarily forgotten, Gabrielle moved to the open barn doors and peered in. The open space in the center of the building was filled with recently constructed benches and chairs. In the center of the space were three stands supporting a thick log about ten feet long. Her future husband stood at one end, wielding a large hammer as he struck first the top and then bottom extensions of a thick metal wedge. Each hit split the log a little further. Judging by the neatly stacked boards behind him, David had obviously been keeping himself very busy while Gabrielle made some of the arrangements for their upcoming wedding.
Gabriele stood in the doorway and watched her future husband working. She noticed that his denim pants were beginning to show the wear and tear of life in her time, and that the belt about his waist was tightened a few extra notches. His musculature was more defined and he had slimmed down slightly.
Behind him, also were a newly built workbench and several other smaller stands. Newly acquired woodworking tools hung from newlyconstructed racks where one of the stables used to be.
Gabrielle tried to quickly calculate the cost of the tools and material. It wasn't cheap.
David, in spite of his exertions, was smiling as he worked.
He paused and stepped over to a barrel of water and plunged his head in up to the neck. It came back out in a spray of water. He pulled is hair tie off and shook the water out of his hair vigorously.
Gabrielle had the sudden image of a big shaggy dog, just out of the wash basin. She laughed out loud as the water went flying.
David looked at her through his mop of hair and grinned.
"What are you laughing at?" he asked as he pulled his hair back again.
Gabrielle shook her head, smiling. "Nothing." She stepped into the barn and looked about at all the new accessories. In another stable, she found several tall tables and neatly stacked stools.
"You have been busy," she said, looking back at him. "What are these for?"
David heard a horse and cart coming in through the broken gate and he smiled.
"They're for him." He grabbed a shirt and wiped the sweat and water from his face as he strode out.
"Hey, Beltanus," he greeted. "Good morning."
"David," Gabrielle asked from behind him. "Where did you get the money for all this?"
David shrugged and continued out to meet the wagon.
Gabrielle watched him, mildly suspicious, then she noticed his black leather vest, hanging on another stool in front of the newly built workbench. She could see the faint outlines from the gold and silver pins that used to adorn his vest, but the pins were gone. Even the big gold and silver one that they had started a mock argument over, just a few months prior. She looked back out at her fiancé and smiled, shaking her head. There was a sudden twinge of regret in her heart. The pins and orniments that David had affixed to his vest had meant something to him. Yet another thing he had sacrificed in order to have a life with her. If only she could find a way to give something back?
David stepped up to the horse and patted its strong neck.
"Good morning, David." Beltanus, a middle aged tavern owner smiled cheerfully. "Just came by to see if the rest of my order was ready?"
David smiled. "Six tables and twenty four stools," he said. "Pull up and I'll help you get loaded.
Beltanus gratefully turned his wagon around and parked it in front of the open doors. He and David quickly loaded the tables and stools into the wagon. Then Beltanus handed David a small purse of coins.
David tossed the bag in his hand a few times and grasped the tavern owners forearm
"Pleasure doing business with you," he smiled. "Hope they work out for you."
"The other ones are, that's for sure. Usually I have to fix my furniture like clockwork every week. Your stuff is as good now as it was three weeks ago." He paused for a moment.
"Have you got time to build a couple of dining tables for me as well? I could sure use them. The old ones are getting pretty beat up."
David thought for a moment. "Well, I've got the wedding to plan for, and the house project. Can you hold off a couple of months?"
Beltanus nodded. "I think I can keep them for that long. You want the old tables in exchange, plus the fee?"
"That will work," David grinned. "I'll swing by when we get back from the honeymoon and get the dimensions from you."
"Perfect," Beltanus nodded, then he smiled and waved to Gabrielle. "Congratulations, young lady. You got yourself a fine, hard working young man here. Take care of him."
He cracked the reigns over the horse's shoulders, and the cart lurched off, heading back to town.
David came strolling back into the barn and tossed the money bag into a nearby barrel.
