Blossoming

A/N: This was something I wrote for my Advanced Creative Writing class last winter. It was never work-shopped, so any critique would be appreciated. I have only altered one word since I turned it in Dec. 2007. Anyway, please enjoy.

None of Your Beeswax

By Widow Shark

Harold Macy stood up gingerly, his joints aching from a combination of arthritis and kneeling for most of the early summer afternoon. But there was not a weed to be seen in his gardens. Not that there were many weeds anyway. There wasn't really room for them with all the flowers.

He took a stained handkerchief out of his back pocket and began wiping beads of sweat from his fore…But, what was this—a dandelion hiding among the Gerbera daisies?

Harold set his kneeling pad on the ground in front of the golden flower bed, and then started stooping down in pain again, when he heard his house phone ring.

Damn it! The weed got lucky this time.

"I'll be back for you later," he grumbled, and then he went inside and answered the phone.

"Hello? Who is this…Marley? No, I have not seen Amy…Yes, Marley; I'll let her know if I see her. You have a nice day, too," Harold grumbled, hanging up the phone. It wasn't any of his business to keep track of his neighbor's sixteen-year old daughter. That girl had a mind of her own, always had. And she was always pointlessly slamming doors.

Harold decided to take a couple of aspirins before going back to his yard work. But, in the hall just outside his bathroom, he caught a glimpse of the last photo of him and his wife—Billie. The occasion had been their fortieth wedding anniversary, and that was nearly fifteen years ago now, before she'd even found out she had colon cancer. She wore pastel yellow—her favorite color—and the only color that wouldn't clash with her gray-green eyes and wheat-blond hair, at least before she lost it all. Harold himself hadn't lost much of his hair yet either, even though it was as gray back then as it was now. He was somewhat thinner from not eating out all the time, too. And his translucent blue eyes seemed to have a life in them back then that he didn't see in the medicine cabinet mirror now. But it was probably just from him damn cataracts. After all, he was nearly seventy-eight years old. Harold shook his head and remembered that he had a dandelion to evict before he forgot where the hell it lived.

-O-

Harold had moved on to watering his blue-ribbon winning white rose garden when he heard Amy's crumbling, sputtering Buick Skylark pull into the driveway next door. He waited for her to get out and slam the car door shut before he approached the rust-eaten chain-link fence that divided the two yards.

"Amy," Harold grunted as he leaned against the fence.

"Oh, hi…Mr. Macy," she said haltingly, opening the trunk of her decrepit blue car, and pulling out a well-used olive-green backpack. "Can I help you with something?"

"No, but I think you better call your mom," he paused, as Amy looked on with her amber eyes. "She called me, wondering where you were."

"Okay," Amy said, slamming the trunk of her car shut.

"Hell if I knew," Harold continued mumbling. "Seems she called the house first and you didn't answer. Something about starting dinner…" he told her before turning his attentions back to not over-watering his precious flowers.

"Uh…thanks, Mr. Macy," Amy replied softly, and then she went inside, letting the door slam shut behind her.

A few minutes later Harold heard his neighbor's door slam again and winced. How he hated that sound. Next thing he knew he heard metal clanging against metal—the sound of someone pushing against the fence. He looked up to see Amy, running her fingers through her sun-bleached Pixie-cut hair.

"Hey, Mr. Macy…I hate to…um, to um bother you, but do you know anything about…" Amy started.

"About what? I don't have all day!" Harold shouted. Amy backed away from the fence a little, causing it to clank.

"Um…just about cooking pot roasts. My mom left a Post-It saying she wanted me to stick one in the oven, but she…didn't leave any instructions," Amy said, leaning her petite frame against the fence again.

"And you can't read a damn cookbook to find out? How old are you now?" Amy stood up. Now she was just leaning her arms on the fence, despite the rough edges.

"Well, we…don't…have one. My mom makes all of her meals from memory. And I can't reach her at work." Harold rolled his semi-opaque blue eyes and grumbled.

"Sorry, Amy, but I can't help you. I don't cook anymore," he said. "Why don't you go across the street and see if Mrs. McMurphy can't help you out with that?"

"I would, but Mrs. McMurphy died," Amy paused, "last year."

"What?"

"I said she DIED," Amy emphasized. Harold jumped, nearly wetting himself with the garden hose.

"I may be old, and nearly blind, but I am not deaf, Miss Sawyer," Harold replied, turning the nozzle on his hose to the mist setting for his more delicate flowers near the fence-line. "Now, why didn't anyone tell me?"

