(We now continue with the apparently never-ending capricious tale of Brad. Yes, I know this story is messy and disjointed and imperfect. I just want to see if I can finish something for once without bogging down in the urge to edit.)
"I don't know what to do," he admitted, whispering to the caprice. "I thought maybe I could get Mom to take me back, but I know now I can't count on her. It wouldn't be so bad if this were just a temporary situation, but I'm so afraid I'll end up stuck in this place, with no air and no sun and nowhere for things to grow." He looked out at the sterile moon. "I wish... I wish there were a place somewhere I could live for good... a place with as much room as I needed... with the kind of soil that would grow anything... just a place I could be at home."
As he looked back at the caprice, Brad drew in a breath. The plant had started to grow again, in a way he hadn't seen for years. It began to look more and more like a young tree, with a slim, woody trunk and flowering branches. Brad stared in wonder as the caprice grew to about a yard in height, and then stopped. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he felt strangely confident the plant had done something significant, something he couldn't see. But what, exactly?
Despite his curiosity, Brad found, abruptly, that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. He let out a huge yawn and had just enough time to put the caprice back on the windowsill before he fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, Brad wasn't awakened by his cousins fighting, or being sat on, or even by the sound of the vacuum cleaner scooting through the room (although all these things happened). The thing that finally woke him up was his aunt shaking his shoulder.
"Brad? Honey? You'd better get up. There's someone here to see you."
The "someone" turned out to be Victoria, who had apparently knocked on doors at random until she found the right one. Today she was bedecked in a huge straw hat, a smock and denim cutoffs. "Hi," she said cheerily as Brad wandered out, still in his pajamas.
"Um, hi," said Brad foggily. "Isn't it a little early yet?"
"It's almost noon," Victoria observed. "I was afraid I might interrupt your lunch." She scuffed a foot on the carpet, and Brad noticed she was barefoot. "If you like, I'll wait 'til you change," she added.
"Why? What did you have in mind?"
"Well, you seemed like the kind of person who doesn't usually come over the first time he's invited, so I figured I'd just find you and bring you over." She smiled. "You can have lunch with us. Or breakfast, if you prefer."
"I, um... well... okay. I'll just... go change then."
Victoria didn't give Brad much time to think. Once he was into his street clothes, she took his hand and practically pulled him out of the condo, down the street, around the corner and along another several blocks, chatting all the way until they reached a picket-fenced yard on McTavish.
"... anyway, it's a much more comprehensive education and I'm learning all the time, so I do a lot better than I would in a public school and Mom's a great teacher. And there she is. Hey Mom! I brought Brad!"
"Come on in through the front, sweetheart," came a voice from behind the fence.
Brad stared in frank wonder at the yard through which he was passing. It was alive with plants and flowers, growing in profusion in every direction. The path was bordered with mounds of phlox, and at a glance he took in rosebushes, some dormant lilacs, pear tomatoes, some sort of green swirly vegetable, and Turk's cap lilies before Victoria had good-naturedly dragged him onto the porch.
"I thought you said you didn't have a knack for growing stuff," he said suspiciously to Victoria.
"I don't. Mom's the one who grows everything around here. Oh, Mom, this is Brad."
Brad found himself taking the hand of a plump, darkly tan woman with twinkly brown eyes. "Pleased to meet you, Brad," she said, in a low, slightly gravelly alto voice. "Won't you come in and have something to eat?"
"Something to eat" turned out to be a minor feast: globe artichokes with melted butter, homemade biscuits with plum preserves, an herb salad strewn with nasturtium blossoms, fresh sliced tomatoes with basil, and a dessert of blackberry cobbler. Brad had never eaten artichokes before, but he did as his mother taught him: watch your hostess for clues. Once he had stripped a single buttery petal with his teeth, it was off to the races for him. Victoria and her mom watched in quiet amusement as he defoliated an artichoke with gusto.
"So, Brad," Victoria's mother said over the dessert, "Victoria tells me you have a green thumb."
Brad nodded, his mouth full of cobbler.
"She also says you don't have anywhere to plant."
Brad swallowed. "My uncle and his family live in a condo, so no garden space right now." He wiped his mouth. "But it's not just that. I've spent most of my life moving around, so--"
"Ah, you plant, but you don't get a chance to see things grow."
"That's about it." Brad thought about the one exception -- his caprice plant -- but something stopped him from mentioning it to Victoria or her mother just yet. The caprice was his own, and he wasn't so sure he was ready to share it.
Victoria's mom smiled. "Well, maybe we can help out with that. There's a plot in the back yard where you can grow a few things, if you'd like. At least you could plant a few fall bulbs for next spring."
"I'd like that," said Brad. "Thank you."
(You guessed it: more later.)