The tall grass felt itchy against Eliza's bare legs as she eagerly reached for the numerous marigolds that seemed to surround her. This was the seven year old's favorite time of year: early summer when the marigolds blossomed for the first time along the country road. The dappled orange flowers spring gaily from along the edge of the neatly tilled farm field. Her father was a corn farmer but each spring he would plant marigolds along the border of his fields that ran adjacent to the dirt road. He knew how much she loved marigolds.
With great care, the little girl meticulously studied the marigolds before choosing which ones to pick. The bright orange ones with specks of red delighted her the most but Eliza was partial also to the pure yellow marigolds that seemed almost luminescent. Their brightness recalled the noontime sun whose intensity would only grow with summer's intensification.
Having chosen a handful of beauties, Eliza gracefully leapt over the tall grass in the ditch that separated the verdant farmland from the loose gravel road. Her sandaled feet landed nimbly on the dusty road, the hemline of her blue country dress swirling in a pleasing flutter around her slim legs.
Soon, she thought, school would be over for the year and she would be free to roam the countryside to her heart's content. Soon, the first corn harvest of the year would grace the dinner table. And then came her birthday, then the county fair, and then... As a farmer's daughter, Eliza was all too familiar with the cyclical passing of the seasons. Summer, she knew, was dispassionately ephemeral. But she didn't want to think about that now.
It was nearly suppertime so Eliza quickened her pace. The house and grain bin seemed close on the flat horizon but she knew it would still take thirty minutes of brisk walking to reach home. Even so, the little girl couldn't resist the sight of another fresh patch of marigolds. She hurdled the tall grass again and began picking more flowers.
She returned to the road several minutes later with her bounty. Eliza had two big handfuls of marigolds now and she delighted in sniffing deeply of the bouquet. The redolent scent filled her nostrils, making her smile with pleasure. She was still inhaling the sweetness when she heard the sound of an approaching vehicle behind her.
A dusty pickup truck pulled up alongside her, its sides adorned with countless pocks of rust. It came to a full stop. The passenger window rolled down. "Why hello there, Eliza," a man's voice boomed.
"Hello, Mr. Brown," Eliza said politely. Farmer Brown owned the fields opposite her father's. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," he replied, cocking back the brim of his cap. "I bet you'd like a ride home. It's near time for supper."
"Thank you, Mr. Brown," said Eliza. "but I'm almost there. I can walk."
"Nonsense," Farmer Brown scoffed. "You've still a half-mile to go. A long ways for those little legs of yours. Get in and I'll take you home." He opened the door for her and beckoned.
Slowly, Eliza climbed into the truck cab. The gray vinyl seat had been cooking in the hot sun all afternoon and Eliza winced as it burned her bare leg.
"Hot seat, eh?" Farmer Brown apologetically pursed his chapped lips. "Why don't you sit on my lap, Eliza? Been a long time since you've done that."
Primly, Eliza scooted over and settled herself in, straddling his leg as it worked the pedals. The truck began to slowly amble down the dirt road, kicking up a cloud of dust in its wake. Eliza had been sitting stiffly in Farmer Brown's lap but his hand pulled her close until she was reclining against his weathered frame.
"Picking those pretty marigolds, are you?" he inquired, nodding at the flowers in her lap. Their delicate scent wafted through the truck's cab. "I remember the first year your father planted those things and you were running about, barely two years old and happy as a clam."
Eliza didn't respond. His hand was stroking her knee now, inching up her inner leg.
"But you're a big girl now, aren't you?" he murmured. His hand moved unexpectedly to her flat chest, his thick fingers caressing her thin cotton dress separated his skin from hers. "Almost eight years old," he continued. "Soon you'll be getting too big to sit in my lap... you'll get your woman's growth, throw away those dolls and have real babies of your own..." His hand returned to her knee for only a moment before boldly moving under her hemline.
"Your momma and daddy ever talk to you about becoming a woman?" Farmer Brown asked casually. He began fondling her through the white cotton of her underwear.
"No, Mr. Brown," replied Eliza. She sat motionless as he touched her. The truck was barely rolling now and her house seemed no closer on the horizon.
"Well, you probably already know some of it," he moved his hand back to her chest. This time he squeezed his fingers through the arm hole of her dress. "Your bosom will grow, of course," he told her. "They haven't grown at all yet, at least not from what I can tell." It made her feel funny when he tweaked her little nipples.
"And down here," he continued, lifting up her skirt. "Well, there'll be all sorts of changes down here." His hand slipped inside her underwear. Eliza remained silent as he roughly probed her. Her legs reflexively wanted to close to deny him but that was impossible since she straddled his leg .
"Skin down here is smooth," he murmured. The truck continued to amble down the dirt road. "Young, but ripe with promise. Like soil waiting to be sown upon." Eliza only half-listened. His touches, like always, were awakening something inside her. Her heart beat a little faster with each passing moment.
After several minutes he stopped and brought a finger to her mouth. "Open," he commanded softly. His thick and stubby finger entered her mouth. Remembering what to do, Eliza sucked, tasting the mixture of dried sweat, country dirt, and salty dust of Farmer Brown's long workday.
His hand then returned between her legs, again snaking underneath the elastic of her underwear. The seven year old's mouth parted in a soundless O as he touched her. His finger burrowed deep into her fleshy mound, reacquainting itself with her moist innocence. Unable to remain still, Eliza squirmed in his lap as he assaulted her delicate bud. As the little girl fidgeted in his lap she could plainly feel, much to her embarrassment. his hardness against her thigh.
The truck inched toward it's destination on the empty road while the man molested his charge. Eliza was being pushed to a delicate balance as he desires contradicted each other. She didn't like, and had never liked, these long rides with Farmer Brown but her body always responded nonetheless. Shamefully, Eliza opened her legs wider. The delicate balance had tipped.
"Doesn't matter if you're a little girl, does it?" Farmer Brown murmured. "You're a little woman. With the same desires as a full-grown woman." He pinched her hard down there, making Eliza gasp in equal parts pain and pleasure. They were mere yards from the turnoff to the driveway leading to her house when Farmer Brown began stroking her even more roughly, relentlessly grinding his finger against her tiny bud, mashing it violently against her public bone.
It was too much for the little girl. She stiffened in his lap as the pleasure crested, uncompromising as it simultaneously electrified and drained her. Aside from her heavy breathing, Eliza made no noise at all as her body was given release. Farmer Brown rolled to a stop in front of her house, but the wilted seven year old girl made no move to get out of the truck.
Without a word, Farmer Brown opened the door. Eliza slithered out and onto the ground, which seemed oddly spongy. Or was it her weak knees? She felt completely out of sorts. Her underwear felt uncomfortably out of alignment and her dress was well wrinkled. Through her hazy mind, she watched Farmer Brown drive away wordlessly, without a wave, or smile, or any confirmation of what had just transpired.
Eliza climbed the stairs to the front porch, absent-mindedly sniffing the forgotten marigolds in her hand. She detected none of the anticipated ethereal summer scent, however. The marigolds' redolence had long since faded. Tomorrow afternoon, perhaps, she would return to gather more.