Archive for the ‘Chapter’ Category

The Lady Slipper
August 19, 2011

Chapter One:

Other people’s flowers…

Hannah didn’t notice the swift crunching of gravel that briefly echoed from the opposite side of the house. She was much too intoxicated by the scent of awakening soil and all that it promised. With her face so close to the ground now, she could inhale great, long drafts of it, prickly and laced with greenery. It still felt like winter by her standards, but there was a subtle balminess in the morning air today that whispered, don’t give up.

A fresh breeze rustled the plastic grocery bags behind her, nestled heavily in last year’s dead grass. She estimated the size of the bulb cluster by its foliage and plunged her spade, scraping into a protective fortress of roots and stones.

One of Hannah’s weaknesses was an unwillingness to stop something once she had started, going at it with singular focus until she was either finished or defeated. The winner here would ultimately be the fragile narcissus, although in its now mangled condition it probably wouldn’t agree.

The slam of a car door reminded her that Sophia and the girls were waiting, probably growing impatient by now. She glanced over at the station wagon parked on the street. Sophia’s head was slumped back against the headrest; no sign of movement inside.

One more slam.

“Oh my God, get the car started! Hurry!”
“What?” Sophia called out from the driver’s side window. “What is it?” She adjusted the rear view mirror for a better look as Hannah forced up the hatch door and slung in the bags.
Natalie was awake now and wrestling with her safety seat. Paige only flinched at the noise, her sleeping face still mashed hard against her seat belt.
“Start the car!” Hannah shrieked. “Someone just pulled up.” She slammed the back and ran to the passenger side, hastily brushing the dirt from her hands and clothes.
“Mommy!” came a cry from the back. Natalie’s huge doe-eyes bulged with alarm.
“Okay, Nat. It’s okay,” Sophia shushed over her shoulder as she turned the ignition.
“Come on. Get out of here!” Hannah pleaded, pulling the door closed while Sophia edged the station wagon across the road. “Turn right! Turn right!”
Hannah twisted in her seat to get a better view as Sophia eased away from the corner. A tall, suit-and-tie businessman with a clipboard looked toward them from the front porch. He watched for just a glance and then continued with his mission, apparently unconcerned.
“We are so friggin’ lucky he didn’t come from the other direction. Man, that scared the tar out of me.”
“Jeez, calm down. He’s a real estate agent or something.”
Natalie continued to struggle and pull at her restraints. “Mommy!”
“Okay. Just a minute,” Sophia answered. “Stay in that seat, Natalie Rose!”
“Nattie wants out,” Paige grumbled, still half asleep. Her peachy right cheek bore an angry indentation from the shoulder strap. “Paige wants out, too.”
“We’ll get out in a minute, girls. Hold on,” Hannah said. She reached into the back and patted them each on the knee. Natalie pulled her leg away, looking back at Hannah with you’re not my mommy contempt.
“What if someone noticed us coming around there?” Hannah speculated. “What if they’ve noticed the holes?”
“Nah. They’re probably selling the place or something. Anyway, we cover up pretty good. Right? He’s only checking on the house. He won’t care about the yard.”
“Maybe,” Hannah mumbled, scrubbing at her face and neck with a baby wipe. She flipped down the vanity mirror for a quick look. “I don’t want to have to explain myself to anyone. That would freak me out.”
“I wish someone would do something with that cute little house,” Sophia mused. She had already dismissed the recent danger and moved on. “It would look so sweet all fixed up, with the outside painted and the gingerbread repaired.”
“Yeah, well, whatever. We should stay away from it for awhile.”
“You think?” Sophia said, crinkling her nose. “Oh, never mind.” She waved her hand in the air. “I have enough from there anyway.”
“Seems like all the older yards around here have the same plants. Have you noticed that?”
“Yeah. They probably shared with each other. Don’t ya think? I mean, you and I have the exact same things.”
“I wonder if they used to have places to buy plants. You know, like a hundred years ago. Garden centers or something,” Hannah said, settling back in her seat.
“Gee, I don’t know. They could have, I guess. Or, they bought from salesmen. Maybe mail order?”
“I wish we could find something different.”
“Right, ya know?” Sophia agreed. “We need some new places to look.”
Hannah scanned the landscape from the passenger window as they sped past the everyday fields and trees and houses, catching brief glimpses of green emerging here and there among the brown. “It’s out there somewhere,” she said. “We’ll find it.”