Roots of Romance Ch. 01

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I’d just wanted a place of my own.

I was just 2 years out of college when I found the house listing. It was a small, inexpensive property in the suburban community of Elmore Grove; a bit of a fixer-upper, but not too much to handle. I was itching to move into my own place after 6 years in the same aging apartment, so of course I bought the house immediately. In hindsight, I should have put a little more thought into my decision.

The new house was several hours from my apartment, too far away from my current friend group to expect any of them to visit. Elmore Grove’s residents were retirees or middle-aged couples, so as a fresh college graduate I felt quite out of place. I had to quit my job as well due to the unsustainable commute, which left me scrambling to find a local job without any contacts. What was supposed to be an exciting new chapter in my adult life was quickly becoming yet another source of stress.

So obviously, the best course of action was for me to start replanting the garden. It wouldn’t help with any of my current issues, but I needed to make progress withsomething. I bought a few hardy spring flowers — couldn’t have them dying on me on my tight budget — and spent the next three afternoons planting them in the front yard. Getting into the dirt, moving each plant into its appropriate place and tucking them in, was comfortingly therapeutic; it gave me a sense of ownership over the property. It made my sacrifices seem worth it.

At any rate, I was neck deep in the bushes for the third day in a row when I first heard her.

“You have a beautiful garden here!”

I extricated myself from the brush to see who was speaking. It was an older lady in jogging attire, looking like she had run straight out of an 80’s workout VHS tape. She stood there jogging in place, almost as though debating whether to continue on rather than intrude further. She was accompanied by a small terrier, who was busy nosing about in the flowers I’d planted closer to the sidewalk.

Seeing me look up at her, she smiled while awkwardly tugging the curious dog away from the fresh plants. I smiled back at her, waving politely.

“Oh, thank you! Just trying to make this place a little more presentable. Want to make a good first impression.”

“You certainly did! The lawn was starting to become sort of an eye sore – it will be nice seeing such a lovely display for a change when I go out on my walks.”

I smiled modestly, brushing the loose dirt off of my hands. “I’m glad at least one other person appreciates my work!”

Her terrier, now taking notice of me, strained against the leash to try and reach me. I moved over to it, hoping to prevent the excitable pet from scuffing up the topsoil. It cautiously sniffed my outstretched fist, then began licking it enthusiastically as I pet it.

“You’re pretty good with dogs, too! She usually doesn’t like strangers.”

“You figure it out after being bitten a few times!” I stood up to speak to her directly, only then noticing how intently she had been staring at me. “So, uh, do you come around here often?”

“Oh yes I do, I’m always walking around, getting my daily dose of sunshine. Helps keep me young and spry.”

“It must be working, you look great.” I answered, only realizing after how unintentionally flirtatious I sounded. I fumbled, trying to smooth over my comment. “I mean, exercise is obviously good for everyone! So that was, you know, a good decision.”

She laughed softly. “Oh, don’t you worry yourself! I know what you mean.” She called back her terrier, which bounded over to her excitedly.

It was true that she had aged gracefully; her face, framed by messy copper hair, was warm and glowing with vitality – or maybe she was just flushed from her exercise? She carried herself with an air of youth and vitality, complementing her athletic figure. If I’d met her anywhere outside of the sleepy suburban settlement, I’d have assumed she was only a little older than me.

“Well, I should finish my walk…” She started to leave, calling her pet back to her before stopping and turning back. “Oh wait! I didn’t get your name.”

“The name’s Oliver, Oliver Young. I’d shake your hand, but…” I presented my dirt caked hand to her to punctuate the point. She just laughed, taking my hand anyway.

“It’ll take more than a little dirt to scare me off! I’m Hazel Wright, and she is Kiki; don’t forget it hon!”

“I’m sure I won’t, Mrs. Wright. I won’t forget you either, Kiki!” I pet Kiki one more time, who yipped happily in response.

“Please, call me Hazel! Mrs. Wright just makes me sound so, old…” Her voice trailed off, and for a moment her eyes seemed clouded with worry; it cleared up just as quickly, so fast I doubted if it was ever there.

“Oh, well Hazel it is then. If all goes well the garden will be more presentable next time you come by.”

