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Sweet Thyme Baby – 42

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

42

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 41 first)

 

“Well, good morning to you, Sleepyhead,” Maggie said as Dee walked into the kitchen the next morning. She handed her a cup of coffee. “I was going to send the National Guard upstairs to roust you.”

 

“That’s a lovely thought.” Dee took an ice tray from the freezer and banged it on the edge of the sink to loosen the cubes. She dropped one cube in her coffee mug. She put the tray back and closed the freezer with her shoulder. “What time is it?”

 

“Almost eight-thirty,” Pinkus said as he spooned creamed cereal into Sweet Thyme.

 

“There’s good news,” George said. “Hamish came home.”

 

Relief made Dee weak in the knees.

 

“Seems like he fell asleep somewhere.”

 

“Not a thing wrong with him,” Pinkus said. “He talked about some people from the Del Mar Fair but he was probably delirious or dreaming or something.”

 

“It’s not all good news,” Maggie said.

 

George pulled a chair away from the breakfast table and urged Dee to sit. “Janet Wexler called at seven. Seven a.m. can you believe it?”

 

“She was all set to charge right over,” Maggie said. “I managed to hold her off until nine.” She placed a dish of mango slices at Dee’s place. “The mood she was in, you better eat up. You need your strength.”

 

George shook a baby bottle on his wrist to check the milk’s temperature. Maggie whipped eggs for scrambling and Pinkus made a fuss over Sweet Thyme. Dee stared at the mango slices. She thought of peaches sliced by her grandmother and top-milk poured over them. She remembered Serena’s cheeks sticky with the juice of a nectarine.

 

Hamish. Hamish was home.

 

“That Wexler woman’s a land mine,” Pinkus said.

 

“Maggie put her on speaker phone. You should have seen my Sweet Thyme angel’s little face wrinkle up like a walnut when he heard her voice. I was sure he’d start in screaming.”

 

“Her voice’d scratch a diamond,” Maggie said.

 

Janet Wexler wants to ruin me, Dee thought, and wondered how she knew this so surely. She got up and poured another cup of coffee as her friends watched and waited for her to say something, but she was flat out of ideas.

 

Sweet Thyme smiled at her.

 

“Did you guys go to the police?”

 

“We did,” George said. “And an officer ran Sweet Thyme’s description through the computer and there’s absolutely no record. No missing infant his age, his coloring –.”

 

“He had to come from somewhere.”

 

“It’s a nationwide data bank.”

 

“Abandoned, I’d say.”

 

Pinkus said, “Someone probably came to the funeral and knew he’d be safe in the garden…”

 

Dee wondered why wishful thinking always ended in disappointment. Couldn’t the wildest dreams come true once in a while? Babies got lost, babies drowned or vanished. Couldn’t one of them be found? Couldn’t two? She looked at Pinkus with his sunny face and matronly hips. At George, a battered ex-con with gaps in his teeth and ink scarred into his arms: an upside down heart, an eagle rampant, Born to Lose. They were a perverse American Gothic and as devoted to one another as any couple Dee had ever known…

 

“I suppose you should call child welfare…”

 

A light flared in Pinkus’s eyes.

 

Dee had to laugh. “Don’t worry, I’m not saying do it. If no one’s looking for him, I guess it means no one wants him except us.” She put a finger on Sweet Thyme’s dimpled chin. “Welcome to the family, little boy.”

 

Sweet Thyme held out his arms to her.

 

Maggie said, “Go on, Dee, hold him. You never have.”

 

“I’m getting a cold.” She turned her back on them and rinsed her coffee cup in the sink. Just outside, Sissypuss prowled the window sill.

 

“Did anyone feed the cat?”

 

*

 

At just before nine Dee was at the workbench transplanting stock and snapdragon seedlings when Janet Wexler came into the shop. Dee’s first thought was that Janet had dressed for the occasion in her civic leader costume: navy blue blazer and slacks, red and white striped shirt, sensible expensive shoes.

 

“I feel like I should pledge allegiance.”

 

Oops.

 

“I wish I didn’t have to do this, Dee.”

 

Then why do you look so pleased with yourself?

 

Janet opened her oxblood leather briefcase and handed Dee a document. “This is an order for you to appear before the court to explain why your garden isn’t fenced and why there aren’t any signs warning people of the dangers.”

 

“It is fenced.”

 

“It needs to be enclosed all the way around. And locks on any gate.”

 

“People walk in the garden. They take picnics to the graveyard and watch the whales.”

 

“Hamish used the gate.”

 

“The garden is for people, Janet.”

 

“Well, then I think you’ll like what Lance has in mind. He and I’ve spoken and I know about your tax bill and I think there’s a fairly simple solution whereby we can all come away satisfied.” Janet Wexler smiled like a carnival barker. “Everybody wins if you just consent to sell the Sea Meadows to Lance and use the money to pay your taxes and fence the garden. Let me broker the deal for you and I’ll make sure there’s a little left over for investment –.”

