New Year Update

January 2012 update: Welcome to a new year and some new posts! I hope to reward my readers with regular updates now that the holidays are over. Keep reading and enjoy! Please leave a comment or two, if you feel inspired ;o)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 8

     The two girls decided to take Maia's truck, opting for the ease of loading the sapling into the bed of a pickup as opposed to cramming it into the back of Emmy's two door hatchback. Once loaded, Emmy ran back upstairs to grab her purse and keys, and, with a quick pat on the head to Othello, she was out the door. Emmy's mom and step-dad lived about an hour and thirty minute's drive away. They had a big and fairly isolated place where the nearest neighbor could barely be seen from the house. The girls drove out of the city and on through the suburbs which gave way to a small bout of farms and fields before meandering up through a green forested mountain range and then down the other side. As the highway continued on, the countryside turned into soft green hills with small homesteads and meadows dotting the landscape. It was early evening by the time the girls drove up on Emmy's parents property.
     As they opened the doors to the truck the chill evening air of the cooler countryside hit them and they both cursed the fact that they hadn't thought ahead to wear warmer clothes. Just then Diana, Emmy's mother, opened the front door with two warm fleece jackets in hand and met them at the steps to the front porch. "Thought you to might be needing these." As she smiled down at the two of them starting to shiver.
     "I don't think I'll ever learn that it's always at least 10 degrees cooler out here then it is in the city." Emmy said as she took one of the fleeces from her mother.
     Maia took the other fleece on offer. "Thanks Di. You always know we'll be unprepared." She said with a smile.
     "A mother knows." She winked at them. "Come inside and we'll get you something hot to drink. Are you sure you girls don't want to stay the night and plant your tree tomorrow? You'll be losing the light soon."
     The two girls exchanged a quick glance which did not go unnoticed by Emmy's mother, but she decided not to ask. Maia started, "We'd love to, but -- "
     "We can't!" Emmy sqeaked. "I mean, I can't. I have that hair appointment, you know. I'd hate to cancel last minute. It's so rude." Emmy was terrified of the tree growing more again over night. She just wanted it in the ground as soon as possible. She would worry less about it's impossible growth spurts once it was safely planted in the solid earth.
     "Well, you certainly have time for something to warm you up before you start digging my yard up in the cold. I've already picked out a spot for you, and started softening the earth with a little water." And with that Emmy's mother headed inside leaving the door open for them to follow.
     The three women passed through the foyer with its main staircase, headed down the hallway that skirted between the family room and dining room on one side, and the den slash library and Diana's art room on the other, and landed in the kitchen, kept warm by a wood stove, and emitting the comforting smell of fresh baked bread and the scent of a home cooked diner wafting out of the oven. Diana put the kettle on for tea and brought a tin of biscuits down from the cupboard.
      Diana placed the tin on the kitchen table as the girls sat down. "So, who gave you this tree for a gift, then Emmy?"
     Emmy took a biscut from the tin. "Oh, I don't really know. There was no card. Someone just left it by my desk at work. The card probably got lost during the delivery."
     "How did the delivery guy know that he had the right person, then?"
     "I don't know. Maybe he didn't. It was already at my desk when I got back from lunch. I never saw the delivery person."
     "What an odd gift to give someone. Sounds like a mystery to me. 'The mystery of the gifted willow'." Her mother smiled at her, grabbed the whistling kettle from the stove top, and started pouring the tea.
     Trying to shift the conversation from the "mystery" willow, Maia piped up. "What is it that smells so delicious in the oven, Di?"
     "I know what it is." Emmy said. "I'd know that smell anywhere. She's got a lamb roasting in there with some rosemary and potatoes . Ah, the good old dinners from my childhood."
     "She's right." Diana replied. "Lamb, potatoes, and carrots. There's also créme brulée for desert. Sure you don't want to stay for dinner, at least?"
     Maia and Emmy exchanged looks. Since in the end it was Emmy's call, she replied, "Well, maybe we can stay for dinner. But we should really get out there and get this tree planted before we eat."
     "OK. Follow me, I'll show you the spot I've picked out."
     Diana led the way out the kitchen door, through the sun porch and into the backyard. If Emmy's friends thought that her roof garden was amazing then they should have seen her mother's back yard. It was the perfect blend of wild and tame, trees and flowers, edibles and ornamentals. There was a natural brook that ran through the back of the property with a little foot bridge leading to a small orchard and apiary. Emmy's mother took them over to one side of the yard where a garden swing sat not far from the brook. "I figured this would be a good spot here, next to the water, since willow trees are drawn to it naturally."
     "Looks perfect!" said Maia.
     "Yeah, this is a great spot mom." Both girls grabbed the shovels Emmy's mother had left nearby and started digging while her mother headed back into the warm house.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 7

