Eight years later
Mary’s boots crunched in the icy topsoil of the vegetable bed. Winter had lingered well into April that year, bringing her out into the garden early in the morning to check on the fragile seedlings.
It was just as well. The garden was the only place she felt remotely at ease these days.
Just last night, she had argued with Uncle Archie.
“You know you have to be presented this summer,” he said sternly. Beside the fire, Colin glanced up warily.
Mary stared at her wineglass. “The war made that sort of thing so unimportant.”
“To you, maybe.”
He gave her a sharp look, but said nothing.
Mary frowned as she pushed her trowel into the soil. Her uncle acted like life after the war was supposed to continue exactly as before. As though most of the young men she’d known weren’t dead.
She thought of Dickon.
“Stop,” she whispered.
What a waste it had been. Dickon was called up with only five months left in the war and promptly gunned down somewhere in France. For no reason. For nothing.
Mary found herself with her face in her hands.
Uncle Archie turned awkward when she spoke of it. Colin became angry. Only Martha understood, and she had gone home to help her grieving mother.
Mary felt lost. Even the garden felt strange to her. It had never been hers, really. It had been his. And now her bit of Earth rejected her like a foreign root.
Above her head, she heard a robin chirp.
Mary shivered softly. Robins — Dickon’s favorite birds. He had had a connection with them, just as he had with his fox, with the moor, with this garden.
He would be ashamed at how she had let it fall fallow.
She dug her trowel in with more energy, hacking away at the ice, turning the soil loose. Beneath the ice, the dirt was vaguely warm.
She looked up. Colin stood on a ladder, looking over the wall.
“What are you doing here?” she asked after a moment.
“Checking on the beds. I didn’t think you’d be here.” He paused. “Can I come in?”
Mary nodded. He quickly descended,and after a moment, she heard the door open and his slow steps across the ice.
He squatted beside her. “There should be shoots soon. Have you found any?”
Mary shook her head.
“Well, let’s see.” Colin turned the soil gently, running it through his fingers.
“There,” he said softly after a moment. “Do you see?”
Mary touched the small green sprout. “A tulip. I didn’t think anything would be growing here.”
“We thought that before.” Colin smiled at her, taking up a trowel. “That’s the thing about gardens, Mary — they renew.”