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The unconventional Conservatory
It had been nearly three days since Gardener had been around, and I grew restless. “Where is Gardener mum? I’m afraid we have been forgotten,” I whispered. “Gardener will never forget about us darling.” She said.
The panes were rimed with frost, belying the warmth inside the glass edifice. Tall shelves lined the walls. In the center of the room stood a crumbling stone woman in a fountain. She reached to the heavens, her face stained green from algae. The stone floor lay cracked and uneven, moss growing in the crevasses, weeds protruding randomly. The brass handles of the glass French doors had been smudged with dirt. Rows of beds surrounded the fountain, their soil a rich hazel. The air was pungent and thick to breathe. Spray bottles, trowels, and pruners lay scattered on the shelves.
I nestled tightly between mother and father, as I had been since first contact with the soil. Although they withered with age, they stood strong, full of life. Mother sensed my fears and cast them out with logic. “Gardener will soon return Love, always has, always will.” Father grumbled in disbelief. Mrs. Bellis, our neighbor shouted from across the aisle, “Don’t you fret now Edmund, Gardener has your best little interest in mind.” She was terribly nosey but always saying comforting things like that. She continued to rant about the Gardeners omnipotence and father began to argue with her. They had never gotten along very well.
It was at this time Mother began to sing softly to me, “Here I do stand, here I will be loving you truly just as you love me.” Mother sang that song whenever she wanted to tune out the world. I had begun to do the same when it was sung. It was our secret from the rest of the world.
Outside our glass house a dark figure appeared, basket in hand as it approached the door and opened the brass handle with a flourish. My heart swelled as Gardener stepped inside, the sweet smell of her presence filling the air. Everyone gasped in awe and relief. Gardener began to busy herself, humming happily. She poured water down upon us, refreshing the fiber of our beings. We thanked her, but she was deaf to our gratitude. Yet even with her inability to hear us she always seemed to know what we needed. A glorious hour seemed so precious and we all greedily drank up every minute of her attention. Her stoic face smiled upon us all as she lovingly caressed each of us.
She approached us then, mother, father and I, casting her shadow down on us. Her expression grew quizzical and her brow furrowed. Gently she reached down pressing her thumb and forefinger into mother with a concerned look. Mother doubled over wailing in pain, broken by Gardeners firm grip. Gardener continued with her ministrations, as if she heard nothing. With a sigh she brushed past mother seeking father. I reached out for mother but she lay in the soil unmoving.
“Why would you do such a thing knowing mother’s state?” I cried out to Mrs. Bellis but she said nothing. Pulling a sharp trowel from her apron, Gardener began to dig into the soil exposing father. “Gardener, please stop I don’t understand.” Father sounded for the first time in his life, uncertain.
Using the sharp edge of the trowel she sliced into me, carving away, cutting me from mother and father. Mother moaned in the soil. Father fell silent. Gardener turned away, leaving them lying in pain. I slumped over, gripping the soil. I shouted for her, screamed in anger but she continued to leave us. Then mother spoke what I knew to be her last words, “The Gardener always has our best interests in mind Edmund.” Desperately I affirmed over and over my love for them, helpless as mother and father’s life trickled out of their defenseless bodies.
Gardener returned, not moved in the least bit by the dying bodies of my parents. She was deaf to their moans, deaf to my screams, blind to their mangled state. Regardless of my pleading she took them from me, and they disappeared from my sight as the French doors closed behind her. Just like that I became an orphan, and all by Gardener’s cruel hand. I mourned for days watching Gardener come and go. Mrs. Bellis did her best to keep me from retreating deep into myself. But my sorrow turned to hate and not even my mother’s final words could keep me from questioning Gardner and her true motivation. My mother’s once comforting song now haunted me and no matter how hard I tried I could not escape what had become my living hell. I was consumed by my desire for answers. I vowed silence and devoted myself to observation. My longing for my parents never ceased. All I wanted was to have them back again.
Through winter I watched Gardener as I withered from dehydration. Spring came and so did the children, complaining, always questioning just as I once had. They grew quickly, and soon ceased their attempts to speak to me. They became comfortable in the lie that Gardener was always there for them. I became a fixture just like they would one day. Gardener’s purpose was to harvest, not to care for or to love. To create and harvest. That was all, I tried so desperately to convince myself of this but doubt was always present. Why would she spend so much time, know so much, perhaps even love so much? The loss of my parents had left me empty, useless but Gardner never threw me away, she gave me purpose. She gave us all purpose. A full season passed and I began to grow old, the soil became like dust. The children grew strong and sturdy, bearing and being harvested.
Mrs. Bellis was eventually removed from her soil, happily so. “Gardener always has our best interest in mind my dear. Always,” she had said right before Gardener took her from my sight. The next morning Gardener returned, a metal pail full of rich, fresh soil in hand. She hummed happily as she spread it across the old, mixing it tucking me in softly. Her eyes crinkled with a smile. I looked up at her, attempting to muster all my hatred as she gently caressed my leaves. My roots reached out into the fresh soil, mother and father’s presence flowing into me. My hatred ceased. For the first time in my existence Gardener spoke to me: “Here you are Edmund, your parents have provided you some sustenance, Darling.”
She knows my name. A season I wasted lost in my confusion, lost in my hatred. Building my own prison, forging my own hell. The Gardener always has my best interest in mind. My soul reached out across the universe, my roots intertwined with my parents. In that moment I felt as euphoric as a withered old plant ever can.