The Gardener

Eliza slowly begins to open her earthly green eyes, the sun illuminates her room, she tosses over in bed and views her dimly lit alarm clock reading “7:00 AM”, she tosses over again and throws a pillow in her face as the sound of a small engine erupts into her room. “Great, the gardener is here”, she muffles under the pillow. She slowly climbs out of bed like a sloth and goes downstairs to the kitchen to make her morning coffee. “Every single Saturday, it’s the same thing. Why couldn’t they book him later in the day?” she says under her breath. The coffee slowly begins to drip into her mug from the K-Cup machine, the smell of rich Costa Rican beans fill the kitchen. She takes her oat milk out from the fridge and pours it into the cup, just a splash, no more, no less. She approaches the window with coffee in hand and watches as the gardener continues to cut the lawn. He was an older man, probably mid 50s, retired early and bored of sitting at home. The sun hit his silver hair in such an interesting way that Eliza thought it rather quite remarkable how much hair he still had for his age. It didn’t excuse his earliness though. Her parents told her that he was married once a long time ago, and that his wife died of cancer which made Eliza a little sad to think about; how alone he must feel. Still once again didn’t excuse the earliness on this Saturday morning and how tired Eliza felt.

The older man looks up from the beautifully cut lawn and waves to Eliza, she waves back.

“Well look whos up” A voice said from behind her.

“How could I possibly sleep with all that noise going on Dad? why did you and Mom tell him to come so early?” , Eliza snaps back.

“It was the only time Patrick was available! That guys is a wizard with our lawn and garden, ill let him come anytime he pleases. Besides why waste a beautiful day in bed when you can be soaking up all that sunshine outside?” , Elizas father replies.

“Or I can be soaking up some Netflix in bed, i’m going back upstairs”. She begins to walk away.

“Oh hun, don’t forget that your mother and I will be leaving tonight to go up Richardson’s cottage for the week” Her dad exclaims.

“A week? what am I gonna do here for a week by myself, who is gonna feed me? you’re going to let your only daughter starve here?”, she jokingly pleads.

Elizas mother appears now in the kitchen behind her father.

“Eliza, you will be fine, theres plenty of food in the freezer and we will leave you with money for pizza” her mother says.

“Why are you going up to the Richardson’s for a week anyways, isn’t that a little excessive? I thought you don’t even like them that much” , Eliza replies.

“Dan can be a bit much when he hits the wine, but they are going through a lot with their son Tyler, they need the distraction.” Eliza dad says. ” Anyways we gave Patrick a key to the backyard and garage so he doesn’t have to disturb your slumber”

“He’s already going to do that anyways with his loud ass lawnmower. You’re lucky i’ve had my morning coffee anyways or I would be so pissed at you two”, she stomps away back up to her room.

“We will miss you to honey!” Her dad yells out.

She slumps back into her bed and pulls out her laptop, she fires up Netflix and begins watching reruns of her favourite sitcom, the ultimate comfort food for this crappy Saturday she thought to herself. The episode begins to play as her eyes slowly drift back to sleep.

Eliza is awoken by the sound of a car honking, she looks out her window and sees her parents pulling away from the driveway. Eliza has been left at home many, many times in the past but this time felt more lonely. She gets up from bed and graces her hand on a photo of her and her ex boyfriend James. Last week she found out James has been seeing another girl behind her back since the beginning of their relationship. She still felt numb about it. Usually he would come over when her parents were out of town and they would stay up all night watching horror movies, eating junk food, getting drunk and fucking. Now she would be alone for a week in this big house that she could never afford of buying in her lifetime. Her parents were both lawyers, they actually met in court on opposing sides, funny how love can even show up in the most cruel places. James and her met differently; James would ask her out every single weekend at her work, and she would say no. Its not that she wasn’t attracted to James, its just that she heard how James was quite the ladies man and would fuck around, she should have listened to those rumor’s but he promised her he wasn’t like that anymore, that she changed him for the better. “Bullshit”, she thought to herself.

Her cell phones goes off, its her friend Rose. Eliza answers;

“Hey girl, what’s up”?

“Oh not much, just finished that bio assignment, total bore. You free tonight? Tommy is having a party and I wanna get drunk?” Rose replies.

“Ou you always come through don’t you Rosie, that is exactly the distraction I need today. I can steal a bottle of vodka from my parents cabinet too, they are away this week”

“Shit that’s perfect! My mom can pick you up too, just remember to hide the liquor better than you did last time” , Rose said.

“I totally thought I could pull off that pregnant look with the bottle in my sweater , don’t be a bitch”, Eliza chuckles.

“Whatever weirdo, ill text you when I’m coming”, Rose hangs up.

