“I’m sorry I missed your birthday party,” Birch said to Luna. “But my mother has been watching me very carefully since I deserted her on New Year’s Eve. I’m also sorry about bringing Stan here. I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay,” Luna said. “Sal has forgiven you.”
“I told her that once I turned eighteen, she couldn’t hold me and I’d come back here. My birthday was yesterday.”
“Happy birthday!” Nancy said.
“Thanks,” Birch said. “And coming here is my birthday present to myself. I’ll be happy to work anywhere here--the fields, the stands, or in the houses. Just let me settle in. I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here.”
“Sure,” Marge said. “There’s one room open in Groovy House. I’ll take you to over to it.”
“Where do you want him to work?” Nancy asked after Birch and Marge left.
“Well, there isn’t much field work to do yet,” Luna said. “The snow is barely beginning to melt out there and we’ve got plenty of help for the Ecogreenhouse. Can you use him at the pastry stand?”
“Not really,” Nancy said, “but I think they could use more help at the produce stand. It would free up Dan and Sal to work more closely with the construction crew. I’ll talk with them about it.”
“Thanks,” Luna said. “I think that it’s getting to be time to plan out our spring. Maybe when things are quiet at the produce stand, he can meet with the field crew and we can start to plot our plots. I mean our vegetable plots.”
“Yeah, winter can’t last forever,” Nancy said. “Even up here in this neck of the woods. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more young folks as the weather gets warmer.”
Patsy sat with Birch in a back room in the Side House.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said.
“Me, too,” he said. “So glad.”
“You know,” Patsy said, “I missed you.”
“I didn’t know,” said Birch, “but I know I missed you. Enormously. I think that I thought of you every day.”
“Wow,” said Patsy. “I didn’t know that you felt that way about me.”
“I didn’t know that I felt that way either, until I wasn’t here any more and I didn’t get to see you,” Birch said.
He reached his hand over to her. She took it.
“You do know that I’m three years older than you,” Patsy said.
“I know,’ Birch replied. “Does it really make a difference?”
“Not to me,” Patsy said.
Birch sat right next to her, as close as he could get. They sat in silence for several minutes, just looking at each other.
“Would it be okay…” Birch stop and swallowed. He looked at Patsy.
She raised her eyebrows. “Would what be okay?”
Birch continued to look at her, staring at her eyes. Slowly she smiled at him, but she didn’t say anything.
Finally he said, “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”
Patsy let out her breath. Her smile became a wide grin. “Okay?” she asked. “Much more than okay. I want to know what you’re waiting for.”