He came in with a backpack across his shoulders. He was dressed in a red coat, light blue polo shirt and dark blue or green pants. I scratched the back of my neck My head felt stuffed and a headache was coming on. I wanted to go to my room and hide. Studying in the garden room had seemed like a good idea, I had a ton of papers and assignments to complete.
” never have I been so frustrated and irritated” . I sounded out my emotions.
I had been doing well, until he walked in with his smile and stuffed notebook under his arm. ” You probably have finished everything! ” My shoulders dropped and I slammed the notebook
. He held out his hand and helped me up. Going into the study and opening the door for me, he looked down at my not -so- organized coffee table. ” No, that is why I am here!” He dumped the backpack on the chair and sat on the end of the sofa. ” I can’t figure out why she said that the crops rotation didn’t figure into the economic forecasts. ?” His forehead knitted to gather, lines folding into the other. ” I thought she said that this area was an agricultural one. ” He pulled out a folder and shoved it onto my notebook. ” but there is NOT a SINGLE LINE ABOUT CROPS! in the Economic plan for this region. ”
” Well, alright, then I ‘ll just stop what I am doing–! ” I turned away from him,’ I needed his help and yelling would NOT be the way. ‘ I told myself. The books piled up on the floor by the table didn’t make it easy to get to the sofa. Torn notebooks and papers are laying in a scatter making a mine field of the carpet.
” That history timeline doesn’t make ANY sense. I have never ever heard about any of those places. Certainly,. not in my family!! ” I groaned.” I can’t find any information that makes it make sense.” I stabbed at a open book.
His hair was all spiky and tangled. He plowed down into the sofa. I frowned,’ he seemed SO UPSET! ‘ Why ? Economics?’ I thought.
” I haven’t gotten to the economics sheet, yet. I was trying to write the ‘ My first impression of college is.’.. I smirked . “How do I explain my first impression of college, when that was 2 degrees ago? Years ago. ”
He smiled, it smoothed out his face and made him seem more like a college boy. ” I think she is wondering what YOU think of THIS COLLEGE.
he patted my on my head. “at least that was what I did. I figured that I didn’t want her to know I had been to school before her class. ” I giggled, more because he was right and I had totally misread the intent of the assignment.
Sitting by him on the couch, I set the glasses of tea with the appropriate amount of ice. ” What I can’t understand is the History notes of the great war.? ” I reached for some chips. ” I mean, as wars go, it was pretty simple . It was 2 egos! Two cousins fighting over power and prestige.!!” I complained. My shoulders drew up to my ears. ” I was the only one who thought the cousins egos were the cause. Everyone else sneered at me.? ”
He sipped his tea and wrinkled his nose. ” that is TART. ” We had an earlier conversation about drink preferences. I said he needed to taste my southern ICED TEA with lemon.
I smiled prettily. ” the good stuff” and drank half of mine in a gulp.
” I agree, it was a power and prestige grab, with more and more issues melded into it. Every complaint grew all out of proportion.” He stated and leaned forward, putting his pads in his pack .
I nodded and closed my notes. ” Why did everyone disagree so much?”
” I still don’t understand why the places and the cities which HE says were the major battles I have never heard. The Places which are the well-known battles are not even LISTED in the books. Anywhere ! ”
” Remember, how I said that we are HERE TO LISTEN!. The Cities are important to them and is a description to HOW they see the causes and effects of the conflict on their mutual memory and emotions.
A lot of the students lost a whole lot and towns, countries were torn apart.” He frowned and took a chip, munching it .” The agriculture has never recovered and some areas are useless, at least for now. ” His demeanor lit up.”THAT is what I am interested in, the recovery process. ” He drank some more tea and added some honey, swirled it and downed it. ” I could get used to that . ” He nodded, smiled and walked out the patio door.
I answered the questions, keeping in mind, that I was trying to pass the course and that I HAD listened to the lecture. Smiling, I started putting up everything- then stopped . ‘I still had math and the back to school essay, to do.’ I thought. ” Why did the history accounts differ from my understanding , his understanding and the class’ understanding. They are so different! ‘” I mumbled. “Almost like we were not hearing about same event, even when the PHYSICAL facts are the same. “
We entered the hallway with the ribbons draped across the windows. The Sun was bright and cast shadows over the tables set up in the hallway. People were moving, handling packs on shoulders, backs and in carts which they pushed in a wheelie dance in and out of the groups.