 

“If Lance gets his conference center, Cabrillo Point will change completely, Janet. Have you thought of that?”

 

“Not everyone wants to hide out from progress.”

 

The words “hide out” made Dee wonder how much Janet knew about her. How much had Victor told Lance and what had Lance passed on to this woman? “The Sea Meadows are not for sale.”

 

“I’m certainly not suggesting you give up the whole garden. What would we all do without you, Dee? But you’re not thinking clearly. You owe back taxes, there’s going to be federal income tax on the inheritance and you never know, the Whitbys might want to sue. For pain and suffering. I advise you to give Lance what he wants and save yourself a whole lot of hassle. Juries award huge damages to grieving parents.”

 

“Hamish is home. His parents are rejoicing, not grieving.”

 

“You fight this, you’re fighting the inevitable. Give in. You can’t win.”

 

It was as if Janet were speaking from a script written while Hamish was lost in the garden, a script written by whom exactly? Without asking, she knew that Victor was in on it. She imagined the gut-knot anxiety from sunrise to sunset and screaming through her dreams. Last time the jury had taken away her freedom. This time they would take the only thing she had left, the garden.

 

Janet said, “Why complain about losing a few acres? For some reason the Ryans left you the best piece of undeveloped land in Southern California. You don’t need the Sea Meadows. You’re rich without them.”

 

“I don’t want to be rich.” Or famous or even popular. She wanted to be left alone.

 

Janet laughed. Everyone wanted to be rich! “I think this community was very tolerant of Con and Carlotta and all their strays. Can you imagine La Jolla putting up with the parade of bums that came through this garden? I never could understand how they put up with having them in their home. But you, you were different from the start, Dee. We all knew that and we wanted everything to work out for you. And we understood you maybe wanted to keep your own counsel, but there’s a limit.”

 

“I don’t ask you personal questions, I don’t shove myself into your private affairs. Return the courtesy, Janet. Leave me alone.”

 

“Hamish is fine today, but what about the next child who wanders into the garden? God bless me, it could be one of my own.”

 

“Go away. This is my garden –.”

 

“I wonder about that. I wonder why the Ryans left it to you. Who were you to them anyway? From what Lance tells me, you didn’t exactly come here from a nunnery.” Janet cocked her head to one side in a parody of curiosity. “Remember the man who carved animals out of soap and gave them away to children to encourage bathing? Why didn’t they leave the garden to him? Or to Maggie? Or the queers.”

 

*

 

Dee watched Janet stride across the gravel parking lot to her Volvo station wagon. Maggie, George and Pinkus rushed through the back door of the nursery shop.

 

“What did she want?” George asked.

 

Pinkus groaned. “To mess up our lives, of course.”

 

Dee said, “George, how’s the car running?”

 

“So-so. The a.c. doesn’t work but you know that.”

 

“Why do you care about the car?” Maggie asked. “You don’t have a driver’s license, do you?”

 

“When’re you coming back?” Pinkus asked.

 

“You never leave Cabrillo Point.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 43 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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Sweet Thyme Baby – 41

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

41

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 40 first)

 

Dee regretted telling Sam about Serena. He would think about the story and wonder what else there was that she hadn’t told him. He would get curious and do a little research. He was smart enough to do that. He was also a law abiding citizen. She knew what he would do with his information. She made him leave her at the graveyard where she sat and stared out at the surfers, who were always there, waiting. For Dee the perfect wave would be no wave at all. A still sea with no surprises.


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 40

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

40

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 39 first)

 

In the plum tree garden in front of their house, Pinkus and George were arguing. Pinkus blamed Dee for the tension between them. If she would only stop carping about Sweet Thyme, George would stop remembering what it was like to be in jail, and they could settle down and enjoy their dear baby boy.


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 39

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

39

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 38 first)

 

In the garden she stood by the great oak and pressed her forehead against the trunk. She heard footsteps behind her. Sam said, “Those women aren’t worth your tears, Dee.”

 

“I’m not crying. I never cry.”

 

He put his hands on her shoulders. She shrugged them off and stepped away. He caught her arm and held it, turning her to face him. In the chiaroscuro of shade and setting sunlight his eyes were dark gold.

 

“I agree with Sharon. He’s wandered off. That’s all. We’ll find him.”

 

“The police searched the garden.”

 

“That’s what they think they did, but how could they, Dee? In an hour or two? Really? You and I know they could be in this place all day and never see the whole of it.”

 

The kindness in his voice offended her. “I’m not a fool.” She laughed sharply because of course she was a fool and had been one more or less all her life.This moment like a hundred others before only proved it. “Leave me alone, Sam. I don’t want to know you.”

 

“I’ll walk you home.”

 

“Don’t you listen?”

