Rabbits in the garden, p.3
Rabbits in the Garden, page 3
“Be quiet, Avery,” Faye whispered harshly and plunked her down onto the bench.
“What did you do? Why did you do that?” Avery stammered through her streaming tears.
“Because they were poisoning the garden. Because they deserved it.”
“No, no, it’s not fair. It’s not right.”
“It is right, Avery! Like I told you, they became sick from the bad water. They needed to be put out of their misery. It’s the humane thing to do. What they were doing was very, very bad.”
“What were they doing?”
“Let me show you,” her mother said, and with a grunt, she wrenched the skewered rabbit free and flipped it over. “Do you see the mark on its belly?”
“The yellow one?”
“Yes, and what color is the mark on the other rabbit?” she asked as she flipped it over.
“Correct. You see, Avery, I’ve marked every rabbit I’ve found in this garden. When I found two rabbits playing in that certain way, I marked them with the same color: blue and blue together, yellow and yellow, and so on. If the colors don’t match, it means the rabbits are switching partners. They’re being brazen. They’re being bad, and we can’t have bad rabbits in the garden.”
“But the colors are on their stomachs. How did you know they didn’t match?”
“I’ve been doing this long enough that I can tell, and one day, so will you.”
“No, I can’t do it. I can’t kill bunnies!”
“No one is asking you to kill anything, Avery. All I’m asking you to do is protect the garden from the bad water. As long as it’s clean and pure, this sort of thing won’t ever happen. I did this on purpose to teach you that,” she said and wiped away her daughter’s tears. “I’m sorry if I frightened you, but it’s important for you to know what happens when rabbits, and people, get careless with their bodies. Some don’t care or realize that they’re getting poisoned, and that’s when good people like us have to step in and help them understand the evil they’re doing to themselves.”
“I don’t think I can do it, Mom. Why can’t you just tend the garden like you’ve been doing all along?”
“Because you’re old enough to do it yourself now. Besides, I have bigger gardens to tend,” Faye replied and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “You’ll do just fine, sweetie. Come on; let’s get you cleaned up and throw away that dirty dress.”
After taking a long bath, Avery lay down on her bed to absorb the truths of the day, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw the rabbits. Their red eyes burned, and as they floated lifelessly toward her, their jaws got increasingly slacker until their mouths were wide enough to swallow her whole. For several weeks, she was haunted by the mismatched rabbits, but with each day she spent tending to the garden, the nightmares faded a little more. Every morning, she would rise with the sole intention of gardening, but before she watered anything, she thoroughly checked what was being transferred from the spigot to the watering can. She’d check the color, smell, and feel, and if it was even the slightest bit cloudy, she’d pour it out and start all over again. The weeks passed and the obsession grew, but it was an obsession based more on fear than desire. She didn’t want any more rabbits to die, and to ensure that the rabbits remained alive, she had to keep the garden clean and pure. But as happy as it made her mother to see her working so diligently, Avery couldn’t deny her boredom and overall exhaustion. Her mind and body were strained beyond belief, and she couldn’t help but think of how much of her time the garden had devoured, time she could’ve been climbing roofs or running up and down the streets of Oak Bluffs. Time she could’ve been spending with Paul. For two months, she made her mother smile without wearing one of her own, and she was tired of it.
For the first time in weeks, she leapt out of bed with an old objective in mind.
“To Hell with the garden!” Avery’s mind exclaimed.
Covertly, she made her way downtown to fraternize with the summer kids, but she quickly realized that it was no longer summer. The streets were by no means empty, but the impending Autumn had definitely stolen a brunt of the crowds. Nearly every mare and stallion at the Flying Horses was empty, but she still fought for the brass ring that she’d never been able to win.
“I was wondering if I’d see you before school started,” Paul said as he sidled up to her horse. “Did I do something to make you start avoiding me?”
“I wasn’t avoiding you.”
“Avery, I’ve called your house every day for two months.”
“Your mom didn’t tell you?” he asked and Avery shook her head. “I knew it. Why doesn’t your mom like me?”
“I don’t know, but I’m starting to get the feeling she doesn’t like me so much either. For months, I’ve done nothing but take care of that stupid garden, and why? So she doesn’t have to? She never even taught me how to garden except for the bit about the good water, and I’ve kept things alive and growing and none of the rabbits have been bad - ”
“Avery, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about gratitude. She just smiles at me through the window like she’s more pleased with herself than pleased with me. I sacrificed my whole summer for that stupid garden.”
“Well, summer’s not over yet.”
At that moment, Avery imagined all of the things they would do for the rest of the day: some fishing, getting ice cream, maybe a long bike ride, but they didn’t do any of those things. Instead, they climbed up onto the empty pink cottage known as the “Wooden Valentine” and laid down to watch the day slowly turn into night.
Avery wasn’t sure of when her hand found it way into his, but not wanting to jinx it, she decided not to say a thing. Obviously, Paul didn’t have the same self control. He flipped onto his side to face her and squeezed her hand as he looked down on her with worried eyes.