“I hope so! Hopefully I’ll get to see you as well, no one else walks around here!”

I watched her walk away before bonus veren siteler going back to my work. I was reminded again of just how alone I was in this new neighborhood. I quickly finished up my planting, and went inside to start making dinner. I missed dealing with the leaky faucet, or arguing with my messy roommate — things I’d gotten the new house to avoid. He may have been an ass, but he was a fun-loving ass.

I went to bed feeling conflicted — lonely and worried, but also hopeful. I needed a job before bills began rolling in, and I had a few places in mind for quick part-time work. It was important that my work in the house be completed quickly so I wouldn’t be distracted from my interviews. At the very least, having one new friend here was a bright spot in this whole experience.

* * * * *

I saw Hazel again while working the next day, much sooner than I expected. Even more surprising was that she wasn’t walking Kiki – she was accompanied instead by a much larger, but equally friendly, black Labrador.

“Hello, neighbor!”

“Oh, hi Hazel! I see Kiki is all grown up now!” I needed a break from my work, so I moved over to talk with her for a while. I definitely didn’t want her dog running through the garden either.

“They grow up so fast, don’t they? But no, this is Randall, one of our neighbor’s pups.”

Randall bounded about, impatiently demanding my attention. I was happy to oblige, rewarding his obnoxiousness with enthusiastic pets.

“It’s a little dreary walking by myself, so I talked with some of the older couples around here and offered to walk their pets. The faster one’s like Randall keep me on my toes as well!”

“I can see why — I’d have a rough time handling this big guy, too!” I meant it too, as I was still trying to contain his energetic trajectories. He proved too much for me, dislodging some of the newly planted flowers.

“Well, you’re welcome to walk him for a bi-” Just then, Randall decided he was done with my yard and was ready to move on, sprinting off as far as his leash would let him. Hazel staggered forwards, almost losing hold of him entirely; I couldn’t help but laugh a little as she was dragged away.

“Looks like you need a hand with that!” I took the leash from her and reigned in her excited charge. I knew she didn’t really need my help, but I didn’t want our conversation to end just yet — taking the leash was just a convenient excuse to draw things out. Hazel didn’t seem to mind at least.

We walked together for the next 30 minutes, discussing how I was adjusting to life in Elmore Grove. While I enjoyed the suburb’s quiet atmosphere and had a few job applications lined up, I was beginning to feel just how separated I was from my peers. There was no one my age in the area, and I hadn’t found any local groups where I could find new friends.

Hazel had lived in the area for years, but could still relate to my feeling of isolation. While she was married, her husband often had to travel for business trips, leaving her at home alone. Her neighbors mostly kept to themselves, so she and her husband rarely met their neighbors. The few she knew — who were kind enough to let her walk their dogs — were content with their stay-at-home lifestyle. Hazel was not so ready to settle down.

“We still have so much life in us! I can’t just waste away indoors for the next 20, 30 years. I won’t always be able to go out like this…”

I recognized the same dark expression starting to gather, clouding her blue eyes. I quickly steered the conversation to a brighter subject.

“Well, I need to get out more. I’d be happy to go out on the occasional walk, not that I’d be better company than a dog, of course!”

“Oh, that would be lovely! Although I wouldn’t want to bother you…”

“It wouldn’t be any trouble, really. As long as you don’t mind, I don’t either.” It just made sense at the time — we both needed some companionship, and had hit things of quite well from our first meeting the day before.

We parted ways at her house, agreeing that we could meet every few days to match with our slow-paced schedules. However, my life sped up considerably over the next few weeks; I landed a job at a local bar, taking on extra shifts in order to cover my bills until I could find a second job. I started seriously improving my new pad as well, gradually unpacking my belongings and moving in new furniture.

Even so, I frequently found time to work out in the garden — and while doing so I was always visited by Hazel. She always seemed to be around whenever I was working outside, engaging me in small talk before inviting me to join her on her walk. Every time I was taken aback by just how warm and youthful she was; it was almost impossible to turn down her offer, resulting in us walking several more times than we had planned. Of course, neither of us minded.

Things fell into a comfortable rhythm, with my bartending, renovations, and evening walks all melting together bedava bahis into a blur. My intent to find a second job faded into the background, and I completely forgot my goal to find new social circles, but I was too content to really care.

