“Darling?” The voice echoed loudly, and I felt my eyes roll hard in their sockets. The velvety sound had shifted through the weeds and found its way to my ear. I stood on tiptoe and tilt my chin to the sky before calling back.
“Yes?” A hand that has nails that are painted the color of electric blue raises from over the shrubs, bushes, and twigs before giving a quick wave. The conversation erupts from there and flows like a stream, we cradle it like a baby, we laugh like drunks, we croon like birds. Its’ always like this and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t change a thing. What a character she is.
“Did you hear?”
“About....” I prompt her with a flick of my head. I can almost hear a grin spreads across her face.
“Oh my! Well.” She put the effort into seeming gravely worried as she tucks her wheat-colored hair behind her ear. I pull at my hair and subconsciously began to twist it into a knot that rests upon my neck. Honestly, she acts as though she is an old lady with the most exciting news in the world. Sadly, she is my only source... “They came back.”
I blinked slowly. “Who?”
“The wolves. They are back.”
These were the words that the “kingdom” had feared to hear and refused to accept for the past hundreds of years. I recall so many years of Mama telling me not to enter the woods and to stay away. Always away. Hearing these words again, even now when I am just a month shy of being a woman, able to make my own decisions, brings back anger. The anger bubbles deep inside of me, boiling flames that lick at my broken heart. Thank god, for this shrubbery that blocks my frowning face, mimicking the same protection as a wall would. I swallow hard and give my conservationist the answer she is waiting for.
“That’s awful. Thanks for telling me.” The silence billows over both of us like a cold blanket and I pick up my watering can, dripping the glistening drops onto the grateful flowers. I hear her give a soft grunt through the bush before throwing down her best attempt to keep the conversation going.
“It IS awful. What do you think the king will do?” I shrugged in response.
“Maybe he will go all cliché on us and send a bunch of those newbs.”
There was a shocked silence after my reply had flown from my lips. “Newbs?” “Yeah, all those people who want to become famous heros...” I trailed off. It must feel nice to be a hero, to be loved.
“Huh. Interesting.” I heard the garden pliers snip four times in a row and I imagined the dead branches falling to the cushioned ground. “
Have you been feeling alright, Dear?”
As depressed as I always feel
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just...really upset about the news. Someone I loved used to talk about that crap.” My frown must have been as brittle as coral at that point.
“I would love to have you over for tea sometime.” Her voice cut through the shrubs bringing me back to reality. I let out a suppressed chuckle before I could stop myself.
“What kind of tea do YOU drink?” The pleasant commentary would ease me to sleep later, as conversations flow like melodious songs to me. It's not just hearing the words; it is me BEING the words.
“Oh dear, I am SO glad you asked. Listen, Shweetie, I am harvesting some jasmine right now and it smells just DIVINE.” She shoved her fist through the roughly formed shrub, breaking my imaginary barrier, and revealed many jasmine leaves resting gin her palm. I wished I could smell them, I wished that with all my heart, but the technology wasn’t that good yet...
“Aren't they lovely?” My partner asked me and her voice dripped with enthusiasm. I nodded and went back to tending to the flower bed.
“I can’t hear you nod; you know.”
We both giggled and I kindly told her, that they were “lovely”.
"How much do you know about the wolves?” My voice shook unevenly, like a horse with no reigns.
“Well, I do know that they have no mercy...they would probably gobble up just about anything.” She gave a brief pause. “AND they are just awful for the farmer's crops and livestock.” I shivered and rocked on my heels. What a strange time this must have been to live in. No wonder Mama brought it up all the time in her history “lessons”. At the thought of her, my eyes shine like diamonds with tears. I want to be free like everything and anyone would. If mama was here, if anyone was here, they would want me to excuse myself as politely as possible from this stretching conversation. It is for this reason that I attempt to cut off the conversation smoothly which has never been a skill of mine.
“This has been...very informative...and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.” The last note had raised a pitch, with a hint of hope hidden in the folds of the sentence.
"I await the conversation with you tomorrow! I'll have some news for you by then because-" I tune out, like an aggressive, stubborn schoolgirl I used to be. I don't want to leave, not yet, but then again, when have I ever? Tuning out just makes it easier to leave.
I shield my eyes as I glance at the mutated skyline. I really wish it wasn’t so obvious and that there was someone around to fix it... I shake my head and suck my teeth. I just don’t care anymore and the session is almost done anyway, so I just sit there while the converser joyfully babbles on, as a young sprig in a stream. A robotic ring echos in my ear and I stand up to stretch while smirking over the shrub. I reach to my face and gently pull forward, bracing myself. The goggles come off, taking the whole world, my world, and its scenery with it. No watering-can rests in my grip and the shrubs don’t exist. I sigh and carefully grip the VR set, running my hands through my matted hair. The world around me is broken, cruel, and dead. I sit in an ash-filled shack, alone, and helpless. A blanket of self-pity chokes me tightly and I automatically want more. More nature, more people, more history, more earth. But I’ve already had my spoonful of gossip for today.