I always waited. For people close to me, I always waited.
I felt the stars in me when you came home at night, the sky shifting, covering us to bed. But sometimes waiting caged me in the gloom of evening shadows. I would not deny my body got affected by the temperature of the earths cycle - its touch to natures order of being. Staying in a room alone made me fearful waking up after daylight without you.
I sought your return. You knew I was waiting for you.Every night I planted the seeds at the backyard. The seeds were given to me by Petunia, my bird friend and pet who would fly to the veranda carrying and lodging the seeds one by one at the slits of the wooden sofa.
Petunia brought me seeds of different shapes and colors. Some green, some brown, some yellow, some black and white. In a week I gathered the seeds and kept them in a little golden box in the kitchen corner. Those who saw the little golden box reminded me of Pandora and her secrets. I kept my secrets in a promise. But the golden box was very different from Pandoras, rather, it was a heaven’s treasure chest, a cure for the woes and wails of Pandoras temptations.
Petunia and I froze long hours growing the garden. The backyard at night was lighted with bright lights like the carousel of a kids dream ride. I tucked every seed with extra care down the earth. It touched the brown clay soil, buried it with my hands, expecting that I would be holding a bloom soon to grow. That was every night before I sleep.
One rainy evening there was a loud knock at the door. It was my stepsister Grisha and my stepbrother Ben. They were crying and almost kneeling in front of me begging if they could stay with me for a while because their mother, the mistress of my father had just died.
“Mama Nena died of dehydration. You know we are poor and our Papa’s business had stopped from the day he died, too,” pleaded Grisha.
“Please sister Jellin, help us. You are our family,” cried Ben. I could see they have prepared their luggage for a vacation in my house, I thought of my father.
“Please get inside now, and fix yourselves.”
I could not say no feeling we both share my fathers blood in some way.I let them stay in one bedroom, on the third floor. I told them strictly they should not sit on and not use the sofa because it was my personal property . They meekly conformed to my request. Unlike before when Papa was still living and they got all of what’s supposed to be mine - the business from the marriage of my father and mother. Their Mama Nena used the money betting and playing cards. She squandered it on parties for her friends.
There was nothing left for them but their 2 bags of old things, things of no value at all. Near midnight, when they got settled in the room. I went to the backyard and tended my plants. Petunia was hovering around some budding flowers and shrubs, humming her sweet chirps. Her hum was not like an owls tweedling in a lonely forest nor a bats puckering, leaving crushed seeds near coconut trees. Her hum was so friendly in the thick of the night like the sound of a small xylophone. It sounded like a hymn from the skies.
The garden was starting to bloom now. I’m having it cleaned every month by a gardener who would remove unwanted growing plants I couldn’t pull and cut. Petunia became my assistant, a trained incredible pet from a jungle in the south.
“Petunia, I have to plant some seeds again. Come with me.”
“Tweet tweet,” Petunia flapped. Tweet tweet means okay. And a loud quack means no.
And then we planted. During halt of work, I hid in my bedroom, thought when you’d return. Soon, you would be coming, and many of you would be coming home. You would be inspecting my garden to see how much the plants grew. My thumbs are not green but it got hardened and blistered because everyday I raked the soil and dug my fingers into the soil. I wanted to handle with care what you left me and what you shared with me the time I had nothing. It was the time when my father left me nibbling my fingers and just the silent walls around. I had no decent place to dwell. Then you took me in your house. Your house became mine because you trusted me for being a caring servant in your house. I told you I would always stay and guard the house, and wait for your dearests who would lodge in.
You had been like a father to me, when my own father left me for another woman.
“Tweet tweet,” it was Petunia again. She always barged in my thoughts. Petunia and I worked diligently. “After this gardening tonight, we have to mark the calendars for our harvest time.”
On harvest time the varied seeds would be bearing leaves, flowers, fruits, and all. I dreamed it would bear a golden fruit, a golden flower and another golden leaf. I was a dreamer and my reality was this garden where I devoted my life.
“Jelline, you have an attractive garden!” said Grisha
“Can I help you tend the garden?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not allowing a stranger tend the garden.”
“Stranger? But I’m your stepsister, and I could help.”
“There are reasons…” I did not entertain Grisha and Bens help. It was too much giving them my trust.
One night a storm hit the town. Darkness fell all over the place and all the lights were out. The wind blew some branches and terribly damaged the house. Petunia stayed with me hiding herself from the wild wind. Ben and Grisha helped me fix the broken windows.
I visited the garden to see the little plants, got some of the pots and put them under the veranda shade. You would come home soon and you would visit the garden. Petunia followed me doing the task while her small beak fixed some damaged leaves.
Later, knocks were heard at the back door. Who could that be knocking at midnight? I did not open the door. But Grisha was quick to unlock it letting 2 men enter the house
“Can we stay for a night?”
“Of course you can!” Grisha interrupted.
