The wind was just strong enough to let the chill seep into her. and she rubbed her hands over her upper arms.
"Autumn," she said. Her voice was ambivalent, not exactly sad, but not happy, either.
"What's wrong?" he asked. "I thought you loved the fall, and sunset, both."
"I used to," she said, leaning against him. He cooperated by wrapping an arm around her and snugging her close. "That was before...before..."
"It's all right," he said. "You don't have to say it."
She looked up at him. His grey eyes were sincere, not mocking or patronizing her. "But I need to. It's been how long now?"
"Two years," he replied.
"Two years. Two years since he ran off. I looked everywhere. You were with me. We posted bulletins and signs everywhere. I haunted Craigslist. It makes me wonder if someone stole him."
"I guess," he said, kissing the top of her head. "That's the most likely answer."
"But who would steal a yard gnome?" she said. "And why that one? My mama gave it to us as a wedding present. He was such a cheery fellow. I felt like he was our guardian. It was like...like..."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Like someone was telling me our wedding was a sham." She looked up at him. "He was the symbol of our home together. And now..."
"And now we're still together. No garden gnome needed, woman." He kissed the top of her head again. "We could get another one, if you want. We can even paint it together."
She shook her head. "Wouldn't be the same."
"So, is there anything else I can get you to replace it?"
She looked up at him, a crooked smile on her lips. "How about a kitten? My buddy Teresa has a litter of kittens. There's this one...the same color as an autumn leaf."
He laughed, and kissed her again. "I think I've been set up."
Elsewhere, deep in the basement of their house, under a stack of newspapers and forgotten books, in a space very much like a small home, a yard gnome, chipped and faded, chuckled.