The woman turned for a moment then went back to her task.
“Oh hello, you must be Lucy,” the woman exclaimed, lifting Talon into her arms and bouncing the smiling girl. She turned my way with a big grin. “I’m Mary, Ollie’s wife.”
“Oh, hi! It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too, darling. I’ve heard so much about you from Ollie. Not as much from Graham, but, well, you know Graham.” She winked. “How’s your head?”
“It’s somehow still there,” I joked. “Last night was rough.”
“You kids and your coping mechanisms. I hope you’re feeling better soon.”
“Thank you.” I smiled. “Um, where’s Graham exactly?”
“He’s in the backyard. He called me early this morning to ask me to come watch Talon while he went to run some errands. As you know, that’s a big deal for Graham—asking people for help—so I swooped in to watch her while he left and you rested.”
“Did you leave me the breakfast?” I asked. “With the note?”
Her lips stretched farther, but she shook her head. “No, ma’am. That was all Graham. I know—I’m as surprised as you are. I didn’t know he had it in him.”
“What is he doing in the backyard?” I asked, walking in that direction.
Mary followed me, bouncing Talon the whole way. We walked into the sunroom and stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows at Graham as he cut the grass. Against the small shed lay bags of soil and shovels.
“Well, it seems he’s making a garden.”
My chest tightened at the idea, and no words came to me.
Mary nodded once. “I told him to wait to cut the grass seeing as how it rained last night, but he seemed eager to get started.”
She nodded. “I thought so too.”
“I can take Talon for you, if you need to get going,” I offered.
“Only if you’re feeling up to it. I do need to get going if I’m going to make the afternoon church service. Here you go.” She handed Talon over and kissed her forehead. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she asked. “How a few months ago, we weren’t sure she was going to make it, but now she’s more here than ever before.”
“So, so amazing.”
She placed her hand on my forearm, a gentle touch, and gave me a warm smile, just like her husband. “I’m glad we were finally able to meet.”
“Me too, Mary. Me too.”
She left the house a few minutes later. Talon and I stayed in the sunroom, watching Graham working hard outside, turning his head every now and then to cough. It had to be freezing out there after the cold rain the night before, and it couldn’t have been doing anything great for his cold.
I walked to the back door that led out to the yard and pushed it open, a cold breeze brushing against me. “Graham, what are you doing?”
“Just fixing up the backyard.”
“It’s freezing out here, and you’re making your cold worse. Get inside.”
“I’m almost finished, Lucille. Just give me a few more minutes.”
I arched an eyebrow, confused as to why he was so determined. “But why? What are you doing?”
“You asked me to make a garden,” he said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. “So I’m making you a garden.”
“You’re making a garden? For me?”
“You’ve done plenty for me,” he replied. “You’ve done even more for Talon. The least I can do is build you a garden so you can have another place to meditate. I bought a ton of organic fertilizer—they told me it was the best kind, and I figured a hippie weirdo like yourself would enjoy the organic part.” He wasn’t wrong. “Now please close that door before you make my daughter freeze.”
I did as he said, but not for a second did I take my eyes off him. When he finished, he was covered in dirt and sweat. The backyard was beautifully trimmed, and all that was missing was the plants.
“I figure you can pick out the flowers, or seeds, or whatever gardeners garden,” he told me as he wiped his brow. “I know nothing about these kinds of things.”
“Yeah, of course. Wow, this is just…” I smiled, staring at the yard. “Wow.”
“I can hire someone to plant whatever you choose,” he told me.
“Oh no, please let me. That’s my favorite part of spring—digging my hands into the earth’s soil and feeling myself reconnect with the world. It’s very grounding.”
“And once again, your weird is showing,” he said with a small twinkle in his eye, as if he were…teasing me? “If it’s all right with you, I’d like to shower. Then I can take Talon so you can start your day.”
“Yes, for sure. No rush.”
He started to walk away, and I called after him. “Why did you do this?” I asked. “The garden?”
He lowered his head and shrugged his shoulders before looking into my eyes. “A smart woman once told me I was a shitty human, and I’m trying my best to be a little less shitty.”
“Oh no.” I pulled the collar of my shirt over my face and scrunched up my nose. “I said that last night, didn’t I?”
“You did, but don’t worry. Sometimes the truth needs to be voiced. It was much easier to hear it from someone as giggly, drunk, and kind as you.”
“I’m sorry, come again?” Mari asked me that afternoon as we walked our bikes to the hiking trail. Spring was always exciting because we could bike a lot more and explore nature. Sure, I loved it more than my sister, but somewhere deep, deep, deep inside of her soul, I was sure she was thankful to have me to keep her healthy.
“I know.” I nodded. “It’s weird.”
“It’s beyond weird. I cannot believe Richard would break up with you via a phone call,” she gasped. Then she grimaced. “Well, on second thought, I’m surprised it took this long for you to break up.”
“I mean, I’m just saying. You two were so much alike in the beginning, Lucy. It was kind of annoying how much of a match made in heaven you two were, but over time, you both seemed to…shift.”
“What are you talking about?”
She shrugged. “You used to laugh all the time with Richard, but lately…I can’t even think of the last time he made you giggle. Plus, tell me the last time he asked how you were doing. Every time I saw him, he was talking about himself.”
Hearing that from Mari didn’t make it any easier to deal with the fact that Richard had broken up with me. I knew she was right, too. The truth of the matter was, Richard wasn’t the same man who fell in love with me all those years ago, and I was far from the girl he knew me to be.
“Maktub,” I whispered, looking down at my wrist.
Mari smiled my way and hopped on her bike. “Maktub indeed. You can move in with me, so you’re not stuck in his apartment. It will be perfect. I needed more sister time. Look at it this way—at least now you don’t have a mustache going down on you.”