“Miss D, when will you finally get that bloody phone we’ve discussed time and time again?”
“Eventually, Edith. Don’t be hasty.”
Edith looked up in despair as she took Miss Duran’t coat.
“Tell me, what is the urgency now that you need remind me of the ‘bloody’ phone?”
“Your brother, he has finally woken up and has been asking for you and you only.”
“How long ago?”
“About an hour ago, Miss.”
“Thank you Edith. Can you please bring up some tea.?
Miss Durant went upstairs and I back to my office where I resumed organizing: I emptied all boxes and then flattened them, filled up my desk drawers, placed above what I would constantly need, and started turning everything on again. The room was filled with that wonderful buzzing of electric life. It was a weird contrast to the rest of the house, where everything seemed frozen in another time, here the past merged with the present.
My first hour was spent installing programs on the computer, mainly things I was familiar with and knew might be needed for the tasks that were described to me: something for writing, something for notes, something for organizing, something for contact information, and something for the internet. My second hour I spent editing all the pictures I took today, still unsure of wether Miss Durant wanted them all, or just a bunch or none at all; but if she did want them I assumed she at least wanted them ready. I tried to keep them as honest to their original state as possible, only highlighting details here and there or adjusting the brightness. There wasn’t much that stood out, everything was equally colorless and destroyed and my photographing abilities were not enough to improve them.
After a while the task became repetitive, but it allowed time for my observation skills to enhance, if only a little. With that I noticed the following:
I wrote my observations down while I finished editing the pictures, and at around five-thirty Edith came in to tell me lunch was ready for me in the garden again. Today it was soup and I sat alone, so I since I would be unobserved I went exploring and took a bowl of soup with me. The garden was big, and it was made with an effort to hide the outside world: trees were tall all around and the bushes were high, what little of the outside world was visible was only skies. I began following the path, every bit of it very elegant, calculated and beautiful, but eventually I ventured away from it and towards the darker parts of the garden.
I like walking and wandering away from society and the city. Parks, gardens, forests and even graveyards have always been my preferred escapes from reality when it gets too stressful to survive in, let alone exist. They help me cope and examine life long enough for me to want to go back and live in it. Wandering through the Durant’s garden was just as rewarding, but the deeper I went into it, the less I felt I was in a back-garden. The space between trees became thinner, the sounds of the fountains grew louder, each step I took crunched deeper, and the rest of the world sounded less and less… there. Even though I was right in the middle of the city, the sounds of the concrete jungle were becoming less evident as I kept moving forward. Or I hoped I was moving forward. Even when looking back at that moment now, I can only assume I was moving in a generally forward direction. I wasn’t bumping into anything that would hint I was reaching a limit in the space the garden occupied.
I stopped for a bit, trying to make out any sound that suggested I might be nearing the edge of the garden. It took me a while and some effort, but I could hear voices, and it was not too far ahead from where I was standing, maybe a little to my left. I walked towards it and followed it until it was clearer and louder.
“Miss Gladstone! Deary! Miss, should I go in and try to find her?”
“I’d rather you didn’t, Edith, if she’s already in there and strayed from the path it’s rather fruitless for us to follow.”
“Right… Well I’ve got things to do! Miss Gladstone!”
“You may leave if you must, Edith. I am fine with waiting for Abby on my own.”
I walked a little faster and eventually reached the end of the garden, feeling like a ten year old who had run away from her mother’s line of vision. Miss Durant was sitting down at the table, cross legged and smoking.
“Abby, how lovely of you to join the living again. We’ve been searching for you all over the house.”
“Sorry. I mean, I just went in for a little distraction, I didn’t think I’d be needed while I had lunch.”
“Lunch? Abby, you’ve well exceeded your work hours, I assumed you’d be dedicated to your work, but not so deeply.”
“What? What time is it, I went out for lunch at five thirty-ish, I didn’t take that long in eating.”
“It’s nine thirty, do you not own a watch? I believe cellphones tell time, do they not?”
“What? No, I swear I didn’t take long… I mean, I think.”
“Edith came out at around six and assumed you had gone back into your office, but when I went looking for you your office was empty. Do solve a mystery for us, Abby. Did you go into the gardens and follow the path, or did you stray?”
“I began following the path, but after a while I got a little bored and took a left.”
“Ah? How big is your garden? Do you take over a couple of blocks?”
“It’s a rather small garden, but it’s very old and elaborate. You shouldn’t have strayed from the path.”
“Right… I won’t do it again, but… why? Why is it so late? I don’t-“
“It’s late, because you strayed.”
“But, there must be more of an explanation than that.”
“I don’t know, a wrinkle in time? Maybe I walked for four hours and didn’t notice because it’s a huge garden or something?”
“I’ve already told you, Abby, it’s a small garden and it has a path for a reason. Please don’t make me repeat myself, I don’t enjoy it.”
“But it didn’t feel small at all, it doesn’t make sense.”
“The garden has been in this house longer than I have, it’s rather mysterious even to myself. From what I’ve gathered in my experiences through it, it reflects the needs of the intruder. Was your intent a form of escapism?”
“A little… I usually wander gardens, parks and graveyards for that.”
“Your wish was it’s command.”
Miss Durant put her cigarette on the ashtray and got up.
“You seem slightly flustered with the concept.”
“I am perturbed at the idea of a mystical garden that can trap you if you’re not careful.”
“Aren’t all forests that way? Have people not been lost when camping on their own and without map, compass or watch?”
“But… this is a garden. It’s in a limit of space within a big city.”
Miss Durant smiled in a very motherly way and walked towards me. Again I felt like a child, this time about to get comforted by her mother for getting lost. I looked up, Miss Durant an inch higher than me and close enough to hug. She really did look concerned, but smiled along as she spoke.
“It’s perfectly fine, Abby. You’ve found your way back.”
I stared at her longer than I felt was polite, but looking away felt rude. Her words did feel like she was trying to sound reasonable, but the sentences themselves didn’t seem possible. Miss Durant tilted her head.
“Abby… Are you all right?”
“I… I hope so.”
“You are in need of sleep, that is all. Please, let me drive you home.”
This would be the second time she drove me home, and I wasn’t sure wether this meant I was becoming a burden or not. All I knew was that whatever I agreed to get into, it would not be getting any smoother the more I dug into it. Did I want to stay anyways?
“You’re right, I’m just tired. I’ve been editing pictures for hours.”
“So you are as dedicated as I suspected, lovely. We’ll see about those photographs tomorrow. For the moment, come, let us take you home.”
Miss Durant stretched out her arm slightly signaling for the door, and I obliged.
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