All kinds of people were lining up and standing around at side tables. Many didn’t look happy, and several were chugging on a sour looking green bottle. Girls with bright colors on their nails, packs and hair ribbons ,were chewing on their hair, nails or tassels of their packs. Colors that I had been searching and which were missing from the flower books, were here in the hallway. Everywhere around me was a canvas of colors , reminding me of the riot of clothes worn on 60’s day at work , a short time back. The air wasn’t cold, but the fur tufted sleeves and pants fashion didn’t show it. Smiling , I twisted sideways to let a “horsey set ” of kids mosey on.
” They are going to have to clean up before they go to class. Thesh bok.!” He looked angry and put offish. I straightened up and puzzled. ‘Thesh bok!’ I murmured. ” We certainly are from different parts of the country!” He didn’t smile or respond . I frowned and squeezing his hand, I smirked a half smile.
” What do ya mean, clean up? They look clean and colorful . ” His expression irritated me. Somehow, I felt like defending their rights. They weren’t prisoners in uniforms?- I stopped . maybe? there were some stringent uniform codes. I grimaced .
” I certainly am not dressed up anywhere nearly as much as some of the girls lined up across the hall.” I was shuffling through the packet I had been handed, when I walked in . I hadn’t read any of it, from the looks of the lines of students, I should have. Several groups juggled their books and walking past me, spun me around. My packet scattered like petals in a wind. I looked around and found myself the center of attention amidst many smiles ,several girls caught at the paper petals.
Tall, dark and mysterious stranger smiled at the girls and collected the papers without a sound. Tucking the papers into his own notebook. ” Come on , let’s go in here. ” He slid between tables and through an open door. I followed into a small carpeted room with the usual bulletin boards, table and chairs . The colors were a soft lavender and some greenish teal that were popular in several of the rooms in the manor. Dropping the notebook and his pack onto the chair, he pulled out some money and put it in a box on the table. Opening a cabinet , he took out some glasses and a bottle of green stuff. It still did not look appetizing. I curled my lips and nose, looking around, all I saw were some napkins in a basket: some slots with reams of paper, cabinet doors and small wire boxes with pens, scissors and stained rollers of rubber?
” Approve day is chaos. ” He chuckled, “Everyone standing around usually not in the right place. ” He pulled an opener from the basket.
“Admin trying to sort out the students and the visitors. Instructors trying to see who is admitted into their compounds. Bickering over the type of people and the standards of who is to be here? ” He stared off at the wall behind me.
” Values are hard to agree on. Even Instructors, who agree on ideas, collide on principles. Values and ideas selections are hurtful and helpful. The reasons for – ?” He stopped ,threw his shoulders back and look over my shoulder ,that far away look again. “There are no clear, short or easy principles to decide ways. Wounds are deep even the new denial ones.”
” I’m sure that there are some critieria to balance needs and fairness. ” I wetted my lips and,staring at a poster of rules above the supplies on the wall. I pondered and felt my ID badge. ‘ I had not had to stop at any lines, I didn’t have to answer any questions or do anything. There were many students with backpacks and demeanor who look far more like they belong than I did. ‘ I looked around a “teachers’ lounge” obviously, off limits to any of the people outside the door. Shoving the green bottle across the table, he smiled -a full smile at me. ” You look thirsty, AND YES Marie arranged everything for both of us. Yes, we are ready for class and do not have to stay in any of the lines.” I smiled and licked my lips. Maybe it didn’t taste as bad as it looked. I leaned forward and grabbed the bottle.
” We are here to listen! We are here to memorize what is given to us. We are not to tell them where they are wrong! ” He caught my hands and his voice lowered ,quietly. “How you are treated and how you survive out among the people will depend on you adopting whatever background you are given here. ” He squeezed, adding emphasis to his stern voice. ” I know what my background is , I am good with history and science. I am not DUMB.!” Pulling loose, I lifted the bottle and took a long swig of the green slime stuff. Swallowing and shivering , “How can ya’ll drink that stuff?? I wiped my mouth out with my sleeve.
