The Garden

A bee circled me, buzzing angrily at my invasion. I stepped through the rows of brilliant color, pausing to stroke the velvety softness of the offerings.  Like me, they blossomed in hostile territory, the blazing sun miraculously pardoning my garden from the sentence of death.

I smiled. It was meant to be, a simple truth realized the day I created it.

My fingertips were black, painted with dirt. My knees sunk into the earth as I painstakingly planted the row of rose bushes.

Three feet. Exactly three feet apart.

Four rows, four each.

A perfect square.

Everything had to be right.

Then the crushing weight would be lifted.

The sun warmed my back as a rivulet of sweat trickled between my shoulder blades. It was warm, too warm for this early in the season.

“You can’t plant roses, Lily. The land is barren. They will die.”

I ignored his words, using my trowel to remove more of the soft earth for another bush.

“Sweet Lily, so headstrong. I can help you.”

I snorted. Three years together and never once had he offered to help. I let the soil cool my warm hands, reveling in the power of it on my skin.

Lily, you know how I hate it when you’re dirty.”

I glanced at my fingernails, a reflex –the dark rows heavily lining the ragged tips. They wouldn’t come clean. No matter how many times I washed.

“You can’t wash away the filth, Lily. You will always be unclean.”

I was filthy, grime coating my entire body. Always, always he insisted I be pristine.

“You will never be a mother, Lily. You are as barren as the land.”

My hands left smudges as I gripped my abdomen. “I tried.”

“I’m the only one who could ever love you, Lily.”

A bitter laugh escaped. “I believed you. For so long.” His “love” still marked my legs, scars that would never heal.

“Stupid Lily. I never loved you.”

I bit my tongue, the metallic flavor reminding me of the times he’d forced me to taste it. I resumed my work, shoving his words away. His words would not control me.

“Silly Lily. Even your cat left you.”

Salty drops, hot and fresh, escaped from my eyes and fell to the ground. “Majestic loved me.”

“I warned you, Lily. The world is a dangerous place.”

I patted the final bush into place, my tears christening its new home. “No. Not anymore.” I wiped away the final set of tears he would claim as a prize.

I rose from the dirt, refusing to brush it from my body as I stood: tall and strong, no longer broken.

“This is right. For once, you will give something back to me.” I said.

I inhaled the world. The scent of the roses and the soil had soothed me, long ago washing away his hateful words and breaking the dam of guilt for what I’d done. What needed to be done.

Peace. I was finally at peace.

I walked away from the garden he’d forbidden me to have – his rotting body providing vital nourishment.

For this gift, I could forgive him: the Earth was a far better place with him inside of it.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Red Dress Club: This week’s prompt is about forgiveness. Forgiving others, forgiving yourself. Write about a time of forgiveness. Limit is 600 words.

Yes, this is fiction. My name is not Lily, and I have a “black thumb” when it comes to gardening.

Yes, this is not a memoir, but it is still inspired by the prompt.

Constructive criticism is wanted and greatly appreciated. I want to improve. Tell me what I did right, what I did wrong. If you feel like you have nothing to add because I have miraculously produced a masterpiece, tweet it out or share it on facebook or wherever to show me the love. Seriously, it makes me giddy.

Thanks to @madsbloggingmom and @TheKirCorner for their eyes.

Updated. 3-31 with edits.
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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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27 Responses to The Garden

  1. Frelle says:

    holy wow.

    that was amazing. fear through attack, regret, sinister words of the accuser.. then the ending. speechless. just sitting back and admiring your genius.

  2. This line said it all:
    “This is right. For once, you will give something back to me.” I said.

    This one was a repetition for me:
    ” his rotting body providing vital nourishment deep beneath the surface”

    This was so well written! I felt the dirt under my under my nails. The sweat trickling.
    And he sooo deserved it.

  3. Ironic Mom says:

    Your voice is fantastic. It is sinister, and every detail built up to the climax, as it should in a short story. Very very well done.

    My only concrit = italics. Your writing is strong and you don’t need them. Trust the reader; she’ll put the emphasis where it needs to, and if she doesn’t, nothing’s lost in the voice. (Disclaimer: in my crit group, I am known to dislike italics.)

    Great job, K!

  4. Kir says:

    I am reading the comment before mine, and I like the Italics, I like how they made a line mean more.
    as always, I sit in awe of your writing, where these words come from. I often wish for that voice of yours.
    my favorite lines were “I patted the final bush into place, my tears christening its new home. “No. Not anymore.” I wiped away the final set of tears he would claim as a prize.”
    Looking at the tears that way , as his prize that are now yours, literally made me gasp.

    and of course, this: “I walked away from the garden he’d forbidden me to have – his rotting body providing vital nourishment deep beneath the surface.”
    it’s pure genius in writing, I felt every sense of relief and horror at what I had read, where he was.

    you AMAZE me. 🙂

  5. kris says:

    “I inhaled the world.”

    Oh, I like that moment.

  6. C. Mom says:

    Your introduction had me riveted, your voice (and strength) coming through with every word. I particularly loved the feeling of the crushing weight being lifted. It was as if i could feel it.
    Stunning.

  7. Galit Breen says:

    This is such an angry yet strong piece. That shines through- ever clearly.

    I can’t stand him, I want to hold her and feel so very proud of her at the same time!

    My favorite lines are: “My tears christening its new home..I wiped away the final set of tears he would claim as a prize.”

    That’s where the strong-proud-but wanting to hug struck me the strongest.

  8. shesnotbroken says:

    I loved that. Very powerfully written and it definitely makes you wonder if his rotting body is metaphorically providing the nourishment or not.