Eliza couldn’t give a shit about Tommy’s party but it was something to do, it really beat staying home alone. Eliza looks out at the window as the sun is beginning to set, wondering where her night will take her. She notices something peculiar though, Patrick still outside in her yard, on his knees pruning some rose bushes. This was unusual because Patrick would never usually stay this late. She heads downstairs and out back to question the man.

“Hey Patrick, everything okay? Usually your done by now?”, she inquried.

“Oh hello there Ms. Eliza, would you look at that, I have overstayed my welcome. I was just too focused on the garden I suppose”, the old man said.

“That’s okay, just scared me a bit, didn’t expect to see you out here so late”.

He chuckles to himself, “I used to spend many evenings out here in this garden Ms. Eliza, I’m not sure if your parents told you but I actually used to live here.” He gestures to the house.

“Really? I don’t think they ever did, but it explains why you take so much pride in this garden” , she said.

“Yes but after my wife…passed. That big house felt awfully lonely. I had to move, too many memories but I couldn’t leave this garden unattended, its important to maintain this garden” , he said sadly.

“Your wife Patrick… do you still think about her a lot?”.

“Every day. But when I’m out here working, its like I’m with her. You know, its kind of strange to say out loud, but you sort of remind me of her”

She nervously blushes.

“Sorry Ms. Eliza, I must be going, I hope you enjoy your evening. I will be here in the morning”, Patrick nervously lets out.

“Goodnight Patrick, get home safe”, She replies.

The older man gets up, he smiles softly at Eliza and exits out of the backyard gate. What a strange interaction she thought to herself; that was the most the two have ever spoken to one another. She wondered why her parents never told her that Patrick and his wife lived there before, did they think she would find that creepy? She shrugged it off and instead focused on getting ready for the party.

The night passes, Eliza returns home drunk. Rosie and a mutual friend Mike help her to the door.

“You guys are my best friends, I love you all” Eliza stutters out.

“Yeah yeah now lets just focus on you not choking on your vomit tonight” , Mike jokingly said.

Eliza passes her keys to Rosie and they enter the dark house. What was once a familiar warm home, was now cold, silent. The grandfather clock near the entrance is the only sound to be heard; tick, tock, tick. Rosie begins to head upstairs with Eliza.

“I’m gonna go outside for a smoke” Mike said. “you two don’t have too much fun without me now”

“Oh shut up just hurry up okay, this place is creepy at night”, Rosie said.

Mike heads through the old house, his footsteps creaking with every step. He passes through the kitchen and enters the backyard. He lights his cigarette and stares out at the massive backyard, the night is still and quiet, the beautifully trimmed blades of grass flicker in the moonlight; he flicks his cigarette butt . He looks around again and walks towards the rose bush, he unzips his pant and begins to urinate on the rose bush. Suddenly from behind, a shovel slices through Mikes neck, severing his head.

“Don’t piss on my fucking lawn”, the voice said.

Mikes head rolls into the garden, blood spurting out from his neck. The night is still. The mans eyes dart around and then stare up at the light in the bedroom window.

Elsewhere, up in Eliza’s bedroom Rosie puts Eliza into her bed.

“I miss him Rosie, I miss James” , Eliza said.

“I know Eliza, but you’re drunk and you’re hot, get some sleep”

“Can you…can you stay over”? Eliza asked.

“Of course, now let me go down and get you some water, I gotta check where Mike is anyways” Rosie said.

Eliza closes her eyes and begins to drift off to sleep. Rosie looks at her, smiles and leaves the room. She makes her way down the long winding stairs, she hears the sliding door close shut. She stops in her tracks, fear overcomes her but remembers that Mike was out back, she’s filled with relief and begins to walk downstairs again. She makes her way to the kitchen and in horror, screams. Mikes severed bloodied head is sitting on the kitchen with a rose in his mouth. From behind her a dirt filled hand closes her mouth and shoves dirt down it, Rosie is choking and is struggling to get away. She kicks the man behind her in frenzy, she is freed from his grasp but is still coughing up the dirt. The man grabs her by the legs and pulls her towards him, he pulls out a three-prong cultivator and stabs it into her back, she tries to scream but her mouth is still full of dirt, she coughs some out and begins to cry. He stabs again, and again, slashing her back with the cultivator. She bleeds profusely, he turns her body around and stabs her right in the forehead, blood squirts all over the man. She twitches and eventually her life leaves her body. The man gets up and begins to drag the lifeless girls’ body out to the backyard.

Eliza slowly begins to open her earthly green eyes; what a night she thought to herself.

“Rosie, where did you put the water?” Eliza said.

Eliza gets up from bed and to her surprise Rosie is not there.

“Rosie? Mike? anyone there?”. Eliza begins searching around her house. She passes by a mirror and notices dirt on her cheek.

“Wow I must have been really drunk last night”, Eliza thinks to herself. She wipes away the dirt and goes to the kitchen. She looks out the window and Patrick is outside tending the the garden, He looks up and waves to her, she waves back.

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