I was on the couch ,wrapped up in a small shoulder wrap I had found in a closet. The Oatmeal colored wrap was warm and light, I shivered under the knitted lacy trim. ‘There was a nip in the air, enough to cool down my room, my office ,I guess. I didn’t have work to do but? ‘ The book that I had pulled out of the library was balanced on the pillow. I had the sketches laid out on the coffee table. We were meeting for lunch, and were discussing the Ankh garden, I guess.
A lot of guessing this morning, more so than ordinary, I was getting bored and tired. Sighing, I wondered if Marie and Joy were going to speak to me anytime . I wanted the familiarity of visits from my “maiden” aunts. I wanted the safety of last week, if I couldn’t be home. Wiping my tears and shaking my hair, I wanted to go home, even if it meant being ostracized . Even if my sister criticized my make-up, my haircut and my clothes, I looked down at my purple and white top and pants. They fit well AND it was so comfortable to have different clothes, for going out. I straightened the sleeves so that the ink stains didn’t show from the front, at least.
The pictures of the plants looked pretty but too small and dark.! I flipped through the book. ‘ Where are the Tiger day lilies and the Black eyed Susans or the White daisies ?’ I wondered. I wanted to put a brilliant rainbow in the ground. I had spent an hour looking for some bright colored flowers or trees to plant in the sunny outward long straight leg of the design. ” I must not know where to look. I just want some cheerful and familiar colors.” I muttered to myself. Stretching all the way to the side, I bounced up, as the blue pants and the black striped orange jacket righted itself in my field of vision. He had a box in his hands and his shoulders bounced in a shrug.
“A garden is a place to enjoy and share. Its’ lay out and the plants chosen tell stories and give lectures on the importance and need of being with the other parts of the physical world, a separate place that lives without the mechanizations of humans.” I picked up my carefully laid out public spaces with the paths and cubbyhole benches, that was partly maze and partly home. ‘There was a place called Daughtrey Gardens . It was my favorite place to go and wander around. I’d walk there wondering how the gardeners could do such a masterful job.” He was staring out the window , like a lab partner who didn’t realized how hard the job was going to be.
I sipped my water and sighed. ‘The plans would go in my memory box upstairs.’ I decided ,wrapping my finger around the corners. ” I had just noticed that the flowers in my plans were how the beds in front of the Daughtrey gardens were planted. The exception being that those plants were labeled in botanical jargon. If they weren’t going to be used, then I could mess around with them and maybe plant some anyway. ? ‘ I looked down at the cookies . “They aren’t the Gardens bakery cookies ” . I shoved them away.
He squeezed my hand. ” Master of plants, since you are so curious about your environment. I dig some digging of my own. ” He handed me a card with a picture of the commons sketched into it. He smiled that crooked , slanted smile. ” We are going into the lair of learning. ” When I frowned, he laughed. ” a saying from my part of the country Get some shoes on and let’s go to some lectures.
I blinked . ” We are going back to School as in across to the other buildings?”
Peering at his drawing, I said that the Ankh is the symbol for life, according to the Egyptian mythology. It is what was used to grant immortal life. ” Fingering the outline in the ground, and thinking of the Ankhs that I had in my place. Most were presents. ” A good metaphor for a plant expanse.” He chewed something in his mouth, I didn’t know and I didn’t want to know.
” I have had an idea that plants growing near the forest would do very well.” he started .He was sketching trees and flowers in the Ankh ” and might grow better without being so careful.” he nodded back towards Marie. He scratched the ground, “if we could put some forest dirt in a circle a few feet deep and get the strong plants to start growing, then they might grow on their own.”
He had this very far off look like he wasn’t sitting next to me.
I caught his hand, I felt very sorry for him. I knew what he was feeling and where he was. He looked down at my hand and squeezed it. ” I like the idea, but tell me- ” I started. Licking my lips, I paused. ” what do you know about the Forest? Old growth forest need to be preserved and not necessarily disturbed.” He just stared at me with a somber expression, for a few breaths, we just sat.
