Crush Crush Crush
The Lonely Gardens is older than anyone in my family, we knew that much. What we didn't know was how it got there. We had found stories at our local library about it, but none that told how old it was or who had planted it- only that it had been taken care by a couple for over thirty years until they disappeared.
When Kayla and I had found it, we were looking for a place to hang out. Jensen and Kelly had helped us find it. Leading us down the road from our house and across the old lane that led out into town. When we had first found it, it looked like it was just a wall of ivy and uncut hedging, but after a few hard weeks of work, Kayla and I (along with the help from our brothers and parents), had managed to clean it up and make it look nice again.
"Wow!" Sophia gawked, her eyes wide as she took in the full view. "It's beautiful!"
"We did it ourselves!" Kayla boasted with a broad smiled.
"No, we didn't!" I objected, turning to explain what she meant. "We cleaned it up, cut the hedges, mowed the grass, and trimmed the weeds."
"In other words," Kayla rolled her eyes and then stated with renewed enthusiasm; "We did it ourselves!"
"So this was here before you moved here?" Leo asked.
"The library claims that it's been here for ages." I answered.
"We made the hedges inside shorter so we could step over them." Kayla said as she entered the maze. The outer hedges were about ten feet tall, while the inner ones were just tall enough to reach my knees. "Well, all but the one in the very center. There are beautiful flowers that grow wild," Kayla turned and faced everyone. "Come on, I'll show you."
"Yeah, we'll give you a full tour." I smiled. "Wait until we get to the middle!" The middle hedges were also about ten feet tall. No matter how much we cut them, the walls would just grew back almost as fast as we could cut them. One day we would cut them just as short as the others, the next it would be ten feet high again. Once we even cut them all to the ground, sprayed a little bit a weed killer and watched it grow back.
"What's at the center?" Sophia asked. Her brown eyes turned on Jack, who had tagged along for some reason or the other. He tried to play it off that he wanted to keep an eye on Kayla and me, but I'm almost sure he came to keep his eyes on Sophia.
"There's an awesome…"
"JACK!" I clapped my hand over his mouth. "It's a surprise!" I smiled to the others, sending a glare at Jack for almost ruining it.
"Let's get started." Drake clapped his hands together and popped his knuckles.
"Would you stop that?" Sophia shivered.
Inside the garden the shorter hedges formed a mini maze, twisting this way and that in a vain hope that whoever walked the garden would get lost or stuck. There were four main walks. One to the north, one to the west, one to the south, and one to the east. Too get to each path you would have to head towards the center hedges, taking the south path since it was the entrance. Each path led to different flowers.
"Which way first?" Kayla asked as we neared the center hedge.
"There are four paths, counting the one we just entered from." I explained, "North, west, south, and east. We thought about naming them, but Kayla and I couldn't decide which ones to name."
"Or what to name them." Kayla added.
"Yeah." I nodded. "There are also flowers at the end of each path. Roses, lilies, orchid and carnations."
"What is at the center?" Leo asked, glancing towards the middle.
"We'll get there, just wait."
"Oh, that's one thing Leo can not do," Drake snickered. "He has to know what's going on, or what something is. Can't even do a simple magic joke without him flipping out."
"Harley get's that way sometimes." Kayla nodded.
"I do not!" I argued. "Jack does."
"Ha!" Jack exclaimed. "Blame it on the brother, huh?"
"Oh, yeah." Kayla and I said at the same time. Clearing my throat, I tried not to laugh.
"I'd like to see the carnations." Sophia said after a moment of silence.
"That's cool, they're the closest too." Kayla started towards the center of the maze, running her hand along the higher hedges. "Well, if you don't count the lilies on that way." She added with a shrugged.
"I'd like to see the lilies." Drake said, glancing back over his shoulder.
"I guess we could split up and meet in the middle."
"The lilies are to the south." I explained to Drake and Leo, Sophia and Jack seemed content to stand by and watch. "The carnations are to the east, roses north, and orchids to the west."
"Really? You call them by the points?" Leo asked.
"Um, the flowers?" I frowned.
"No, north, south, east, and west. The points."
"Oh," I looked at Kayla, who shrugged. "We call them that because it's easier to remember."
"Cool." Leo nodded.
"So…" Drake breathed. "Can we go see the lilies now?"
"Okay. Kay, you wanna…"
"What about the roses? I like roses." Leo's eyes darted between Kayla and me, I noted with a smothered smile that the icy blue eyes lingered ever so slightly longer on Kayla then they did on me. He likes Kayla! The thought echoed in my mind before I could think too much about it.
