Sweet Thyme Baby – 39

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

39

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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.

 

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