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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Paranormal · #2290947
Zayda's aunt comes to explore the garden and they are visited by the ghost of her uncle.
Zayda had spent the afternoon working in the garden. It was starting to brighten up considering it was getting later in the season. She had cleared out the dead, dried up sections that had been waiting for something or someone to love them again. She had planted some colour. Their cheery brightness made her smile. Getting her hands in the soil and churning it back into itself felt rewarding and helped to ground her in the space. Already New York was feeling more like her home, but long periods of time walking the concrete streets had her feeling bone weary. She was also struggling to protect herself from the emotional avalanche around her. Her aunt and Adwina had been helping her hone her skills to make her less vulnerable to the chaotic onslaught. Some days were easier than others.

The garden helped revitalize her. When she was here she could feel a presence – a kind presence that seemed to appreciate her efforts. She wondered if the presence was her uncle William, but since nobody talked about him, Zayda was nervous to ask any questions despite the curiousity and connection she felt towards him.

A noise behind her had her turning to find her aunt standing just inside the terrace space. She seemed almost frozen in her spot.

“Aunt Fiona. Welcome.” She said standing and moving toward her. “Come. I’ll show you the flowers I just planted. I just love the autumn colours. They celebrate the season.”

Zayda’s words seemed to loosen Fiona’s fears and she smiled and began to make her way along the path. Her gaze traveling along the raised beds. She seemed to be taking it all in as if it had been years since she had last been here. From what Adwina told her, it had.

Together they walked the garden. Zayda shared her dreams of what she wanted to plant and cultivate. Her aunt listened and nodded taking it all in.

“I’ve even created this little nook to sit and contemplate,” she said when they came to the tidy wee sitting area.

Her aunt stopped and stared. Sensing her aunt’s distress, Zayda moved closer and helped her aunt to sit.

“Can I get you some tea or anything?” she asked with a soothing tone.

Her aunt shook her head slowly. From her perch on the small patio chair she gazed about her. “It’s beautiful.”

“It is. Such a well cared for space,” Zayda told her.

“William loved it here.” Zayda leaned in to hear her aunt’s words. It was the first time her uncle had been mentioned. She wanted to press for more, but decided to wait. She took the seat across from her aunt and placed her hands in her lap.

They sat in silence for awhile. Each in their own thoughts.

A ruffle of breeze began to flutter through the space. Zayda watched it move over the area as if touching each part of the garden before finally settling on them. The warm kindness of the breeze made Zayda suck in a surprised breath.

"He's here, Aunt." Zayda whispered as she felt the gentle breeze waft around them.

Glancing at her aunt she noticed tears welling up in the older woman’s eyes. Zayda felt her own eyes sting with tears. She reached forward to take her aunt’s hand, then stopped as heavy emotions swirled around her. Her uncle's emotions. A powerful mixture of gratitude, anguish and love that had her breathe catching a moment before she was able to say, "He misses you. Loves you.... so much."

The tears that sprang from her aunt's eyes now poured forth in a silence lament. "I miss him so much.... love him... with all my heart....he was taken from me far too soon."

"He wants you to know he is glad you have come back to the garden." Zayda could not help her own misty smile as she added, "He loves what I've done to the place."

Her aunt's words that came were wrapped in white muslin. They were slow to come, but thought out as if each one pulled a memory she had tried to hide - buried it deep under all her pain. "He would. He loved this garden. It was his sanctuary. After a long day in court, he would come here and putter for hours. Even after the sun went down. We would sit here. We would talk… bare our souls… He would breathe in the place. It was his heaven."

Zayda bowed her head. The emotions of both her aunt and uncle were intense. There was no need for contact. She vibrated like a conduit for them. How long she sat there she could not say. By the time the emotions settled and the vibrations slowed, Zayda felt exhaustion. Feeling the sparks of flickering love and happiness. she rose silently. Looking over at her aunt who now wrapped her arms over herself, her hands resting on her shoulders, her eyes closed, Zayda smiled wistfully, then slipped from the terrace. Leaving the two alone within their joined sphere.

She found her cousin, Adwina standing just inside the door watching. Silent tears ran down her face. With her eyes still on her mother she whispered, "they used to stand like that... it was their strength together. His hands would be on her shoulders, hands clasped and he would kiss the top of her head."

"I'm glad they found each other again."

"You made that happen," Adwina said with awed wonder. "You brought them back together."

Zayda said nothing. She was far too depleted. Reaching out, she grabbed the wall to steady herself.

Seeing Zayda almost fall, Damian moved from the shadows and swept her up into his arms. She drew strength from him.

Adwina shook herself, "Bring her to the kitchen." she told her brother, "I'll fix a tea Momma swears by whenever she has had a particularly grueling day. It will sustain her and build up her defenses."

Adwina lead the way as they moved through the darkening house; a glow seemed to show the way.

