|The Weed Garden
Author: inkybetterdays PM
When I was a child, my grandmother kept a weed garden and let wildflowers spread all over her yard. "Weeds need lovin' too, sweet pea," she would tell me. But I never truly understood that, until now.' Out of Sophie's shattered life comes a single truth.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Family - Words: 2,628 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 5 - Published: 09-25-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2724142
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Weed Garden
When I was a child, my grandmother kept a weed garden. Though the years have passed and she is gone now, I will never love anything more than I did sitting in her wrought iron garden chair as a little girl and watching as she gently dug up all the weeds from the flower bed and transferred them to a patch of sunlight practically splat dab in the middle of her yard, where they were sure to get special attention.
It wasn't until I was five that I finally found out that the weeds were the bad things that ate up all the pretty flowers. It was like finding out that Santa Claus didn't exist. Distraught, I asked my grandmother why she saved the weeds at all, and she only looked at me in surprise, as if the absurdity of nurturing the little menaces had never occurred to her.
"Well, sweet pea, weeds need loving too," she said. Then she sat down in the wrought iron garden chair, pulled me into her lap, and told me a story.
"Once upon a time, there was a very mean man named Hitler."
"Yes, Adolf Hitler."
My grandmother chuckled. "You would find out if you didn't interrupt me."
"Sorry." I nestled into her bosom.
"Hitler was a bitter, mean old man who hurt a lot of people," my grandmother continued. "And I'm not saying any of the bad things he did was right, because they weren't, not by a long shot. But I think maybe if someone, just once along the way, bothered to give him a little lovin', maybe he wouldn't have done all those mean things in the first place. Because no one's mean on purpose. And everyone deserves to be loved, no matter who they are or what they do. Remember that, sweet pea."
I thought about that for a minute, trying to make sense of her story. "If I love the weeds, does that mean they won't hurt the flowers?"
"Have you ever seen them hurt the flowers?"
She smiled. "See?"
I wasn't sure I saw, but I nodded anyway, anything to please her, and she carried me into the house for lemonade.
It wasn't until I was ten that I found out who Hitler actually was. My fifth grade teacher preached about a mad man who killed off millions of people, as if my class of ten year olds was planning to conquer the world using the Final Solution.
I liked my grandmother's story better, even though I hated the idea of all those Jewish people getting killed. My best friend was Jewish. I went to synagogue with him once. It was a long hour and a half, even worse than church, because at least in church I could understand what the priest was saying. But Josh's mom took the two of us to McDonald's for lunch afterwards, and it wasn't so bad.
My grandmother died when I was fifteen, and it broke my heart. I twined a violet and a daffodil together and placed them on her coffin before she was buried. A few days later, her house was sold. I cried and fought my mother to keep it, but I was only fifteen and no one cared or understood how sacred that cottage was to me. And so it, the weed garden, and my grandmother were lost to me forever, all in a single blow.
Weeds need loving too, my grandmother said to me once. These were the words that ran through my head the day of her funeral. They were her words, and they were precious, the only thing I could keep of her memory. Of everything my grandmother told me, I knew that somehow, these were the most important, and it was the one truth I've held nearest and dearest to my heart.
I don't think I ever fully understood it though, until now.
The picture on the wall was mocking me.
At least, I thought it was. Either that or I had finally cracked.
Actually, I wasn't sure what a painting of wildflowers had any business doing in the waiting room of a police station to begin with. It sort of added color to a space that was otherwise an eyesore, but the little yellow flowers looked so forlorn all alone on the gray wall—the thin gray wall that was the only thing separating me from a long row of jail cells. Someone's sorry attempt to make the room seem homelier had failed miserably—I doubted anyone came to a police station looking for homely in yellow wildflowers while their loved ones waited for a verdict on the other side of the wall.
I hated that painting. I detested the poor yellow buds whose fate it was to remain here forever. I didn't want wildflowers that looked too much like the ones my grandmother used to let spread all over her yard. I didn't need the memories; not here, not tonight, not ever.