I looked at her and could slap her big mouth in her arrogance and ignorance. I looked at the two men. They looked calm but I was not trusting
“You got a nice house and attractive garden!”
“Stupid, don’t mind the garden!” Grisha murmured.
They looked around the house as if their eyes searched every corner and dust. One of them went upstairs and in a while I heard Ben shouting ---
“Yes sir, yes sir!” And then both of them came out, the stranger raising my jewelry box dragging Ben and adorning his head with the golden crown of the statue of the risen Christ.
“No, no, no please!”
“Hey, he’s my brother, please spare his life,” Grisha shouted.
“Your brother would not be hurt if you’ll give us what we get here… this crown, this jewelry… and more….more…….. hahahahha!”
“Let us stay for a night, till the day breaks,” exclaimed one of the robbers.
“Have you something to eat?” One of them barged into the kitchen.
The crown belonged to my ancestors. I took care of it for years, and it was the only thing I got from my father. Grisha and Ben knew about it but didn’t care. If only they knew its value
Grisha was in rage, “Okay get it, get it!”
“No, I want something more, take more with it,” said the thief.
The robbers ran here and there, broke the cabinets while their hungry mouths ate the rice cakes inside the fridge.
If only you were here, this would not happen, I thought. But you have to go somewhere else. I kept my fear locked in my breath so these two men would see my calmness despite their filthy deeds.
They let us seat under the stairway, and I can see Petunia skipping on the wires hiding beneath the big umbrella leaves. Ben was shivering, clothe in his cowardice and sobbing. “Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me.”
Grisha exposed her white long legs, trying to kiss one robber, trying her luck to bargain herself for freedom. Cowards, I was shouting inside of me. I felt hatred remembering Ben and Grisha under the influence of Mama Nena’s unrefined tutelage. Time Papa got seriously ill, they didn’t bring him to the doctor or let him take some medicines, so he vomited cups of blood because of something he mistakenly ate. Or was it because he was poisoned?
“Jellin, Jellin, offer all your money and your possessions!” Grisha barged into my reminiscence. Now I can see one of the robbers kissing Grisha as she was feeding rice cake into the robber’s mouth. They also got the liquors from the bar. They were gulping the wine, they were feasting. They let Ben drink, too, his mouth looked pale dipped in vinegar. He was burping while singing until he puked. It smelled food and mold together.
“Hahahaha, your brother is stupid, he easily gets drunk!”
“Look at us. We’re enjoying, eating and owning your wealth. This is a party!”
Grisha was getting tipsy and very wild. I was looking at the robbers intensely thinking if I could do something. They didn’t have a gun but their small knife and ice pick could slit a stomach and cut a tongue. They were aiming to target should we have foul moves. Their bodily gesture showed me, they would hurt us, as if they were rehearsing for a savage role
“How much would this crown cost if I sell it?
“I don’t know.” He pulled my arm and motioned the knife touching my face, and then the knife sliding his tongue.
“Maybe 5000, 10000, 20000”
“Huh, cannot buy a house…”
“Your jewelry?” “How much?”
Neither it’s enough to buy a house, they’re only casual”
“You know we aren’t rich. Im only a book trader.”
“I want you juicy mouth? You are a beautiful lady.”
“Please don’t touch me, I would give you everything. And that crown, it will sell a lot of money, that was from my ancestors.”
“Your garden, why do you tend it so beautiful?” Give me some seedlings, so I could grow those plants too. I had my thoughts playing up. Where are you now?
The garden teased the robbers. Ben was almost asleep and Grisha drunk. I was trying to open my eyes widely, to keep watch. The robbers almost gathered the things and supplies, and the valuable crown. I could see they, too were losing strength tired of stealing. And they’re resting in my garden. They were pulling some leaves, crushing the buds and questioning about the fruits. The fruits were golden yellow.
“Let me take some of these.”
“No, please don’t ruin my garden.”
“Why, what’s the value this has to you?” It could not even make you a rich merchant?”
One of them pulled me, maybe thinking I was a threat to them.” I resisted.
“Don’t you ever ever touch me and destroy my garden.”
“Bwahahahahahaha,” the two robbers laughed harshly while Grisha scaredly laughed with them. One of them pulled me again and stripped my shirt, I struggled to free myself from the cruel arm that held my body.. the last time I remembered I got the ice pick from his pocket.
Silenced ensued. The lights in the garden seemed blurred, then later glowing again.
Grisha was telling Ben to stop wailing, after the two robbers left with the stolen st….uff..
Petunia flew coming back to me, his wings flapping on my cheeks. She roamed the garden nibbling on my shirt and telling me to rise I tried to reach out for the fruit, nearest, sought we would eat it together. Our simple but binding lunches which I compared to the Last Supper hanging on the wall was all I remembered
And then my promise. The covenant was to be waiting till your return, and those who would come after you. Please don’t forget the garden, I covered it with my blood while waiting for you.
I waited for you.
Rose Flores – Martinez, November 16, 2007
Revised September 18, 2009
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