Happy Boxing Day to my British friends and family. As promised, here is the final episode of Matchmaker, a little romance of the feathery kind. If you missed the first two episodes, here are the links:
Matchmaker Final Episode:
She had left the back door open. How could she have been so careless? No telling what a neurotic African grey might do if left to his own devices. And even though it was warm out in the afternoon sun, the temperature was supposed to drop tonight with even a chance of snow. She had to find the bird now.
She searched the streets in the neighbourhood on foot, the pair of binoculars she’d bought two summers ago for whale watching near Capetown bouncing from side to side around her neck as she walked. She couldn’t lose Ezekiel. Yes, he was all she had left of her friend, but he was more than that. He was a big part of what had drawn her to Ellen in the first place. While it was true, Ellen was the nutty professor who talked to birds, it was Ezekiel who had been even more astounding. Ezekiel was the erudite bird who talked back, who in spite of Ellen’s best intentions, had picked up some rather colorful slang. He was affectionate, he was astute and Mary was convinced he had a wicked sense of humor. And now he was loose on the streets in hostile territory with snow predicted. She had to find him.
She questioned all of her neighbors and called everyone she knew. Unlike the gaudy ring-necked parakeets now populating Kensington Garden and spreading across South England, Ezekiel would not stand out in his dapper grey plumage. At least the ring around his leg would identify him as hers.
The sun was setting as she made a second broader sweep of the area in her car, with still no sign of the bird. He would be roosting soon. She could only hope he found a safe and warm place for the night. Inside the house, she sat on the sofa and stared at the empty cage, eyes blurring at the thought of poor Ezekiel lost and alone in Guildford.
She was thinking of making up “lost” posters when the phone rang.
“Hello?” A velvety male voice filtered into her ear. “Did you by any chance misplace an African grey parrot?”
“Oh, God yes!” She covered her phone and choked back a sob. “Is Ezekiel all right?”
Soft laughter. “Ezekiel, is he? Looks more like Casanova to me.”
The laugh again. “He’s flirting shamelessly with Cassandra… Oh, Cassandra’s my African grey.”
Mary’s knees buckled and she dropped heavily onto the sofa. “He’s flirting? Ezekiel is flirting? You have an African grey? Female?”
“That’s why I call her Cassandra. Look, my name’s Don, Don McKenna. Do you have a pen? I’ll give you my address. I’m not sure these two know each other well enough for a sleepover yet.”
Who’d have guessed? Don McKenna lived only a few streets from Mary. Obviously he didn’t frequent the personal ads. He was tall with longish sun bleached hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He wore faded jeans and a navy polo shirt stretched across broad shoulders. His warm smile matched the laugh she’d enjoyed on the telephone. He offered her a firm, slightly calloused handshake.
“Ezekiel and Cassie are in the conservatory.” He motioned her through the small but tidy house and out to the conservatory where the two birds perched next to each other in the flicker fairy lights and evergreen bunting. Ezekiel was preening Cassandra’s neck. It was easy to tell them apart. Ezekiel was a darker shade of grey. When they heard the humans approach, Ezekiel squawked and flew to perch on Mary’s shoulder in a flurry of soft feathers.
“You crazy bird.” She blinked back tears, hoping their host wouldn’t notice how soppy she was. “You didn’t need my help to find a friend, did you?”
He nipped her ear gently then flew back to Cassandra.
Over a cup of mulled wine, she told Don of her ordeal with the no-longer-mourning Ezekiel.
He laughed. “Let me get this right. You placed a personal ad and put up with crazy people and iguanas and pythons just to find a friend for Ezekiel?”
She blushed and nodded.
“Wow! What a matchmaker.”
“What a matchmaker, indeed.”
From the perch he shared with Cassandra, Ezekiel eyed Mary as she sat next to Don on his sofa, the reflection of the
Christmas tree lights now glistening brightly in the darkened windows of the conservatory. She didn’t know whether the bird’s vocabulary included “No need to thank me,” but she was pretty sure that’s what he was thinking.
Don sighed contentedly as the two birds got about a little mutual preening. “This may well be the best Christmas present Cassie’s ever had.” Then he turned his attention back to Mary and raised his wine. “Happy Christmas, Mary.” Then he nodded back to Ezekiel and Cassie. “I have a feeling the New Year’s going to be very exciting.”