Sweet Thyme Baby – 48


Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 47 first)


Meanwhile, on the other side of the garden, a blue and white taxi with Arabic designs on the hood stopped in front of the Whitby house on Wood Road. Dee got out one side, Sam the other. By chance they’d both been on the early flight down from L.A. The forty-five minute hop gave her just enough time to tell him what she hadn’t the other day, no unpleasant truth spared. Dee wore the clothes she had been wearing when she drove away from the nursery. She had left her canvas tote behind in Eddie Mann’s office.


The old man had been glad to see her and his slick son too. Eddie Mann Junior said he’d heard about her, that she was almost like a myth the way his father went on. A year out of law school, the younger Mann was fashionable as GQ and had his father’s cunning rodent face and quick eyes. She had spent the night at their house with Mrs. Mann fussing over her like a prodigal daughter. Dee and Eddie Mann, junior and senior, had talked until late; and afterwards she slept without waking in a guest room wallpapered in yellow roses.


“You okay?” Sam asked.


“I just need to get my courage up.”


“I’ll be over in a while.”


Dee opened the gate and stepped into the garden where the light shimmered through an organdy mist and the air was heavy with the smells of leaf mold and jasmine and hummed with the sound of bees. She walked away from Wood Road, deeper into the garden. In the canopy, crows announced her return.


She walked slowly and paused often to savor the touch of air and light. She had never known the garden to be so still. It was the weather she thought. Except for the crows, even the birds were silent, hunkered in their nests and hollows waiting for something to happen. As she walked she was storing memories, laying up a larder of sensory impressions to sustain her.


She had come a great distance from the orchard farm, a lifetime’s hard trek. But had she made progress? She wondered how that word could be applied to a person’s life without the making of judgments: bad, better; good, worse. What did those words mean after all? She had done the best she knew, and it was never very good. But was it bad? Eddie said no. Eddie Junior said, shit happens and his father told him to watch his mouth around a lady. Be good to yourself for a change, Eddie said. Forgive yourself. And if she could and if she did, would this be progress? Would the judgment be that her life meant more than skin flicks and a dead daughter?


She crossed a plank bridge, its redwood softened by the damp, and scrambled up a bank of dewy button fern. She stopped at the sound of a child’s voice. Pushing aside a veil of trumpet vine, she looked into the clearing where the great oak grew. A little girl stood in a pool of light. Dee stopped as if shot, and a tight scream squeaked out of her. She tried to move but couldn’t.


The glistening light, moist and green-gold, held the girl like an icon in a gilded frame. Moody, black lashed eyes. French eyes. A mouth created to smile, to kiss and to sing. She rippled in the light and twirled in a gauzy skirt.


From up in the oak a burred voice said, “Don’t trouble your mind, Dee-my-dearie.”


Con Ryan swung down to a lower branch. Carlotta came behind him, and she was agile as a gymnast. They sat on a branch, smiling and swinging their legs. There were diamonds in Carlotta’s ears and at her throat and studded in her ornately knotted hair. Con was done up in his New Year’s Eve fancy dress clothes: cutaway coat and dove gray trousers. His black shoes shone like pooled oil.


He said, “Serena shouldn’t be here at all, you know. It’s exhausting to substantiate after so long. But she worries about you.”


“Poor lamb,” Carlotta said and Dee knew that she was speaking of her and not Serena.


Serena’s outline and features were as if penned on a tulle curtain held up to the light. A puff disturbed the curtain, the image lost definition, almost vanished and returned. Tears blurred Dee’s vision. She felt them slip down the hollow between her nose and cheek and tasted their salt at the corner of her mouth.


“She wants you to be brave,” Con said.


She could see the trunk of the oak through his body. Dust motes of burning gold stung her eyes. For an instant, Dee closed her eyes. When she opened them she was alone in the oak clearing.


Dust motes, sunshine, a beautiful tree. But no Con or Carlotta, certainly no Serena. Visions and enigmatic messages from ghosts. Dee should have found time for breakfast. Tut-tutting Mrs. Mann had predicted she would be light headed.


It was foolish, but she didn’t want to leave the clearing. She closed her eyes again. The image of Serena reappeared on the back of her eyelids, and heat raced through Dee’s veins, a sweet flood of love that left her limp and weeping. She who never cried had been sobbing on and off for hours. These were the tears she had never shed for Serena because if she had, she would have drowned in them. To keep from going under she had smothered love. But love is an element like fire and water. That’s what Eddie said. Because Dee had to love something, she had learned to love her shame, to dote and coddle it, to hide behind it and make up rituals to honor it. The movies in her dresser drawer had been idols to her shame.


All this had become clear to her the night before. The old man held her hands and talked her back to the time before Serena died. He cramped her hands in his and made her look into his eyes and tell him everything, to relive that Fourth of July in terrible detail. He would not let her pull away from him. He demanded she look at him. In Eddie Mann’s study, time stretched and trembled like strings on a Stradivarius and finally Dee began to cry. And as she had expected, she could not stop. He held her in his arms and she sobbed until her chest ached and her throat was raw and still she cried and then she slept an hour and dreamed of Serena and woke up crying.


The vision of Serena beneath the wondrous oak had been a trick of her imagination, a hallucination borne of exhaustion and nerves and hunger. But Eddie Mann might have called it a reward as well.




“Don’t you guys knock?” George tried to sound tough and Pinkus wanted to kiss him.


“Where’s Dee?” Lance looked around. “We want to see her.”


Janet Wexler said, “There’s no good her trying to avoid us. This is serious business and we’re not going to be put off.”


“She’s not here,” Pinky tried to sound tough but his voice jiggled like a gelatin mold.


“I told you she ran out,” Victor Detroit said.


“She’s got to be here,” Janet Wexler said, “In all the years I’ve known her she’s never left Cabrillo Point. Where would she go?”


“It doesn’t matter if she’s here or not,” Lance said. “Victor, go upstairs, find her room and look for the movies. We can do that much without her.”


“Lance Whitby, your father would be ashamed of you.” Pinkus stepped between Victor and the door out of the kitchen. Sweet Thyme squealed with delight. “You can’t go upstairs. This is private property.”


George grunted and pushed Lance aside. There was a scuffle. A body fell against him and knocked Pinkus into the table.


“My baby, watch out for my baby,” Pinkus cried. George helped him stand up. Sweet Thyme hiccupped.


“Your baby?” Janet Wexler said. “I thought you said it was your sister’s. How did you get a baby?”


If she tried to take him away, Pinkus would kill her. He knew that as surely as he knew she would try.


“Forget the baby,” Lance said. “Go on up, Victor. And don’t try to stop him, George.”


“He’s not going upstairs, none of you are. This is Maggie’s house…”


“It surely is.” Maggie’s voice came from the other side of the door as it swung open. “And this that you see in my hand is a pistol. It’s loaded and I used to be a pretty good shot.”


Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


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