Facing a Garden Full of Faces by Ashlie Allen

The garden has faces.  No one has seen them except me. At night, after serving my boss and his family dinner, I sneak outside to see the Dracula orchids, the Coxcombs and Proteas. “My friends!” I bow to them. “Forgive me. Everyone is in a bad mood. I too am in negative spirits.” The Dracula callas started speaking recently. One night they told me I looked like a corpse who wept himself to death.” I went to my assigned room, looked in the mirror and watched my tears turn yellow in the lamplight.

The Ashikaga family hired me to be their house-keeper one year ago. I was 21 at the time. Mr. Ashikaga’s wife put her hands on the first day I started.  I was watering the flowers, my hair tied back in a ponytail. “My husband is ugly and weak. Please touch me with your youthful fingers.” I was about to turn around and explain that I could not do that, but before I could, I became distracted by a human looking face within a rose. It stuck its tongue out and winked. I abruptly grabbed the woman and held her. She seemed alarmed when she heard my heavy breathing, her eyes enlarged and her mouth drooping. The rose flashed its teeth at me, like it was suggesting I bite the woman. “Do you like to have teeth sunken into you?” I asked. She smiled naughtily and kissed my cheek. “There’s nothing I like more. Sink them into me.”

I made her bleed once. She cradled herself and moaned that I hurt her in a pleasant way. I quickly left the room, letting her wounds dry while I went to trim the weeds growing along the sidewalk. The face within the rose was asleep that night. I wanted to wake it up to see if it would communicate with me. “Hey.” I said. “You look like me with a floral hat on. Can you see me?” Silence. I stared at its ruby-colored petals and sighed. The loneliness I felt was unbearable. The woman was the only company I had, and she sometimes made me nervous with her hunger for me.

I finished cutting the weeds and made my way towards the front door. “You’re not as ugly as me!” I heard a voice growl behind me. The rose’s eyes were glowing with rage when I turned to confirm it was the voice I heard. “Get out of here if you are afraid! I am trying to be friendly.” “Then why do you sound so angry?” I asked, feeling stupid to be conversing with a plant. “Grief can materialize in the form of madness.  I am so alone it stings.” I frowned at the same time the rose did. That was the first time we bonded as two miserable creatures. “I too sting often.” I replied, letting my fingers tangle in the vines growing up towards the woman’s window. “I hope you return in the morning.” The rose said, its eyes closing as if to hide its vulnerability. I blushed and made my way out of the garden. Maybe I wanted the rose to miss me. Maybe I wanted it to cry when it was alone again.

I got a thorn in my hand the next day. I heard devilish laughter as I desperately tried to pull it out. The Dracula orchids hissed when I asked them to help me. “Please, it’s uncomfortable.” The Proteas spat on me. Their saliva smelled like a mausoleum.  The Coxcombs ignored me, staring off into the distance. I sat on the steps with my throbbing hand, eyes involuntarily moving towards

the lonely rose. It used its leaves to blow a kiss at me. “Take care of that thorn.” It said. “It might fall in love with you if it stays inside your skin too long.” “You cause me soreness everywhere.” I sighed. “You toss your thorns like they’re bullets. Why do you make me suffer?” The rose closed its eyes. Of course it denied sneaking part of its body into me. “I know it’s you, but I already feel the same torment. There’s no reason to harm me.” The rose said nothing. It was too stunned, knowing we felt the same way, disconsolate and painfully shy. It had never met another being as dispirited as it until I came around.

The woman found me kneeling at her bed that night. “I can’t rest.” I said. “Don’t worry. I am not watching you sleep.” “Come here.” She whispered while reaching out for me. “What can I do for you?’ “I can’t ask you to touch me.” I replied. “You never have to beg me.” Her hands were all over me. I was shaking, especially when she rubbed her fingers across my swollen hand. “I’m sorry!” she cried. I gave her a desperate kiss, the type of kiss one gives when they want their lover to notice their sorrow. “I cannot water the flowers anymore. They do not like me.” I buried my head in her chest, a bit helpless. “But I love the garden. You take such good care of it. How can plants decide if they like or dislike someone anyway?” “I am so silly.” I laughed, though it was clear I was disturbed, my temples sweating, my complexion pale like I had a virus. “Don’t worry. I will continue to take care of everything outside. I was just joking. Sometimes I want you to find me weirder than I really am.” We held each other while the lamp flickered. Our shadows looked like ghosts trying to manifest through love making.

The next morning, I dug up the yard. “I am upset with all of you!” I shouted at the flowers. “I thought we understood each other, but I look so witless!” The Dracula orchids tried to bite me; one of them sunk their teeth deep inside my throat, and when I tried to pull them out, an alarming amount of blood splattered from me.  I ripped off their petals and stomped them. Next, I destroyed the Coxcombs and Proteas. They stared at me with doleful eyes, silently begging for sympathy. I smashed them flat with a shovel.

Lastly, there was the rose who had confided its unhappiness to me. I knelt in front of it, head bowed as if I had no more energy or was too ashamed to reveal my face. “Are you sure you have the courage left?” it asked. “Yes, I do. It’s just I am bleeding to death.” I said, holding the wound in my neck. Blood was spilling between my fingers. I started giggling, but the rose knew I was terrified. I shivered when I felt it stroking my jaw with its stiff leaves. “Please don’t show me affection. I mean to kill you.” “I know, but you still have pity for me, so I am allowed to have pity for you in return.” “

I fell against its stem, immediately crushing it. Its leaves and vines writhed and its eyes protruded. I remember seeing my blood turn black as it absorbed into its maroon petals. “Are we still lonely?” I moaned. “Or are we friends as we die?” The rose wrapped its vines around me, its way of saying we weren’t lonely anymore. Maybe it was trying to confess it loved me too.

The woman found us hugging each other in her beloved garden. She no longer had a lover, only a body to bury and a garden to revive.

 

Ashlie Allen

 

“Author note”

-The pace of conversation in this story is deliberate. I try to add as many details as I can to enhance the visionary quality and emotional core of the story. The purpose of adding a line a new line after dialogue is to also explain my characters emotions beyond dialogue.”

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

 

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