Welcome back to Saturday and another episode from my horror, Die, Blossom, Bloom. Catch up at the links below.
On to today’s offering:
It was a full day before Geraldine Butler-Thompson returned. Ted knew she wouldn’t be able to stay away. He was sitting inside reading a book when he saw her throw his garden gate open and come marching up the path. The bang on the door – and it was a bang – made sure that if he had been sleeping, he wouldn’t be anymore. Ted pulled himself to standing, and slid his feet into his slippers. By the time he opened the front door, she was already nosing around his roses, fingering the blooms. “Can I help you?” he said.
Mrs Butler-Thompson spun on her heels. She was sporting a red beret today, still at an odd angle, still ridiculous-looking. “Mister Harris, ” She brushed her hands together, removing any traces of dirt that she may have picked up. “Your roses are looking wonderful today.”
“Yes they are, thank you.” Again he was polite, but offered little in the way of conversation; she had come to see him, after all.
“You really must let me have the recipe for your success!” There was that titter at the end of the sentence. Ted smiled and said nothing. Mrs Butler-Thompson stepped back and looked up and down at the rose climbing its way around his window. She looked around, almost as if to check they weren’t being observed and leaned in close, speaking directly into Ted’s ear. “You do realise that the use of artificial growth stimulants will remove your eligibility?”
Ted had been holding the doorframe, and he gripped it tightly. “What makes you think I’m using anything artificial?”
“Come now, Mister Harris,” She smiled and pulled on one white glove, shaking her head slightly. “We both know that your wife was the architect of this,” that pause again, as she swept her hand behind her, “lovely garden. With the greatest of respect,” although Ted suspected a comment to the contrary, “your garden declined following your wife’s disappearance. This year, I’ll grant you, you look to be having a modicum of success. In fact, I would say that your garden has made tremendous progress in the lead up to the judging. Some may say the turn around was miraculous.” She let her comment percolate with Ted for a moment. “If, as you suggest, your methods are without reproach, I would like to discuss them with you,” Again, she waited for a response. When none was forthcoming, she continued, “gardener to gardener”.
Ted removed his glasses and wiped them on a handkerchief he produced from his pocket. He held them up to the light before replacing them. Keeping Mrs Butler-Thompson waiting was a small victory, and his response was terse: “My secrets are my own. Please save your worrying for your own garden. Goodbye now.” Leaving the woman no opportunity to reply, he stepped back inside his house and closed the door.
Returning to his kitchen, he made himself a pot of tea. He pulled out the china tea set that he had bought Sissy when they moved in. The cups were white with a floral design, a pink rose in the centre; the saucers were similar. He filled the teapot with the water and tea and placed it on the table in front of him. He laid two cups and two saucers and then sat down. He rotated the handle of the teapot so that it faced away from him, towards the empty seat. He had been doing this as long as he could remember. He would make the pot of tea and would offer his wife the first cup. Since her death, Ted had continued the tradition of rotating the pot, only now he waited a moment, as if expecting his wife to pour herself a cup. He would listen to the kitchen clock tick five times, before rotating the handle back towards himself. He poured the steaming tea and took a sip.
Mrs Butler-Thompson’s visit had rattled him. He knew his garden’s secret, and it wasn’t artificial. Ted worried what she might find if she probed too deeply. Sissy had indeed been the architect of the garden, and he could only ever hope to have a fraction of her expertise; however, she was no longer here, and not a moment passed that he didn’t regret his actions of two years ago.
The anniversary of her death was approaching, and Ted drank his tea, staring at the photo that stood on the table. It showed the two of them in their garden. The grass was around their knees, and there were no flowers. It had been the first full day in their new home, and Sissy had wanted to go outside and get on with the work. The moving boxes remained unopened and stacked inside the cottage, but she needed to be outside. Ted had laughed and completed the unpacking himself. The photo was in an old wooden frame, but he wouldn’t replace it. He moved it closer to himself and ran his fingers over his wife’s face, before taking another sip of his tea.
That’s it for today! Come back next Saturday for more in Ted’s battle with Butler-Thompson. Let me know what you think so far…