The breeze pushes yellow leaves around the porch as the mailman hands me a bundle of letters. I thank him and watch him walk down the porch steps before I close the door. I sort through the mail as I walk back to the couch,. There's a letter from the court with my next hearing date. Like I would ever forget, but Mr. Velazquez says I've been good, they'll probably let me finish early. I sit down on the couch. The TV is showing reruns of some old show but I barely pay attention to it. Here's a card from Tara. Well, that's a bit of a surprise, it's been a while since I heard from her. I open the envelope, it's a wedding invitation. I set it aside and make a mental note to send her a gift. I wonder how the others, Deb, Neil, Marla, are doing? I lost track of everybody after the trial and the daycare closed. I should look them up.
I pull out another letter from the stack. The handwriting on the front is neat, but I don't recognize it. There's no name, just a return address in Washington, DC. Inside is a single handwritten page. I unfold it and read: "Dear Ms. French, I have been informed by a former colleague that Ms. Donna Palmer died from old age and complications from her injuries on April 14th. Sincerely, Eric Sung."
Old age? How old was she? She never said. I put the letter aside and stand up. She always changed the subject when I asked. I walk into the spare room. So typical of her: don't like the topic? Change the subject! I wonder if I should feel worse about this than I do. My therapist said I should keep a diary, but I prefer to work with my hands. I sit down at my desk and pull out a spool of wire and a pair of pliers. Fortunately, Tucson has a large arts scene. I cut a long piece of wire and start bending it. An opal, white with rainbow fire, to represent her. I look at the loop of wire in my hand and pull it into a point. Palm leaves around the center stone, for her name and her pilgrimage from Albuquerque. It needs something on the back. I open a drawer, pull out a silver blank and turn it over in my hand. Something engraved? But what? Bright movement in the window catches my eye and I look up. A hummingbird darts to the feeder, sips, and backs up. It pauses a moment, the sun shining on emerald green feathers, then darts forward, sips again, and flies away.
Perfect. I pull out a pad of paper from a drawer and start a rough sketch of a design. Should I make a mold? The front door opens and I hear the dog panting and someone moving in the kitchen. A few minutes later Anya comes in my workroom. Putting her hands on my shoulders, she bends over and kisses the top of my head. I put my pencil and sketchbook down, take her hand and pull her around in front of me. Pulling her down to my level, I return her kiss. Her musky perfume fills my nose, it always makes my toes curl. She smiles.
"Welcome home." I say.
"I hope I'm not interrupting." She says, sitting down in my lap. Glancing down at the desk, she picks up my unfinished sketch. "What are you working on?"
"Something new. I saw a hummingbird and I thought I could use it."
"Nice." She says handing it back to me. "I'm sure Wojciech at the gallery will love it." She stands up, "Will you help me put the groceries away?" I nod and put my paper to the side. She follows me to the kitchen.
She pauses as we cross the living room, picking up the mail from the couch. I continue to the kitchen. I start to empty the bags on the table. Anya walks in, Binny the dog following her and the letter from the court in her hand. She sticks it on the bulletin board and circles the date on the calendar. Binny walks over to me and sniffs at a jar of anchovies I just put down on the table.
"You cannot possibly smell anything interesting." I tell him. He looks at me, then sniffs the can of peas next to it.
"Who's Eric Sung?" Anya asks, she pronounces it with a short 'u.' I look at her, she's holding his letter.
"He works for the government. During my trial he convinced them to give me probation instead of jail."
"That was nice." Opening the cabinet she pulls out a large pot, puts it in the sink and turns the water on.
"It was." I say. "I was pretty grateful to him." I put my arms around her waist and rest my chin on her shoulder. "What are you making?"
"Fusilli with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes." she announces proudly. "I found the recipe a while ago and I wanted to try it." She picks up the full pot and carries it to the stove.
"Do you need any help?" I ask.
"I got it. You go back to work, I'll call when dinner's ready."
Binny follows me back to my workroom. He rests his chin on my lap and I stroke his head. I think about my life and how much has happened since last year. "I should never have gone to that party." I say.
"Welcome to the Secret Service, Mr. Sung. I'd like you to meet your partner, Mr. Herrera."