"My mom did tell you. But you were too busy playing with your stupid flowers to care," Amy answered coolly. "I mean, would it seriously hurt you to be a little more involved with this neighborhood, Mr. Macy?" She turned on her heels so quickly that he didn't even have time to come up with a response. He didn't know Mrs. McMurphy that well anyway.

Harold grimaced when an all too familiar crash met his ears, and then he turned off the water and looked over his work for the day. Every white rose and pink rhododendron was in place. His lavenders and sedums were spaced evenly along the borders of his driveway creating intimate patterns of purple and yellow. And his giant, yellow Gerbera daisies were already looking fuller and brighter from being watered.

-O-

Harold was taking his trash out to his garage later that evening when he heard the Sawyer's side door slam shut, and footsteps running down the driveway toward the street.

Must be Amy. Again, he thought, grabbing his pruning sheers off the wall and heading toward the back of the house where his white roses were. They were fine earlier, but now something just seemed out of place.

"Amy Sawyer, you get back here right now!" Marley yelled, her alto voice echoing between the houses. The door slammed again and Harold could hear more footsteps, but he just turned his attentions back to pruning his ivory-colored roses. He tried to stay out of everyone else's business so they would keep out of his. But before he knew it, there were footsteps coming back up the driveway, and Marley was leaning sideways on the half-rusted chain-link fence. She was always doing this when she was having problems with Amy. And the problems had grown more frequent recently. Last week Amy had gotten into a fight with her step-mother and had wanted to come home early from her father's weekend. Two days ago she came home with a zero on a test. Harold didn't care. He didn't want to know these things. It wasn't any of his business. And every day he cursed himself for not buying that privacy fence when he still had the money.

"Harold?"

"Ye-es, Marley?" he answered, plucking off a small dead branch from the rose bush with his shears.

"Did you see which way Amy went?"

"No. Wasn't my turn to look out for her."

"I know, but you see, I just told her some really big news about my job, that we might have to move if I get my promotion. And she's really upse…

"I'm sorry to hear that, Marley," Harold interrupted, "but that's between you and her. Please, just keep me out of this." He clipped off two more unwanted branches on the rose bush.

"You never used to be this way, Harold," Marley said, tossing her long copper-brown hair over her left shoulder. "You used to love having Amy over. You even called her 'Ladybug.'"

"That was Billie's nickname for her," he grunted without so much as even glancing over at Marley.

"Well, I wish Billie were still around. At least she would have wanted to listen to me," Marley muttered. Then she turned around and started running down the driveway after Amy.

"Yeah, well I wish Billie was still around, too!" Harold grouched, going back to his pruning. But in talking to Marley, he had inadvertently cut off more than he had wanted to. He growled, and furiously began attacking the rose bush with the garden shears until there was nothing left except for the small trunk. Why did she always have to talk to him?

When he was done destroying the plant he threw the shears across the yard where they landed near the fence. Harold let himself fall back onto the small patch of grass that he called his yard, and then he took out his handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his face.

"Have I really become that self-absorbed, Billie?" he asked, looking up at the darkening blue sky.

-O-

Later in the evening, as Harold was lying in bed, with the windows open, he heard hushed voices—a young man's and a girl's—coming from outside. He didn't think anything of them at first until he realized what they were saying.

"I can't believe you talked me into this. We're so gonna get caught."

"Oh, Eric, stop whining," the girl said. "We are not going to get caught. There aren't any lights on in the house." Harold thought she sounded like Amy.

"Come on. Let's just go. Before we do any more damage…What did this guy ever do to you, anyway?"

"Nothing. Come on, there's just one more flower…" The girl's voice stopped short as Harold turned his bedroom light on. "Run, Eric!" she yelled.

Harold then heard two sets of feet running down the driveway next to his house, so he grabbed his out-dated specs from the nightstand and hurried downstairs to try to catch the trespassers. He flipped on the garage lights, but the perpetrators were already long gone. He then stepped outside in his bare feet and striped pajamas, and surveyed his backyard with no help from the sickly yellow lights glowing on either side of the garage.

He found it hard to believe the damage. Years of hard work had been destroyed. And what for?

He walked out to the middle of his backyard and stood there for a good number of minutes. The grass was cool and wet between his bony toes, because his birdbath had been knocked over. He righted it, noticing it was cracked where it had fallen on its lip. And, even though dusk was long over, he was being eaten up by the mosquitoes that had been stirred up.

