I am working on Back to the Garden, my retelling of The Secret Garden. Here is an excerpt from Chapter Three of the WIP.
Maybe I could just climb the wall.
The stones were set in a way that would allow for foot and hand holds. I tugged myself up, with some assistance from a vine and tried to scale it.
It turns out I am not all that great at climbing. In the movies it looks easy. When faced with a wall, it was a struggle.
Breathing hard and sweating, I managed to get most of the way up. Then as my hand closed, finally, on the top of the wall, a crow landed on the top and looked down at me with beady black eyes.
Screaming, I jerked my hand away from him. I think it startled me more than scared me but then I was falling. Landing on my back, my head bounced on the stone and I twisted one ankle under me as I hit and all air was removed from my lungs by the impact.
Gasping, trying to breathe, a face appeared over me, blocking the weak sun.
“What are you doing out here?”
Blinking, I studied the old man. His face was worn from time outside, all wrinkles and crevices and dark. He was glowering down at me from gray eyes that nearly matched the sky haloing his face. I tried to suck in enough air to answer but the multiple injuries had me curling into myself, near tears. Ow.
“You don’t belong out here and you stay away from that wall!”
My mind whirled past the pain to consider his words. Everyone had said I could go anywhere that wasn’t locked or the east wing. Why was I getting reamed for trying to go into a garden?
“I couldn’t find the door,” I managed finally.
“The door is locked to keep people out. And you can stay out. I don’t care who you are, you kids should not be on this property!”
Rolling, I looked up at him again. He was carrying a small shovel and had dirt on his knees. Gardener.
“I live here. And I can go wherever I want that isn’t locked.”
“Well that garden is locked so stay out!”
“I fell off the wall and got hurt!” I stuck my chin out in defiance.
“That should teach you to stay away from it then.” He nodded to himself and turned to leave.
“Why is the garden locked?”
His head snapped back at my question, his glare returning with enthusiasm.
“It is locked to keep people out. Why else lock a door?”
I found it suspicious that he hadn’t answered me. Why lock a garden?
He had disappeared around the corner, into the maze. I dragged myself to my feet, hopping to keep my weight off the sore ankle. Tilting my head back, I again studied the wall… and the crow who was still looking down at me. I would have thought he would have squacked and flew away when I had screamed and tumbled off the wall like some maniacal Humpty Dumpty, but instead he sat studying me as curiously as I studied him.
“Thanks.” I said to the bird. “I almost made it.”
He tilted his black head at me and the rays of the sun shone blue against his feathers.
“What is over the wall, anyway? You can see, what is there, you stupid ugly thing?”
He seemed to understand, somehow because he glanced over the wall then looked back at me. Sadly, he didn’t share what he saw.
I bent and picked up a rock, intending to throw it at him. But as I stood, a shadow crossed the walk. I turned my head quickly to see who was there, thinking it was the arrogant gardener again but instead caught a glimpse, just a glimpse, of who was running into the maze.
It was a boy, probably a little older than me. And he was cute. He had hair that was very nearly silver it was so white and broad shoulders. Wearing jeans and a dark coat, he disappeared into the maze before I could see more of him.
Darting after him, I raced into the maze. I turned a corner and caught another glimpse of him turning another corner. “Hey! You! What are you doing? Who are you?”
The boy didn’t stop or slow and I heard him rustling around in the maze. I ran to keep up, to catch up but the most I caught were glimpses of him. My ankle throbbed at the exertion and I panted and wheezed and sweated trying to catch up.
When I came to the end of the maze, I stumbled into the clearing that was the kitchen garden and looked around. No one was there. I was alone.
“Where did you go?” I turned and looked back into the maze but I heard nothing from that direction and although I hadn’t caught up to the boy, I wasn’t that far behind either.
“You can’t have disappeared into thin air!” I wheezed.
No one answered me and suddenly I felt as if I was being watched.
It wasn’t a comfortable feeling at all.
I turned in a circle, searching for the eyes I felt drilling into me but no one appeared.
Pulling on my last reserves of strength, I hustled it into the house and closed the glass door behind me. Leaning on it, breathing heavily, I looked into the gardens from the safety of the house.
No one appeared but a crow wheeled above the patio, finally landing on a chair to peer at me.
I had a feeling, perhaps a paranoid one, that it was the same crow.
Realizing I still held the rock, I wanted to open the door and pitch it at the bird. Something stopped me.
I didn’t want to go back out there.