Posts Tagged gardener

Excerpt 111

Ala instinctively crouched down, planting her hand on the railing in order to peek up.  Had the gardener seen Danno leave?  Perhaps he knew she was alone.  There was no reason for him to be back after she told him his things were not in the house.  Fear curdled deep in her stomach.  His figure enlarged as he walked toward the window, closer to her.  She crawled on her hands and knees under the sill, trying to get to the back of the sofa.  She could not remember where she had left her phone.  Most likely on the kitchen counter.  If she got up now, he would see her going to the kitchen.

The house phone began to ring.  She looked up to see if the gardener was calling, and he was gone.  She crawled toward the kitchen and plastered herself against the back door before slowly inching up to look out of the kitchen windows.

She did not see him in the backyard, but saw that all of the dishes had been left out from the early morning breakfast.  She would have to wait to clear the table because Bruno could be lurking.  What did he want from her?  Perhaps she should call Emmanuel to let him know that a member of his staff was harassing her.  He would probably inquire about how everything else was going, and she wasn’t sure that she could adequately lie over the phone.  

Her stomach began to spin and she did not feel safe in the house any longer, at least not by herself.  She tiptoed to Emmanuel’s room and found a pair of her shoes, that did not require she wear socks, and slipped them on.  She retrieved her purse and phone and slowly made her way toward the front door.  There were no cars in front of the house, not to say Bruno hasn’t parked far away to throw her off.  She positioned the house key firmly in her hand and stepped outside, quickly locking up, then bolted down the porch steps.  She jogged, looking behind her frequently, to her parent’s house.  The porch light was turned on, welcoming her and she had never been so relieved to be going back to this house.

She let herself in and locked the door behind her, peering out to see if she had been followed.  The street was clear.  She sunk down on the bottom step to catch her breath and ran her hands through her hair.  The air was stiff and she fanned herself with a magazine from the end table.  The house has not been this hot the last time she was there.  She heard a whack, a quick high-pitched whip, coming from upstairs.

Her parents were surely still at this hour.  She heard a thump and then laughter.  She stepped carefully, not wanting to disturb the noise, or let her parents know that she was home.  Her parent’s bedroom door was open slightly, and purple light spilled out onto the carpet.  She approached and looked inside of the room, then stepped back quickly.  

A dozen naked bodies, all moving and squirming, were coiled together in a heap in the middle of the bedroom floor.  


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Excerpt 106

His hand slammed against the back door, inches away from her face, closing it tightly. In a matter of seconds, she had made it through the kitchen, with her purse, and had unlocked the door with the intention of running out.  She had snapped out of whatever effect the pill had, and was now wondering if she could make it back to the front door before he could catch her.

“Stop,” he said calmly.

“Let me go,” he said.

“You don’t have clothes on,” he said.  Taking her forearm, he lead her back into the living room.  He picked up the towel and wrapped it around her.  Sitting on the ottoman, he lit a cigarette. “Why are you trying to run out of the house?”

“Because I just realized that you’re crazy,” she said, looking straight ahead.

“What’s the definition of “crazy”?” He said, letting smoke seep from the corners of his mouth.

“Stop,” Ala said, shaking her head.  She headed for Emmanuel’s bedroom.  Danno followed her, grabbing a water glass off of the coffee table to catch ashes in.

She turned on the light and crouched at her suitcase, pulling out a dress.

“Don’t you think you should know what the word means before using it to describe someone?” He took her arm and pulled her up so that their eyes could meet. “Well?”

“I don’t know.  But there should be a dictionary in the study,” she said quietly. “How could you do this?”

“Don’t you think the bigger issue is how you reacted without letting me explain?”

She sat on the bed, knowing that allowing him to explain was giving him power. She was humiliated because she did not want him to leave and was going to hear what he had to say.

He crushed the cigarette into the bottom of the glass and set it on one of the bookshelves.  He sat on the edge of the bed and faced her.

“Everything is safe and in one place.” She froze her face to not give him the satisfaction of seeing her relief.  Her eyes searched her toenails, finding chips and spaces in the pretty purple nail polish, avoiding his stare. “I needed collateral.  The money is taking longer to come in than I thought.”

“What does that have to do with me? How dare you!” She said, storming into the bathroom.  She whipped the towel off, throwing it in the tub and pulled the dress over her head.  Danno lit another cigarette.  “I am not going to be involved with some compulsive gambler.”

“I’m not a gambler.  I promise.  It’s one of my shipments that got backed up. Everything will be fine tomorrow morning.”

“Shipments?  What, drugs?” She heard herself scream and could not lower her voice.

“No, Ala.  I’m not a criminal, okay?  I told you, I’m in textiles and this deal got too big too fast. I would never lie to you about this.”