Near the back of the yard, under his hand-built wooden arbor was the three-foot tall stone angel he had bought ten years ago in remembrance of Billie. Now it was lying face down. It was too heavy for him to lift, but he checked it over as thoroughly as he could. Luckily there seemed to be no damage to it.

But as for Harold's beloved plants, his remaining rose bushes were toppled, or stripped bare of their flowers. Creamy-white petals coated the ground, resembling spilled milk. The patterns of lavender and yellow sedum that lined his driveway were no more. There didn't seem to be any trace of those plants left. And his Gerbera daisies were uprooted beyond recognition. There was nowhere for a single dandelion to hide. His prize-winning garden had been reduced to a pile of…a pile of…worm shit.

Harold hobbled next door. He didn't care that it was probably after one in the morning. He was fairly certain he knew who was responsible. After all, she'd told him that his flowers were "stupid."

He banged on the storm door. See how she likes it. He banged a few more times before he could see the light turn on inside through the shade and Marley peeking over the top to see who was making the ruckus. She opened the door, obviously disheveled from being woken up, and wearing nothing but an over-sized Billy Ray Cyrus concert t-shirt under a thin robe.

"Harold! Do you have any idea what I thought was going on? Not to mention the time. It is almost quarter after one in the morning," she hissed.

"I don't care, Marley. Where is she?" Harold asked, trying to see around Marley.

"Where's…"

"Amy! Where's Amy?" Harold bellowed. "I know she and her boyfriend vandalized my gardens tonight. Now where is she?"

"What?" Marley asked. "Amy doesn't even have a boyfriend, Harold. And she has no reason to destroy your gardens."

"Where's Amy?" he persisted, putting his hand on the inside doorframe. Marley stepped outside, making Harold take a step backward. She then wrapped her thin robe around her size-twelve-average body.

"Not that it's really any of your beeswax," Marley whispered, "but Amy is grounded. And she is upstairs in bed, right where she's supposed to be."

"I don't doubt that now, Marley. But where was she a half-hour ago? You know, I try to keep out of everyone else's business so they'll stay out of mine, but that girl of yours is out of control."

"She is not out of control, Harold," Marley glared at him. "And keep your voice down before you wake up Amy and the rest of the neighborhood." She sighed heavily. "Why didn't you just call the police?"

"Because I'm certain it was Amy. And, well, because Billie had considered her to be one of the grandchildren, I guess. She would have wanted me to give her a second chance. But that doesn't mean the punishment won't fit the crime. Besides, the police ain't gonna do nothin' about vandals at this time of night. They'd wait till morning."

"What's going on, Mom?" Amy yawned, conveniently appearing at the top of the steps behind Marley. "What's Mr. Macy doing here?"

"Nothing, Sweetie. Just go on back to bed," Marley said, blowing her daughter a quick air kiss through the door.

"Wait, where's she going? I wanted to ask her a few questions…"

"Not now, Harold. She's only sixteen. She needs her sleep." Harold looked at Marley, dumbfounded. "Now, are you absolutely sure that it wasn't just a couple of deer? You know, they've been encroaching on the city limits a lot since that development was built down the street."

"No dumb animal could have done what was done to my yard. And I heard voices. One of them sounded distinctly like Amy." Marley sighed and rubbed her temples.

"Okay, I'll ask her about it tomorrow, Harold. But I honestly don't think she had anything to do with it. Now, can I please go back to bed? I have a very early meeting in the morning." Harold took a wobbly step back as Marley opened the door to go back inside.

"Eh, sorry I woke you," Harold grunted. He walked slowly back to his house and crawled into bed.

-O-

Harold woke up early the next morning, and went outside hoping the ruins of his garden had magically transformed into an Eden-like paradise overnight. But unfortunately the sunlight only made everything appear that much worse.

He pulled an antique lawn chair—the kind with springs and air cushions—out of the garage and sat down. He glanced around the yard. He didn't even know where to begin.

Should he call the police? Should he just get to work in the yard? And if he does decide to work in the yard, should he start in the way back and work his way forward, or the other way around? Billie would have known what to do. She always did. He supposed he should try to right the angel statue first, and then worry about the rest later. But he was nearing eighty, and he had started this garden with Billie before she died. And that was very close to ten years ago. An entire decade of work was gone in one night. The choice before him was daunting.

Harold leaned back in his lawn chair and scratched the bald spot on the top of his head as he thought about what to do and whether he could be wrong about Amy? He couldn't be though.

