“Emil?” Allison inquires into the dusk on a warm summer evening. “Is that you?”
“Hello,” he says again. She waves him up to join her on the porch.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Allison offers. She does not ask for an explanation of his absence, after hearing Jeeves tell the story of estrangement between her and Emil’s mother, Jeeves’ cousin. “How are you?”
“Better now,” Emil answers. Although Allison keeps the porch light off, the better to see bats flying and avoid a flurry of moths seeking her door, she can see his smile.
“Me too,” she says, smiling in return.
“What are you doing out here?” he asks.
“Watching for bats, mainly. Also avoiding the bedroom until it cools down a bit more. No air conditioning in this old place.”
“It’s not that hot yet, or has it been?”
“It doesn’t take much to get that upper floor to roasting temperatures.” This isn’t what she wants to talk with Emil about, but she isn’t sure how to break out of the polite small talk.
As if reading her mind, he says, “Well, enough conversation about temperatures and weather. Please tell me, what have you focused on these last few weeks? Where has your attention been?”
“The garden,” Allison answers. “I mean, my garden. Well, and Jeeves’ place. She’s a great teacher. I’ve dug out a few beds here, amended the soil. Piled tons of rocks to use later. Planted a few things, but mostly planning for next year.”
“You have the soul of an artist,” Emil says. Allison starts to protest; this is a project, not an art piece. It’s all practical, scientific, a combination of engineering, biology, chemistry, botany. There is nothing arty about it, she wants to insist.
But through his eyes, she sees it all again, anew. The design, layers of color, texture, shape. The happy accidents of volunteer plants that thrive, punctuating the design with joyful randomness.
Even more, through Emil’s eyes she sees herself anew. And after all, isn’t that how love works?