“Not a criminal?  You just stole, I don’t even know how much. This isn’t even my house!”

“I wanted to talk to you before you got back so that you wouldn’t be scared.”

The doorbell made Ala jump.  It had not rung since she’d been staying at the house. No one was supposed to come by except for staff. She smoothed the dress over her hips and slowly walked to the foyer.

She saw Bruno through the screen and pulled the door open.  Danno stood in the living room, out of his sight.

“Hi, what can I do for you?” Ala said, crossing her arms in front of her unsupported chest.

“Everything okay, Ms.? I heard yelling.”

“Yes, everything’s fine. I was taking a heated phone call.”

Bruno stepped closer to the screen to try to see past her into the house.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, of course. I thought you had finished the yard hours ago,” she said, unsuccessfully hiding her annoyance. She could not pin down a solid thought and this gardener was causing further distraction.

“I left my pouch inside, I think,” he said, nearly pressing his nose into the screen.

“Pouch?  I haven’t seen it, and when were you inside?”

“Earlier today, Ms.”

She didn’t know if he was telling the truth, but she did know that letting him come in the house with Danno standing a few feet away, was not possible.

“Bruno, if I find your pouch, I will let you know, okay?”

“I need it,” he said, his eyes turning up in the corners with frustration.

“I’m not feeling well. I should lie down. I will see you tomorrow.”


She closed the front door and locked it. Bruno pressed his nose harder into the screen before turning and walking back to his car.

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Excerpt 103

She went to the wall, and ran her fingers over the  nails.  She looked in between the sofa and the wall, knowing that the painting did not fall, but still hoping it did. She clutched her bag to her chest and walked into the kitchen.  Everything was as she had left it before leaving for Boston; accept for a plate in the sink, now covered in water with crumbs floating to the top.  She remembered Danno eating a slice of toast that morning.  The snipping outside continued, but she could not see the gardener through the window.

She checked the back door and found that is was secure.  She made her way around the island and down the hall toward the office.  The door was closed, and she knew she hadn’t closed it earlier.  She slowly turned the knob and let herself in.  The window across the room was wide open, the navy blue sheers blowing inward and tangling themselves.  She quickly went to the window to close it and the corner of her eye caught what was gone from the wall.  The painting of the bowl of fruit having sex was not there.  She knelt down and tried to steady herself.  She felt pressure in every orifice and tried to focus on breathing.

Ala crouched on the floor for several minutes before forcing her hand into the space in the wall.  She felt around for the magnet and grasped as soon as she felt the smooth circular disc.  She brought it to the pick sand and let it hover above until the biting shine of the key drifted up.  She let out a celebratory breath of gratitude. She grabbed it and unlocked the bureau drawer.  She found the birthday page in the book and looked at the combination.  It was strange that she had no recollection of it, even though she had read the numbers so recently.

She stubbed her toe against the desk leg and cried out.  The scorching pain whizzed all the way to her heel as she eased herself down in front of the slate box.  She dialed into the keypad and waited to hear the lock releasing.  She pulled the lever and swung the door so wide that it hit the back of the desk.  Kneeling forward, she stuck her hand inside the hole in the floor.  There was nothing there.  She leaned forward so that her top half was practically stuffed into the safe and stretched her arm further.  She frantically swept the filthy underpart of the house with her hand, trying the will the money to be there. One of her legs cramped up and she pulled herself out.

Emmanuel was robbed of at least two paintings and cash.  She had no idea how much had been in the safe, but knew it was a lot more than the ten thousand dollars she was supposed to be making this summer.  Vomit rose in her throat and she swallowed deep to push it back down.  She closed the safe and pushed down on it to lift herself up.  She took her phone from her bag and dialed Danno’s number.  She listened to each ring tone, letting them hypnotize her, the purring reverberating in her ear.  He did not answer.  She shoved the phone back into her bag and closed the door to the office.

She walked through the kitchen and looked into the backyard.  Bruno was now on the other end of the pool, trimming the azalea bush.  She didn’t know if she should tell him what had happened.  She left through the living room, closing the front door and locking it.  She needed to be able to process what exactly had happened.  Obviously, art and money were missing.  But she had no idea how much. Calling Emmanuel at this point was out of the question.  Calling the police seemed to seal in that fact that a robbery had taken place, and that this wasn’t any kind of coincidence that she could easily make sense of.  Every decision at this point seemed so final, not to be taken back or undone with explanation.  And she couldn’t face that conclusion yet.

The porch light was on at her parent’s house and she walked slowly, the nausea still threatening her limbs.  The front door was open and she called out to see who was home.  There was no answer.  She considered that she could be losing her mind.  That she was the last person on Earth and that no on else existed anymore. She remembered Bruno in the garden and had a hint of relief, like putting an ice cube to a third degree burn.  She climbed the stairs, clutching the railing with both hands.  The job was so simple.  All that was expected of her was to watch the house and the possessions inside.  A child could have done that.  And she failed.