This went on for about a month, and my garden reached an impressive level of completion. As the first renovation I started on, I took special pride in keeping my front and back yards both in perfect condition, with trimmed lawns and colorful flowers. Hazel always took notice of my progress when she came by, which made me even more proud. So I wasn’t too surprised when she eventually asked for help with her own garden.

* * * * *

I was busy watering in the front yard when Hazel came around for her habitual visit a little early. She was noticeably more peppy than usual, even though she tried to hide her excitement under her usual warm demeanor — it showed through her bouncy gait and sparkling eyes. I chose not to call attention to it, simply waving to her as usual.

“Heya, Hazel! I see you’re coming by yourself today — did no one need walking?”

“Isn’t that what I have you for, sugar?” She pranced right up to me and hugged me warmly before I could respond. She’d started doing that a few days prior, along with giving me a few new pet names. Despite feeling a little too familiar, I ultimately welcomed both developments in our relationship; I wasn’t about to turn down a hug from my bubbly, curvy friend.

“I guess it is!” She finally released me to resume my watering. “Someone’s having a good day! You’re in an awfully good mood.”

“Is it really that obvious? I thought I did a good job of hiding it.” She settled into a lawn chair I’d set up a few weeks prior, watching me tend to the shrubbery. “I had a surprise for you, so maybe you could pretend you didn’t notice!”

“No can do, nothing gets by these young eyes! Let me finish up here and you can tell me your surprise while we walk.”

“Well, that’s actually why I’m here…” She crossed her legs, adjusting the neck of her jogging top. “I’ve been watching you work on this garden, and I felt like I, you know, want some of that too…”

“Oh? Are you considering expanding your own garden? I’d be happy to come over if that’s the case.”

“Yeah, I’d love for you to come over! I’ve done some work already, but I also had a potted tree delivered that I could really use some help with. Do you think you can help?”

“Of course I can! You already have a shovel, or should I bring mine?” I went to fetch it anyway, figuring I’d get more done with my own equipment anyway. I’d never planted a tree before, but I was willing to learn — and I could always fall back on Google if it was too complicated.

We didn’t follow our usual route this time, instead going directly to Hazel’s house. I’d never been inside before, but I could tell from the outside that it was very well furnished. Everything visible on the outside — the lawn, white-brick walls, and smooth deck — were all simple but of high quality. I was suddenly nervous to walk through with my dirty gardening equipment, but Hazel dragged me through the front door anyway.

The Mr. Wright’s work may have kept him away from home, but it also paid very well; the house was comfortably furnished, high-quality but not extravagant. It really felt like the perfect retirement home. But I didn’t have much time to admire the interior, as I was quickly rushed through to the back door.

It wasn’t until I reached the back yard that I realized just what Hazel had meant by “some work” — her garden put my meagre efforts to shame! She had full-sized rose bushes surrounding a seating area, a small koi pond near the back fence, and even a modest vegetable garden pressed between two pieces of slate.

“Do you like it?”

Hazel’s face was positively beaming. I was sure she’d taken notice of my shocked expression upon first laying eyes on her backyard paradise. I blushed slightly, nodding.

“Y-yeah! It’s amazing! You never told me-“

“I just didn’t want to discourage you! I wanted to see what you would do with your yard — and you did an amazing job!” She walked over to the rose bushes, running her hand along the love-seat placed there. “This garden is the product of many idle hours, spent holed up here alone. I’ve only really been able to enjoy it a few times, when Basil is home…”

She stopped suddenly, turning back to me. “Oh that’s right! I haven’t even shown you the tree I bought!” She pointed to the far side of the house, where the potted tree was set against the wall. “It’s an oak tree — it’ll be so beautiful once it is fully grown. Could you bring it over to the middle of the yard for me? I’m ready to get started!”

Actually planting the tree turned out to be a little more complicated than I had anticipated. I had assumed that I simply needed to dig a hole big enough for the pot, but Hazel was quick to tell me otherwise — a hole at least 3 times as wide deneme bonus would be required to give the roots space to expand. There was little work required other than digging, which meant it was simple enough to carry casual conversation while I worked, but the additional exertion eventually began to get to me. Sweat dripped down from my brown hair onto my face, forcing me to take occasional breaks to wipe my eyes.

