EverettMature

           I couldn't believe my eyes when we turned onto our street. The front yard of all six houses up to and including ours were on their way to becoming some impressive gardens. We pulled into the driveway, noticing the kitchen light was on and a shape was moving behind the curtain.

          Genevieve started shrieking with excitement, which meant Kai started barking, which set off the animals in the back.

          "Will you calm down! How do we even know they're friendly?" I shouted over the din. I grabbed the pistol out of the glove compartment and took the safety off.

          "Oh, Ev, look, whoever it is heard us and they're coming out!" she gabbled, pointing at the front door.

          We watched with baited breath as a man emerged from our house. He looked a little older than us, maybe in his early thirties. His features marked him as one of Korean descent, though he was much taller than the average person from that gene pool. He came out with his hands forward and open, a timid smile on his face.

          "My name is Baxter, I come in peace," he said, standing still several feet away. "I've been here almost two months, staying in that house-" he pointed to the one directly across from us. "I come over here every few weeks to clean; I was hoping you'd be back soon, and it seems I have great timing. I just finished cleaning up the kitchen."

          "Put that away," Genevieve snapped, nodding at my gun. Before I could respond, she was out the door, shaking hands with a potential threat. I flew out after her, Kai on my heels. I expected a growl, but he betrayed me too, jumping up and licking at the man's face.

          When he made no sudden moves and turned to pet Kai, I put the safety back on and stuck the pistol back in my jeans. "I'm Everett, nice to meet you," I said, holding out a hand. "Genevieve introduced herself, I'm sure." I scowled at her.

          She ignored me and was leading him inside. "You have to stay for dinner- did you do all that gardening yourself? That's so much! You look like you're preparing to feed a small army!"

          "I confess, I was hoping that since you two were still around, that others might see your signs like I did and come here. I wanted to be prepared for a large group, but so far, I'm the only one who's showed up beside you."

          "Thank you for keeping the house up and for all your hard work. This is just wonderful. I was prepared to spend the next five hours cleaning from top to bottom, but you saved us so much trouble! I'm just in shock, this is so wonderful, it's so good to meet you!" She was talking ninety miles an hour and seemed to realize it. "I'm sorry, Ev can tell you, I get excited over everything. I'll try to calm down, I don't want to scare you!"

          He laughed and I saw him look her over. I didn't like the way his eyes lingered, but she started talking again before I could mention it. "Why don't you two enjoy some guy time in the living room while I make some dinner? We caught some fish while we were on the coast- how does fish and chips sound? We got a nice surprise when we ran into an organic farm in the form of some tasty root vegetables."

          "Anything sounds great," he said. "But don't you want some help in the kitchen?"

         "Nah, we can all chat at dinner, I'm sure you're both dying for some man conversation, it's just not the same having no one of the same sex to chat with," she said. "But you guys can unload the stuff from the RV for me, and oh! You might have to have that chat while taking care of the animals; I know they need to be taken care of first."

         "I'll get the food and pull the trailer around back, you can help me unload there," I said stiffly, heading outside.

          I brought the potatoes and fish inside so she could get started, then pulled the RV around and backed up the trailer to the gate in the back yard. Before I could let the animals out, I had to clean up their pens. A lot happened in seven months. We spent the hour she took to cook getting the yard ready. The goat and pig seemed to recognize the place- she bounded out and started munching hay while the pig squealed and rolled round his dirt patch. The chickens were just stupid birds. I shooed them out to their old coop, grabbing a few stray chicks and popping them inside their hut, picking the eggs out of the trailer's coop and going inside, trailed by Baxter.

           "I don't suppose you'd share any eggs?" he asked, washing up and sitting at the table.

          "Take as many as you need," I said. "You can even take some chickens; someone keeps forgetting to keep the rooster separated, and we have a new batch of chicks we don't need."

          "That's very generous. I'm a good gardener, but I don't know the first thing about animals that aren't pets."

          Genevieve set a basket of rolls I'd baked the day before on the table, warmed up via the microwave. Next followed a dish of baked fish, fried potatoes, and fresh tomatoes she'd managed to grow in a makeshift plot she had set up on top of the RV. Don't ask me how, she wouldn't let me up there. All I know is that a tarp, plastic pool, pots, and a ton of fertilizer were involved. I'm assuming some bungee cords as well.

          "I couldn't bring myself to fry the fish, and I think you'll understand why when you taste it," she said, pouring us each a glass of ice water.

          We loaded our plates and dug in, the silence less awkward when our mouths were full. Genevieve, of course, was the first to break the silence.

          "So, Baxter, where are you from?"

          He swallowed a mouthful of bread and smiled. "I was just driving through Louisiana when I saw your signs in Baton Rouge. I'm actually from Toronto. I was driving all over, too, hoping to see signs of people. I was just about to give up when I saw your sign in a Walmart I was raiding for supplies. I headed here without a second thought and set up shop."

          "That's so crazy awesome, we're so glad you're here!" she squealed. "We should go to the lake tomorrow! We can hang out and be stupid and swim!"

          "We need to get settled in, first," I reminded her. "And it's not warm enough to swim yet."

          She pouted a little, but she knew I was right. "Well, I still think we should eat together and hang out. You just come over whenever you like, okay, Baxter? We have breakfast about an hour after the rooster crows, lunch at noon, dinner at five. Standing invitation to any meal you like! Now that there's three of us, we should have a game night!"

          Genevieve always got ahead of herself. I tried to catch her eye and shake my head, but it seemed the new guy was as crazy as her.

          "I'm up for anything you guys want to do," he said, beaming at her. "I'm very much a people person. These last few months were getting worse and worse for me."

          I sensed she was on the verge of inviting him to stay in the spare bedroom, so I stood up and stretched. "Game night sounds great; Genevieve, can I talk to you for a second?"

          She stood to follow me, but couldn't resist opening her mouth one more time on the way out of the kitchen. "You should stay and watch a movie with us!" I pulled her after me and into the downstairs bathroom.

          "You need to slow down," I said, my hands on her shoulders. "You're about two seconds away from inviting him to live here."

          "Why not?" she demanded. "Didn't we move right in together? Don't you remember how awful it was to be alone?"

          "Yes, but we knew each other! We don't know the first thing about him!"

           "We know he's from Canada, which means he's polite and probably not a serial killer."

           I stared at her.

           "Look, I won't invite him to stay here, but I will continue to invite him to activities. It's the best way to get to know someone."

           "Not all activities," I said meaningfully.

          She stood on tiptoe. I was expecting a kiss, but she could never do anything obvious or even acceptable. She licked the side of my face and patted my other cheek with her hand. "Of course not," she said, turning to go.

          "I hate it when you do that," I grumbled, following her out. She just laughed and headed back to the kitchen.

           

          

The End

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