"I could show you the roses, I guess. Jack could show Drake the…"
"I don't know where the lilies are!" Jack pleaded, "I could show Sophia the carnations."
"Oh, I don't bite." Drake teased Jack.
"I've already asked to go to the carnations, and I don't care much for lilies or roses." Sophia crossed her sleeveless arms and made a pout face.
"Anyway, you two," Kayla pointed to Drake and me, "go to the Lilies. Jack, show Sophia the carnations. Leo and I'll go see the roses. How is that?"
"Um…" I looked around; almost sure I was the only one who did have a problem with being alone with Drake, who was pretty much a complete stranger to me.
"That sounds good- unless Harley would rather go see the roses." Leo must have noticed my deer in the head lights look. Crap, I thought with annoyance, now they're going to think I'm a chicken.
"The lilies are this way." I said in a vain attempt to remove the eyes from my skin.
"If you want to see the roses," Drake shrugged, "that's fine."
"No, I was just trying to remember where they were. It is a maze in here."
"Well, see you guys in the center." Jack called over his shoulder as he and Sophia took off, walking at a quick pace. I found myself envying my siblings control. They didn't seem to be having any problem with being alone with new people. I, on the other hand, was sick to my stomach.
"See you." Kayla waved as her and Leo turned and walked away. Leo began asking her random questions about the plants and what we used to keep the smaller hedges cut short.
"Ready?" I asked Drake, finding it easier then I thought it would be to face him. His brown eyes found mine and I could have sworn I had… no, I've never seen Drake before.
"Sure. But how about we take the long way rather than jumping hedges. It feels like cheating."
"That's what I tell Kayla! But most the time she would rather jump then walk from start to finish." It was easy. What had I been so afraid of? Drake was really a sweet guy. With his fluffy blond hair cut short and his lax posture.
"Leo is the opposite. He'd make us walk the whole maze, one end to the other, before we could jump the hedges."
"Maybe they'll wear off on each other." I suggested with a sarcastic smile. Drake chuckled.
"If anyone could change Leo I'd love them for all time." Drake joked. Or, I took it for a joke and laughed with him. "So, are you always shy?"
"What?" Well crap! I couldn't help the shocked widening of my eyes.
"When Kayla said you and I would be going to the lilies, you seemed a little… awkward."
"Oh, well…" I didn't want to tell him the truth. That I thought he was really cute and to familiar to never have seen him before. So I said the next true thing that came to mind. "First, I am kind of shy. New people are nerve racking to me, and second, I had sort of forgotten where the lilies were. It's hard to remember every path in this place."
"I bet." Drake nodded. He seemed too relaxed, it was annoying. He had his hands in his jean pockets and a light over shirt on even though it was close to eighty degrees. We had just passed the little rectangle area that marked the south from the west. Walking in silence for a while, Drake and I listened to the birds. Or, I tried to listen, but my mind was buzzing like an annoying red wasp, running through thoughts and ideas about anything and everything. I can't remember all was I was thinking about. But I remember thinking that the hedges needed to be trimmed again.
When we got to the next turn, Drake paused, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly.
"What is it?" I asked, following his eyes as he gazed around the maze.
"I'm not sure, thought I heard something." His voice was low and unsure, it spooked me. He must have guessed that because he smiled reassuringly at me. "It was most likely a bird."
"Yeah," I nodded slowly. Behind me somewhere a twig snapped twice. I jumped and spun around. It took me two seconds to register that a birds shadow flew away from a tree just outside of the maze. Two seconds because Drake called my attention back to the maze itself.
"Wow, look at the clover!" He exclaimed as he jumped over the hedge into a small clearing on the other side. I watched with a smile. The clover was one of my favorite things about the south side. There was a whole area boxed off from where the lilies were. Big enough to be covered in all kinds of clover. There were big ones and smaller ones. Purple ones and red. If you looked carefully enough, there were plenty of four and five leafed clovers.
"You like clovers?" I asked, jumping over the hedge to land behind where he crouched down, running a hand over the soft green leaves.
"Like? I love them! Sophia hates that I'm better at finding the odd leafed ones then she is."
"Really?" I cooked my head to one side. "How many leaves have you found?"
"I think the highest I found was six." He nodded, like he was answering himself.
"Six, huh?" I tried to hold back a smile, but it was hard.
"What?" Drake asked, raising an eye brow.
"I've got you beat by one." I shrugged.
"No way! You found a seven leaf clover?" I love the way his eye lit up when he smiled.
