Sweet Thyme Baby – 36

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

36

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 35 first)

 

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.

 

Dee stabbed her trowel into the soft earth and picked him up. “There’s nothing there. See? Nothing.”

 

With a snarl, the cat leapt from Dee’s hands.

 

“Sissy!”

 

And shot up to the top of the fence and around the graveyard and off into the woods. Dee watched after him with her hands on her hips.

 

Behind her, a voice said, “Your housekeeper said we’d find you here.”

 

Lovey and Hamish and prim little Sharon Whitby. What did she want?

 

“I hope we’re not disturbing you.” Sharon smiled unconvincingly. “I should have come to see you sooner. About Con and Carlotta. Lance told me it was a lovely service.” She looked around the graveyard. “This is a beautiful spot. So much better than one of those huge cemeteries with a thousand gravestones you can’t distinguish. Not that the military cemetery out on the point isn’t a special place, but you know, this is different.”

 

Dee hoped that eventually Sharon would slog through the clouds of nervousness surrounding her, come out the other side and speak her mind. Funny to think of someone being afraid to speak to Delight Larue. She had to laugh.

 

Sharon didn’t notice. “They were a fine old couple. He came into the market for a sandwich sometimes.”

 

Lovey said, “It was always a special day when Carlotta came in to have her hair done. She never missed a Friday morning in all the years I’ve been here. All that hair she had, it took a good long time to wash and dry and twist it in that shape she called a faerie wheel. Most complicated hair design I ever saw. The dozens of times I fixed that knot in her hair, I never could recall the how of it from week to week and she’d have to talk me through it, said it was a special Irish thing.” Lovey laughed. “And all the time she’d be talking about you.”

 

Lovey made Dee feel less hostile toward Sharon Whitby.

 

“Carlotta told me you were the daughter she always wanted and when you came to the garden it was like an answered prayer. She’d been pining for a daughter all the years of her life. And that was a long time as you know. She and Con, they were very old. Older than we knew. And wise, too, I think.”

 

Sharon interrupted, blurting. “There’s something I want to talk about.”

 

Dee saw the look that passed between the women and an anxious impatience shot through her bloodstream like dope. Get on with it, say it, do it. Whatever.

 

“Hamish has seen homeless in your garden.”

 

“Again? Where this time?”

 

“By the fence on Wood Road. Opposite our house. Same as before.”

 

“But I was over there just yesterday.”

 

“They’re hippies or homeless or something.”

 

Sharon had a small prim chin. Round at the top and pointed at the bottom. Like a lemon. And, at least where Dee was concerned, a sour disposition to match.

 

“I think you’re wrong, Sharon. I’d be able to tell if there was any kind of camp. I didn’t see a thing.” Not a cigarette butt or a wad of half-buried toilet paper, not even a rectangle of grass flattened by a sleeping bag.

 

Sharon put her hand behind Hamish’s neck. “Honey, you tell Miss Delight what you saw.”

 

He looked up at his mother and then at Dee. How Lance and Lemonchin had produced such a beautiful child made Dee wonder if genetics was really a science at all.

 

He nodded his head.

 

“Sweet Potato, you tell her what they looked like.”

 

He twisted at the waist and dug his feet into the dirt.

 

“Hamish?”

 

He said something to his mother and she knocked him gently on the head with her knuckles. “Tell the truth.”

 

“I am.”

 

“Hamish –.”

 

“There’s one of them over there.” He pointed at the crab apple tree just outside the graveyard’s iron fence. “Up on the branch.”

 

Lovey laughed. Sharon’s face turned a deep pink.

 

“She’s got red hair. Wiv glitter.”

 

“This isn’t a time for make believe, Hamish.”

 

Hamish grabbed hold of Sharon’s leg and twisted behind her.

 

Dee felt sorry for him. “He doesn’t strike me as a liar.”

 

“I never said he was a liar. He’s just a child. Don’t you think I know my own child? As a matter of fact, I think he’s telling the truth about the homeless people. This business, just now? He’s making it up because we’re arguing and that confuses him.”

 

Dee looked at Hamish who was trying hard not to cry and she remembered Serena listening and watching with wide moist eyes as she and Victor fought over money and time and work. Near the end they could agree on nothing.

 

“Why are we arguing, Sharon? Have I done something to upset you?”

 

“All I’m saying is –”

 

“Mommy, she wants me to go wiv her. She wants to show me something.”

 

“There’s no one there, Hamish. You’re making this up. You know what Daddy says about your imagination.”

 

Sissypuss came up over the graveyard fence and rubbed himself across Dee’s calves. She bent and picked him up, held his warm comfortable body against her beating heart. “Hamish, lots of people see funny things in the garden. You’re not the only one. This cat has a really really big imagination. He thinks he sees things all the time and he goes chasing after them like crazy.” She looked at Sharon. “Don’t be hard on him.”

 

“I’ll be as hard on my son as I need to be.”

 

Whoa there! What have I done to make her so angry?

 

“He’s unhappy. I was only trying to –.”

 

“He’s not unhappy.”