The Sawyer's door squeaked open and squealed shut. And Harold saw Amy walk into her backyard, carrying her olive backpack slung over her shoulder. She was dressed to go to the pool, wearing her straw hat and sunglasses.

"Forget to slam the door?" Harold grumbled, but either Amy didn't hear him, or she ignored him. "Where are you going, anyway? I thought you were grounded."

"That's none of your beeswax," Amy sneered, opening her car door, she paused with one leg already in the car. "Mr. Macy?" she asked, lowering her sunglasses. "What happened to your yard?"

"You mean your mom didn't tell you yet?"

"My mom left before I even woke up this morning," Amy replied. "She had a big meeting. So, what happened?"

"What's it look like? Someone trashed it."

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Amy asked.

"You can stay away," Harold shouted, standing up.

"Are you…are you sure there's nothing I can do to help? I mean, who would do something like this to your yard?" she asked, sounding sincere.

"I have a good idea," Harold grumbled, staring at Amy.

Amy shook her head and proceeded getting into her car. Then she slammed the door shut and backed out of the driveway.

Harold walked around the yard again, searching for anything that may have been spared by the vandals, but he could find nothing. His oasis had become a desert of sod. He went inside, feeling more miserable than ever.

-O-

An hour or so later, he heard Amy's car pull into the drive next door, and soon after, he heard noises coming from the backyard—his backyard. He jumped up from the armchair he was sitting in and ran outside to see Amy crouching on top of the fence, holding a shovel, and ready to jump down.

The nerve of her, he thought, returning to the scene of the crime.

"What the hell are you doing back here, Amy? I thought I told you to stay out."

"You did."

"Then go." He was right; Amy really was out of control.

"No." Now she was outright defying him! "Do you still remember when I was really little and Mrs. Macy was still alive, and we'd all sit back here drinking lemonades?" Harold nodded. He did remember those days. Billie called her "Ladybug," but he had always called her "Pixie," because she reminded him of Tinker Bell, especially at night when the fireflies came out. "Well, you weren't so grouchy then. And I know you were happy simply by being in your garden now, even if you didn't invite us over anymore."

"Oh," Mr. Macy said, beginning to understand. "So, what are you doing with that shovel?"

"I'm going to fix your gardens for you. I can't stand seeing you so miserable. It's absolutely depressing."

"Why are you doing this, Amy?" Harold was stumped.

"Because that's what good neighbors do when terrible things happen, Mr. Macy. They don't tell each other to buzz off, or go without noticing the loss of someone on their street. They tell each other things and ask for opinions. And they definitely don't accuse another neighbor's daughter of destroying their prize-winning gardens," Amy finished, walking over to Harold and putting a friendly hand on his shoulder, while holding the shovel in the other.

"I guess I haven't been such a great neighbor."

"No, you haven't. Now tell me where to start."

-O-

Harold Macy leaned back on his lawn chair to catch some of the warmth from the late summer sun. It was nice just to relax. He hadn't done it in such a long time—he was always so worried about the upkeep of his gardens. But this was nice. And he wouldn't have to worry about ache-y knees in the morning.

He knew summer vacation would be ending in a few days, and that Amy would have to go back to school, but he had been enjoying her company so much that he hated for it to end. He had to pull his handkerchief out of his back pocket every time he remembered that she had given up the remainder of her summer for him, and right now she was putting some of the finishing touches on his garden. He opened one eye to see her walking toward him, pulling her muddied pink gardening gloves off her hands, revealing stark white permanent gloves.

"There isn't a weed to be seen," she reported, wiping the sweat from her brow. "At least, there better not be. I've been working all day." She sat down in the extra lawn chair Mr. Macy had taken out of the garage for her.

Harold smiled. Amy Sawyer really was out of control, just in a different way than he had originally thought. And he had to admit that she had done a nice job. His garden looked almost as good as new, almost. However, there was still a birdbath to buy and vacancies that needed to be filled with Gerbera daisies and lavenders and sedum before the dandelions had their chance to move in. But it was pretty close to perfection. And as a bonus, there were fewer slamming doors.

"Would you like some lemonade, Mr. Macy?" Amy asked. "I made it myself."

"I'd love some," Harold replied dreamily, closing his eyes.

"I'll be right back, then. It's in the fridge at my house," she said. She then proceeded to hop the chain-link fence, causing the loose mesh to clang against the poles. But Harold didn't mind.

-O-

The End