     With a need to be discrete and the desire to talk in a secluded place, away from open ears, Maia and Emmy decided on take out, to be eaten at Emmy's while she let her story unfold. She made some tea to have with lunch and started the story with the mystery box appearing on her desk as if by magic. She told her friend of her humiliation in front of the other girls in the office, and how she almost felt relieved when at last they noticed a seed. At least there had been something in the box. She explained the music she seemed to associate with the seed, but that no one else seemed able to hear. Finally, after asking Maia to, "please, stay open minded. And don't think I'm crazy..." Emmy told her that she planted the seed last night in a bucket outside. She didn't see the need to tell her that it was originally toppled by her cat and then scooped into a bucket with the dirt she meant to save. Next was the tricky part. The place of no return. Emmy asked Maia to follow her outside to the roof garden.
     Emmy held her breath as she pushed the french doors open and led the way outside. She turned around and pointed at her little willow. At first Maia started laughing, but when she saw the somber look on her friend's face her laughter died away. "Really? This isn't some sort of joke to get me back for the other week when I put a quad shot in your coffee?" When Emmy just kept looking at her with that serious look and slowly shook her head, she knew her friend was not joking.
     "I'm not crazy. I mean, I don't think I am. This really was just a bucket of dirt last night. I don't know what's happening, but that's why I invited you over. Maybe we can figure it out together. Not only that, but I can't have a freaking willow tree growing on the roof! I need you to brainstorm with me on a relocation plan." Emmy briefly touched the leaves and the music came to her again. When Maia absentmindedly touched the leaves too Emmy thought she might hear the music as well, but there was no indication that such intoxicating music had wafted Maia's way.
     "Too bad you can't leave this thing up here. It would be a beautiful addition to your garden." Mused Maia.
     "Yeah. I'm sure the neighbors downstairs would appreciate the root system growing through their ceiling, too." Emmy quipped back. "I was considering transplanting this thing in the park around the corner, but I'm not sure how much trouble I could get into if I got caught planting a tree in a public park."
     "Have you ever just considered cutting it up and throwing it in the compost?"
     "Are you kidding, Maia? Haven't you ever seen 'Fantasia'? I don't want 50 more willows growing out of my compost bin!"
     Maia laughed at that. "Well, you don't know that that would happen, but I get your point. What about your parents' back yard? Your mom doesn't live that far away. You could easily drive out there to visit the willow and see what happens."
     "I'm not sure I want my parents involved in this. I mean, how will I explain a willow that grows five years over night? It's not like my mom's not gonna notice a full grown tree in her back yard."
     "Yeah, well, you won't have to worry about public park officials, and you'll have the tree pretty much all to yourself. Unless you wanna leave it up here and take your chances?"
     "No. No, you're right. Mom's house probably is the best place. I'll give her a call and see if she wants a willow tree for the backyard. Will you come with me and help me transplant it?"
     "Of course I will. Any excuse to get out of this city for a few hours. Plus, I love your parents house. You get your green thumb from your mom, you know."
     "I don't know about that, but thanks."
     Maia followed Emmy back inside while Emmy called her mom. Emmy told her mom that someone had given her a willow sapling as a present for her garden, not really thinking about the fact that Emmy's garden was on a roof, and Emmy wanted to know if her mother would be interested in it for her backyard. Her mom agreed, saying she'd always wanted a willow tree on the property, and that she would be home all weekend. Emmy insisted on driving up this afternoon, as she had a hair appointment the next day, and hung up the phone. She turned to Maia, "It's all set. Lets pack up that tree and head on out to my parents."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 6