  9. Lizz says:

    I like the italics too… it made me feel like the bad guy is almost spitting her name out, he so hates her… I think it really helped set the tone right away that we’re supposed to not like/fear whoever is saying those vile words.
    So I like the italics for when he is speaking, but don’t like them as much in the other parts of the text; I don’t think they’re necessary there.
    I love your imagery; the way you talk about the earth and the soil is gorgeous.

  10. Leah says:

    Just beautiful writing. I love the line “for once, you will give something back to me.” It really sums up so much of the story right there in that one sentence. For once, she’s taking from him and not letting him take from her. great work.

  11. Mandyland says:

    Wow. So dark. I like it!

    I loved the descriptions of the dirt, the details of the sweat rolling down her back, the crescendo of his words. They started of slightly condescending and continued to sinister.

    My only thought is to delete the last half of the line or this one: – his rotting body providing vital nourishment deep beneath the surface.

    You don’t need both. One is powerful enough and would leave me slightly on edge.

    Fantastic job!!

    • Mandyland says:

      This teaches me to respond late at night…

      I thought you should delete either:
      his rotting body providing vital nourishment deep beneath the surface.

      Or:
      the Earth was a far better place with him inside of it.

      To be even more honest…

      I actually would have liked some abiguity with the ending. Perhaps something like:

      With forgivness blooming in my heart, I walked away from the garden he’d forbidden. A garden that would thrive because of him. I no longer needed him. My roses, however, did.

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  13. Ok. I did a double take when I read his rotting body, because I couldn’t believe that she had killed him, which was good. It was a good double take. It went somewhere I least expected it.

    However…
    honestly, to my understanding of “memoir writing”, it’s not fiction. I don’t think there’s a way you turn this into a proper memoir without confessing you killed somebody though, so, maybe some memoirs are best thought of as fiction?!? haha. It reads like a memoir though, so you definitely did a great job with it.

    I think you should continue her story. I like the strength of your character, her diligence to plant those rose bushes despite the barren land. I like the way you developed the story. This is very, very well written. I’d like to know more about their history and find out exactly how much evil they are both made of.

    • I had always interpreted “memoir writing” as a style of writing about a memory. I admit that it is completely new to me since “joining” the Red Dress Club. I had read previous fictional memoir posts for those who write character stories, and believed it was okay to respond to the prompt from a characters point of view and tell their memoir.

      I could be completely wrong, in which case I apologize – I try to follow the prompt rules, but know they allow creative tweaking/twists on a prompt.

      I sat at my laptop, trying to think of a good forgiveness moment in my life capable of being shared in less than 600 words, and Lily came out instead – so it is completely inspired by the prompt, for the prompt. It just isn’t my memory, it’s hers.

      Spoken like a writer who believes characters have minds of their own.

      Maybe I could be a ghost writer for her…?

      I’m glad you liked Lily enough you want to hear more of her story, and who knows, she might show up again.

      Thank you for explaining memoir to me. I will stick to nonfiction in the future if that is a requirement on the prompts.

  14. That was incredible Kelly!
    I was thinking he was beside her yelling at her and then thinking she had left him and was planting a garden, starting anew, and then I realized OH CRAP… she’s buried him!

    Great job!
    I love the spin this took!

  15. Evonne says:

    I love this memory. I didn’t expect that Lily was planting her garden on his grave.

    “I patted the final bush into place, my tears christening its new home. “No. Not anymore.” I wiped away the final set of tears he would claim as a prize.” – I love this line. I think it really shows the confidence that Lily now has.

  16. Spencer says:

    Your story is amazing. I enjoyed the twist at the end, I was not expecting that. Very well written. Please continue Lily’s story I want to see what she does now that she is free.

  17. Elaine says:

    Well, sounds like he’ll make some damn good fertilizer if you ask me! ha!

    This is amazing. I was engulfed from the beginning, although a tad confused if he was actually talking to her at the beginning. But the ending? Stellar. Great job!

  18. Kelly – This piece is lovely, as is all your writing. But a memoir by definition is non-fiction. It is about mining YOUR memories, not those you’ve created for fiction. Please save your fiction linkups for Fridays.

    Thank you for understanding.

  19. logyexpress says:

    I read this when you first posted on Twitter and didn’t comment b/c I was on my iPad and typing is a pain. Still on the iPad, but want to make sure I comment. I really enjoyed reading this, it was very engrossing.

    Like the Drama Mama mentioned I was thinking that the memoir posts were nonfiction. I’m not offended by the use of fiction (I’m new to TRDC and I’m definitely not the rule police type) but I did sort of assume that I was reading nonfiction and I do like reading blogs where I get to know a little more about people. I wanted to know more about Lily and thought it was you until I saw it was fiction, so I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to know more. But I guess that means this is good writing, eh?

  20. Sara says:

    Am recording my thoughts here for the record – even though you know what I already thought of this piece. Awesomely dark! My concrit was to remove the obvious at the end and just let the reader figure it out. Bastard’s in the ground. Loved it! What a range you have from the steamy and funny to the twisty and dark!

  21. Elena says:

    This was a very well written piece. The thing that really struck me the whole way through (up until the ending) was that I didn’t realize it was fiction and I was so worried about this person. I think it was a really good story. I started off reading it standing at the counter and then, with my eyes glued to the computer, settled into a comfy chair. It did definitely keep my interest and had some really interesting moments. Loved this “I inhaled the world. The scent of the roses and the soil had soothed me, long ago washing away his hateful words and breaking the dam of guilt for what I’d done. What needed to be done.”

  22. This was really incredible. Every sentence more powerful the next. And the ending. What a dark, delicious ending!

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