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I went out on Sunday morning with the intentions of planting a garden. Needless to say, I did not plant a garden on Sunday morning. Things first started to go downhill when my friend, Eliza, who had previously agreed to help me out, cancelled last minute. She claimed that something important had come up. Something more important than my garden, apparently. I was crushed.
However, I persevered. I drove myself to the garden shop down the street and bought four hundred geraniums. My dad recommended them because they were supposed to be easy to grow. Even so, I figured that most of them would not make it, and I am nothing if not a prepared person. On the way home I noticed someone on the side of the road, waving her arms wildly. Naturally, I continued driving, as I did not want to bother her. Within a few seconds, I had already forgotten her, until I noticed her chasing after me in my rear view mirror. As I slowed down, I realized that I recognized her. It was Eliza. I rolled down my window as I continued to drive slowly.
“Hey there Eliza, did you change your mind about my garden?”
“Natalie, you have to help me!” She called out breathlessly.
“Oh,” I said, confused. “I thought you were gonna help me? I guess we could plant you a
“No, I’m… I’m in a lot of trouble, Natalie. Please stop the car!”
“Hang on, Eliza. I got four hundred geraniums to get home. I need to get them in my
fridge as soon as possible.”
“Your fridge? What?”
“My dad says it’s best to keep plants cold!”
“Just let me in!”
“There isn’t room for you, Eliza. Geraniums, remember? I’ll be right back.”
As I leaned into the gas pedal, I heard Eliza call out my name again. She was probably concerned about my speeding. It’s a bad habit, I know, but I let it slide as I couldn’t keep my geraniums waiting in the heat much longer.
* * *
With the flowers packed securely in my industrial sized refrigerator, I hurried back to my car. I turned the key and sped down the road to pick Eliza up before I remembered how she had yelled at me for speeding. Well, I didn’t want to upset her and I knew I’d have to kill that habit eventually, so might as well start now. I continued down the road at a leisurely 4 miles per hour.
Truthfully, it was a life changing experience. The world looks so different when it isn’t rushing past you at 90 miles per hour. I noticed the detail in the bricks of the Jones’s house, and the colors of their flowers were so vibrant and beautiful. Though, they could use some geraniums. I turned my head to the other side of the street and watched the neighborhood kids laughing and playing. I felt a rush of nostalgia when I heard them chanting the same nursery rhymes that I used to sing. A bird swooped down to snatch a bug in the grass. My eyes followed her flight back up to the giant oak tree in the Davison’s yard. I listened to the quiet, joyful chirping of birds in a nest as their mother returned to feed them. So this is it, I thought. This is serenity. I smiled warmly as I turned on to the main road. Thank you, Eliza.
Fourteen minutes later, I arrived at the stretch of road where I had seen Eliza. Strangely enough, she was no longer there. I chuckled at the irony of her teaching me a valuable lesson of slowing down and having patience, while she did not seem to have any herself. I pulled over and took out my phone to call her. After two and a half rings, she picked up.
“Who is this?” She said in a low, gravelly voice.
“It’s Natalie? Remember? I came back to pick you up.”
“Natalie?” She continued in her spooky, manly voice. “I’m terribly sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Eliza has other plans today.”
After a moment of confusion as I tried to figure out why Eliza was referring to herself in the third person, I realized that the person I was speaking to was not Eliza speaking in a spooky, manly voice, but was, in fact, an actual spooky man.
“Who are you?” I asked, apprehensively. Maniacal laughter was his response. It was then that I recalled Eliza mentioning a new boyfriend. Based on his voice alone, I personally would not have considered this man boyfriend material, but hey, it’s her life.
A tinge of resentment began to burn behind my eyes as I answered, “Oh. Okay.” So this was the “important thing” that came up. Some guy was more important than my garden. My face grew hotter as I continued, “Well tell her that next time she says she gonna do something, she better actually do it!” In a rage, I hung up and threw my phone out the car window. I immediately regretted this as it was a brand new phone which my dad had just given me for my birthday. I opened the car door and began scouring the road to see where it had landed. I found it a few feet away, completely wrecked. Desperately, I grasped at the shards and tried to piece it back together. I heard footsteps on the asphalt behind me.
