A few years later, she was still coming to him. On days when it rained she no longer brought her cart with her, just a little thermos and a cup, enough iced tea for two. One rainy day she came, but before she could pour him an iced tea she noticed that something was different.
"Albert? What's wrong? Where's Ruby?" she asked.
"Dead," Albert said shortly.
Gillian's face was blank. Her lips formed an 'o' and she slowly turned and sat on the steps. Albert was silent, staring at the sky, and Gillian said nothing for a long time. She sat with her elbows on her knees, and her head resting on her hands.
The rain pattered against the roof of his porch, whispering condolences to the silent pair. Albert didn't pay it any mind; he was tired of it. He was tired of the world. Of all the friends and family he had lost in his absurdly long life, Ruby was the best friend he'd ever had. She was the only one who never complained, who never looked at him suspiciously. She never cared that he wouldn't get older, even as she aged and grew frail and weak until she could no longer lift herself up from the porch to go for a walk.
Presently Gillian stood up and put her arms around Albert's shoulders. "Don't cry," she said softly, stroking his head. "It's okay."
Albert felt ridiculous, being comforted by this little girl, a man of his age. The worst of it was that he wasn't even the one crying; it was the girl telling him not to cry whose cheeks were stained.
She poured the iced tea and they called it a wake.
She didn't come the next day, or the next. He hadn't expected her to. Ruby was the reason for her visits, and fifty cents was hardly worth much anymore. As he sat on his porch and watched clouds form he started to feel angry again. How he hated the world, and this cruel twist of fate that left him sitting on this porch, decade after decade, watching loved ones come and go. He should never have talked to that girl in the first place. He should never have adopted that beautiful little puppy.
"Life is shit," he muttered.
It was sunny when she came back. He was surprised to see her, but he presented his usual front. Even now she wore ridiculously bright colours.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
She held out the iced tea. "It occurred to me, that you have no one to sit with you on this porch anymore. I thought, that must be the loneliest thought I've ever had."
He took the iced tea, but he grumbled to try and push away this kindness.
She sat down on the steps and sighed. "Are you going to adopt a puppy?"
Albert took a sip. "Eventually," he said. "Maybe."