Joe cradled the cockatiel in his hands, then extended one of the bird’s wings to trim the flight feathers. His flock of birds now numbered eight, and one pair had three eggs incubating. The birds shrieked and twittered around him as the morning sun though the skylights lit up the aviary.
“Easy there,” he said softly, gently turning the bird and trimming the other wing. The bird’s mate was preening on a nearby branch.
After releasing the cockatiel, he surveyed the aviary. Carey was coming by in twenty minutes, expecting a tour. Would she like it? It was important to him that she understand his passion. These birds were precious to him—they kept him sane. He walked with effort to the doorway and looked back one more time.
He had met Carey a month ago, when she sat next to him at a township meeting. He had come to make a statement about the pending municipal budget. She was there to see her friend’s grandson get a community award. They got to talking and discovered that they had both lost spouses. They both read voraciously, he about the Civil War and she about women’s history. And she loved birds. Joe had vowed to himself that no one would ever replaced Amelia, but he was drawn to Carey’s joie de vivre. She wasn’t pretentious, and she seemed genuinely interested in him.
Joe’s arthritic hip wouldn’t let him go birding with her, but she said she was intrigued by his cockatiels.
But now he was nervous. Twice he checked his reflection in the hall mirror, smoothing his thinning hair. When he saw her drive up, he felt as he had all those years ago, when he and Amelia were on their first date. Could love happen twice in one life?
“Joe, you look pale. Are feeling alright?” Carey wore a peach scoop-necked shirt and tan capris. She looked lovely.
“I’m fine, fine.” He ushered her in the door and accepted her gift of freshly baked bread.
“I thought we might have a slice or two after we look at the birds.” She looked around at the modest living room, and Joe was pleased to see her nod in approval.
The aviary was at the back of the house, in a room that had once been the den. He had built a screened foyer that allowed him to look into the aviary before entering it. Most guests got only that far—a chance to see the birds but not handle them. Joe took Carey into the room itself. When a bird landed on his shoulder, he transferred it to her hand. He pointed out the markings that made cockatiels unique. He told her about building his flock after Amelia’s death. He showed her the nest with the three perfect eggs.
“Would you like one of the hatchlings?”
Carey shook her head. “Thank you, Joe, but I think the baby birds belong here, with your flock.” She seemed to sense his disappointment. “Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the offer.” Her eyes twinkled. “In fact, I will take one of the hatchlings—as long as it stays in the aviary. That will give me an excuse to come here as often as you’ll have me.”
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