“You’re here for Eliza, right?”
I turned around to see a man and a woman both dressed in dark clothing. They stood as if they were ready to charge forward at any moment. I got up to my feet.
They turned to each other and nodded before looking back at me. The woman noticed my phone, shattered on the ground.
“You destroyed your phone so you can’t be tracked. Smart.”
She turned to the man. He nodded slowly as he snapped his phone in half, letting the pieces fall to the ground.
“Good,” The woman said. She then reached out to shake my hand.
“I’m Ava. It’s nice to meet you. This here’s Jack.” The man nodded yet again. He seemed to enjoy nodding. Ava continued, “He doesn’t talk much because he thinks it makes him seem cooler. Really, it just makes him more annoying, but he doesn’t believe me.” Jack nodded.
“My name’s Natalie,” I responded.
“Natalie.” Ava smiled fearlessly. “I am confident that our mission today will be a success.”
As she led the way to her black jeep she explained, “The first step to our plan is getting Eliza back. We’ve just received intel of the location of one of the Botanist’s bases, and it’s likely that she is being held there.” She opened the car door and got in. “We’ll get in there quick, find her, and get out. Silent. They won’t even know we came in.” Ava turned the ignition and began to accelerate. “I make it sound simpler than it is, of course. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get in initially, but the place is loaded with sensors. We’ll have to--”
“You’re driving kind of fast, don’t you think?” I interrupted.
“Is that a problem?”
“I don’t know, I don’t think Eliza would like it. You gotta experience the serenity.”
“We don’t have time for that!”
“No no no, trust me, it’s great. Just try it.”
Ava rolled her eyes as she carefully decelerated. As we inched along the road, she slowly turned to me, eyebrows raised.
“Are you ha--”
Ava was cut off by the bright sedan which came to a screeching halt a few feet away from us. She slammed on the brakes, which didn’t actually make much of a difference in our speed.
“Hey, that’s the Davison’s car!” I noted.
“Oh my God… If we’d had been going any faster, that collision would have killed us for sure!” Ava whipped her head to look at me. “How did you know?” I shrugged. The sound of the car door opening brought our attention back to the sedan. Mr. Davison stumbled out and collapsed on the ground. Ava’s eyes widened before she frantically threw the car door open and ran to him. She checked his pulse.
“Jack!” She yelled, “Jack, is there any of the antidote left?”
Jack swung open the trunk and dug through a bag. He retrieved a needle and a vial and rushed over to Ava.
“This is it?”
“I don’t know if it’s enough!” Her hands shook as she filled the syringe with the green solution and administered the injection. She took a step back and held her breath as Jack stared down at Mr. Davison solemnly. A moment ago, the world seemed to be moving at 90 miles per hour, but now time edged along painfully slowly. With each drawn out second, the weight of the air grew heavier until there could be no more movement at all.
Mr. Davison’s eyes fluttered open. Ava let out a loud sigh and laughed in relief. Jack helped Mr. Davison to his feet.
“I suppose you were meant to be our reinforcement?” Ava asked him.
“That was the idea, yes.” Mr. Davison replied. He stabilized himself against his car. “We’d put together a small group for you to rendezvous with before setting the final plan in motion. However, we were all captured by the Botanist and poisoned.”
“That’s probably what happened to Eliza, too.”
“It gets worse. I was lucky enough to escape, but there were hundreds of people in there. He’s poisoning everyone. The man’s insane. I sure hope you’ve got more of that antidote.”
Ava groaned in frustration and massaged her temples. “No. We were going to buy more but our regular supplier didn’t have any. The Botanist must have cleaned out the supply. He’s covering his bases.” Thoroughly confused, I finally decided to interject.