"Awesome! Do you still have it? Can I see it?" He asked, standing up to face me. Turning the full force of his eyes on me.
"Yeah," I said, hoping I didn't sound as breathless as I felt.
"I've got it in a photo albumen at home. I'll show you later today, or tomorrow sometime."
"Let's hurry up then, try and get the others to hurry." His smile never wavered, it was kind of intimidating.
"Don't you want to see the lilies?" I asked. Pointing just past the clover.
"Oh, right," Drake chuckled. "I forgot."
"Happens to the worst of us."
"But it takes an expert to remember what they forgot after they forgot to remember." Drake added solemnly.
"And even more so to forget what they forgot when they remembered to not forget it twice." I nodded.
"Does this make any sense to you?"
"Sadly, yes." We both laughed. "I'll show you a short cut."
"Ooh, we cheating?"
"Only always." I found myself relaxing. I wasn't so tight in my movements anymore. It felt good to be talking to Drake. Easy. Some guys were just stupid, while other were too smart for me to keep up. Drake seemed like a perfect middle guy. Then again, he was a middle child. That could help.
I led him to the other side of the clover patch, keeping close to the hedge so I didn't step on many clovers, then let Drake jump across first. He turned right away and helped me over. I only thought about turning down his hand. It seemed too cheesy. Yet, it was kind of nice.
"Thanks," I smiled as soon as I was across.
"No problem…" his voice trailed away as his head jerked towards the north, or, it looked like the north. "Did you hear that?"
"Um, I would ask 'hear what?' But that would just answer your question."
"I thought I heard something… like footsteps or… wings."
"Really?" I began to look around, wondering what-or who was there. I couldn't see anything besides the trees and maze. A few birds were chirping from the tree line, a chipmunk jumped around in the left over leaves from last winter. I was about to mark it off as nothing, when I did hear it. I couldn't tell if it was footsteps or not. It sounded light and rustled through the leaves a little louder than the chipmunk. I turned at faced the trees that it had come from, locking eyes on a bush that bounced slightly in the breezeless air.
"Um, maybe we should find the others," I whispered to Drake.
"Yeah, I think you're right" Drake started down the long path to his left-my right since I had turned to face him. I lingered only a moment longer, wondering if it might have been Jensen or Kelly. No, why would they be hiding? They never hid from anyone else… or did they?
Quickly I pushed the thought away. I didn't want to think about Jensen right now. I wanted to hang out with the new kids. Jensen and Kelly could wait until later.
The path wasn't long, but it did lead from one end to the middle entrance of the maze. A good walk, then we turned left again, and then at the next turn, finally turning right at the point where we had crossed over into the clover patch. Drake had a serious look on his face, deeply lost in thought. It was amazing-he-he, a'maze'ing- amazing that he remembered the way we had come. We had almost made it back to the first circle that was the center when my stomach felt like I had been punched. I sucked in air and threw my hands out to the nearest hedge, griping it with shaky hands.
"Harley?" Drake was beside me in a heartbeat. His hands held out as if to catch me if I fell.
"Sorry, pulled a muscle." I smiled through the tightness. Drake looked like he had a thousand thoughts in two seconds. Worry and confusion passed over his face and clouded his eyes.
"Do you need to go home? I could help you home, forget about the others." He was talking fast, like he wasn't really sure what he should do.
"I'm good," I pushed off the hedge and stood up straight, the pain was dulling, and I was almost sure it was just a muscle reacting to all the walking so close to breakfast. Man, what time was it? I glanced at my right wrist only to remember I stopped wearing a watch a while back. "What time is it?" I asked Drake.
"Um?" He pulled up his sleeve. A thin silver chain was wrapped around his left wrist. He used his right index finger to run along it and then glanced at the sun. "About twelve-thirty, I believe."
"What is that?" I asked. It wasn't a watch. Couldn't be. It didn't have anything that told the time, it was just a silver chain.
"It's something I got from my mother before she died." He said.
"Oh?" I tilted my head to one side, not wanting to seem rude, but a little confused.
"Oh, um… dad remarried…" He looked around uncomfortably.
"Well, that's cool… The chain, not the mother thing…" I was just as uncomfortable.
"It's called a Sun-chain." He slipped it off his wrist and held it up for me to see.
"Wow," I breathed, watching the sun light dance off of the silver. "That's really cool."
"And closer to being the real time then a clock is."
"How's that?" I looked at him. His eyes were on my face and I hoped silently that I looked okay. It would be just like me to have something on my face. A pimple, a blackhead, grass…
"Well, this tells the time by where the sun is. Clocks are told what time it is so they are almost all the same."
