Autumn was brief in Texas. The trees changed, all except for the tall, straight pines and the sprawling live oaks. The Chinese tallow that lined every ditch and fence line turned a burning orange that consumed their summer green in streaks and licks like flame, and the sycamores were crisp and dull brown. A local girl had told him that the dry whispering of the sycamore leaves was speech of a sort, but only those near death could understand them. He sometimes caught Alexa with her head cocked as if listening to something he couldn't hear, and he wondered what they were telling her. Winter would arrive soon with its wet cold that shivered the flesh off of cattle, and then it would be brief spring rains and long, hot summer again.
No one ever dressed for autumn here. They changed from summer shorts straight to winter coats and sweaters, except for the out-of-towners, the ones who thought ninety degrees was hot and who had seen snow more than twice in their lives. Methos knew how to blend, and was never one to turn down extra opportunities for concealment. He bundled up. Alexa was sick enough by now that she followed suit, and the warm clothes hanging from her thin frame did more to accentuate her illness than conceal it.
They were staying in an old house whose owner rented it out to pay the property taxes because she couldn't bear to get rid of it. There were a few acres of land attached to it and a pond stocked with perch. Alexa's appetite was sporadic, but the light, bland fish soothed it and so Methos visited the pond at dusk most days, while Alexa napped or read under the Confederate jasmine that covered the porch. They had been to hundreds of fine restaurants in their travels, but neither of them were up to it now. They ate at home.
Sometimes the neighbors' children ducked under fences to swim in the pond, which had no alligators like the river or the gravel pits and wasn't full of sharp metal or dangerous currents. Sometimes Alexa watched the younger children, and sometimes she watched the birds fighting over seeds at the feeders strewn about the yard or the squirrels burying acorns under the oaks in preparation for snow that never came. Methos tossed salted peanuts to them sometimes, but the squirrels never touched them. Still, Methos never wanted a whole bag of peanuts, and Alexa despised them, and somehow leftover peanuts were just never worth eating, so the squirrels got them. Alexa frowned at the waste, like she did when he threw leftovers to one of the stray dogs that skulked about, and sometimes Methos wanted to scream at her. She'd intended to waste her life at Joe's, never having seen a thing, had been going to let herself turn to ashes without ever having burned, and she worried about a few peanuts or slices of steak? It was a stupid thing to be angry about, silly to compare bits of food to a woman's life, but the mind went strange places when its only distractions were fish and squirrels and peanuts, and anger came quickly to him now as if something in him were weary of peace. He thought he might be weary of everything, these days.
It was bearable, her dying, because there would be an end to it, and he had friends to go back to, friends who endured as he endured. Alexa seemed as insubstantial to him as the Texas autumn, already a phantom in a phantom season.