We drove until the air conditioner in the suburban was no longer keeping up, only stirring the air enough to keep us from being stifled. I started noticing a few saguaros, then Gary veered off into the desert. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but not off-roading. I went from trying to sit in the middle and avoid the heat of the growing day to sitting half on top of luggage with my temple pressed against the glass.
I could see we were on a rutted road, just different enough from the orange of the sand to be noticed, with fewer big rocks and only one or two random spiny plants.This had to be the middle of nowhere. Were we even allowed to be out here? A roadrunner dodged us and sped off into the drifting cloud of dust our tires threw into the wind.
The road started to go up hill. We jolted up to a rocky crest and sped back down into the most amazing green pocket of land I had ever seen. Succulent ground cover surrounded patches of tilled earth, dark as good chocolate. Small, concentric canals with a trickle of moving water in the bottom spread out like frozen ripples from the main structure. My eye was caught then by the spiraling spin of an artsy-looking windmill, it’s bottom disappearing behind a heavy stone and adobe wall taller than Gary. Inside this wall sat another, with well-tended apple trees planted between them. The inner walls had leaded glass windows and tile roofs. I glimpsed a courtyard with a large fountain before we were down on level ground.
The walls humped up in an arch in front of us. The arch contained heavy ironwork gates and was topped with a delicate weather vane in the shape of a running wolf.
“Welcome to our winter home,” Gary said, his voice full of quiet pride. The gates swung apart. The jeep slowed until we were coasting through. The gates swung shut behind us, meeting with a loud clang.
“God bless this house,” Tag whispered.