     Jogging along the tree lined streets of her neighborhood, Emmy couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched again. She turned to look behind her, but saw no one there. She concentrated her thoughts on the morning. The cold crisp air filling her lungs. The puff of breath that escaped as she exhaled. The sun, not up long enough yet to be warm, but beautiful none the less shining through the branches overhead, and glinting off the morning dew on flowers in window boxes. She thought about the weekend ahead. A trip to the hair dresser tomorrow. Lunch with her bestie this afternoon... Grocery shopping for the coming week's supplies... Laundry... Dishes...
     It was getting harder to keep her mind from wondering back to that damned tree. What was she going to do with it? Apart from the fact that her roof was hardly capable of supporting a fully grown tree at the best of times, this thing was growing far faster than she ever imagined possible. What if she got back from her morning run to find it aged another five years? Or ten? Would she even have a garden left to come home to? If it hadn't caved in with all the weight. Or an apartment for that matter? Seeing as a bucket wasn't going to hold a fully grown tree and with her luck it would fall right over on top of her living room. All this worry was making Emmy want to head right back home without finishing her routine jog.
     This was silly. There couldn't be a five year old tree in that bucket of dirt. It must have been her imagination. A dream! It had to have been a dream, and it just seemed so real. After all, she had had that dream where she was standing in that beautiful garden next to her crush. It had seemed pretty real at the time. This was just part of that dream...
     She finished her run much more relaxed then when she had started, and certain that when she got back up to her apartment, she would find that this whole mess had been all in her head. She ran up the three flights of stairs to her flat and in her enthusiasm to prove herself wrong, skipped her cooldown stretches and hurried outside.
     Well, she was officially insane. Though, it hadn't grown any more then the last time she had seen it, the young willow tree was still there, and still very obviously an established young tree. OK. What do I do with this thing? I can't leave it in the bucket, it'll bust through and fall over if the roots get any bigger. Maybe I should call Maia and ask her to come over. I can't do that. She'll think I'm crazy. I don't know if I can handle this all on my own, though.
     After a bit more internal arguing, Emmy decided the tree would have to be removed to a safer location. She had also decided that she would call her best friend Maia. She wasn't sure that she wanted to tell her everything, but she knew she wanted to see what other surprises this seed had in store for her and she needed to bounce ideas off someone for the ideal place to transplant it. Not to mention, she did want to tell Maia about the nearly empty box. She was looking forward to dissecting the issue and making a list of possible senders. That was settled. She would call Maia and solidify their plans for lunch this afternoon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 5

     Morning came without any more nighttime capers from the cat. Emmy got up, to disgruntled murmurs from a still sleeping Othello, put the kettle on for her morning tea and threw on some sweats for her morning run. Kettle boiled and running shoes laced, Emmy poured herself a cup of tea and headed outside to the roof garden to enjoy the clear crisp morning.
     Contrary to Emmy thinking she was poor at tending to her plants, she had a lush roof garden. An oasis that many of her friends were sometimes jealous of since living in an apartment in the city usually didn't provide one with any sort of garden small, big, or otherwise. And since most of Emmy's friends lived in apartments of their own, with nothing more than a three by six balcony to stand on, she found herself entertaining company often. Pushing her way through the french doors she made her way across the brick laid patio, around the fire pit, past the potted fuchsias and petunias, stopping to watch the birds drinking from the splashing fountain,  and finally over to the bench swing shaded by the clematis vine-ing it's way over its arbor. Cupping herself around the warmth of her tea and against the crisp chill of the early morning she sat down and when she looked up she nearly dropped her steaming teacup in her lap.
     Next to the gray stone wall of her apartment, to the side of the french doors, where she kept her garden soil and empty pots was the bucket of dirt she had brought outside during the night. Only it wasn't a bucket of soil anymore. Growing from the bucket was a sapling willow tree. It looked as if it was at least 5 years old already. But how could that be? She'd only put that seed in the soil the night before. After getting knocked over by Othello last night she wasn't even sure it had made it into the bucket with the dirt. Aside from that, a seed doesn't grow over night into a fifteen foot tree!
     Emmy set her tea down on the nearby table sitting in between two cushioned patio chairs and crossed back over the the bucket on the other side of the roof. She slowly put her hand out and touched the tips of her fingers to the bark of the tree. As her fingers brushed along the tree and whispered through its delicate branches, the music that had called to her yesterday whispered back. She pulled her hand away and immediately the music ceased. This was crazy. She was surely going insane. This tree couldn't be real. That music, clearly couldn't be real. Yet as she reached her hand towards the tree once again, her fingers felt something solid under them. Emmy was at a loss for what to do.
     Just then Othello came out of the french doors and began winding his way around her ankles. Well, the cat certainly didn't seem perturbed by the sudden appearance of a new tree on the roof. Othello went over to the bucket the willow was growing from and rubbed up against it as if to convey his approval of its unexpected existence. Once he had had enough attention, he made his way over to the fountain and fixed his large green eyes on the morning finches coming and going.
     Emmy didn't know what to do. She wanted to know if she was going crazy. She didn't feel as if she were, but then that was the first sign, wasn't it? What she did know was that she was beginning to freak out a little and she needed to clear her head. So, weighing all her other options, she decided to head out for her morning jog...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 4

