"So what do you usually do for the day?" Genevieve asked, her bright blue eyes catching my own as she sipped an iced coffee.
"I take care of the animals and then since it's Monday, I usually do laundry and clean. What about you?"
"Monday is music day. This week I was supposed to learn all about the ukulele. I'm determined to spend the rest of my life mastering all instruments. At least, til I get bored, anyway," she said, turning to gaze out of the kitchen window. "What can I do to help you get stuff done?"
I blinked for a second. "Why don't I show you how to care for the animals, just in case you ever need to."
She bounced out of her chair, her red curls springing up around her. "Awesome, let's do it."
I smiled and stood, stretching. "Alright, let's go outside. Kai eats last since he doesn't provide anything, so we'll feed him when we come back in."
"Poor boy," she said, scratching him round the ears while he panted at her. "He is so gorgeous!"
"He's 1/4 husky, the rest is wolf." I grabbed a bag of chicken feed beside the door and held it open for her. She stepped into the backyard, her wild mane brushing my arm as she slipped by me through the door.
She was very impressed with my setup. I had taken down the privacy fences where my backyard met the neighbors back yard behind and beside the house and repurposed the wood to pen in my animals and build a coop. She knelt to adore the piglet I'd found and slowly moved on from him to the ducklings, chicks, and goat who was chewing on a straw hat that must've been blown into his little area.
"What are their names?" she asked as I scattered chicken feed.
I scratched my head. "I guess porkchop, roast duck, baked chicken, and milk."
"Haha. So you haven't named them? But you named the dog!"
I shook my head at her. She was acting like a child. "I'm not going to eat the dog."
"They still have life and deserve some respect while they live it," she insisted. Her reasoning surprised me and I smiled at her.
"Then you can name them. But you have to help me turn the neighbors pool into a pond. Right now it's just stagnant and unsanitary, and the ducks aren't coming back to the kiddie pool as much anymore. We need to drain it and bust through the bottom concrete, bring some plants from the pond at the park and algae- it'll be quite a project," I told her, worried I'd drive her away with the prospect of work.
Her eyes sparkled for a moment, then dimmed. "I think that sounds wonderful, and I understand you're trying to make a permanent sustainable home here, but I really want to search for others. I don't think I could be happy if I never searched for more like us."
I thought for a moment, scratching my head. "If you help me turn this into a sustainable preserve for the livestock so we have the least amount of starting over when we get back, I don't think spending a few months scouring the country would be a bad idea. We could chart a star patterned route, centering here, that way we come back frequently enough to keep this place up some, and also cover the most ground."
She was getting excited and bouncing a little. "And we can put up giant posters on road signs and billboards with directions, that way people we might miss have another chance if they happen to drive! I will start out mapping," she chattered. She was getting ahead of herself, which, I was beginning to remember, was normal for her.
I told her to slow down, explaining how far we still had to go with the house before we could go. She sighed impatiently, but understood and took the basket of eggs I'd collected and handed to her, marching off to the kitchen to make breakfast while I milked the goat and fed it and the pig.
We ate breakfast together and then we went upstairs to my bedroom. I had a large desk we spread a piece of poster board out on. She sat on my bed and I handed her an empty notebook and pen so we could scratch out ideas for keeping the animals safe, fed, and watered for a week at a time. We decided safety would be our first obstacle. We need to create a space for them that wasn't too confined but that would also keep carnivores out. Coyotes, cougars, foxes, and wolves weren't uncommon, and they were well adapted predators. We decided to fence them in better. High wooden fences would block them from view and barbed wire on top would keep anything from scaling the fences. The chickens had a coop they could go in and out of if the weather got bad, the goat had a large doghouse, and ducks can take care of themselves, but the pig only had a lean-to. We'd need to build something or pick up a large doghouse for him.
Water was easy- once we made the duck pond, all animals would have access to fresh water. Food was another matter. If we just put out a week's worth of food, they would all tear through it in a matter of days. We needed a timed delivery system.
"The best I can think of is some sort of Peewee-esque contraption for food delivery, set up based on something we can count on everyday. Hourglass of feed? I don't know," she said, tapping her pen on the notebook.
"What if we trained the goat and the pig to activate said contraption?" I proposed.
Her mouth twisted. "What if they just press it whenever they're hungry and run out of food? Like a rat with a buzzer who gets a pellet every time."
"Whatever we design would have to compensate for that, like a bucket that doesn't fill up til the next morning. Or we could provide discouragement for activating it more than once, train them so they only do it in the morning."
"So I guess our plans hinge on the trainability of a couple of animals," she laughed. "I know pigs are smart, at least. Now we just need to plan our contraption."
We spent two straight hours sketching, discussing, and planning before we were finally ready to draw it out on the poster board and write our full agenda on the back. Genevieve wanted to start with the contraption first, but I insisted we begin with the fence. We went outside and ignored my car, walking instead to the big black truck on the curb I used only when I needed to move large things. An hour later we were at a Lowe's in the city, loading up the truck with wood and barbed wire along with other essentials to our plan. While we were in town, she insisted on going to Dress Barn and liberating some clothing. I acquiesced with a sigh and found myself dragged along on a shopping trip for silly impractical clothes.
I kept my complaints to a minimum, but they stopped altogether when she stepped out of the dressing room in a floral spring dress that turned her into someone else. Genevieve was a very excitable outdoorsy person, always ready to have fun and dressed for it. The only times I'd ever seen her in something other than jeans and t-shirts was when she was on stage in formal black dresses. I'd never witnessed her look so feminine before; I was at a loss for words.
"Yeah, I don't usually wear stuff like this," she said with a frown, misinterpreting my stares. "Flouncy, lacy, girly- it's all stupid. I'll change and we can go."
I cleared my throat and tried to sound normal. "You should get it," I said. "It's ok to look like a girl sometimes."
She rolled her eyes and left to change, but I saw her add it to the bag she was carrying before we left. Of course, she had to stop for shoes, too.
By the time we got back home from raiding clothing and gaming stores, it was too dark to do anything outside. Instead, we headed into the house and she helped me chop vegetables for supper.
I'd never had so much fun with her before; when we had known each other years ago, she'd been too uncomfortable around me to joke much. I had heard from several nosy intrusive people that it was probably because she 'liked' me, and at the time I had dismissed their words, thinking no one as wild as her would be interested in someone as quiet and boring as me. Even though she'd been fairly reserved whenever we were together, she was quite the character when I observed her among her assumed friends. There seemed to never be a dull moment for anyone in her inner circle.
I remember at one point questioning her about a male friend she was always with, the one time I think I let a hint of my jealousy show. She had laughed and told me no, the guys she hung out with were only friends, not of any interest to her beyond that. I couldn't hide a small smile at her words. But I also couldn't bring myself to ask her out in a straight forward way.
Now I found myself feeling the same way, but I was crippled by the possibility that if I made her uncomfortable or it didn't work out, we might go our separate ways, and the thought of spending my life alone was very unappealing. I needed companionship; it would have to be enough, at least for now.