When I took the place over, she was gone. She was the old creature that moved about the house and the garden in small steps, taking care of them. She never took care of me. She hated me; my blossomless heart; my art. She called it noxious, and destroyed it devotedly. She wouldn’t let me near her favorites. Whenever she saw me, she would mutter something like a prayer, or exorcism. She’d pull me out of my hiding places and throw me out.
I kept coming back. My roots here went deeper than she imagined.
I was wild – nothing like Rose, Daisy, Violet, or Lily. She was loving and tender with them. Bringing them cool water on hot summer days; covering them in their beds in frosty winter nights; whispering secrets to them. She was proud of them, as if they were her natural offspring. And I had to shrink in the shadows and writhe, green with envy, as I watched their strength and beauty grow.
She was found dead in the garden, among her favorites. They didn’t shed a tear. Only Willow wept, but then she was always weeping.
My time had come.
I strangled innocent little Daisy in her sleep, twisting myself around her, squashing her sunny eyes shut. In the same way I squeezed the false modesty out of Violet. I brought down proud Lily and crushed her under my weight. And then I got Rose. I embraced her, whispering tales about the moist earth, rotting leaves and mould. She tore at me with her sharp nails. I laughed and held her tighter, sucking in her last breaths.
And then my conquest started. Creeping, crawling, climbing, I took every inch of the garden, every stone of the house, every crack. I sealed doors and shutters with my art.
I saw all that I had made, and it was very good. So I invited rats, snakes and bats to live with me, to feed, breed and die. And then came the cats, to hunt.
‘It stinks of shit and death,’ the man said. ‘Why would you want to live here?’
The woman smiled.
‘My family lived over there.’ She pointed at a house at the end of the street. ‘Every day, I’d see a woman in this garden, tending to her flowers, speaking to them sometimes. I had never seen anyone speak to flowers before.’
She paused, looking back. He kept quiet, looking at the house.
‘I was a child and I wanted to be this fifty-something year old woman who talked to flowers. I used to think she must be the happiest person in the world.’
‘I don’t want you to be anyone but yourself,’ the man said.
‘I will be myself here,’ the woman said.
‘It needs a lot of work,’ the man said.
The woman took a notebook and a pen out of her bag. On the first page she wrote: ‘House restoration – Jobs to be done.’ And under that: ‘Kill Ivy.’
HELIX was originally published on Intrinsick magazine, 3/6/2016
ⓒ Basilike Pappa