     She was standing in a beautiful garden. The grass was lush and green under her bare feet and the sun was shining its warmth down onto her bare arms and face. There were hidden birds twittering off in the trees and a baby rabbit hopped out of the underbrush only to see her and turn around to hop back into hiding. Deer were munching on the sweet grass at the other end of the garden. Emmy was standing next to a huge weeping willow with its long branches sweeping the ground in the breeze. The was a stone wall nearby with an iron gate in it that let out onto a country lane. The same haunting, ethereal music she had been hearing off and on all day was playing somewhere down the lane. She was suddenly aware of the beautiful antique carriage parked by the gate with its huge draft horses snorting in the sunshine. A man came up behind her and took her hand to lead her to the carriage. She looked up and right into the green eyes of the man from her office building.
     "What are we doing here? I don't remember coming here. It must have been a long drive from the city. Why don't I remember?" She asked.
     "Why, I'm about to take you on our first 'official' date." The man replied with a smile that made her heart flutter. "I don't know what city you're talking about, but you've been here ever since my family moved here over a year ago. Is everything ok? Should we postpone our plans? If you're not feeling well..." He didn't finish his sentence.
     "No. No, that's okay!" She wasn't going to pass up this opportunity no matter how strange it seemed. There was no way he was ever going to talk to her back at the office. Just then Emmy thought of something. "Hey, I don't even know your name?"
     The man laughed at her. Not a mean laugh, but more like one of camaraderie. "Now I know you must be joking! Or you've hit your head? How long have we known each other Emmy?"
     She gave a nervous giggle. "Oh. Right. You know me. Always kidding" How awkward. She was just going to have to hope that they would run into someone at some point in the date and that his name came up in conversation, before she would need to use it herself. Just then, as luck would have it a woman came riding up on horseback. As she came closer, Emmy thought it looked like Teresa. What was she doing here?
     "Hi Emmy!" It was Teresa. And then she turned her head to look at the man. "Hi..."

     She heard Othello hiss at something in the kitchen and then the sound of something like pottery breaking. A second later the cat streaked across the bed and up onto the top shelf of her bookshelf. "What the hell, Othello!? You better not have broken anything important, or I swear to God..." She got up, wrapped her robe around her and started winding her way through the apartment looking for the source of the noise. When she came to the kitchen she saw the pot missing from the window before she saw the pile of dirt and earthenware on the other side of the counter on the floor. "That damned cat." Gathering up the broom and dustpan, she pulled the kitchen trash over to the pile and began sweeping it up. So much for planting my seed. Oh well. I haven't much of a green thumb anyway. But instead of dumping the dirt into the trash can she picked out all the broken pieces of the pot and then got a bucket to throw the soil into. No point wasting perfectly good potting soil. She put the bucket back outside with the rest of the empty pots and unused soil for the roof garden and went back to bed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 3

