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Winding Down

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“Wilder! It’s so good to see you,” Nessa said, beaming brightly up at her from where she knelt before a bed of leafy greens.

She really did sound happy, and Wilder found herself smiling back, forgetting for a moment the sore muscles in her one arm and the short-circuit in the other. Nessa managed to be that way - warm and welcoming - with everyone, of course. In someone else, Wilder might have taken it for phoniness, but it really did just seem to be Nessa’s way, sweet and fizzy as a cold pop on a hot day.

“Hey, Nessa; Ditto.”

“How’s your day been?” Nessa asked, tossing a curious smile at Wilder before she bent closer to the plants in front of her and began gently but decisively snipping and plucking leafy stems and depositing them into a basket at her side.

“Oh, you know, I’m still on “clean ALL the things!” detail, since nobody seems to have picked up after themselves before getting into their pods.” She could tell Nessa didn’t really recognize the old meme, but she did glance up with another small smile, maybe hearing the joke in Wilder’s voice even if she didn’t really get it. “Almost as bad as the youngins.”

“At least every day brings you closer to being at home with them in their messy rooms, right?”

“Right,” she agreed, shifting over to a planter with vines spilling over its lip and a tell-tale rustling in the greenery. “Wish I could take these little guys home to them.” She reached her unenhanced arm into the criss-cross of vines and came out with a handful of tardigrade. The little fella snuffled at her palm, and she laughed at the tickly little snout. “Never have to bribe anybody to do their chores or eat their stringbeans again if I brought ‘em home a pet GroBear.”

“They’re good company,” Nessa said. “I’ll miss them when the garden is completely wound down.”

“How’s that going?” she asked, noticing as she looked around another bank of flowerbeds freshly turned over to naked soil, dark and fallow, waiting for another planting that would never get made.

“Steady.” Nessa stood and brought her loaded-full basket over to another sparse planting bed. “These are the last of the strawberries,” she said. “I thought we could make them part of a big, fancy fresh salad tonight.”

“That sounds like a real nice supper,” Wilder agreed, letting the tardigrade perch on her shoulder while she moved to help harvest the last of the ripe, red fruit.  “A real nice thought.”

Nessa shrugged and reached out a fingertip to scritch at the tardigrade’s back. “Endings can be bitter; I hoped I could make this one a little sweeter.”