Sweet Thyme Baby – 41


Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

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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.


On the Fourth of July, Dee had heard a woman screaming from the patio. She remembered jumping off the couch before the sense of the words actually registered. In that instant, for that one time in her life, she had been psychic and knew Serena lay on the bottom of the pool beside the naked woman mosaic. She jumped up, ran through the living room, white powder clouding around her hips. Yelling behind her. Yelling and keening and splashing, water closing over her head and chlorine sting in her eyes. Then dragging on her arms, gagging, gasping for breath, and Victor swearing. Hands dragging her from the water. More screaming. Sobs and screams and omigodomigodomigod. Hands on her arms and ankles, holding held her down. Cement rubbing raw her elbows and heels. Omigodomigodomigod. Clouds massing before the sun and a hot wind slapping the palm fronds.


Dee’s life had divided into before and after.


Alone in the graveyard, she closed her eyes. For a few minutes, she slipped into a comfortless doze. When she awoke the sun had set and the western sky was tangled strands of red and apricot and streaked with ropy gray clouds on the horizon, and someone was calling her name. She turned and saw Sharon, out of breath and untidy, her eyes red and wild. She sank down onto the bench beside Dee.


Dee stared at her scuffed athletic shoes. “It makes no sense for you to be here. If I were you, I’d hate the garden. And me. I’d want to kill me.”


“It’s not the garden’s fault. Not yours either.”


Dee recalled how Sharon had looked earlier in the day, glowing with righteousness and sainted in motherhood. Her sandy hair pulled back in a perky pony tail, a perky bow and a perky little shorts and shirt ensemble. Now her hair flew in the wind and her flesh seemed barely able to contain the agitation of her body.


Sam and Sharon, Dee had never known such kind people; she did not understand how their minds worked. What did they want from her?


“You must think I’m really around the bend.”


We stood here just a few hours ago, Dee thought. You despised me then. What’s changed?


Sharon pressed her fingers to her temples. “What am I going to do with myself, Dee? How am I going to live if he doesn’t come back? How will I live if I’ve lost him?”


Hide, Dee thought. It’s your only hope. Go somewhere you can forget who you are.


“I should have got him swimming lessons. He wanted to learn but I was too involved at the market. Just like I was too involved judging you and making you listen to me… All that stuff about staying away from my family. If I’d minded my own business Hamish would still be here.”


“You were a good mother. You had a moment of carelessness. It happens all the time. That’s not the same as neglect.”


In wincing detail Dee described the black bottom pool that filled the whole back yard and how the pink hibiscus bushes grew so densely they made an impenetrable hedge. She told Sharon that she had been drinking scotch and snorting coke all day. Told her she was wearing a white string bikini and a man who had meant so little to her that she could not now remember his name had been snorting blow off her belly. Billy Joel was on the stereo.


“Compared to me, you were a wonderful mother.”


Sharon frowned and shook her head. How dare she disagree? Dee had spoken the meaning of her life. There could be no discussion.


“We both neglected our children. They needed us and we weren’t there. You were stoned and I was…angry. Meddling. Jealous because Sam liked you and wanted to take you to dinner. In the end, what difference does it make anyway? We both let go when we should have held on.”




“Where have you been?” Lance asked. “I need you, Sharon, you can’t just run off.”


“I talked to Dee.”


“Her? Our son is dead and you –”


“He’s not dead. And I’m tired. All I want to do is sleep.”


“What about me?”


“What about you, Lance?” Sam came into the room with a big flashlight, dressed for hiking. “I’m going back in the garden to find him.”


“I’ll go with you,” Sharon said.


“What about me?”


“If you want to come, put on some boots. But I think you better stay, Sharon. In case he comes home. He’ll want you here.”


“I don’t like the garden at night,” Lance said.


Sharon saw Lance in her brother’s eyes. He was a small man in every way except ambition. She felt nothing for him except embarrassment.


“I’ll go!” he cried. “I just thought –. I’ll go, for christsake.”


Alone, Sharon walked from room to room, turning on every light to make the house a beacon in the dark and then she dragged a chair out onto the lawn and found an extension cord long enough to connect her kitchen cd player to an outlet in the living room. She turned on a recording of choir music, all the old hymns she’d sung and loved as a child. Turned it as loud as it would go because light and music would bring her boy home. Up and down the street, neighbors who had been fretting on the phone and at the dinner table saw what she was doing; and though they pitied her and believed the situation was hopeless, first one and then the whole block turned on so many lights that from space that section of Southern California was a distinct point of light. One or two good people thought about joining Sharon on the lawn where they could watch the garden gate, but they never stepped closer than their own yards. Sharon had encircled her chair with votive candles in glasses and bowls. There was something holy about her vigil and they were, oddly, afraid to approach.


Sometime after midnight, Sharon couldn’t hold her head up any longer. Her eyes shut and she fell asleep and dreamed of Hamish, of course.


“Mommy, wake up.”


“You’re here.”


“The grass is wet and my feet are cold.”


“You lost your shoes and socks.”


“I saw this lady and she had red hair so long she could sit on it and she pulled it around her shoulders like a…a whatdayacallit. She was swinging in a spider web.”


Sharon’s heart sank. “You’re not real, are you?”


Hamish looked behind him. “They say I am.”


Sharon looked across Wood Road to the garden gate and saw only shadows. She wanted to dream forever. “Who are they?”


“The Fair People.”


She sat up straighter. “From the Del Mar Fair?”


Up and down the street the wind chimes hanging in trees and on porches and pergolas laughed in the wind and Sharon was afraid.


“Let me hold you, Hamish.”


He clambered into her lap. She felt his arctic feet through her cotton dress.


“I’m hungry,” he said and Sharon heard his stomach growl.


He was real. He was home.


Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


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