Shelby leaned over the bottles and gazed out the window to check on Henry. As she anticipated, he was on his knees in his new garden. One blue jean leg was tucked into the back of his work boot, his brimmed baseball cap sat high on his brown curls. She watched as he smoothed his palm over the muddy hillocks where he’d planted tomatoes last week. At least his gloves were tucked into his back pocket. No matter how many times she asked him, Henry would start the day with his hands covered, but as soon as he was eye level with his greenery he’d toss them off and thrust his fingers into the damp ground to relocate earth worms and tamp the soil around his seedlings. Though she had taught him to scrub his hands thoroughly with Fels Naptha, the bar laundry soap that Gram used to swear by, it was a rare night that Henry didn’t go to sleep with dirt under his fingernails.
Shelby watched as he patted the soil around the zucchini and the cucumbers, and knew that soon she would have to walk out there, take him by the arm and lead him inside. Henry would stay with his babies all night if she let him; she’d learned that from hard experience.
Although he was only seven minutes younger than she, it had been a long time since Shelby had thought of Henry as a twin brother--for so long now; they’d lived more like mother and son. When Gram was alive, she had seen to Henry’s needs, but for the last 13 years, Shelby and Henry encompassed their own little nucleus of family. And though Henry’s mind had never grown beyond his ten-year-old self, each morning she chuckled as he greeted her with his sing-song, “Morning, morning Shelby,” while sliding into the bench at the table, grinning at the strawberries and chocolate milk she placed in front of him. “Morning, morning Henry,” she’d smile right back.
She was aware that people who didn’t know them assumed that she and Henry were husband and wife. Most times it didn’t take long--they'd see Shelby hand him his napkin at a restaurant and remind him to wipe his mouth, or the way he looked down at the ground and etched the dirt with his booted toe upon encountering a stranger, and realize that Henry wasn’t “all there” as she had overheard Vera telling her sales manager on the telephone.
To Shelby though, Henry was more there than anyone. Though his garden was by far his favorite, Henry threw himself into all his projects, rarely slowing down. And whenever he saw his sister after an absence, he’d smile and call, “Hi Shelby, Shelby. How ya doing Shelby, Shelby?”with a smile so vast, you'd think she'd been gone for years. Shelby held tight to the blessing of Henry’s sweet disposition, his kind humor and the lack of temper, well aware that many families, regardless of intelligence, had things much worse.
Absentmindedly fingering the daisy petals, she again peered out the window to Henry, and saw from his profile that he was singing to his plants. Henry’s garden was one of the underlying reasons that this house was so perfect. Though the façade of the Victorian stood 20 feet from the street, the lot was narrow and deep, with plenty of sunny space out back for Henry to plant his vegetables. Yes, she’d dug a little deeper into the principal of their joint inheritance than she should have to produce the purchase price, but as she watched Henry mouth the words to music she couldn’t hear, she knew she’d done the right thing.
Comments anyone? I have no idea where this is going...