Sweet Thyme Baby – 50

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

50

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 49 first)

 

“He’s mine.” She held out her arms. “I’ve been dying to hold him.” That much was true.

 

Silence.

 

Then: “Liar! I have friends in children’s services. Lance knows Joel Jackson –.”

 

“His birth certificate is in my office safe,” Eddie Mann said. “If you want to come up to Westwood –”

 

“You were never pregnant, Dee.”

 

Pinkus laughed and scampered over to George and kissed the top of his head.

 

Lance said, “What’re you laughing about?”

 

“I’m a woman,” Janet said. “If she was pregnant, I would have known.”

 

“She watched her weight.” Maggie added smugly, “But she ate okay. I saw to that.”

 

“That’s right. She was extremely healthy.” Pinkus pointed at a window overhead. “And he was born up there, in that room, three months ago.”

 

“You’re making it up,” Janet said. “Why should we believe you?”

 

“Because I’m a doctor!” No one on the terrace moved or spoke. “And after all these years still have a license to prove it!”

 

*

 

After Janet had gone home with a migraine and Lance had driven off in the direction of El Cajon. After Maggie laid on a grand brunch of eggs and sausage and mounds of muffins. After Eddie Mann Senior promised Dee a birth certificate for Sweet Thyme and adoption papers with the names of Pinkus and George on it. After Pinkus had gone to dig up the last of the stemmy lettuce and George had taken Sweet Thyme back to the cottage for a nap. After Sam had gone back to tell Sharon all that had happened and promised to bring her and Hamish back for dinner. Victor came around to the kitchen door.

 

“We need to talk. You owe me, Dee.”

 

Did she owe this man something? In as much time as it took a yellow jacket to slip through a tear in the kitchen screen and light on the sticky muffin batter bowl in the sink, Dee remembered her whole life with Victor: Lodi, Encino, Serena. Movies, movies, movies. And she saw that, yes, she owed Victor Detroit the sum total of those days minus the grief, minus the lies and cheating, the loss and neglect and suffering, minus the rage, the hate, the shame –.

 

“Five minutes.” From a hook beside the kitchen door she removed a bent willow basket. “I’ll pick tomatoes, Maggie. We’ll make a pie tomorrow.”

 

The sun had come out, and from the orchard the bee’s made traffic sounds. Against the wall of the potting shed, the scarlet runners were a tapestry of red and green against the pewter gray of the weathered timbers. Dee waded through squash leaves – crookneck, zucchini – and sidestepped green pumpkins the size of soft balls. In their bamboo teepees the Beefsteaks and Best Boys drooped with exhaustion. Dee knelt in the worked soil and gently twisted the soft red fruit until it dropped off into her palm.

 

Standing over her, Victor was speaking.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I was distracted –.”

 

“I care for you too much to let you go back to jail. And that’s what’s going to happen, you know. Unless someone who cares for you handles this situation, the court’s gonna find out you’re here and they’ll throw the book at you for skipping.”

 

“You have influence with the law now?”

 

“Lance is going to report you but I can persuade him not to.”

 

“Eddie says they won’t throw the book. Not the whole one anyway. And if they do? The garden will be here when I come out. Sam will take care of it.”

 

For a moment, Victor seemed to be at a loss for words. “Honey, listen to me. I love you. You know I’ve always loved you. We’ve had our troubles, and I haven’t always supported you the way I should have. But I was young, Dee, and I wanted so much, I was kind of crazy.”

 

“We both were.”

 

“Exactly.” He crouched beside her. “But now there’s a chance for you to do the right thing for both of us. Just give me the movies and I’ll get them taped and my friends’ll cut you a deal. A good deal. I’ll make sure you’re not cheated. You’ll have enough to pay the taxes for the next hundred years.”

 

He was still so terribly handsome, it was hard not to be distracted by his dark eyes and sensuous lips with the deep indentation above them. His jaw line was not as firm as she remembered it, but that thickening was inevitable with age; and Victor was almost forty now, hardly the boy he was when he showed her what he’d learned with Ruthie in the back seat of their grandfather’s car. His eyes had seen too much to keep the shine of innocence they had the night in Lodi when he knelt on her bed, held her hands to his lips and promised that one day he’d be great. Not just good, Dee. Someday I’m going to be great.

 

It came as a shock to realize that she still loved him. The boy, the man, the history and the dreams, where did one stop and the other begin? She had thought she hated him but she saw now that loving Victor was a permanent affliction.

 

He tilted her chin with his finger and looked into her eyes. “I swear to you, no one will ever know where you are. You can stay here and you’ll be safe.”

 

Safe. She had been safe for years and in the end it had been like a prison, this safety.

 

She sat back on her heels. “Look around you, Victor. What do you see? A garden. Yes, of course. But an extraordinary garden. When Con Ryan brought Carlotta here, she was dying. Cancer maybe, I don’t know what. But he promised her, this place would heal her and it did. That’s what this garden does. It heals people.” She stood and held out her hands to raise him up too. “Everyone except me. Until now. Now I want it to heal me too.”

 

“So heal for chrissake. I’m not stopping you. My friends are powerful men. They’ll make you a rich healed woman.” Victor brushed his hands together, clearing dirt from the palms. “You don’t have to risk your freedom to be happy. You don’t have to risk anything.”

 

“Aren’t you listening, Victor? Have you ever listened to me? I’m not talking happy. Or safe. I’m saying healed first and then, if I’m lucky, happy.” She took his hands again, ignoring his tick of irritation as she did so. “Stay here. Let the garden do its work on you. I want to open it up so more people can feel the power that’s here. I think that must be why the Ryans left it to me. So I could spread the healing –.”

 

“You want me to be a gardener?”

 

“There are all kind of ways to tend a garden, Victor. Just think about it.”

 

His voice rose as he wrenched free of her grasp. “I’m offering you excitement and glamour –.”

 

“Do you know what glamour means? One of the definitions?”

 

He turned away. The sun shone on the back of his head and Dee saw by its relentless light that his hair was dyed.

 

“There was a man used to live here before he was healed. He had this obsession to write a sentence for every word in the dictionary. He told me glamour means magic. Enchantment.”

 

She touched his sad dyed hair. He shrugged away, stepped over a squash plant and onto the path.

 

“This garden can be a fucking fairyland and I don’t give a shit. If you don’t give me those movies, I’ll turn you in myself.”

 

The brutal words were meant to kill her resistance: wound her, maim her, terrify her. He thought he was aiming the barrel of a loaded gun between her eyes. The safety was off and there was a bullet in the chamber and Dee could not help smiling. One way or another, the need to destroy each other seemed to run in their family. But it stops with me, she thought. She would risk his worst. The garden, the Ryan’s glamorous garden, was worth that and more.

 

She turned away from him; and as she did, she glanced in the direction of the orchard; and for the first and only time she saw the Fair People, the ones who had come to the garden with Con and Carlotta, miniature versions of themselves tucked in the bottom of her steamer trunk. The people Hamish had thought were homeless had long ago come from Ireland and made the garden. Like royalty from ancient times, the stately figures paraded between the nectarine and plum and apricot trees and as they caught Dee’s eye, they dipped their heads in acknowledgement. She saw Con and Carlotta among them and there was Serena, no more than a shadow of golden smoke, in the tremulous air, fading even as Dee watched. A scarf of cloud crossed the face of the sun. She blinked and the apparitions vanished.

 

Faeries in the garden. In a few years Dee would be talking like Carlotta.

 

She had to laugh.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

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