At last the digging was complete, and the time came to finally plant the oak itself. I moved to scoop it up, only for Hazel to step in ahead of me.

“Oh no, I think I should do this. You’ve done so much already, even though you were only meant to help me!”

“I don’t mind doing it — it was pretty heavy when I moved it over here. Are you sure you can lift it?”

“Of course I can lift it! I’m not so frail that I need you to do everything – and I’m not going to let you do all the work by yourself!”

I could tell by the fiery look in her dark blue eyes that she wasn’t going to budge, but I wasn’t sure if she could lift the tree either — or at the very least move it into the whole correctly.

“Alright alright, you did bring me along just to help! Maybe… would rather us move it in together?”

Her terse demeanor dissipated at once, leaving her somewhat flustered. She turned away, flushed.

“Yes, maybe that is best…”

“You have a shovel as well, right? You can help me fill the hole back in, too! It’ll go much faster with us working together.” I took hold of the tree stem, looking to Hazel for her response. She lightened, smiling as she joined me by the tree.

“You always know just what to say, don’t you sugar?”

“You figure it out after you’ve been bitten a few times!” I grinned and began lifting the tree up. “Let’s get this thing in the hole already!”

The remaining work was substantially more upbeat with us working together; we started out casually discussing Hazel’s past gardening ventures, until we noticed that we had each shoveled about the same amount of dirt back into the hole. Our work quickly became an unspoken competition to shovel the most dirt possible — an incredibly childish rivalry that would have felt wrong with anyone else except Hazel. I wasn’t going easy on her either, trying my best to balance our conversation with my aggressive shoveling. Even so, I came up just short, failing to reach the last pile of dirt before Hazel scooped it up first.

She triumphantly deposited the final scoop, patting the soil into place. “Well. Looks like I was more help than you thought I’d be! I think I even shoveled more dirt than you.”

“Huff… well I did… dig out the entire hole earlier…” I plopped the shovel down, sitting on the ground next to the newly planted tree.

“Now don’t start making excuses, sugar! I shoveled more and that’s that!” She wiped her brow, brushing her copper red hair away from her face. It was obvious that she had worn herself out as well, despite her attempt to look composed. I decided to just let her have this one.

“I guess you’re right… not like there was a prize or anything…”

“Well, there is a consolation prize if you like! There’s lemonade inside, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that!”

I could only shoot her a weary thumbs up. She giggled, waving me off as she turned to the house.

“Unless you want to drink it down there, you’d better move over to the table!” She gestured to the loveseat flanked with rosebushes before disappearing into the house. I sunbathed for a few minutes on the grass before finally rising to my feet, and moving over to the seat.

It was a nice seating area — there were a couple of cushioned loveseats, each about large enough for two, situated underneath a large umbrella. The breeze blowing through was refreshingly cool despite how warm the afternoon still was. I closed my eyes and just let the wind blow over me.

“Oliver, honey! The lemonade is ready!”

I sat up eagerly as she walked over with the drinks. She had two tall glasses of pink lemonade, rimmed with margarita salt and lemon slices — much fancier than what I was expecting, and certainly welcome!

Then I looked at her.

Hazel was still wearing the same skin-tight trainers as before, but had changed out of her long sleeve blouse into a sports bra. It was impossible to ignore her plump breasts, straining against her tight top. Her bare midriff drew my eyes down to her broad hips, her curves highlighted by her snug, form-fitting pants. Her outfit change was subtle, but it immediately brought her amazing bombshell figure into full focus.

I finally tore my eyes away from her body and back up to her face. For the first time since I’d met her, I was unable to read her expression — there was definitely a hint of mischievousness in those eyes, but also nervousness? Motherly warmth, but also wanton lust? All I knew was that she was beautiful, and she knew it as well.

She set the lemonade down on the table, never looking away from me for a second. I could feel her eyes running over my tanned body as well. I immediately felt self-conscious — I wasn’t at all ashamed of my body, in fact I was proud of my modestly defined build. It’s just that I wasn’t used to being looked at so… hungrily.

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