• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 12
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Wild Once

She never could bear gardening gloves.

Hack, hack, hack. Elissa had been at it all afternoon, clearing morning glory and weeds from the hedgerows. The great bouquets of green alkanet lay in a newly built compost heap, her hands sore from their subtly abrasive stings, the kiss of nettles.

It was the raw feel of plant matter Elissa loved, even though bare hands meant splinters, scrapes and blood. She found an oddly enjoyable primal spirit in tearing out morning glory, digging up dandelion roots. For a change, felt something.

Three months they’d been in this house and the garden untouched. A forty year old marriage uprooted from four bedrooms and children leaving, then returning, then leaving. The last garden had become an outlet for Elissa. They always left, but plants grew back.

Elissa was left alone in the garden, hours passing without request, comment or human presence. Secateurs became a weapon of sanity, a tool with which to re-establish some boundaries. Sometimes it made her sad to cut wildflowers, but they have to go.

The other plants need space, room to breathe, just like her. In domesticating the garden’s wild edges, the invasive plants became the uncomfortable unsaid in her, spoiling her general comfort and pleasing veneer. They were the question “what if I’d left” – pointless to entertain and too late to answer; this was not up for discussion.

After the garden hot water always ran welcome, barely scraping layers of dirt ingrained in creases of sixty-five year old skin and beneath well-shaped strong nails. A shower always felt good, although she liked how she looked after a session of digging, hacking and pruning.


Wild Once

An excuse to wear old clothes, get twigs in her hair and come in covered in cuttings. A reason not to care.

Elissa dried herself off and dressed, brushed the leaves from her thick dyed mane. She chose something tidy to wear, she was always well-dressed. Putting the garden to the back of her mind, she descended the generous staircase. Similarly well-dressed friends were coming for dinner, which of course she’d prepared in the morning.

She peered in the living room mirror to apply her signature lipstick – ready for visitors, in mourning for her weeds, a silent scream of grief on her lips.