He cannot remember when he first noticed her.
Perhaps it was a glint of the morning sunshine on her auburn hair as she walked past the house that caused him to look up from the desk where he was writing. He would often glance out the window to gather his thoughts, knowing from experience that the brief respite could alleviate a particularly bad case of writer’s block. That morning he happened to look up and there she was.
After a while he began to realize that she made this journey every morning at the same time and so he began to look for her. He noticed other things as well. She walked in a slow, methodical way, head down, thinking hard. She was young, but walked bent over like someone much older as if weighed down by a great burden, stepping forward up the hill as if to leave something behind.
Later he made it a habit to take his morning coffee out to the bench in the front garden so he could be there when she would pass by. The solitary life had made him awkward around others but his heart remained soft. Like the bees beginning to gather around the crocuses, she drew him.
She began to notice him sitting there and though her intial glance was brief, in her eyes, he glimpsed a deep sadness. He had never been a courageous sort, preferring to explore the emotions of others within the confines of pen and paper. The pain he saw within her almost drove him back inside where he could safely leave her to her mourning. Yet he remained.
As spring came, the front garden began to bloom and so he would leave his coffee on the bench, move closer to where she walked on the sidewalk, and begin to tend the garden. He would prune the roses or weed or mulch or plant bulbs. He had always preferred perennials over annuals. His memory being what it was, he could never remember what he had planted or where. So each spring brought him a host of lovely surprises.
His favorites were the daylilies even though they seemed to have begun to take over all of the other flowers in his garden. He was constantly thinning them out. Which kept him in the garden near where she would walk.
Their interactions had changed now so that they would give each other a brief nod and say good morning. Some days he wondered if there was something he could say or do to ease the sadness that seemed to hover around her. Somehow he knew these walks held a meaning for her that he would never completely understand and so he tried to be content with their simple interactions and his small part in her morning routine.
There was one daylily that he was particularly fond of. Every spring he looked forward to its blooming, the flowers’ bright mix of gold and white with a splash of scarlet. This season it seemed to be more beautiful than usual. The dew of the morning lay like soft diamonds upon its surface and he marveled again at how such beauty could break forth from the frozen ground of winter in the continuing cycle of renewal and life.
Bending low in the garden one morning, he heard her footsteps upon the walk and glanced up to give her his typical good morning. She replied in turn, softly as she always did, the sadness still residing there within her dark eyes. Then she was past him and heading up the hill.
Suddenly, he was grasping his shears, clipping a bloom of the daylily, calling to her as he rushed after her.
She stopped, her back to him, waiting, and then slowly she turned. He stood before her somewhat awkwardly, the lily in his hand, holding it out to her.
Here, he said, this is for you.
Her eyes became bright with unshed tears and a light he had not seen before began to shine from their depths. Then with a shy smile, the first he had seen upon her face, she reached out her hand and took the flower from him. She turned without a word and continued up the hill, leaving him standing alone, the shears trembling in his hand.
The next morning she did not come by. Or the next. Or the day after that. After a week with no sighting of her, he began to wonder if he had offended her, if somehow his offering of the flower to her had crossed a line, that he should not have let her know he knew that she was in pain.
The next morning, he took his coffee out to the bench to find a small hand bound journal sitting there, the daylily pressed and beautifully woven into the cover. Opening the journal to the first page, he saw two words; Thank you.
He held the journal in his hands, relieved that even in his awkward attempts at kindness she had understood.
Then as he turned to go back inside, he paused at the sound of her footsteps coming up the hill.