“Was it the kiss? Is that what made you disappear this summer?” he asked.
“It told you: it wasn’t anything you did. It was the garden.”
“You were never so concerned with the garden before.”
“But my mom gave it to me for my birthday, and she made a really big fuss about keeping the bad water out.”
“What bad water?”
“I don’t know. She keeps getting weirder and weirder. All she does is watch me tend to the garden like its some kind of show and then leaves me alone while she goes off to God knows where. It’s really starting to worry me.”
“She’s supposed to worry about you; not the other way around.”
“I know. I’m probably just being stupid,” she grumbled.
“Hey, don’t call my best friend stupid,” he snapped playfully and she chuckled. “If you’re really worried, we could always follow her to see where she goes. Then you’ll know if there’s something worth worrying about.”
“What if we got caught? She would kill me.”
“I’ll protect you,” he replied gallantly and threw a few punches at an invisible foe before collapsing on his back in a fit of laughter.
“Do you think we’ll ever do it again?”
“Kiss?” she replied hopefully.
Paul sat up as if he was spring loaded, but Avery sat up slowly, sliding closer to him as he eagerly scooted forward. The question had been asked, but there was no need for it to be answered; at least not in words. Based on the first kiss, she didn’t think anything could get any more magical, but there atop the “Wooden Valentine”, under a canopy of stars, the magic surpassed anything either of them could’ve anticipated. It was the kind of moment that couldn’t be done justice through the relaying of sight, sound, or speech. It was a moment that could only retain its utter magnificence in the memories of those who lived it. Avery was so caught up in Paul’s lips and hands and the way his hair softly brushed against her forehead when he kissed her
“Shoot! I have to get home!”
“Wait, what about the plan?”
“To follow your mom.”
“I don't think it’s a good idea, Paul. I don’t know if she’s even going out tonight.”
“So I’ll wait outside until you find out. It’ll be easy. We’ll just hide in the back seat of her car. She has all of those quilts back there anyway, doesn’t she?”
“I actually used to do that a lot when it was my dad’s car. I’d spring out and scare him, and even though he’d act sore about it, he’d still let me drive the car up and down the driveway,” she replied, dazed by her lovely memory, and when she noticed Paul smiling at her, she shrugged. “I guess we could hide there.”
“Of course we could. It’ll be dark; she won’t see us. And then you’ll finally know what she’s up to. My money’s on a secret boyfriend.”
“I don’t think that's it.”
“Or a night job, maybe. She’s got to get money from somewhere, right? I’ve heard that school your sister goes to is pretty expensive.”
“I guess I never thought about it.”
“That’s because you’re too busy thinking about me,” he said coyly and gave her a playful shove that she returned with a giggle. “I have something for you.”
“What is it?” she asked enthusiastically.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the prized brass ring from the Flying Horses.
“You stole it?”
“No, no; I bought it from them. Actually, I got it a while ago, but I guess I was too scared to give it to you.”
“I don't know, but you do want it, right?”
“Of course. Thank you so much,” she said as he hung it on her ring finger and she giggled. “Maybe I should get a chain for it.”
She kissed him sweetly and put it into her dress pocket, and as they walked hand in hand back to Huntington Avenue, Avery kept her other hand constantly clamped around the brass ring. Once Avery’s house was in sight, she and Paul severed their connection and she put some distance between them, but before she could reach her yard, Paul caught up with her, pulled her behind a tree, and kissed her powerfully.
“Just in case I don’t see you again tonight,” he said, and when Avery dashed away, she was still so focused on him that she almost ran into the fence.
As soon as she opened the front door, she came face to face with her mother who was standing with her hands on her hips and her foot tapping angrily.
“Do you know what time it is? Where have you been?” Faye demanded.
“Just out playing. I lost track of time.”
“Playing with whom?”
“Just Paul,” Avery replied coolly.
“Avery, this is too much. Did you even water the garden today?”
“I’ll do it right now.”
“Oh no you won’t. Right now you’ll march yourself straight upstairs and get ready for bed. I don’t want you coming out of your room for the rest of the night.”
“But Mom - ”
“Don’t ‘but Mom’ me. I’ve been waiting for you long enough, and now I’m late for Bingo. While I’m gone, I don’t want you setting even one foot out of your room. Is that clear, young lady?”
“Yes, ma’am,” she moaned.
“Go on then,” she said and Avery trudged up to her room.
She locked the door, ran to her window, and flung it open with her eyes searching the dark yard.
“Paul?” she whispered through cupped hands. “Paul, are you there?”
He stepped out from behind a tree and waved with his ice blue eyes glinting in the moonlight.
“She grounded me. I can’t go,” she said.
“Well, then you’re already in trouble. It couldn’t hurt to get in a little more, right?” he replied.
“Oh. I guess not,” she chuckled. “I’ll be right down.”
