Never thought I'd become a master gardener on my first try.
On this bright, crisp Saturday morning, the sight of vegetables thriving in my community garden plot dazzled me. Carrots, radishes, onions, beans, tomatoes, kohlrabi—what was I going to do with it all?
But the perfect combination of soaking rains and warm sunshine this spring had resulted not only in a bumper crop of produce but also of ugly weeds.
Five years ago the city converted a vacant lot of several acres into a garden area open to people willing to stake out a small section and grow their own produce. I was sure my grandmother, who had taught me gardening, would be proud. See what I've accomplished, Grandma!
"Looks like you're working hard—and with excellent results."
The male voice startled me.
I stopped hoeing and stood straight. My breath caught as my eyes landed on a tall, handsome man dressed in a yellow T-shirt, well-worn jeans, and sneakers. His curly black hair glistened in the sunlight, and his awesome smile rocked me. I guessed him to be thirty-something, like me.
"That's your plot next to mine?" I asked, my intense reaction to him embarrassing me a bit.
He nodded, his blue eyes shifting from his plot to mine. "You've got a totally green thumb," he said.
I smiled. "Lived with my grandparents on a little farm in Iowa after my folks died in a car accident—I learned a lot."
He nodded. As he eyes scrolled over me in a gentle way, I felt myself flushing and wished I'd done something with my auburn hair besides letting it flow freely to my shoulders. Wished I'd worn a bit of makeup.
He said, "I usually stop here in the evenings, but you must be a morning person. So that's why I haven't seen you before."
"You're right," I said, tilting my straw hat back. What brings you here this morning?"
"Last night's rain. I knew this would be a perfect morning for tackling weeds. Name's Cody McCune," he added, extending a solid, square hand.
I whipped off my glove, and my heart lurched when his warm hand shook mine in a firm but gentle grip.
"Sarah Mitchell," I said, trying not to gulp.
We went to work weeding, but stopped now and then to rest, and we talked freely about ourselves like strangers do sometimes.
He was a dentist, divorced four years ago, single and still unattached. He'd been gardening for three years. He donated most of what he grew to our local food pantry. "Gardening is great physical exercise," he said. "It also gives me a chance to relax, but more importantly, it's an opportunity to donate to the needy, a cause I firmly believe in."
I decided to be honest with him as he apparently had been with me, but I knew it wouldn't be easy.
I was an accountant with the biggest firm in town—that was the easy part. This is the part that was tough: I'd spent the last two years cultivating a relationship that dried up and died on the vine because the man wouldn't commit. I was gardening to clear my head and release excess energy.
Peering sheepishly at my rows and rows of vegetables, I said, "I got carried away with the planting, but I know what I'll do—donate like you do. That'll be perfect."
"Um...would you like to swap some items?"
I looked at him curiously. A stubble of inky-black beard enhanced his handsome good looks. "Swap?"
"I've got lots of zucchini," he said. "But it looks like I'm going to be short on carrots. Tomatoes, too."
"Sure. I've got plastic bags my car."
A half hour later, finished for the day, after we'd completed our vegetable swap, an outrageous thought zipped through my mind. I inhaled a breath of fresh mid-morning air and hoped I wasn't about to make a fool of myself. "Um...when will you be here again?"
His eyes locked with mine, and my heart jolted.
He said, "Tomorrow morning, definitely. There's still work to be done. You?"
I nodded. "Tomorrow morning." Then I cleared my throat. "I have a great recipe of my grandma's for zucchini bread. I'll bring a loaf."
I beautiful smile lighted Cody's face. "I'll bring a thermos of coffee. There's a picnic table by the parking lot."
"Excellent!" I said, and we high-fived.
As we tromped to our cars, bags of produce and hoes in hand, our shoulders bumped. We both felt the bump and smiled at each other. Then I glanced at the blue sky and whispered silently, "Thanks, Grandma!"
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