 

“After you left, Sharon kicked everyone out of the house. All those women. You should have seen her rip into them. She was great.”

 

“What about Lance? Did she kick him out too?”

 

“Alas, no. Not yet.”

 

At twilight the gardened shimmered and strange shadows came and went in the caramel light. It was an odd, half-bewitched hour when Dee, hard-headed and pragmatic though she was, almost believed what some claimed, that the garden was enchanted. Around her the field and woodland pulsed with light. Under her palm the oak seemed to breathe. She remembered something Con had told her when she first came to the garden. He had been walking her through it, showing her the woodlands, the ponds and open fields. They were standing beneath the old oak tree. His hand was on the trunk; and he seemed, as she remembered, to be stroking the rough texture with affection as if the tree could respond to his touch. Con had taken her hand and placed the palm on the trunk, leaned close and whispered in her ear, “Can you feel it?”

 

She had thought at the time, this man Con Ryan is crazy.

 

“Feel the heartbeat?”

 

“Of what?”

 

“The earth, Lass, the earth.”

 

She sat on a moss-footed stone bench at the side of the path. “I had a child once.” The words burned in her mouth. “A daughter and I wanted to tell Sharon… I thought…”

 

He sat beside her. She stood up. He held her wrist and tugged her back down.

 

“Sam –.”

 

“That’s a good beginning.”

 

She took a deep breath of the garden. She felt the green of it pushing around roots and rocks, up through the black earth trying to reach the sun before it was too late. She stopped fighting and surrendered.

 

“Serena was about the same age as Hamish.”

 

She did not tell the full story, not even half of it. But she told him enough, that she was stoned, lying on the couch and drinking Margaritas when Serena drowned. She said nothing untrue and she took the blame she deserved.

 

“I went over to the house because I wanted to explain to Sharon that there’s a difference between an accident that couldn’t be helped and one caused by…neglect.”

 

Her knees felt weak, as if she’d had a brush with danger.

 

“And you’ve been punishing yourself ever since.”

 

“You don’t understand, Sam. You can’t know –.”

 

“Don’t tell me what I know. I’m as big a mystery to you as you are to me.”

 

She had no strength to argue.

 

“Sharon does blame herself. And Lance encourages her. He just piles it on. He tells her Hamish is at the bottom of the pond and it’s her fault because he was old enough for swimming lessons but she was always too busy to take him.”

 

“He wasn’t always cruel.”

 

“No, but there was something mean and greedy in him just waiting for the right time to show.”

 

“The garden…”

 

“It’s not the garden, Dee. It was going to happen to him sooner or later no matter where he was.”

 

They followed the path that circled around the Cloud Forest. The woods opened out onto the wide swath of sea meadow sloping down to the sea cliffs. Up the coast where they should have seen Ocean Beach and Mission Bay the land stretched in undulating waves of grass and wildflowers. To the west, the sun hovered over the edge of the shimmering sea.

 

“I was going to sell him this. For some kind of conference center.”

 

“Don’t ever sell it, Dee. Not to anyone. Don’t let anyone destroy this place.”

 

She had talked about Serena; and compared to that exposure, talk of taxes was nothing. “And that doesn’t even count what the IRS will want for the inheritance.” She had to laugh.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 40 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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Sweet Thyme Baby – 38

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

38

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 37 first)

 

He said, “I’ll get you dressed, Snooky. How ’bout you put on that little bitty bikini I bought you and we go for a swim, huh?” He stepped toward the kitchen. In the doorway he turned around. “You try it, Dee. What’s more important to you? Serena or having lunch with Robert Altman? You think about it.”


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 37

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

37

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Serena was three when Delight and Victor leased the house in Encino.

 

The house and all its furnishings – the leather couches and the chrome and glass dining table, the huge Leroy Niemen silk screen of Olympic skiers that hung in the entry, every dish in the cupboards –were part of the lease. The rented luxury made Dee feel she had wandered into someone else’s home and would soon be asked to leave. And two and a half years later, that was more or less what happened.


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 36

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

36

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Sissypuss stood with his tail straight up like a squirrel’s and quivered all over. He flattened himself onto the turf covering Con and Carlotta’s grave and stretched out long. He fixed his eyes on the crab apple tree and growled.


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 35

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

35

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By midmorning Hamish had recovered from his fright of the night before. Ten a.m. and he was restless for activity. Sharon had decided to get him the haircut he needed and afterwards she would look in on Sam at Greens.


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 34

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

34

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Sharon kissed Hamish’s cheek. “What am I going to do about you, kiddo? I have to go to work. And you’ve got daycare.”


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Sweet Thyme Baby – 33

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

33

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

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By nine a.m. the next morning Dee had transplanted most of the hens and chickens, the phone had rung several times, the UPS man had delivered four boxes of bulbs from Holland and she was working so hard at not thinking she had given herself a headache.


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