She went into her parent’s bathroom. It had been cleaned recently and smelled of the orange scented disinfectant her mother preferred.  She locked the door behind her.  Slitting her wrists was not going to happen.

“Cowardly baby,” she said in the mirror, realizing that there would be no suicide tonight.  She knew in her being, somewhere, that this would be ironed out, most likely with the help of her parents, because she was not brave.  She did not know how to correct her mistakes.  She only knew how to run away.  She decided on Demerol, that she knew her mother had in the house, and a bath.

She opened the medicine cabinet and amongst the mass of white, stood the hot pink sparkly toy.

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Excerpt 90

A large, powerful, pulsing knot rose up from her stomach to her rib cage and perched between the bones as Danno drove them back to Emmanuel’s house.

“Wrong”, her brain kept telling her.  “Wrong, wrong”. She ignored the message.  She seemed to climb outside of her aching, sweating, exhausted body and was watching.  She made note of what a beautiful couple she and Danno made.  She watched his hands work the wheel steadily.  He was quite possibly going to lose his job because of her, and he wasn’t panicked in the slightest.

This time he pulled into the carport.  Ala found the keys in her purse and lead him around to the back of the house.  She opened the gate and saw a squat khaki clad man was perched by a rose bush snipping away.  She stepped backwards quickly, nearly crushing Danno’s foot and closed the gate quietly.

“Is something wrong?” He said.

“I think the gardener’s here,” she said. She peaked over the fence.

“He isn’t supposed to be?”

“I guess he is, but I don’t want to talk to him right now. Let’s go around to the front.”

She basically tiptoed to up the front steps and opened the door. Danno touched the back of her neck and when she turned to face him, he kissed her.

 “You don’t have to do this.  What I think you’re going to do.”

“It’s fine.  How soon will you have it back?”

“As soon as I can get a new access card.  Two days max.”

She nodded and looked out of the back window.  The gardener was still hard at work on the roses.  She walked slowly down the hallway toward the study.

She heard his steps behind her.  Maybe he should not go in with her.  It was too late though.  She opened the door.  The books and papers were neatly stacked as they had been the day before.  The window had been left open so the room smelled like wisteria.  Danno, with hands in his pockets, walked over to an overstuffed brown leather armchair, and had a seat.

“Would you like a drink?” Ala said.

“No, I’m fine thanks.”

She was nervous. Her hands shook. She didn’t know how to stay calm like he did.  The doorbell rang.

“Oh great! Who is that?” She said hysterically.

Danno got up.  

“I’ll go see.  Everything’s okay.”

He brushed past her.  Ala quickly got the magnet out from behind the painting.  She brought it over to the vase and, nearly spilling the rare sand everywhere, she tipped it until she heard a soft clink, and pulled the magnet up with the key attached.  She jammed it into the desk drawer and took out the album.  

She flipped through quickly, being careful not to smudge any photographs or tear any of the pages until she saw the list of birthdays.  The first birthday, 7-23-47, was someone named Lawrence DeGrello’s birthday.  She crawled over to the safe and turned the dial to each number.  She lifted the latch and pulled up.  The door opened into a deep dark hole in the floor.  She tried to peer in without feeling down there first, but had no luck.

Danno came and leaned on the doorframe.

“It’s the gardener. He wants to talk to you.”

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Excerpt 81

Instead, he turned, walked out the front door, and came back inside one second later with the morning paper.  He carried it out the back door and had a seat on one of the lawnchairs.  She took a deep breath.  He was staying, for now.

She heard the phone ringing.  She followed the ringing to her purse, which was flung into the corner of the foyer, and found the phone.


“Ala. It’s mom. Whose car is that?”

Ala rushed to the window and tugged the blinds out of the way.  The Aston Martin gleamed in the sun, more beautiful than she had remembered it.  It sucked all of the attention from the rest of the cars on the block for certain.

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“No.” She hated when her mother did this.  This repetitive passive aggressive communication was so juvenile.

“It’s parked directly in front of Emmanuel’s house”


“Why would someone park there if they weren’t actually inside of Emmanuel’s house?”

“You’re asking as if I parked it there.”

“Well, did you?”

“No, I arelady told you I don’t know whose care it is.” She heard the back door closing and lowered her voice. “I’ve never seen that car in my life. I assure you, I’m perfectly fine.”

Silence.  Staying calm was the sure way to shut her mother up.

“Alright then. What are your plans for the day?”

She felt him watching her from behind.

“I’m a little busy now explaining things to the gardener.  I’ll talk to you later.”

“Don’t forget to call.  Dad wants to talk to you.”

“Fine. Bye.”

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