“Hey, so… What the heck is going on?”
Ava squinted at me. “What do you mean? Weren’t you briefed?”
“But you were looking for Eliza, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, she was supposed to help me plant a garden.”
“A garden? You--- Okay, so you have no idea what’s going on then? You aren’t actually involved in all this?”
“Guess not.” Ava stared at me for a solid four minutes. Abruptly, she stormed back to her car.
“I’m such an idiot!” She swung the door open and slammed it. “Get in, Natalie. I’ll take you home.” Still in a quandary, I wandered after her. She called out to Jack and Mr. Davison. “You two, contact HQ and update them on the situation. I won’t be long.” As she turned back on to the road, she muttered under her breath, “Where are we going to get enough geraniums with such short notice?”
“Geraniums?” I asked.
Preoccupied, she answered, “Geraniums. Yes. The antidote.”
“I got like four hundred if you want some.”
She stopped the car and blinked at me. “What?”
“They’re in my fridge.”
Ava took a long breath before leaning out the car door and yelling, “You two! In my car! Now!”
* * *
I protested as we sped down my neighborhood street, but Ava was not concerned with serenity at them moment. We pulled into my driveway and Ava followed me to my basement. I walked down the row of industrial sized refrigerators until I found the one where I had stored my geraniums. Perplexed, Ava opened another of the refrigerators.
“Wait a minute, is this…?” Ava turned to me apprehensively as I struggled to take out all the geraniums. She took a step back.
“Just who are you?”
“Uh, Natalie? Remember?”
“Why do you have refrigerators full of Oleander?”
“There’s other stuff, too. Nightshade, hemlock, wolfsbane. My dad’s a botanist.”
“Oh my God, Natalie.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool, huh?” I piled several more geraniums on to the stack in my arms.
“OH MY GOD, NATALIE.” Ava ran upstairs and returned with Jack and Mr. Davison. “This is it! This is his supply!” Ava opened the refrigerators to show them. “We have to destroy it!”
The three of them pushed the plants off of the fridge shelves and threw them on the floor. I continued to pile geraniums on my arms. Once all of the plants were in a heap on the floor, Jack pulled out a lighter as Ava drowned the flowers in rubbing alcohol from my bathroom. A shadowy figure appeared behind them.
“Hi, Dad.” I said. Jack, Ava, and Mr. Davison turned sharply to face him.
“You’re too late, Botanist.” Ava said, standing her ground. She snatched the lighter from Jack, lit it, and threw it into the heap. Flames roared up from the pile, almost reaching the ceiling. In a panic, I ran upstairs, dropping several geraniums along the way. I returned to Ava’s jeep and poured the flowers into the trunk. As I pulled it shut, Ava led my dad out the front door in handcuffs. Jack and Mr. Davison followed, carrying armfuls of geraniums. Only a few seconds later, my house erupted into flames behind them.
“You set my house on fire.” I told Ava, in case she hadn’t noticed. Ava pushed my dad into the backseat of the jeep.
“Sorry.” She shut the door and brushed herself off. Her phone buzzed. Jack narrowed his eyes at her as she pulled it out and read the notification. Ava smiled and turned to Jack and Mr. Davison.
“It’s Eliza,” she said. “Apparently she was able to take over the enemy base from the inside. She turned off the security and freed everyone inside. She said to meet her there with the antidote.” Ava looked over at my dad. “And I guess we’ll bring him to HQ after that.” Her phone buzzed again. She read over the message carefully before looking at me. Slowly, she continued.
“Eliza says, ‘It’s funny. If I hadn’t been captured exactly when I was, I would have missed the opportunity to take out the guard. He was distracted by a strange phone call. I’d asked my friend to help me earlier today, but the only reason this mission was able to be successful was because she didn’t.’” Ava looked up at me.
“That was you, huh?”
“I guess so.”
She shook her head, baffled. “I just can’t figure out whether you’re an idiot, or a genius.”
I shrugged. “Probably both.”