"Aren't you the entrepreneur," Gabrielle commented, looking about the barn at the other projects in progress.
David shrugged and reset the log and splitter before beginning his rhythmic hammering.
"What you got there?" David asked, indicating the scroll in Gabrielle's hand.
Her cheerful mood went down faster than a harpy with its wings clipped.
"I just got this from the Temple of Aphrodite in Athens," Gabriella moaned. "They apologized, but they said they accidentally double booked the temple for the time we wanted and there's no other times open for the rest of this year!"
David paused and looked at Gabrielle.
"Did they at least send back the deposit?" he asked, all business.
Gabrielle looked at him, completely disheartened. "Yes, but that's not the point."
David smiled and stepped over to her, wrapping his arms around her.
"Baby, it's okay." He said understandingly. "Look, we'll find someplace else. Maybe someplace closer to home?"
Gabrielle sighed. "I really had my heart set on Athens, David."
"I know you did," David replied. "But does it really matter where we do this, just so long as it happens?"
Gabrielle's mood didn't improve, but she shook her head. "I suppose not," she said dejectedly. "It's just –" she shrugged. "You wouldn't understand."
"I think I do," David smiled. He stroked her cheek, and then his eyes lit up.
"Hey," he said. "How's this for an idea! Lets have the ceremony here?"
Gabrielle looked up at him. "What? Here in the barn?"
"Why not?" David asked. He began walking around. "I could hire a couple of guys from town and we could clean and refurbish this place. Make it as grand as any temple in Athens?" He pointed up at the ceiling. "This old barn is built pretty sturdy. It wouldn't take much. Give me two weeks and I bet you'd agree with me?"
Gabrielle looked dubious. After all, this was where her father had kept the farm animals when she was growing up. Even without the animals still present, the memory of them, as well as the odor, still lingered on slightly.
"I don't know," she said doubtfully.
David's eyes were filled with a mischievous light and Gabrielle could see the wheels turning in his mind.
"You're plotting again," she said knowingly. "Aren't you." She folded her arms over her chest and stared at him sternly.
David went back to splitting the log.
"Me, never," he lied. Then he stopped and looked at her. She stood there, her hands on her hips now, head cocked to one side, giving him that dubious stare.
He tried to ignore it, he really did. And to his credit he was able to focus on splitting the log of a good half minute before he set the hammer back down and matched her gaze.
"Don't you have something to do?" he asked playfully. "Like check on the shipment of flowers and stuff?"
"They're already on the way," Gabrielle replied.
"To the temple that's been double booked?" David asked, his smile spreading as he saw Gabrielle's face change to frustrated anger again. She pulled one of her sais out and twirled it angrily; then, with a frustrated grunt she threw the weapon at the wall. It passed between the two boards and continued out into the yard. It was a one in a million throw, but the end result was a terrified squawk from the yard, and the scrabbling of panicked feet.
David's eyebrows rose and he stepped over to the door, looking out into the small pen beyond.
"Well," he said with a growing smile. "I feel like chicken tonight."
Gabrielle stepped next to him and looked down at the stricken bird for a moment. Her gaze did not lighten.
She turned away and stormed off back towards the road.
"This sucks," she muttered.
"Does that mean you'll consider the barn thing?" David asked cheerfully after her.
She waved a hand in his direction. "Whatever!"
David grinned like a banshee. "Sounds like "yes" to me."
He strode back into the barn and began surveying the ceiling. His confident grin melted as he inspected the structure visually. Though the timbers holding it together were more than large enough to support the building. They were old and would need some attention as he worked on the exterior.
"I can do this," he said, trying to boost his confidence. He continued to scan the rafters. "I can do this. God, I hope I can do this?"
He fretted for a few minutes, and then an idea began to percolate in his mind. His self assured grin returned and he rubbed his hands together.
"Oh, yeah," he said mischievously. "I can do this."
He went back into the barn singing an old Beatles tune.
"I'll get by with a little help from my friends…"