The sun hid behind a slew of gray clouds that moved quickly across the sky. Danica furrowed her brow as she stopped to stare at the haze above. The rain will be here by noon. She thought to herself.
Danica picked up the rusted bucket that held her gardening tools, carrying it to the garden beyond the ivy covered gable. She kneeled down next to the brambling bush that crept over the rich earth.
“My, my, you are growing beautifully, my darling!” Danica exclaimed as she gently examined the ripe berries hanging amongst the lush leaves. She put on her gloves and gently began to pluck the biggest fruits from the spindly branches. She placed the berries on the skirt of her apron and stood with a groan, her knees cracking from years of kneeling in her beloved garden.
She haphazardly plopped the fruit on the wooden table near the entrance of the garden, taking inventory of the berries as she rubbed her gloves over their smooth surface. She smiled and walked back to the bush.
Danica pulled a pair of small shears from the rusty bucket and began trimming back the branches, grooming the bush with precision and grace. She ruffled the dirt and opened a satchel that sat at the bottom of the rusted bin. With a careful hand she pulled out a palm of crystal granules, sprinkling them over the roots of the bush.
With a quick clap she crawled on her hands and knees to the next plant, sighing as she looked at the partially closed white bell petals. The carefully leaned towards the bush, hoping to catch a mere whisper of aroma from the flower. She smiled and began to carefully prune the branches, clipping several flowers as she moved through the leaves. She continued her ritual of standing to place flowers and fruit next to the berries on the old wooden table top near the gable.
As she stood, she surveyed the plot of land that glowed green from the lush plants that sat in perfectly tilled rows.
Danica looked back to the sky, the darkness of rain inched closer. She listened to the sounds of the forest that surrounded her house, hearing the hissing of cicadas and chirp of songbirds crooning from the treetops. A hum of thunder resounded in the distance. She threw her hands on her hips and walked back towards the bushes. “Well, you babies are going to get quite a drink of water today.” She mumbled to the leafy branches that danced in the warm breeze.
She took a step back and smiled once more, pulling off her gloves and tossing them into the bucket. She picked up the screechy handle and hauled her tools back to the patio of her house. She ducked beneath the wind chimes and through the flowing, sheer curtain that hung along the length of the space. Placing the bucket under a bench, she hurried back out to the gable with a small basket to gather the fruits of her labor.
Danica slid the berries off the table with a slow brush of her hand. She picked up each fluted flower and placed them atop the tiny fruits carefully.
A roll of thunder growled closer. The wind picked up and rushed over her, punctuating its presence with a sharp chill.
She hurried towards her house and past the sheer curtains into the shelter of her quaint patio. Danica sat down on a work stool and began pulling flowers from the woven confines of the basket. She hummed softly to herself as she pulled on a pair of plastic gloves.
My, my, you are growing beautifully, my darling… her thoughts trailed as she used a spyglass to examine the petals and seeds of the pristine, white flutes. She pulled the flower apart, piece-by-piece with a pair of shiny metal tweezers. She placed the pieces in a small bottle and corked the top.
Danica rolled the plate glass bottle over her small fingers, admiring the pieces of the soft features of the flower.
“Hello?” A small voice whimpered as a petite woman peeked in from the edge of the curtain.
Danica looked up. “Can I help you?” Danica asked suspiciously, eyeing the stranger curiously.
“Um, well, yes. I— well—“ the woman sighed. Her hazel eyes darting around nervously. “I’m sorry, let me start with a proper ‘hello’.” She laughed nervously and waved.
Danica smiled. “You can come in of course. I won’t bite.” She climbed down from the stool and winced from the stiffness in her old joints.
“You must be Danica I take it?” The woman whispered as she stepped through the soft curtains and into the space.
“And you must be Eve.” Danica flashed a smile and reached out for a hand shake, gingerly taking Eve’s hand and pulling her further into the space.
“Yes. I’m sorry for intruding like this— I knocked at the front but no one answered…” she trailed as she examined the aged features of Danica’s kind face.
“Oh, that’s quite alright, my darling.” She patted Eve’s hand and beckoned for her to sit at the small café table.
She sat down and clutched her purse close to her nervously.
Danica examined her demeanor and smiled sympathetically. “There’s no need to be nervous, my darling. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Thank you— I mean, I’m sorry. I’m just… I’ve never done this before.” Eve shook her head slowly and frowned.
“It’s okay.” Danica smiled and crossed her arms on the table, leaning casually against the edge. “Now, I suppose you have something for me?”
Eve immediately fumbled and shakily opened her purse, pulling out thick wad of cash. “Yes, of course, this should cover it.” She stammered as her shaky hand held out the money.
Danica pushed her hand down onto the table. “No, I mean…” she trailed and gave Eve a knowing glance.
Eve’s eyes widened. “Oh! Right! Um.” She sighed and reached back into her purse, rifling through the depths of the bag quickly before coming to a halt. She slowly pulled out a crinkled white envelope and passed it across the table.
Danica smiled. “Ah, there it is.” she picked up the envelope and opened it, pulling out a polaroid photo and torn piece of cloth. She glanced over the photo and then lifted her gray eyes to meet Eve’s. “What did he do?” She purred as she flipped the photo over her wizened fingers.
“I— I’d rather not go into detail.” Eve hung her head in shame.
“It’s okay, my darling. You don’t have to go into detail, you just need to answer one question for me: what does he deserve?” Danica’s eyes began to dilate and grow dark.
Eve sniffled, her face furrowed. A stern look peered out from her teary eyes. “He deserves the best of the worst.” She said, nearly hypnotized by Danica’s darkening features.
Danica stood and walked to the workbench. She picked up the small bottle with the pure white flower inside. She rubbed it between her palms and turned back around slowly.
“The scent of this flower will give him just that. All he needs to do is breathe in its essence.” She whispered as she handed the bottle to Eve. “She’ll take you too if you’re not careful with her. Datura is very dangerous”
“I’ll be careful… is there anything else I should know?” Eve asked as she gazed at the flower.
Danica smiled and pulled over a porcelain dish from the center of the table. She shook it carefully, the soft sound of crystal granules dancing over the ceramic. She held the photo in her hand and stared at it.
Eve gasped as a spark broke the corner of the photo, erupting into a flame. Danica casually tossed it atop the crystals in the dish and let it burn to ash.
A crack of thunder made Eve jump in her skin. Her heart began to race. “Well, I should get going.” She said quickly and stood up.
Danica took her by the hand, tucking the cash back into Eve’s hand. “Don’t forget this.”
Eve looked at her curiously. “But, I thought— I mean— I was told there was a cost.”
“There is, my darling.” Danica replied, looking back to the smoldering dish. “You’ve already paid it.”
Eve followed her gaze and looked at Danica in confusion. “I don’t understand.” She whispered.
Danica patted her hand and crossed the room to pick up the dish. She stirred the ash with her hand, the smolders turning into dry, crumbling pieces. “My garden grows with the help of a very special ingredient.” She smiled as she poured the crystals into the satchel in her gardening bin. Danica cackled “They don’t rumor this to be a revenge garden for no reason.”