     The horrendous work day was finally over. Emmy packed up her things to leave and caught a glimpse of the box she'd shoved to the side on her desk. She quickly shot out her arm, snatched the box up, and shoved it in her purse. She had no idea why she wasn't just throwing the thing away, but she felt this curiosity that couldn't be ignored.
     On her way down in the lift, her crush joined her from the fifth floor. She was so busy staring at her own hands, she nearly missed it when he smiled at her. She looked up to see what floor they were coming to and caught him smiling at her in the reflection off the elevator doors. Suddenly she wanted to rail at him. Wanted to shout "It was you! Wasn't it? Why? What's the joke? 'Cause I don't get it!" But she kept her mouth shut. What if it wasn't him? Why would it be him? She may have been harboring a crush for him ever since he started working in this building a year and a half ago, but he had never even glanced her way, favorably or not. Until now. If it wasn't him playing a nasty joke on her, though, it was someone else, and then she would be mortified over the prank, embarrassed for yelling at him, and horrified that he would then know she'd been made a fool.
     All this over a little box filled with nothing. Correction: Filled with a seed. Well there was only one thing to do. Emmy was going to go home and plant this seed and see what grew from it. Maybe in a few months it would grow into a beautiful flower, then not all would be lost and she could then bring it back into work and rub it in the prankster's face that the joke had backfired!
     Emmy's gaze had drifted to her purse as she thought of the seed inside of it, and when she looked up again the doors were open and the man with the green eyes was nowhere to be seen. She stepped out of the elevator and made her way out of her building and down the street to her bus stop. As she walked along the road she couldn't help thinking about how shiny her seed was. Even when she had thought it was sand it was abnormally brilliant. She'd seen sunlight glint off a sandy beach before, but this was the most lustrous piece of sand she'd ever seen. It had blazed and glittered in her hand. Now that she realized this was a seed it was even more fascinating. Emmy was no master gardener, but she was fairly certain seeds were not supposed to glitter. The more she thought about it, the more excited she became over the prospect of what sort of plant it was. She couldn't wait to get home and put it straight into a flower pot!
     When she first stepped on the bus it had been packed with people. Fairly typical for this time in the evening. A couple blocks away from her stop Emmy started to feel like she was being watched. She tried to surreptitiously look around, but there were only four other people left on the bus and they all seemed preoccupied with something. One was sleeping, greasy head lolling against the grimy window. Another was immersed in what seemed to be a good book, if the smile on his face and occasional chuckle that escaped his lips were anything to go by. An old lady was in the middle of knitting something warm. The fourth, a child, was lost in daydreams staring out of the window into the early night. That left only the bus driver, and obviously she was keeping her attention on the road. So, Emmy dismissed her uneasiness as a symptom of an odd, if not disappointing, day.
     The bus reached Emmy's stop. She got off, walked the rest of the way home, climbed the steps to her third floor apartment, and, setting her purse with the seed in it aside, put the kettle on for some tea while she cooked dinner. A cat started winding his way around her ankles asking for his food, while she stood at the stove. "Hey Othello. You want dinner?" She fed the cat and then fed herself before finally turning her attention back to the box with her shining seed. Emmy took the box from her purse and went out to the roof garden to collect an empty pot and some soil. Again, when she opened the box and removed the seed, she heard the ethereal music that seemed to haunt her all day today. She knew it must be her imagination, but she still found it strange that her mind had chosen to associate this music with a seed in a box. Shrugging it off as having a song stuck in her head, though not quite able to tune it out, she brought the pot in and set it in the south facing garden window in the kitchen, headed for the bath, and finally off to bed where Othello curled up next to her as she fell asleep...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 2

     Two hours later, when Emmy had exhausted her excuses to avoid opening the box in front of her co-workers, which had the side effect of making her look like an extremely efficient employee, more so  than she already was, and with an audience three times the size it would have been had she opened the gift when Lisa had first approached her desk, Emmy finally succumbed to her work mates cajoling. Lisa, Terri, and Sam waited with bated breath as Emmy slowly lifted the lid from the box. As the lid raised, she realized she could once again hear that faint, haunting music from earlier that day. "Which office is playing that music? It's beautiful, but a bit loud if we can hear it all the way in here."
     "Music? I don't hear anything." said Lisa, and the other women nodded their heads in agreement.
     "Well, I don't know what Sam's excuse is, but maybe you and Teresa need to invest in some hearing aids. You are older, after all."
     "Ha. Ha. Very funny little whipper snapper." Teresa, the oldest of the four, replied.
     At that moment all four women looked down into the now opened box. Silence, during which Emmy could still hear her haunting melody, followed by a gasp of disappointment from Teresa and laughter from Lisa and Sam as they stared at the object lying in the bottom of box.
     Emmy's worst thoughts had come true. There was nothing in the box. And she had opened it up in front of the girls for them to see that. She felt a tear escape.
     "What is that supposed to be?" asked Sam
     "There's nothing in there!" cried Lisa. "All this built up anticipation and there's nothing in there!"
     "I'm sorry, dear." Teresa soothed. In an attempt to make Emmy feel better, "Maybe what ever it was fell out of the box before it got to you."
     Something caught Lisa's eye and she picked it up. "Some joke. Here's a piece of sand! If it hadn't caught the light just now, I wouldn't have even seen it. You'd think who ever thought up this stupid prank could come up with something better than a piece of sand." She placed it back in the box and shut the lid. Immediately the music, which had been wafting its way to Emmy so softly in the background, ceased.
     Emmy was a little curious now. "Seriously?" her voice cracked. "You guys didn't hear that music? It stopped when you put the lid back on the box."
     Sam just looked at her with that pity Emmy had been expecting to see all along. Lisa and Teresa shook their heads. All three women walked away, and went back to their desks.
     Emmy picked up the box and lifted the lid a crack. Instantly her head was filled with the eerie refrain. She opened the lid the rest of the way and picked the piece of sand up, then shut the lid again. The music continued. She curiously looked at the piece of sand, rolled it over in her fingers, lifted it closer to her face, and realized it wasn't a piece of sand at all, but a seed. Well, that's just silly. Sand or seed, it's not a damn music box! She put the seed back in the box, closed the lid, and shoved it aside to get more work done. Once again the music stopped...