By Sara Siegel

She is the yellow grass for me. The trees, too, low and drooping, brushing against the soft ground with their willowy branches. She is the fields, at all hours of the day. Bluish grey when the sun hasn't risen, but has cast its first light across the land. Golden yellow in the afternoons, the wheat blowing in the occasional forgiving breeze. Darkening red when the sun finally sets, and midnight blue when the stars take over.

Susannah is the sky for me, too. The clouds on stormy days; the moon, whether it's just a slim outline or proudly bears its silver light. The sunflowers, the lavender, the smell of milk, fresh from our cows; of eggs, freed finally from her hens. She's become the beach for me now, too. The ocean, long and low, vast and deep. Blue farther than our eyes could see. Stretching out longer than even the Fords' large fields. The sand — soft, rounded pebbles, sticking to our wet, bare feet. And the mountains, large and looming in the distance. Purpling on the edges, grey in the middle, and snow topped, quiet and white, at the tips.

I've known Susannah all my life, so I can't remember the moment we met, or the first time I interlocked my fingers with hers, or recognized her scent — sweet, like the ripening peaches — before catching a glimpse of her. I don't know what the sun looks like when it's not sloping down her straw-colored hair, by now, tenth grade, all the way down to her waist. I don't know what I look like even, without my arm through hers. We've been Ben and Susannah, from the moment we laid eyes on each other, our lives wound around each other like ivy.

When I think of family, I can't separate out hers from mine. As a child, I was not an uncommon sight in the James' doorway, muddy and wet, hopping on one leg before switching to the other, begging for Suse to come out and play in the fields. She was just as common a sight at my home, running past Hank or Rosaline, who my father had hired to help around the farm and house, until she stood in my bedroom, beaming, her hair matted in knots, holding out enclosed hands to me until I took her offering — a small and slimy toad — into my own.

I was lonely on the farm when I was young. I'd entertain myself by making up stories, some fantasies about dragons and princesses in far away lands, but mostly about the men and women in town. The schoolteachers, the doctor and his nurses, the three lawyers and the crew at the diner. I'd pretend that my father hired the revolving door of men and women for the fields and kitchen because he felt sorry for me, since I had no brothers or sisters. I'd tell myself he knew I was lonely, that he wanted to play with me — was dying to play with me — but couldn't break away from the fields, almost our only source of income.

He'd teach me how to milk the cows early in the morning, and through his stern and deep voice I'd imagine his love pouring out to me. I'd pretend he taught me so I could understand how he spent part of his days, pretend that he wanted to let me in on some generations-old family secret.

Some days, when I was old enough to milk the cows by myself — but he still came around the barn to make sure they were warm enough — he showed me how to squirt excess milk from their swollen udders directly into the mouths of the four or five waiting cats hanging around the barn. The cats would pop up, stretch open their mouths, and gracefully glide wherever we aimed the long sprays of warm milk. Mornings like that, I told myself, I couldn't be imagining his love.