” I don’t know a lot ” he shifted and drew an outline of a tree, with their slender limbs and clover shaped flowers speckled all over. ” I’m not sure that many people know much. The forest has been here for a very long time.” He popped, hopped up and leaned down his hand to me and helped me up. He grasped my hand and smiled. Starting forward we walked in the opening. It has the darkness of an old forest. There were many saplings inside. Many trees crowding each other in a wave of growth I stopped and looked behind me. There was the grounds ,the sky and the outlines of the other buildings, but in any direction there wasn’t any area with trees or big, cyclical bushes. I suddenly felt a bit afraid of going inside the tall darkness. That far away look seemed to peer into the forest, I guess, maybe he wasn’t thinking of his home. He stopped and shifted himself. I smiled at him and started forward, along the matted down grass and the smudged dirt.
Inside and Curious
Starting forward, curiosity taking over, I went faster. Knowledge demanding exploration. I was the one who tugged now. Peering into the green gloom, leaves sparkled with the light poking through all kinds of passages throughout the canopy.
” It’s so beautiful,! an enchanting world all of its own.” I said with a grin plastered over my face like a kid with icing smeared all over. Trees encompassing us and covering the sky. The canopy forming a towering roof with several differing colors of orange, red ,shades of greens. Trees in small yellowing stars clustered together with branches bending and twisting in grey highways meandering along paths going into the unknown.
I started down the growing tangles, the paths wandering off then I was weighted down by a hand. When I looked back ,he was wary and on alert. ” “Wait!, I don’t see it. This is probably- wouldn’t be a good idea.” he turned, tugging me to turn around.
I pulled my hand loose. “How are you ever going to know if you don’t go and find out information?” I stepped forward and pushed aside a tangle of smaller limbs. Looking back at him, he was rocking on his feet.
” I wanted to show you the tree I found. Not go exploring where we have no idea– where we would end up. ” Cocking my head and letting out a sigh, I went to him. It seemed silly to me.
” Ok, where is it? I can’t say that I know a lot of trees . We would need my Dad’s field guide for that! ” I teared up and was wishing I had his whole library and my Dad beside me right that moment. He circled my shoulder and drew me into a forest as protective and encompassing as the other forest was dappled and dark. He kissed my head and gave me a hug. ” I understand that you needed a friend today.” I snuggled in and nodded. Glad to have a good ole bear hug, there had not been one more needed. “Look up at the bird on the limb”. he whispered. I moved which meant turning all the way around in his arms.
” There was a Baltimore oriole or was it a golden finch?’ I smiled like I was seeing a long lost cousin or friend . ” Isn’t she gorgeous? I love Golden finches. They are so dainty and feisty ! “‘ I was in no hurry to leave my safety net, so I just watched from where we were.
” So, Birds and trees and plants and animals . Exactly where did you learn so much about other realms.? ” In school and on field trips with my parents. Why ? Didn’t you go places with your family when you were younger?” I had to speak up loud over his arm. His head fell and rested on top of my head, (not an easy feat for one so tall, but he is limber).
He stood there and then straighten up, pulling me tighter. ” my parents died in a volcanic accident when I was young, everyone in the grounds , except for a few of us children . ” he stopped and I saw the tears slowly creeping out. I turned and hugged him tightly. ‘Time for stories, later.” I tugged at his arms and nodded towards the entrance. He didn’t like being in here.
” Ok, sir, where is this tree that is going to be the star of the Ankh garden.? I was thinking that we could plant ivy vines or some kind of ground cover underneath.” There was plenty of ivy all around. “With the flowers planted in the circular beds and the straight beds . We could have a bird bath and make a haven for the birds..Perhaps put some benches so that we could have an outside reading place up against the forest edge? “
He was smiling that tilted, crooked smile and put his hand on the smooth, tall deep silver and coffee dark bark with the magnolia green leaves.
Obviously, there was some work that needed to be done outside. I knew a thing or two about gardening. My mother was had won several awards for her garnering. some of the best days were working outside on the yard and planting flowers, bushes and clearing out the beds that were all around . It was a job, but I enjoyed getting out in the sun and feeling the wind. Far better than ironing, washing or cleaning invisible dust inside,I jumped at doing any yard maintenance I could. I looked up at the sky, not much Sun, It was a much different climate than the tropical sun , I was used to being in. The bed I had been working in had flowers that looked like little suns themselves.
