Father Davidson woke early and left Deirdre’s house while she was still asleep. He rode his usual route around town, purchasing or gathering various things into little white packages, tied up with string, and hung from his bicycle; they were life essentials which he would give to his friends later that day, when he returned to the orchard. On his way back home he stopped briefly at his sister’s shop to take care of some business inside with Amelia. That completed, he mounted his bicycle again, and rode a wide loop around the town square before continuing up the road to his cabin.
Tara saw the Father later that morning from a distance, as he parked his bicycle in the usual spot against the fence, and then walked across the orchard on the way to his cabin. She waved but he hadn’t seen her; he seemed engrossed in his own thoughts, and purposeful, as he walked briskly past the rows of ancient fruit trees. It was just before noon when Adam saw Father Davidson enter his cabin and shut the door behind him.
Later that afternoon Amelia made a delivery, in order to fulfill the business her brother had requested earlier that morning. She loaded her car with a new easel, an assortment of various sized canvasses, full sets of acrylic and oil paints along with brushes, palette knives, pens, colored pencils and a number of drawing pads, and miscellaneous other items. She had been surprised when her brother came to the store and paid for all of these things, and was even more surprised when he told her who they were for; and then she grew anxious when he asked her to deliver them for him.
Amelia had mixed feelings about Deirdre, but had never needed to sort her feelings out because she never saw Deirdre; it had been many years, possibly decades, since they last met. She felt sorry for the old woman now, and all the pain she apparently bore. As she drove to Deirdre’s home, Amelia remembered back to the first time they met—though it wasn’t a proper meeting—when she and Josh had saved Deirdre’s life, as she lay face-down and unconscious in the water. She had such an outpouring of empathy for that woman back then, and she remembered the pact she had made with Josh that evening, after rescuing Deirdre: a promise to rescue her from her pain and save her from her despair, to do everything they could to help people and never to harm them. She smiled as she thought back to these childhood memories, and to the simplicity they represented. How much she still had to learn about life back then; even so, she wasn’t wrong to think that way then, and it still wasn’t wrong to continue to think that way now.
She was glad that Josh had asked her to deliver the art supplies to Deirdre. It was time to meet and try again. Amelia grimaced as she remembered the terrible difficulty that Deirdre put her brother through, during the trial and sentencing for the fire and Ryan’s death. Deirdre had really hurt Amelia, because of the way she had treated Josh. But that was long ago now, and Amelia could easily understand the horrible pain that Deirdre was going through surrounding the death of her only child; it was understandable that Deirdre needed someone to blame. She smiled as she thought about her brother; how clever of him to arrange this meeting, to create an opportunity to finally reconcile with Deirdre.
Amelia knocked on the front door and waited anxiously. When the door opened, both women stood still, with surprised and quizzical expressions. Deirdre had aged a great deal since Amelia had last seen her, and she wasn’t sure it was her; and Amelia was perhaps the last person Deirdre expected to see standing there when she opened the door. Amelia spoke first.
“I’m sorry to bother you, my brother asked me to drop these things off.”
“What are they?” Deirdre asked, as her surprise turned to confusion.
“Art supplies. He thought you would enjoy them…paints, colored pencils…canvasses, paper—an easel, a lot of other things,” Amelia answered pleasantly.
“Oh…no, I can’t accept all of this,” Deirdre shook her head. “No, that’s fine, tell him thank you but…besides I don’t know how to paint, I can’t use them.”
“You’re in luck!” Amelia exclaimed happily. “He included ten private art lessons as well…with me. Anytime you like!”
Deirdre’s eyes grew large, and she looked at Amelia with a mix of surprise, perplexity and happiness. She smiled secretly, as she let out a deep sigh, and commented, “That is very generous. I don’t know what I did to deserve it…I suppose it would be rude to decline such an offer….but you don’t have time for that…to teach me, do you!?”
“It’s my job!” Amelia laughed. “I mean, even if it wasn’t, I would be happy to teach you. But it is, and it’s all paid for. Josh really wanted you to have this.”
“Well…I don’t know what to say,” Deirdre struggled, but then shrugged gratefully, “Thank you! I guess I can’t refuse then…Please, come in…here, let me help you.” She grabbed a few things from Amelia’s arms and showed her into the house. They spread out the bags of art supplies on the kitchen table, and then Deirdre offered Amelia some coffee. “Please stay for a little longer, I would really like to talk with you. I need to say some things,” she appealed while motioning for Amelia to take a seat.
Deirdre poured the coffee and sat across the table from Amelia and sat for a few moments, seeming to gather her thoughts, before beginning: “I want…I really need to apologize to you for how I acted towards your brother, and to you during the trial. It was wrong, I was wrong…I’m very sorry. Please tell your brother I’m sorry. I wanted to tell him when he was here but I didn’t have the chance, and then he left before I could.”
“When was Josh here?!” Amelia interjected as she sat up in her chair. “Why was he here? Recently?!”
“Yes…he just left this morning. He was here for several days…he hurt himself, he fell off the wall in back, and he hit his head. I think he had a concussion. I tried to convince him to go to the hospital but he refused. He insisted that I take care of him. So I…well, he’s very stubborn isn’t he? So I did what he asked.”
“Was he okay?” Amelia asked urgently and then fell silent as she thought about their meeting together earlier that morning. “He did seem fine when he came to the store this morning.”
“He was banged and bruised a bit, and had a big knot on his head for a few days. But I think he’ll be okay,” Deirdre said reassuringly.
“He’s such a klutz!” Amelia exclaimed. “He’s always falling down, ever since he was a kid. Oh, my goodness I hope he’s okay.” She looked through the back sliding door at the stone wall at the far end of the yard. “He fell off of that!? That is really high!”
“He fell into the shrubs first, and they broke his fall…don’t worry dear, I’m sure he is going to be fine. He’s a young man still and in good shape.”
The two women sat in silence for a while, sipping their coffee. Amelia grew more worried as she sat; Deirdre wished she hadn’t said anything about it.
“I should go,” Amelia said suddenly as she stood up to leave. “I’m sorry. Thank you for the coffee. And I’m really looking forward to painting with you…I really am Deirdre. I am so happy we’re going to do that together…I need to apologize to you too. I’m sorry about everything that happened…I’m so sorry about Ryan, he was such a wonderful person…I…can we talk more later though, Deirdre?! I’m just worried about Josh…I have a bad feeling about this for some reason…I need to go check on him.”
“Of course! You go, dear. Don’t worry about me…we’ll paint together soon. I will call you to set it up…and thank you! Thank you again. It means so much to me…you really have no idea how much.”
Amelia let herself out and ran to her car; and then drove faster than is legal, back to the orchard to check on her brother.
* * *