She climbed out the window and onto the roof, and as soundlessly as possible, she made her way over to the tree that hung over the side of her house. With a heavy exhalation and a silent prayer, she got down on all fours and carefully wrapped her arms around the closest branch. It bent a bit under her weight, but she nimbly inched across it to the trunk and climbed down.
“Hurry!” Paul quietly yelled and opened the back door to Faye’s car.
They both scrambled inside and burrowed under the quilts. After only a few seconds, they noticed that the quilts had a strong, sour smell and had to position their faces so they could be covered and still breathe fresh air. When they heard Faye's approach, they froze to the point of holding their breath. She opened the car door, and when Avery felt the car's weight shift, she suddenly wanted to abandon the mission. She wanted to leap up with apologies frantically spilling from her mouth and go back to her room where she belonged. But she didn’t want Paul to get into trouble too, so she tried to make herself as flat as possible, breathe as shallowly as she could, and not do something stupid like sneeze. Of course, thinking about trying not to sneeze made her nose rather itchy.
After a good deal of travel, Avery poked her head out a bit further and craned to see out the window. She couldn’t tell where they were, but it definitely seemed like they were headed up-island. What could her mother possibly be doing up-island? When the car finally stopped, Avery and Paul could hear music playing outside and joyous screams of laughter. Faye got out of the car, but just as Avery was about to lift her head, the rear driver side door opened. She trembled as she felt her mother grab the blanket that was covering her lower half. She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath, but after the blanket was ripped away, the door slammed shut, and she sighed in relief.
“Where are we?” Paul asked.
They looked out the windows to see a large gray house with teenagers buzzing through and around it, dancing and drinking and laughing like hyenas. Paul pointed at a boy and girl making out against a tree as if the world was going to end in the next five minutes, and while Paul chuckled at them, Avery hoped that she and Paul didn’t look like that when they kissed.
“Where’d your mom go?”
“I don’t know, but she took the other quilt, and this one isn’t big enough to cover both of us.”
“Well, we can’t stay here. Come on,” Paul said as he and Avery slid out of the car and made their way in and out of the shadows until they reached a small grove of trees. “Now what do we do?”
“Why are you asking me? I was following you,” Avery sputtered.
“Okay, don't panic. There’s got to be something around here we can use to cover ourselves. Look, there’s a blanket right over there.”
“But there are people on it,” Avery said and crinkled her nose at the couple rolling around amorously.
“Hey, there’s your mom coming up from the pond,” Paul said and pointed at Faye who seemed to be struggling with something rather large that she’d wrapped up in the quilt.
“What’s she dragging?”
Faye managed to pull the sack up the hill and to her car. She opened the trunk, wedged her arms underneath the load, and with a grunt, she hoisted it up onto the bumper. When she rolled it into the trunk, it made a loud thump and the car rocked, but when a pale hand flopped out into the moonlight, Avery gasped loudly. Paul clamped his hand over her mouth and pulled her back behind the trees before Faye could spot her.
“Did you see that?” she whispered into his palm
“Ssh,” he said calmly, but she could feel his heart pounding against her back.
They heard the trunk slam shut, a car door open and close, and when Avery peeked around the tree, she saw her mother heading back down to the pond with the other quilt.
“What do you think that was?” Avery asked shakily.
“What do you mean ‘what do you think that was’? That was a person, Avery. That was definitely a person.”
“Correction: why would she put two people in her trunk?” he replied as Faye headed back up the hill, dragging another heavy load behind her.
She hoisted it into the trunk like she’d done with the other, slammed it shut, and quickly got into her car.
“Paul,” Avery squeaked as the car rumbled to life and started backing down the driveway. “Paul, how are we supposed to get home?”
The headlights flashed over them as the car turned and when it pealed away, Avery slumped down onto the ground and hugged her knees to her chest.
“Don’t worry, Avery,” he said as he rubbed her back.
“Don’t tell me not to worry,” she snapped. “We just saw my mom put two people into the trunk of her car, and to make matters worse, we’re stranded up-island while I’m supposed to be grounded in my room. There’s plenty to worry about.”
“It’s going to be okay.”
“How? How is going to be okay, Paul? I never should have listened to you. I should’ve never snuck out,” she said with tears welling in her eyes. “You stupid boy! Why did I listen to you?”
“Because you’re my girlfriend and that’s what girlfriends do,” he replied sweetly, but instead of the kiss he expected, she smacked him in the arm as hard as she could.
“Of all the times to call me your girlfriend, you pick now?” she snarled. “Oh my God, Paul, we’re going to be in so much trouble.”
“Just try to calm down. I can’t stand it when you’re mad at me.”
“I’m not mad, Paul. I’m pretty terrified, but I’m not mad. What are we going to do?”
“Let's just start walking, and we’ll figure everything out when we get home. It shouldn’t take too long once someone picks us up.”
“Once someone picks us up, sure,” she muttered.
After half an hour of walking without being sure if they were even walking in the right direction, the newly titled girlfriend stopped holding her boyfriend’s hand. After an hour, she stopped speaking to him, and after two hours, she stopped walking.
by Jessica McHugh have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes