In the last episode, Mike managed to spend a few minutes with Maybelle the head of the engineering department at Willow keep, and was bold enough to tell her how he felt about her. The meeting ended with Mike hoping for more but unsure about if Maybelle was interested or was only being kind. He is pulled away to have personal visits with the other women he had chosen from the earlier interviews.
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High up in the willow tree the she tinkers had built a sturdy platform amid the swaying branches. From that height Mike could see clear across the park and in the distance make out the top edge of the crabapple tree. He shifted his chair closer to the center of the platform, the thought of being that high again made him feel decidedly ill. He hadn’t quite recovered from his experience with Ben the crazy blue jay. The current she tinker, Melissa, leaned against the rail that circled the platform. Her earthy brown hair twisted in the breeze behind her and the subdued green dress hugged her legs.
He had chosen her because she hadn’t tried to impress him with her looks, or wow him with her skills. She had simply come to the meeting and seemed more interested in learning about him beyond the trivial questions that the other she tinkers had asked. Now, alone, that shyness that he imagined before had disappeared.
In the beginning of their meeting she had sat close to him. Her sea blue eyes twinkled with curiosity as they spoke. She had drifted further and further away as the meeting continued.
“You mean to say there aren’t any other tinkers where you live? Don’t you get bored?” She traced a finger along the top of the rail and watched the swaying leaves.
Mike couldn’t blame her for losing interest. His own thoughts kept returning to Maybelle and what he would need to do to capture her interest. He wanted to impress her, wanted to make himself worthy of her attentions.
Melissa turned back to face him when he didn’t answer her question right away. He shifted in the chair and tugged at the cuff of his shirt sleeve. “It’s never boring, there are always plenty of things to do in that old house. There’s a terrific garden that could use the care of a she tinker.” He tugged at the other cuff. “I didn’t leave because I was bored, I left because I wanted to find someone to share my life with.”
“I don’t think you realize how much you are asking. Here at the keep I have friends that I can talk to. I have a job that I like doing. I’m fed, protected, and cared for. I don’t know if I’m ready to leave all that and go out into the world alone.”
Mike couldn’t help but wonder if Maybelle would feel the same. It was true that he couldn’t offer her what she had here at the keep, but he could offer her the one thing that she didn’t have, love and a family.
He stood and reached a hand toward Melissa. “You’re right, I can’t offer you those things, and they are important to you.” He took her hand and held it between his. “I think we both know that you’d be happier if you stayed here. Thank you for your time.”
Melissa smiled and Mike tried not to read too much into the relief that he saw in her face. He couldn’t help but wonder if there were other things about him that turned her away as well. He could feed, care, and protect her at the yellow house, and she would have plenty of work to keep her busy. He couldn’t change the way he looked or how he spoke.
The meetings continued for several more hours and after each one Mike found himself growing more and more depressed. He couldn’t find that connection he sought with any of the women. Most were young and too naïve to understand what he was asking of them. They would eagerly agree with everything he said with wide eyes and simpering smiles. It would be wrong to choose any of them unless he knew with certainty that they had thought through what leaving the keep meant.
As he waited for yet another woman to climb the stairs he admired the handiwork of the woven willow railing. Larger boughs intertwined with smaller switches giving it the look of an elaborate wicker basket. It made him think of Maybelle once again and her exquisite hands, her delicate features. He imagined her finding happiness within the walls of the yellow house and bringing her beauty and talent to his life. For a moment a burst of joy filled him, like sun through clouds.
That joy fled at the sound of footsteps. He dreaded spending another moment with yet another woman. They would find something wrong with him or he them and he couldn’t take one more rejection. He was about to tell them that he had had enough for one day when Maybelle appeared at the top of the stairs.
He stood and straightened his shirt again. The sight of her twisted his tongue into a knot. “I thought you were busy,” he stammered.
“I needed a break.” She crossed the platform and rested her arms on the railing. “Have you found true love yet?”
“Hardly. These women are all lovely and talented, but they all lack one thing.” He joined her at the railing, even though the height made his heart leap into his throat. “None of them are you.”
She studied her hands. “You realize I know nothing about you, nor you I.”
“Perhaps it’s time to remedy that.”
To be continued…
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