He looks at the half-constructed wooden house in a further corner of their small village, where trees grow tall and the grass expand like a green carpet. The house is made of pine, which grow in the forest northwest from their establishment. Luca gathered the materials himself, logging the trees and transporting the timber with a cart. His job as a bounty hunter for one of the noble houses in the Capital allows little time for Luca to work on this house. Despite starting a couple of months ago, the progress of this construction sure is a little slow. Not to mention he completely neglected the house and avoided coming here for two weeks, before, because seeing the house made his chest constrict and it was hard to breathe.
The frames for the would-be house have been established, with the flooring nearly finished, save for the terrace. Some parts of the walls are already built, but he will need to screw the wooden walls better. To the side of the building was a stack pine woods, sawed and sandpapered.
He inhales the fresh air, closing his eyes and tilting his head up. Sunlight at this early morning feels nice, warming his skin and giving him energy to start his day. Perfect weather for a day off. He walks over to the house and puts down his tool bag, opening it in search of hammer and nails. Today, he will make sure to finish building the walls, and maybe start putting on the roof.
“Are you still working on the house?”
Luca halts his steps on his way back, and turns to the right to meet the eyes of Mrs. Calley, a middle-aged woman who is the mother of his childhood friend. He smiles at her. “I am, I made a promise after all.”
To that, she gives him a melancholic smile. “I believe it would be a lovely house. Aria would surely be happy.”
He politely returns the smile. “I sure hope so.”
“You know what my dream house is like?” a rhetorical question, Luca noticed, as he was sure she would tell him anyway even if he said nope, I don’t. “A house made of wood, surrounded by greeneries and nature. It doesn’t even have to be big, but it would be nice if it had a lot of windows to let the sunlight in, and to look out at the scenery outside.”
Luca hummed his response, not bothering to open his eyes or move from his current position, laying on the grass under the big tree they had claimed as their spot.
“Hey, are you even listening to me?” she pinched his arm lightly. “Jeez.”
“Yeah, yeah, I am,” he replies lazily, opening one eye to look up at his companion. “What, you want me to build one for you?”
She beamed. “Would you?”
Luca snorted. “I’m a bounty hunter, not a carpenter.”
“But you’re good at woodworking! Not that it’s a surprise since your father had taught you ever since you were old enough to be holding a saw, an axe and a hammer,” her laughter ringed in his ear then.
He pushed himself up to a sitting position and adjusted himself to lean against the tree trunk next to her. “You do know I don’t work for free,” he smirked.
“Why of course,” she waved a hand. “How about—once the house is done, of course—I cook your every meal for the rest of your life?”
That, right there, was a hint so crystal clear Luca had to blink and wonder if he was hearing things. The subtle pink on Aria’s cheeks when he turned to look at her though, told him otherwise.
“Stop staring, would you?”she pushed his face away with a hand, and Luca couldn’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh—and he ruffled his childhood friend’s brown hair.
He comes to install the doors and windows today. There will be two windows on each side of the house, except for where the kitchen and diner area. There, he plans for a wide window extending along the wall. He’s spent more than half his savings to build and fill this house. It was a good thing he was given a mission with satisfying reward just a week ago.
After the doors and windows are in place, it is time to coat them with lacquer. He’s done the walls three days before. Luca works on the house until the sky starts to bleed as the sun is setting.
He comes out of the house, smelling of fresh lacquer. It feels good to be able to breathe fresh air again.
Standing a few meters away from the house, Luca silently admires his work. There is pride blooming in his chest. He never knew he could—and would—actually build a nice house. He makes sure the house will shelter from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. Sturdy enough to fight a strong wind and stand still. He imagines the house would smell of freshly baked breads or condiment from newly cooked soup, and a wistful smile adorned his face.
Tomorrow, he’ll move the furniture in.
He’s gathered some wildflowers today—whites and yellows and pinks—and arranged them in a small, slim vase. He holds it in front of him as he enters the house, now furnished and ready to be inhabited.
“So, I built your dream house,” he starts with a smile. He has practiced this line so many times before, although this isn’t how he had expected to tell her. “It may be small, but it has everything needed in a house, right? And a lot of windows, as requested.”
His smile turn somber then, as he looks into the bright green of Aria’s eyes, and says, “I really hope you like this house.”
He reaches out and places the flowers next to a portrait painting of Aria, framed in black.