“The ground was dry, too dry.” I commented to myself. I sat back and pondered, looking around for a sprinkler head or some sort of watering systems. “These flowers were going to need lots of water ,especially when the sun started blazing.” I murmured to the flowers, pinching out a dead bloom. I yanked at a creeping strawberry plant.” If I didn’t get it out when it was small, it was going to choke out the flowers and anything else it grew up against. ” I explained to the little gold flowers. ‘ A typical black widow plant.’ I thought. I jerked at the little vine that had snaked around the stem of one of the bigger flowers, it didn’t want to let the sunny flower go. I drew in a deep breath, such was the ways of yard maintenance, if you were going to put in structured, flower beds then you were going to have to keep it up and not let it go hay wire.
“Well, you are working hard. Those plants are stubborn.” The voice was coming from above me. I looked up and into those deep, ocean blue eyes . An outline of dark ,wavy hair was framed by the clouds above. He blocked out a good bit of my view of the manor wing. . His smile was expanding and I realized that I was staring with one plant dripping from my hand onto my knee. ” They’re so dense and thin. ” He squatted down beside me. He picked up some of the weeds and fingering it asked ” What is wrong with this plant that you pulled it out and yet piled it here?”
I added another spiny, prickly plant to the pile.” I’m not sure what it is. It’s growing too big and it will messed up the symmetry of the bed. When the sunny plants grow bigger, then they were going to need the area to fill out. I was giving them the room. ” I brushed off mud from my knee. “Beds need to be tended, at least beautiful, structured, plotted ones like these.”
“Are you saying that these beds are NOT being cared for ? At least, in YOUR opinion? ” He was going through the weeds that were choking out the smaller, more flowery plants . He frowned and leaned forward,knees resting on the brick border.
Raking the ground between the little plants and smoothing the ground out, I twisted around to work on the bed behind me., I knew that he was watching me, what didn’t he want? I wasn’t feeling very sociable and I could use a smile from someone today. I worked on the taller weeds that were coming out of the Iris ? Although, I had never seen an Iris with an orange center.
He was separating the larger flowering plants and probing the sides of the ground. Almost like he was checking for damage, he drew in a breath ” Marie DOES NOT LET ANYONE BOTHER HER PLANTS BACK HERE. These are her babies and her care! ”
The larger side bed had bigger bushes and more plants, ‘I wasn’t sure what were the preferred plants and what was the overgrowth?’ I puzzled. I separate some the limbs and looked at the trunks underneath. I rather liked the blended look of the orange and deep, provincial blue with the popping muted claret red of the tiny clusters of flowers. I tilted my head and looked down the center of the bed. There were several bushes but they had no undergrowth and they were all the same height, crowded and fighting for space and light. I frowned as I sat back. ” The plants are having to fight for light and water -” I scooted around.
” Well, you look like you were looking down the keyhole of a machine and didn’t like what was inside. Come on-what-?” He looked over his shoulder and rocked back, stood quickly. How did he moved so like that?, didn’t he ever lose his balance? I thought. ‘Why did he-?’ “They need to be thinned out-”
” Here let me help you, you can box me up later.” Marie came into view with a large box and lots of plants streaming over the edge. She had an ample, orange brimmed hat with colored flowers woven into the crown. Her face looked like the sky above only as an approaching thunderstorm, towering overhead, threatening to explode any second.
Looking down at the pile of weeds and quickly throwing them into the bed behind me, I gathered the sticks I had been using. Since I had no idea where the gardening stuff was kept, I stuffed them under the bush nearest me.
Marie stared at me, her face stern and her eyes brimming. I opened my mouth. ” let me help you with those, you just tell me where and I will- ” He interrupted ” Marie, we’ll just get out of your hair and leave you in peace.