"Really? I thought it was way more complicated than that?"
"It might be, I haven't really looked into it all that much, Leo might know."
"I've an idea," I had a random spur of the moment, and I went with it.
"Alright, what?" He crossed his arms and looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes. Something in them seemed to challenge me.
"What if we sneak up on Kayla and Leo? Follow the path back to the main entrance and then go the way they went, stepping over hedges where we can and so forth." I've no idea why I said 'so forth' but it seemed to work, and I like it better than 'so on.' He seemed to as well. His eyes lost the challenge gleam and seemed to brighten –though how I'm not really sure since they were about as bright as brown could get.
"Sounds good to me," he rubbed his hands together, "how about we go this was instead, though?"
"They'd see it coming," when he didn't seem to believe me I crossed my arms, "I've been scaring Kayla since we were kids, and it isn't easy, I think I know what she'd expect."
"Well, would she expect the opposite of what she normally would because you always do the other than what you think she'd think you do?" That made me smile, forgetting for a moment about my stomach. "What?"
"Nothing, just I do that to Kayla all the time." I shuck my head. "Anyway, what if you go that way, and I this, and then we'll see who gets caught?"
"Nah, let's go your way." He closed in on the space between us. "Shall we?"
I was almost surprised by how easy he caved; Kayla put up a way more of a fight.
"Alright, you first." I swept my arms, indicating he should lead.
"Why not you?"
"Because I know how quiet I am, I don't know how you are."
Drake opened his mouth to say something, but changed his mind, smiling as he chuckled. "Alright." He moved across the grass, barley making a sound, I followed just as quietly behind him, careful to not kick rocks as I normally did when walking.
It didn't take us long to reach the hedges that lead to the roses, it was about as high as my knees, easy to step over. So I went on one side, while Drake, without me having to say anything, went on the other. We crouched down and hurried towards the taller hedges to hide, reaching them just as Kayla said something about checking on Jack and Sophia.
"Why?" Leo asked, I couldn't see them, so I had no idea if he really tilted his head to the side like I thought he would.
"Well, knowing Jack, he's either trying to kiss her, or trying to get her to kiss him." Kayla, I knew, would be nodding like it was obvious.
"Sophia's a big girl; she can take care of herself." This might be true for Sophia, but Leo sounded like he didn't like the idea.
"Yeah, but if he hurts her feelings, you'd want to beat the crap out of him, and then I'd have to beat the crap out of you…" Kayla paused, letting that sink in. "And I'd hate to have to do that."
"Fine, I'll be back." Leo sighed, I could hear his jeans as he stood, so I ducked down lower, careful not to catch anything in the leafy hedge.
After he was gone I allowed myself a sigh of relief before jumping out of my skin as Drake crouched down next to me, almost out of nowhere.
'Sorry,' he mouthed. I nodded, fixing to stand up and say something to Kayla when.
"I thought he'd never leave." Kayla's voice made both Drake and me fall backwards with yelps of surprise. "Hey guys." She smiled.
"How'd you know we were here?" Drake demanded as he got to his feet.
"I know Harley, and I heard you move over here." She shrugged, "Now, can you please go make sure your brother doesn't beat up my brother, I really would hate to have to kick his butt."
Drake looked at me; I was still on the ground, leaning up on my elbows. Realizing he meant for me to say something, I cleared my throat and opened it, before finding I had nothing to say. Sighing, he rolled his eyes and followed Leo's path.
"They really are cute." Kayla declared in as close to a dream like voice she had ever used once Drake was out of ear shot. Then she shook her head and let out a breath, "Alright, I'm going into the woods, Kelly's in there, wanna come."
"How do you know Kelly's in there?" I asked, the tightness in my stomach had eased a little, but was still there, making me feel anxious.
"I heard her."
"Kay! What if it's weird monster things that wants to kidnap you because you're a princess and they want to take you so as they can force you to marry one of them so they can take over the world," I realized how stupid that sounded after saying it.
"As dumb as that is, I think I'll take my chances on it being Kelly. Okay?" Kayla looked like she were about to laugh at me, but held it back, my face most have said something along the lines of 'don't mess with me,' because she leaned forward on the hedge, facing me. I'm not sure when I got up, but it was most likely when she said something about going into the forest. "I'll be fine, Lee, really. I have a feeling that it's Kelly." She breathed...
"Well, I have a feeling it isn't, so be careful."
"You not coming?" She almost looked hurt, more surprised though.
