Grace stopped. Her eyes searched his face then cast themselves sideways to recollect. "Bennet Wimmer," she said questioning her memory. An image of a boy in the top of a popular tree came to her mind. He was swaying at the top of the tree, gently at first, riding the branches back and forth. One hand was held up to the sky, as if to balance from the very clouds above. The wind picked up and the rocking became more exaggerated. Beneath the tree, other children cheered him on in his recklessness. It wasn't long before the young poplar gave way to his weight in the wind. Grace remembered how she had watched in fascination, as the tree had bent itself in half and how Bennet had clung to the top most branches, dangling 15 feet from the ground, before he had dropped into a heap on the ground. She had run across the field to join her peers gathered around him to see if he was dead. It was child's memory, and made her giggle out loud in discomfort.
All of this ticker-taped vividly through her mind in a manner of seconds. This was Bennet Wimmer, she said to herself, That Bennet Wimmer. This was the son of Mrs. Wimmer...who had gone off to some weird college in Florida to become a tree specialist or Botanist...or something...
Grace was aware that her face had gone a bit red. Her neck felt welty. Hot. He waited for the connection with his hand thrust between the rungs of the fence.
Bennet watched as all of these images swam before her eyes. The seconds passed and he considered withdrawing his hand, and was about to that very thing, when Grace grasp it.
"I remember you Bennet, I remember you now. You were the boy that was so crazy about the trees." Grace smiled. "I do remember you."
"And you were the Girl that heard the voices," blurted out Bennet. He knew in an instant that he had said the wrong thing.
"Heard voices?" Grace snapped. "HEARD VOICES? What are you talking about? I never heard any voices. Voices? Like I am Crazy?" she queried.
"No, NO, sorry, I didn't mean it that way. Look, I am so sorry. I didn't mean that I thought you heard voices, it was just a nasty rumor that the kids would spread about you...back when we were kids...you know." He back pedaled but felt the more he said the worse it got.
"OTHER kids SAID that about ME?" Grace said as she brushed at some stubborn crumbs that seemed to have been glued to her chin.
"I never knew that. Well, thanks so much Bennet. Its been such a pleasure seeing you again."
"Well," began Bennet, "Hold on now, kids said terrible things about me as a child, and I knew what they said. At least you didn't...until now," he finished lamely. "Grace," he began again, "I wasn't spying on you, I carry my monocular with me, I saw movement down below, and well, I just wanted to investigate. I was not trying to spy on you really. I apologize for what seems now like a creepy thing to do."
Grace recognized his contrition, his attempt to make things better, but it barely soothed her ruffled feathers.
"Thanks Bennet. Look, I am sorry to have heard about your Mom. This is awkward. I should have gone to the service for her, the funeral, but I just couldn't make it." Grace offered all of this with starch in her voice. She was being polite, she did feel bad for him just on principle, but her mind dwelled on the earlier remark about the voices. It had explained alot about why her peers had acted the way they did. She wanted now to hurry away and dissect those memories, and put them back together in a manner that made sense to her.
Bennet just felt bad. His first contact with a neighbor, and he had screwed it up. "That's OK Grace." This was all he could volunteer, all he could think of to say to the woman who stood before him on the other side of the gate.
Amends, he thought to himself. Make amends. He argued silently with himself, why do I care, he thought?
"Grace, can you be here tomorrow at say around seven thirty?"
""Here? I live here Bennet. I am here all the time," she replied cantankerously.
"No," he replied with great frustration now, "Here at the gate, tomorrow morning."
She shrugged her shoulders noncommittally. She turned to walk down the path, and said over her shoulder, "Yeah sure. seven thirty. At the gate. Tomorrow."
Grace had no intention of being at the gate at seven thirty. With out looking back, Grace flounced down the path through her pasture.
"Voices," she said under her breath to Murray who was trotting at her side. "Do you see what people say about me Murray?"
Murray looked up at Grace with an expression of disgust. He had never regretted for a single day the gift of communication that they shared. He said nothing.
When Bennet called after them "See ya tomorrow," Grace just waved her hand in a backward sign of farewell.