In the kitchen, Damian lowered Zayda to a chair, then went to get a blanket to wrap up her shivering frame. Adwina put the kettle on to boil, then searched the cupboard for the tea. The clatter of mugs helped to soothe Zayda's nerves and re-center her. By the time Adwina pealed back the blanket to give her the mug of herbal tea, Zayda was beginning to feel more like herself. She could only nod her thanks.

"Have a bit to eat as well," Adwina said pressing a plate of homemade cookies onto Zayda’s lap. "I always need to eat after doing any big spell. I suspect this is similar."

Damian snagged one and laughed at his sister's outraged face. "I have a feeling we could all do with a little of your magical cookies sister dear. That was pretty intense."

Agreeing with a slow nod, Adwina offered another plate to her brother who took another two before depositing himself into another of the kitchen chairs. She poured another cup of tea for herself and her brother before sitting down opposite him.

Damian waved his wrist and lit the candles in the center of the table. The warm glow seemed to hug them all close within the flickering of light. It cast the shadows away, holding the darkness at bay.

"Why did Uncle William die?" Zayda asked in the quietness of the kitchen when she was finally able to find her voice. The silence that seeped around them almost had her thinking no one would answer, but then Damian cleared his throat.

"It was an accident.... or that is what they believe it was...." Damian shook his head slowly from side to side as he pressed his lips together.

"But you don't believe it was an accident." Zayda read him. He stopped his head movements and looked at her a second before nodding.

"Tell me.” Her voice gentle.

After a few more long beats of her heart, he began. "He was working a case. A heavy one. A nasty, corrupt ball of nastiness." he paused to take in a breath before going on. "I overheard him talking to mother in the garden one night. He didn't give her details. Felt he would be putting her and us in jeopardy as well, but he said the man involved was tied to corruption and... dark magic."

"Dark magic." Adwina and Zayda echoed in whispers.

"It clings to much of the city's corruption... in its business dealings, its political agendas, even the gangs. It’s one of the reasons New York City is such a miserable place. There is a lot of dark, sinister stuff going on."

"So that's why momma worries when you go out at night. It's not the actual people out there that we need to worry about. It's this evilness that stalks from the shadows." Adwina added as she curled her hands around her mug seeking out its warmth. Damian nodded confirmation.

Zayda felt a chill run down her spine. She had sensed something, but had not been able to really focus in on where it was coming from.

"It's not always done in the dark of night. Father talked about seeing deep shadows in boardrooms and even in the courthouse."

"And you think this... dark magic caused the accident?" Zayda asked not sure what to believe.

"It would make sense. Father was building a case to put away some big corporate giant.... and then after his... accident. I heard mother talking to one of her friends and they told her the case had been dropped. Insufficient evidence or some sort of crap."

"So, who was this corporate giant?"

Damian was quiet a moment giving the impression that he didn't know, but then he said, "Walter Newcombe.... Trace's grandfather."

Zayda’s heart stuttered.

“Oh my God,” Adwina said in breathless distress.

“I’ve not seen the darkness around him,” Damian assured them. “He’s always had a clear heart and from what I saw when he came to get you the other day, he still does.”

“He doesn’t like his Grandfather’s business. He’s expected to be part of it but he’d much rather follow his own dreams… to write. Expose the corruption….”

“That sounds more like him. He always liked to fight for the underdog. When he first came to the city, I hung out with him. The old man didn’t like me. Thought I wasn’t good enough. A bad influence… but I was too young then to look closely at that… maybe if I had…”

“No. You didn’t know there was any of this stuff to watch out for. How could you? You were just a kid.”

“I always hated that we drifted apart when he went off to boarding school.”

“He was made to go to boarding school. It wasn’t his choice… he was doing what was expected… to keep his mother and sister safe. His Grandfather threatened to turn them out if he didn’t comply.” Zayda told them.

Damian nodded as he said, “That makes sense. That old man was terrifying… dark magic or not.”

“When he did come home, he was required to work for his Grandfather. He didn’t have a lot of free time and there were a lot of demands on him. Even the girls he dated didn’t seem to be his type. I think the old man was involved in that too.”

“I’m not going to stop seeing him,” Zayda admitted.

Damian smiled. “Nor should you. I happen to think you might be really good for each other.”

“Are you really my brother?” Adwina asked looking over at him, her eyes wide with wonder.

He chuckled. “Don’t worry sister dear. It’s me. It’s just this situation is serious… and I feel… protective.”

“My brother’s growing up,” Adwina mused with a growing smile.

“Yeah, I guess it had to happen. But don’t get used to it.”

“No, but it’s nice to know you have it in you.”

The three of them laughed. They clinked there mugs of tea in solidarity. Something told Zayda she’d need that more than ever as the days pressed forward.

Word Count = 2031.


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