“Beautiful day for some fresh air”. he caught my hand and leaving me no choice , he started a quick stride away from the buildings out into the grounds. ” He was looking around at anything, but me. I pulled out my hand and he smiled, a sort of crooked, tilted smile. ” I had been thinking of putting in a garden of your own, since you can’t seem to let plants just be. He was walking in a slow amble, deeply breathing in. ” The other day, when I was out here, I found a curious tree that reminded me of you. I think it would look great in the center of a round garden near the forest. ” I looked at the old growth forest ahead of us. It was a good distance from the manor house as I had begun referring the place.I glanced back at the house. I looked around and I didn’t see him( oh, what is his name? ) There was a wide arc of a horizon, I could see, only? ” What do you think about this for an expanse ? ” Looking down, there he was with a carved series of lines in the ground. I smiled , feeling like I was seeing a card from home. ” It’s an ankh! I love it.” He furrowed his forehead and smiling that crooked smile. He motioned as a spot next to him. ” What is an Ankh?”
” I don’t know what happened?” I crisply stated. ‘ Why were they angry at me? ! ‘ I groused silently. I slumped, ‘the day had been so nice! ‘ ” He said that you and Joy had asked him to help me. ” My eyebrows gathered tightly. ” who was he anyway.? I shifted sideways, looking at Marie, who eyes were a deep, dark blue. she clasped my hand ” I forget his name, he’s Joy’s sister’s other half. ” Her head cocked slightly to the side. Drawing in a breath, she quietly asked . ” What did he do to you?” squeezing my hands together.
I looked down and then at the table. ” he came in and spread out some coins on the table. He asked me to put the coins in order, which I did. Then he wanted to know how much money would I give him for a coffee and pie.” I stretched my neck all the way around, ending in a frustrated shake. ” How am I to know what the price of coffee and pie, any more than I did the price of lunch?” The frustration stinging my voice, making me sound more critical as my anger reared up, again. ” He frowned at me when I guessed wrong. I didn’t have any pennies and there are no numbers on the coins, even if I did guess the price, itself. ” I looked down at the carpet and at the coin on the floor, as I remembered. how he sounded. ” He said that I didn’t know math and that he didn’t know how whether I could learn . Education was minimal, where I was from. ” The more the memory came back the angrier I steamed. ” He said ” like it was in all those out lying areas .” I withdrew my hands firmly and got up.
” I am so sick of people like him, all high and mighty, looking down on my home area. Ok, so yes , we lost . So no, we weren’t right in every thing. But damnit that was a long time ago, I didn’t do it and neither did anyone else in my home state. We have worked hard and we are smart and accomplished and JUST AS GOOD AS THOSE CARPETBAGGER HOLIER -THAN- THOU ARISTOCRATS! who think they are so much smarter AND successful AND more entitled than anyone else.!! ” My Irish temper was every bit as steely as my mother’s and my grandmother’s . Lost in an angry fog was what my paternal grandfather would call it, when I was so angry, I didn’t know where I had wandered.
I suddenly stopped circling the study area . I licked my lips and let out a huff. I stretched my arms down to my toes and slowly came back up, keeping my eyes closed, I stretched my arms up as far as I could reach , standing on my tiptoes and slowly back . I ended by twisting my waist 90 degrees one way and then the other. ” I am sorry, for yelling at you. I have heard people like him, my entire-re life!” I sank back on the sofa beside her. ” we are good people and several of our families were caught in the middle of both sides, even though we weren’t involved in the business that caused so much misery and greed. ” I rocked my foot back and forth nervously. I rubbed my face and looked up. Marie had a very puzzled frown with one eyebrow tilted high up. I bit my lip, ” I am sorry! I know I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. Obviously, your town wasn’t in the controversy either. It was just when he said that he wasn’t sure that I could learn.” my shoulders closed in on myself like I was trying to protect my chest. I sat up, angry again. ‘MY FAMILY AND TOWN WERE THE ONES INSULTED’, I fumed. ‘ Why am I apologizing?’ I spoke calmly, struggling to do so. “He said he was there to help me, but all he did was make me feel dumber than I already did. Damn Blue Bloods!” Marie smiled and squeezed my hand. Chuckling she got up and put the paper from her pocket on the desk. ” That is one thing that I agree with, Come on, let’s get some tea!’