I needed my son, but he'd been sleeping off the alcohol last time I checked. One of the officers had promised to come and get me as soon as he woke up, so I had nothing to do now but wait.
Actually, that wasn't entirely true. There most certainly was something I should have been doing, but I was dreading it. Glaring at the hated wildflowers, I procrastinated calling Josh.
A part of me longed to hear his voice. I needed him now more than ever. He was my rock, my protector, my knight in shining armor and he did, after all, have a right to know. But if I told my ex-husband what had happened, it was only a matter of time before his mother found out too. Inevitably, I would be blamed for the mishaps of this God-awful night, and, while I wasn't necessarily arguing that point, I really didn't need to give Rebecca one more reason to hate me.
After an internal argument that lasted the better part of an hour, my need for a shoulder to cry on overwhelmed my fear of Josh's mother. Ignoring the guilt I felt waking him up in the middle of the night, I dialed his number and waited impatiently for his voice. The phone rang endlessly, and I felt a rush of fear. What if he didn't answer? I couldn't face this night alone.
There was a click.
I nearly sobbed with relief.
"Josh," I whispered.
"What's the matter?" He sounded tired, and I wished I could tell him everything was fine and he could go back to sleep, but I was weak, and I needed him.
He was silent. I heard him sigh. "Soph…it's two in the morning."
As if I didn't know.
Yeah, ok Josh, I know what you're thinking. We'd been here before. This wouldn't be the first time Michael had caused enough trouble to attract the police. No need to get emotional, Sophie. We'll figure something out. I'll be right over. You have to relax.
But this was different. This wasn't just a bunch of stupid teenagers who'd managed to get their hands on a couple bottles of beer.
"Josh," I croaked. "He was at a party. There was alcohol, and—and things. He tried to take an overdose of…it was on purpose, Josh." Cracked lips could barely form the right words to make him understand. "On purpose, and…um, Nick stopped him and…Josh?…he tried to…he tried to…" I shut my eyes to ward off tears.
Nothing came from the other end of the line. The traitor tears pricked my eyes and I clenched the cell phone until I was sure my knuckles were white.
His voice was low and hoarse. "I'm…here. I—I mean, I'm coming. I'll be right there, I promise." There was a muffled bump as he tumbled from bed and I heard him shuffling around his room. It would be a disaster, naturally; shoes under the dresser, keys hidden beneath dirty t-shirts, laundry all over the floor.
"I am. Where are you?"
"Police. Don't hang up," I pleaded.
"Sophie…" He sighed again.
Josh blew out a long gush of air. "I know. It's alright. It'll be alright Sophie. Everything will be alright," he repeated. "I'm right here."
He didn't say anything more, but I knew he was still there because I could hear him breathing. I clutched the phone like a life preserver and concentrated on the sound.
"I'm in the car," he said a few minutes later. "Will you be ok?"
No. "I think so," I said reluctantly.
"Five minutes, honey," he promised. "Give me five minutes. Just hold on."
"I'll try," I sighed. There was a click and he was gone. I was alone again with the wildflowers.
Divorcing Josh was the stupidest decision I ever made, and the worst part was that I was still madly in love with him. Ultimately, it was Rebecca's fault—Rebecca who I couldn't hate, Rebecca whose grandparents had been murdered before she was even born in the worst genocide the world had ever seen, by a man who I couldn't hate, either.
The universe liked playing sick jokes on me.
The truth was, Rebecca didn't mind our bond when we were cute little kids who happened to be joined at the hip and did everything together. Even when we dated in high school, she probably thought we would grow out of it and Joshua would end up marrying a nice Jewish girl. We got engaged and she waited in the wings, an occasional knowing look the only hint of her disapproval as she waited patiently for us to denounce the marriage.
It really started with the wedding.