 

Lovey put a cautionary hand on Sharon’s arm.

 

Dee said, “He looks unhappy to me. In case you didn’t notice, he’s crying, Why did you come here, Sharon? You don’t care about Con and Carlotta.”

 

“Just don’t tell me how to raise my son and keep away from my family.”

 

“Your family? I don’t have anything to do with –.Oh. Did Lance tell you about our conversation?”

 

Dee had no idea why talking about the Sea Meadows would have prompted Sharon to charge across the garden to the graveyard, but she was grasping at anything now, trying to figure out why she had come into the garden and – as it seemed – tried to pick a fight with her.

 

“What conversation?” Sharon asked.

 

“About the Sea Meadows.”

 

The change from aggression to confusion and blank-faced curiosity was instantaneous and complete and Dee believed it.

 

“He wants me to sell him the Sea Meadows.”

 

“That doesn’t make sense.” Sharon ignored Hamish tugging on her. “Where on earth would he get the money? He never said anything to me.”

 

“Go home and ask him about it. He’s got a scheme to build some kind of Christian conference center. From what I gather, your husband plans to be the Billy Graham of the next millennium.”

 

Sharon leaned against the graveyard fence. Her mouth was thin and white. She let go of Hamish’s hand.

 

*

 

Sharon believed her, it explained so much. Just that morning Lance had told her not to worry her pretty head about business. It was a ludicrous and demeaning thing to say to someone who balanced the family budget down to the last dime. She doubted if Lance had the vaguest notion what they paid for car insurance and how much they put away every month toward Hamish’s education.

 

“Lance and I are partners,” she said, sounding feeble even to herself.

 

Lovey said, “You told me how strange he’s been acting lately.”

 

“That’s between us, Lovey. Private.”

 

“The CCC is so poor we can’t even afford a janitor. Members volunteer their time. And Sam was going to paint the parish house for us –.” Sharon stopped, remembering that it was Sam who had brought her to the garden.

 

Dee’s expression wasn’t unfriendly. It was neutral, not very interested.

 

All she wants is for us to leave her alone, Sharon thought.

 

For a moment, she forgot about Lance and the Sea Meadows and even about Sam and felt only an intense curiosity about Dee Larue. She was as beautiful as everyone said. But cold. Under the warm tones of her rose-blonde skin her emotions had frozen hard.

 

Lovey asked, “Where’s Hamish?”

 

*

 

Hamish Hale Whitby II, almost four years old, forty-five pounds heavy and thirty-seven inches tall, had pulled his hand away from his mother’s and headed for home.

 

He was glad he had on his new Nike shoes because they helped him run fast for a long time. Once he fell in a muddy place; and when he saw how dirty his shoes were, he knew he was in way big trouble. His throat hurt when he breathed, and he leaned against a tree trunk like the one outside his bedroom window. It was an oak, Mommy had told him. He started to cry again, and he wiped his face on his San Diego Chargers sweatshirt with the lightning bolt on the front. He did not want to go home because he knew Mommy would use her mean voice and maybe Daddy would spank him when Mommy told him about the ’maginary people. The not-real-even-though-they-looked-real-people. He thought about the lady with glitter in her hair. Mommy and Lovey and the sad lady didn’t see her. They saw nothing, so nothing musta been there. Even if it looked like something, it was really nothing.

 

Hamish wished he had somewhere to go besides home.

 

*

 

On the grass beside the pond, the Fair People picnicked and made merry. A fellow with diamonds stitched into his eyebrows scooped honey from a comb with his fingers and one made a whistle out of long grass and another plaited chains of daisies and leis of scarlet hibiscus. A fat man in silver pants and a long loose shirt played music on a lyre while another snoozed and dreamed of a place where it was always spring and another sang about a ring of stones and a crown of stars that made a pathway through the night skies. A pair of pretty ladies in skirts made of rose petals dipped and bowed and danced like air and their bare feet made no indentation on the grass.

 

Hamish stood and stared and they paid no attention. He said hello and they said nothing.

 

He was hot and confused and tired and the pond tempted him. He heard Mommy’s voice in his head telling him not to go near the water, but he was almost four years old and he knew how to be careful. And he would not get his new Nikes wet. Only babies went in the water with their shoes on. He turned his back on the imaginary people and sat on a log in the mud and took off his shoes and put them together with their heels touching and toes pointing the same direction. He stuffed one sock in each toe. He walked into the water up to his ankles. His toes squooshed in the mud and made him giggle and forget all the trouble he was in.

 

On the far side of the pond a spider web stretched like a shimmering net tied to the trees and bushes. It was really, really, really big. If he told Mommy how big, she would never believe him. Lying on the web as if it were a hammock, the red-headed lady with diamonds in her hair smiled at him and waved.

 

He took a few more steps. He looked down and his knees underwater looked like two white rocks. He took another step and the water almost touched the bottom of his shorts. The pretty lady dipped a toe in the water and splashed him. Hamish giggled, bent over and scooped and threw. The lady laughed and so did Hamish.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 37 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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