Miranda had prepared for her evening out with care. A tall, dark, handsome man had presented her with roses when he met her at the restaurant. The dining room was lit by candlelight alone and during the time it took them to dine, Miranda’s companion complimented and flattered her until she felt beautiful and adored. After they had ordered coffee, he held her gaze as he gently took her hand across the table.
Miranda was disappointed when she was dragged from her dream by the sound of the mail clattering through the letter box.
Leaving the warmth of her bed, Miranda glanced in the mirror and saw to her delight that her make up was as perfect as when she had fallen into bed the previous evening. Pouting at her reflection in the mirror, she pulled a silken robe around her low-cut satin nightdress. Sliding her feet into kitten heel slippers, she had descended the stairs by the time the doorbell rang. As she opened the door, her robe slipped off her right shoulder. Miranda smiled lasciviously as she spotted the rugged looking gardener on her doorstep.
“I’ve come to sort out your bush,” he said, and she raised her eyebrow suggestively.
“Come on in,” she whispered, “don’t mind my outfit”.
“Oh, I don’t mind at all,” he said under his breath as Miranda led him into the kitchen.
The coffee pot whistled as Miranda looked out through her kitchen window. With a puzzled expression, she wondered where the gardener had disappeared to. As she watched, his image materialised from nowhere. She was either imagining things, or there was a magical force taking hold in her garden. She shook her head as she poured steaming black coffee into the waiting cups.
As Miranda observed, the gardener picked up a shovel. Strong, solid muscles twitched in his forearms as he began to dig with a determined look on his face. It didn’t occur to Miranda that he was meant to be pruning foliage, not digging a deep rectangular trench in the soil. She went upstairs and enjoyed a relaxing shower. She failed to hear the footsteps climbing the stairs…
“Honey, are you in there?” Simon yelled above the noise of the shower.
“Yes, I’ll be out in a second” Miranda replied, wondering why Simon was home mid-morning. As she turned the shower off and wrapped herself in a thick towel, she shouted, “The gardener finally came to sort out that overgrown shrubbery, thank goodness.”
But as she returned to their bedroom, she noticed the grey, drawn expression on Simon’s face.
“What’s happened?” she asked urgently, her heart sinking, “is it the kids?”
Simon took a deep breath.
“I am not sure how to tell you this, but I am not of this world,” he began. “I was hoping to be able to stay, but it seems that my time has come. Seven years has passed so it is time for me to leave.”
“Is this some sort of sick joke?” Miranda began, incredulously. “Is there someone else?”
“I know you won’t believe me,” Simon gently replied, “but I am sorry to tell you that when Zac is seven he will also follow in my footsteps. That’s how it works when we visit from Zoriagon.”
Meanwhile, across town, Zac and Millie were sitting in a sandpit with some friends. Zac was nearly four and Millie two, but they always played together at pre-school. They were enjoying their time building sand castles, and were surprised when their dad came out into the garden to see them. He hugged them close and said, “Goodbye” which made them feel even more confused. They giggled as he tickled them, but didn’t turn to watch when he left. It was only ten minutes until Benny the Bear was due to show up, and everyone was excited about that special visit.
Back at the house, Miranda washed up coffee cups then gathered Simon’s clothes into bags to drop at a charity shop on the way to the pre-school. She opened the French window and strolled around the garden.
‘That rectangular patch of earth could do with being planted out,’ she thought. ‘I will pick up some bulbs from the garden centre before I collect the children.’ She smiled to herself as she whispered aloud, “That gardener will fertilise the soil nicely”.
The only thing left to sort out was the matter of her scheduled overseas mission. That was going to be impossible to pull off now that Simon had gone and she had no other full time childcare options available. She was sure that The Agency would understand.