When I was fifteen, two weeks before my grandmother died, we planned my wedding together. She knew she was on her deathbed; I didn't. We imagined I would be married in the springtime, in a garden—I thought that garden would be hers. It never occurred to me that she wouldn't live to see one of the most important days of my life. But even though she couldn't be there, I still wanted my garden more than anything in the world. Josh found the ten year old plans hidden beneath my pillow, and he loved me enough to grant my greatest wish, defying his mother to do it. Thanks to him, everything turned out exactly the way my grandmother and I had planned.
We were married in Catholic tradition, making matters worse in the eyes of the justly feared mother-in-law. The tension between us only escalated after that.
It was easier when Michael was born two years later, and a tentative, unspoken truce was established. It didn't last long. By the time Michael was five, Rebecca had reverted to hating my guts no matter what I did to try and appease her.
Josh and I started to fight. We weren't angry with each other, but Rebecca raised so much tension that we were set off by the most negligible things. Josh was torn between loyalty to his family and his love for me, and I didn't know how to compromise the two. And even though we tried to hide our hostility from Michael, he was always a smart kid. He figured the whole thing out when he was four. His childhood must've been hell. It wasn't like we could avoid Rebecca. She intruded upon our life whenever she could, and she could always find ways to keep us close to her.
Michael was the deciding factor when Josh and I talked about the divorce. The two of us, together, were strong; we would work something out, even if it meant a hell of a lot more fights to get there. But we were hurting Michael and I couldn't stand that. It was killing me, more than Rebecca ever could.
As it turned out, we were idiots. The divorce was what did Michael in. He spent his entire childhood fighting for us, suffering because of us. In his eyes, we gave up—not only on Rebecca, but on him, on us, on being something more than what we were by ourselves.
There was never a day gone by that I didn't regret the mistake that cost me my family's happiness.
I jumped. I'd been staring at the wildflowers and hadn't heard Josh come in.
He was a mess. His hair was tousled and there were dark circles under his eyes. Idiot, thought he didn't need sleep to function, like every other normal person in the world. His clothes were wrinkled. They probably weren't washed, but I didn't care. He opened his arms to me and I went to him. He held me tightly and I buried my face in his shoulder.
In that moment, he wasn't my ex-husband. He was my best friend, and I needed him desperately.
I choked out a sob and Josh stroked my hair soothingly. He pressed a soft kiss to my forehead.
"Is he sleeping?" he asked after awhile. I nodded against his chest.
A door clicked open and the officer from earlier appeared. He averted his eyes when he saw us. "Michael's awake."
Josh pulled back so he could look into my face. He took my hand and gave it a squeeze. "Better?"
"A little," I admitted. Having him beside me gave me strength.
Josh brushed a strand of blond hair away from my eyes. He kept hold of my hand as the officer led us out of the waiting room.
Michael was the spitting image of his father. Sitting sullenly in the third cell to the right, his brown hair was disheveled and the skin under his eyes was dark. He didn't seem to notice us until the officer unlocked his cell. Josh held back and gave me a nudge towards our son.
Dear, dear Josh. He knew I needed this moment. He always knew exactly what I needed, even if I didn't know it myself.
Michael got shakily to his feet. His shoelaces were untied. "Mom, I'm sorry," he croaked.
Next thing I knew, he was in my arms. Although taller than I was, he still managed to nestle his head against me, and I felt taller.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the police officer glowering at me. Probably because I wasn't yelling myself hoarse, grounding my under-age son for the rest of his life. I glared right back. That was the last thing he needed.
Because in the end, this whole mess was my fault.
I felt Josh's arms come around us. I kissed the tangle of hair on Michael's head and squeezed him tight.
"Me too," I whispered in his ear. He pressed closer to me.
Because weeds need loving, too.
A/N--I've re-edited this story so many times my brain hurts just thinking about it. I could probably recite it word for word by memory. I entered The Weed Garden in a state contest, the results of which we're getting back in March, so cross your fingers I have a chance and thanks for reading!