Enid sat on the back porch overlooking her backyard and the meadow beyond the wrought-iron fence. For a moment, she recalled the disagreement over the fence when they built the house decades ago. Cecil wanted a tall wooden fence because it was affordable, but Enid insisted on the wrought-iron bars that allowed the view into the meadow. Cecil begrudgingly relented, and afterwards used her extravagance to penny-pinch their budget at will, but Enid regretted nothing.
Over the years, she delighted in the comings and goings of the forest and footpath that surrounded the meadow. Even Cecil stopped complaining about the extra expense, as he also enjoyed watching the deer sprint out of the forest and feed on the tall grass. Hikers often walked the narrow footpath, and the couple loved exchanging greetings and chit-chatting with them.
Enid reflected on the years spent in that house, as the light breeze shuddered the tingling wind chimes that hung on the twisted cedar whose branches reached over the wrought-iron fence like tentacles feeling their way towards freedom.
Three children were born in the house, and two left home long ago to squabble with their own spouses over their own fences. Andrew, the third and youngest, died on the couch when the weak heart that plagued him throughout his twelve short years stopped forever. Tears sprung to Enid’s eyes at the thought of Andy, but the pain which had been so searing and raw for years had now ebbed to a dull pinch. Also, two dogs, a cat, and several pet birds and hamsters lay buried in the backyard.
“How short their lives compared to ours,” she mumbled, and sipped her fresh-squeezed lemonade. She gazed at the old tree, and its branches cracked in the breeze as if saying, “How short your life compared to mine.”
Cecil opened the back door, and panting and squeaking with old age, took a seat beside her. He poured himself a glass of lemonade from the pitcher Enid had set on the mosaic bistro table.
The wind picked up and ruffled the leaves. The wind chimes jangled, and the breeze rippled wavelike through the tall grass on the meadow.
Enid shivered, “Oof, it’s getting cooler.”
Cecil smiled and sipped his lemonade, transfixed by the rustling grass.
A cardinal perched itself on the fence; a red spot on a canvas of blue and green. Another cardinal landed on the birdbath that sat in the cedar’s shade.
“Huh,” Cecil huffed, “do you remember all the cardinals we saw the month Andy died?”
“Oh yes,” Enid replied, “we counted at least fifteen!”
“Well, it might’ve been the same birds over and over, but yes, I recall at least fifteen sightings.”
“Andy loved cardinals,” Enid stated, not expecting a reply from Cecil, whose placid gaze wandered over the meadow.
The wind whooshed again, the branches on the cedar crackled, and the wind-waves undulated through the tall grass. A third cardinal alighted on the fence, then a fourth chirped from the tree. Enid and Cecil drank their lemonade. She stole a glance at her husband and noticed his misty eyes lost in their faraway gaze. The soft scent of jasmine meandered through the yard, like memories floating through time.
A sense of calm and love and tranquility settled over the couple. Though neither spoke, they shared this peace. Serene smiles glimmered on their wrinkled lips as the cardinals splashed about in the birdbath.
The wind blew, and the chimes pealed. The branches creaked; the birds chirped. The grass swooshed yet again, and a fifth cardinal appeared. It alighted on the jasmine trellis crawling up the porch column. It faced the couple and chirruped at them. Then it flew away as the others scattered.
Cecil beamed, “Andy says hi.”