**Asher and Kyle continued. Read Part 1 here if you missed it. Enjoy!**
I’d bought my half of the duplex ten years ago, and in the past decade, I’d had several neighbors. Kyle was, by far, the best one. I never heard him. We only saw each other if we left or arrived at the same time, and then he always had a cheery wave and greeting for me. Sometimes we talked for a few minutes as we walked to our front doors. But never more than that.
Which is why I was surprised to answer the door one evening and find him standing there. He was wearing a smile that lit up his face, and holding two bottles of local microbrew that I loved. He held one out to me, and I took it with a hearty thanks.
“So,” he said, leaning back against he railing of my porch. “I noticed by the sticker on your truck that you’re a landscaper.” He gestured with his bottle toward the logo on the driver’s side door.
I squinted at him as I took a pull from the bottle. The beer went down smooth, hoppy and delicious, with just a hint of a citrus aftertaste. “Mhmm.”
His grin turned mischievous. “So I have to wonder, why haven’t you done anything with the backyard?”
I laughed and shook my head. The duplexes shared both a front and back yard, and I had a deal with the guy who owned Kyle’s house that I’d split yard work with his tenant. The family that had lived there before Kyle had mowed the back, because they took their kids out there to play, and I’d taken care of the front. I knew the backyard was overgrown. The hedges were ridiculous, but I’d never felt the need to go back there. The pavers that acted as a patio out my back door were far enough, and only because I kept the grill out there.
I shrugged. “Don’t spend too much time out there. And I guess I get enough of it at work.”
It was his turn to squint. “But I would think, if you love your job, you’d want to take care of your own place. Unless you don’t?”
“No, I do,” I assured him. I took another drink, trying to think of what to say. “It’s satisfying right down to my bones. And I enjoy every part of the process. But like I said, I’m never out there. Plus, the last people had kids, and I didn’t want them to ruin all of my hard work.”
He nodded. “Makes sense. So, would you mind if I did some stuff out there?”
I shook my head and straightened up from where I’d been leaning against the door frame. “Knock yourself out. What did you have in mind?”
His whole face brightened, and he practically leaped off the porch, beckoning me with his free hand. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
I followed along in his bouncing wake, amused by his enthusiasm. He was always full of energy whenever I saw him, whether that was six o’clock in the morning, or eleven o’clock at night. I didn’t know where he got it all, but I was happy to be apart of it. He jogged the last few steps around the house, and by the time I turned the corner, he was standing in the middle of the patio with his arms spread wide.
“Okay, so.” His grin got even bigger and I was afraid it would hurt his face. “Obviously trim the bushes and cut the grass. That’s the first thing. But also, I was thinking of getting those big cement planters, right? I mean, I only lease, so I’d want to take them with me if I ever left. With bright colored flowers, though I don’t know what kind, to bring some color back here. And I would put them around the patio.” He gestured, making sweeping motions with his hands. “I’d love a fire pit right here.” He pointed to the edge of the patio. “And I’d get some great furniture out here. Loungers and a table. Oh! And over here.” He jogged to the edge on my side of he patio. “I know it’s your half, but man, this would be the perfect spot for a pond. I’ve been researching, and there are above ground pond kit thingies. If you wouldn’t mind me taking some space up, I’d love to do that.”
I stared at him, my breath catching in my throat. His joy was infectious, and I could see everything as he’d laid it out. He made it sound perfect, like an oasis, and if I had that kind of space back here, I’d sure as hell spend more time out here. For a minute, I felt foolish that I’d never done anything more than the basics in the back.
“Sounds great,” I said, and I had to clear my throat. “I’ll help.”
Kyle went still, and then slowly turned around to face me. “You don’t have to. I mean, that’s not why I talked to you. I just…you know, thought I should get your approval before I do anything. Since half of this is yours.”
“No, I want to. Help, I mean. It’ll be great. Together we can make a great space.”
The smile on his face made my heart pound.
We’d made plans to get started on the backyard that weekend, but when a mix up at my job site had me calling it an early day on Friday, I got started early. Saturday morning, I met him outside at eight like we agreed. Kyle was standing in the middle of the patio, his hand over his mouth. When I walked out my back door, he turned wide eyes on me.
“You…” he gestured, first to the fire pit I’d installed, and then to the hole I’d dug. “That’s…you.”
I shrugged, ridiculously pleased for some reason that he was overwhelmed. I could see how much he loved it already, and that made me stupidly happy.
“Well, if we’re going to put in a pond, we might as well do it right. I have the stuff in the truck to line it, and the pump. But I needed more daylight to do it. I thought I’d do that while you did the hedges and the grass, and then we can head to the garden center and get your planters, flowers, and potting soil. Sound like a plan?”
He nodded mutely. I hid my grin.
“The mower and shit are in the shed.” I jerked my chin to the back of the yard. “Get to it. We’re burning daylight.”
He nodded again, and I could swear I saw him wipe his eyes when he turned away. I ignored that, not knowing what to do with it, and went to get the crap for the pond out of my truck.
It had taken us the whole weekend, but the backyard was done. Snapdragons, petunias, and marigolds were planted in long, rectangular planters strategically placed around the patio. We had a fire in the pit, and I’d grilled steaks that we’d enjoyed sitting at his new table. The night air was cool, but not cold, and we sat in the silence–save for the crackling fire, the burbling pond, and the occasional cricket–and just enjoyed the space.
Kyle reached out, put a hand on my arm, and squeezed. His touch felt like a brand, and I savored the warmth.
“Thank you Asher,” he said reverently. “This is…this is perfect. Exactly what I wanted.”
“You’re welcome,” I responded softly. My heart was thumping again, and I didn’t know why I was so happy that he was happy. I shook my head, tipped my bottle at him in salute, and then smiled. “Any time.”
And I meant it.