"I'm going to wait right here for Leo and Drake to get back, which they should any minute now." I folded my arms, wondering if I should go with her. This was snake season after all.
"Alright, tell 'em I'll be back in a second, I just wanted to get a… Well, you'll think of something." She smiled. "You always do."
"And when you come back empty handed?"
"I'll claim that I couldn't find it."
"Alright, fine." I bit my lower lip as I watched her go, she climbed over the higher hedge and nearly disappeared when she landed on the other side, waving at me as she hurried into the trees, soon she was gone, hidden amidst the pines, oaks, birch, and maple trees. Sighing, I turned away from the forest in time to see Drake and Leo walking back, side by side and a look of determination on their faces. Leo's drifted over me and then around, looking for Kayla I guessed. Funny how they seemed to have hit it off in the little time we'd know them.
"Where is Kayla?" Leo asked; his eyebrows pulled together, wrinkling the skin between them.
"She's looking for something she thinks she left in the woods." I said, realizing what she had meant by saying I would think of something. I wanted to smack her. "She'll be back in a sec'. What's Jack doing?"
"He and Sophie are just talking; he wasn't even near her when we got there." Leo said; a bit of annoyance lined his voice. "When did she go in?"
"About a minute before you got back."
"Really? And you just let her going in alone?" He looked pissed, which immediately ticked me off.
"She knows the woods well enough to be alone in them!" I said, knowing the main reason I was upset was because I was already kicking myself for not going with her.
"That may be true but…" Drake smacked Leo's arm, sending him a dirty look, Leo closed his eyes and took a breath. "Sorry." He mumbled after reopening his eyes, the icy blue seemed to spark, but from what I wasn't sure.
"So, what'd she leave in the woods?" Drake asked, obviously trying to change the subject.
"I've no clue, she just said something." I shrugged, leaning back against the hedge.
"Should we go looking for her?" Leo asked, he seemed calmer now, but something about the way he stood told me it was just an acted. Wither for Drake or me, I've no idea.
"She said she'd be back in…" I gasped as a sharp pain pinched my stomach, like my gut was being pulled into a tight knot, never to be undone; it caused me to double over.
"Harley?" Drake's voice was drowned out by a scream. Kayla?
No, it was Kelly.
"KAYLA!" I knew Kelly's voice to well to misplace it twice.
"Oh no." I took off towards the forest, managing the hedge without much problem, but Leo was faster, he pretty much jumped the hedge, landing on the other side with a soft, graceful thud, but I barely registered that. I was too focused on running and not falling.
"Kayla!" my voice echoed Leo's, which made me like him a smidge more.
Once we broke into the forest I paused, unsure which way to go.
"Go right." Leo ordered, turning left. I listened; turning to face a giant tree that I guessed was oak by the leaves that littered its low branches. Stepping around the tree, I came face to chest with Jensen, I knew him by his pine tree smell. He seized my shoulder as I staggered, harder than he needed to.
"Harley?" his voice sounded far away, I've heard that sometimes that's how stuff sounds in chaos. Distant. But I've never been in chaos before.
"Jen?" I blinked up at him. His green eyes seemed bluer, too blue. His eyes were never blue. "Jensen?"
"Harley!" Drake's voice made me jump. I turned my head and saw him looking at Jensen rather than me. That freaked me out.
"Drake." I breathed, he looked at me, he had a sort of glare on his face, but it soften as he's eyes met mine.
"We can't find her, Lee." He said. I was to numb to react. My stomach had pretty much too care of that. Maybe he hadn't seen Jensen. Maybe it was just my imagination. It didn't matter now. All that mattered was that my sister was missing. She was gone. I wanted to scream with frustration but knew it wouldn't help. I don't know how long I stood there, but long enough for Drake to walk away.
"Harley." Jensen finally spoke. I turned and looked up at him. He still had a hold of my shoulders, but his fingers seemed to loosen their hold and his eyes were back to the cooling green they'd always been. "Where's Kayla?"
"I don't know." I whispered, still unsure if Drake had seen him. I pulled away from Jensen and began to walk.
"Lee, wait." Jensen's voice was filled with defeat. I wanted to look at him, but I had to find my sister. I had too!
"She's gone Harley." Jensen's voice filled me with dread. "And you know where she is."
I had no idea. If she was gone, most would think… but no. She wasn't dead… I knew that. She was somewhere.
"Harley," someone grabbed my hand and pulled me around. I felt a hand wipe at my face, soft and hard. Comforting. "You know where she is." Jensen's voice told me all I needed to know. She was in the one place I had been trying like heck to believe was just imaginary.