01 2.0 The Light Who Binds2Bluebell Kildare

July 8, 2022, Red Ages

The sun shines through the windshield of my car, making me narrow my eyes against the glare. Since I’ve finished my book and there’s nothing else on my agenda until my meeting with Dragomira, I’m cruising over to Maud’s place.

I’d say that Maud is like a mother to me, but since she acts so young, I call her one of my closest friends. I met her in the orphanage where I grew up. She used to visit and read to all the children, and that hour was among the only happy memories I have of that place. When I was younger, I wanted her to adopt me, but her husband William wouldn’t allow it. He felt his job was too dangerous to allow him to be a parent. Still, Maud and I remained close and became even closer after William died. She’s my touchstone, and I need one desperately right now.

On the right side of the road, a sight outside of Paco’s Loco Tacos has me chuckling uncontrollably. Paco must be trying to drum up business because he’s twirling around on the sidewalk wearing colorful Mexican festival attire. But the best part is his sombrero. It’s made with every color in the rainbow and the brim is about five feet wide. He could fit his entire staff under there with him. I can’t help it, that get-up deserves a reward. I swing over and grab some tacos for Maud.

As I pull up to the curb in front of her house, Varg exudes an unhappy rumbling sound. It isn’t his usual ferocious growl announcing danger, but he’s clearly displeased. Worried about Maud, I throw open Varg’s door and rush to the house. By the time I hit the porch, I can tell there’s nothing to fear as Maud’s stressed voice carries at a high pitch from the backyard.

“When I’m ready to deal with this garden, I will, and it will be in my own sweet time. If you don’t like it, put up a higher fence!”

“But sweetie, I’d be happy to help you with it.” Harry’s placating voice is much quieter than Maud’s.

She cuts in. “Yes, so you keep saying. I’ll think about it, but not now when I have a pounding headache. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I hear the sliding door open and slam shut, obviously leaving Harry on the other side.

Maud opens the front door a few seconds later, two red spots on her cheeks. “Blue! Come on in.”

I hand her the bag. “Here’s some tacos for you for later. I’m not hungry myself.”

“Oh, thank you, dear.” She spins around with the bag and huffs off to the kitchen, mumbling, “Of all the insufferable . . . ”

The rest of her thought is drowned out by the blender, and I chuckle as I let myself in.

She raises her voice, “I’m making Alexanders, and you’re joining me, hungry or not.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

I sit down at the table and watch as Harry hops over the fence to his house.

Maud, with her glowing orange hair and a white-on-green polka dot dress, stomps around the kitchen. She pulls some frosty glasses out of the freezer, and with an artful grace that even her anger can’t diminish, she fills them with a flourish. She sets them on the table and sinks into her chair, clearly extremely annoyed.

“Thank you. You were a little light on the cognac today, I noticed.”

Maud blushes. “I’m watching my waist.”

“All twenty inches of it?”

She rolls her eyes.

“And you were a little heavy on the cream today.”

She throws up her hands. “Well, that man drives me crazy. I have to do something!”

I burst out laughing. “What? Did he cheat on you? Beat you? Break your crystal stemware?”

She scowls. “He wants to fix the back garden!”

“And . . . is that so bad?”

Maud quiets and traces the dew on the side of her glass as confusion spills out of her. “I’m just not ready for it.” She sighs. “Did you know that William and I had a big fight about the garden the last morning he left for work?”

I sober up quickly, at that little jewel of information. “No, I didn’t. What was the fight about?”

“The day before, I’d had a dizzy spell in the garden. I got overheated, that’s all. The sun made me dehydrated, but I was fine by the next morning. I wanted to work on it that day, to weed it. But he insisted I wait for him. I told him I’d take it easy, but he wouldn’t even hear of it. He was so overbearing sometimes. Anyway, I was so mad, that I went out and weeded the garden to spite him.”

Her eyes brim with moisture. “I was probably weeding the damn garden while he was taking his last breath.” With that, a stream of tears spill down her cheeks.

I wrap my arms around her from behind her chair and murmur into her shoulder, “He isn’t mad, Maud. He loved how spunky you are. If you had listened to him, he wouldn’t have known what to do.”


“Truly. When you guys fought around me, and you pretended to concede, William would roll his eyes while your back was turned.”

The corner of Maud’s mouth lifts as she blots her face with a napkin. “Really?”

“I promise. He’d expect nothing less than you weeding the garden. Do you think he would have stayed with you all those years if he really wanted a sweet, obliging woman?”

“Hey, now!” Maud laughs as she squeezes my hands tight.

I smile down at her and take my seat again.

“I think weeding the garden is fine. William wouldn’t be mad.”

Maud purses her lips in consideration. “Maybe you’re right.”

It would be so wonderful if she got over this garden issue. She’s been a prisoner to it for years.

“If you were to work in the garden, what would you plant?” I prod.

Maud’s eyes start to shine as she turns to the window, contemplating the wild jungle that makes up the back yard. “I’ve been in a mood for peonies, maybe some hydrangeas—and you don’t think it’s too late for petunias, do you?”

I can picture the finished garden in my mind. “It’s never too late for petunias in the South. They’d be lovely around the swing, wouldn’t they?”

“Yes, they would. Maybe Harry will help me till that area tomorrow.”

“I think he’s dying to be asked.”

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