Chapter V: Garden Schemes

Lucy stared out at the smartly dressed children dancing around in a circle singing their morbid song.  The morning sun touched each curly lock as their voices interlocked:

“It comes for you in the night,

When you are snug tight.

Oh heartache –

The grey stone spreads!”

The group fell down in laughter as they turned themselves into petrified statues.  It wasn’t very hard with their starchy clothes.  “Again!” a girl cried in glee.

“Silent as the grave,

Diseased hearts will cave.

Oh heartache –

The grey stone spreads!”


“Hearts will turn cold,

Blood to heavy loads.

Oh heartache –

The grey stone spreads!”


“You will cough and wheeze,

Slowly start to seize.

Oh heartache –

The grey stone spreads!”


“It comes in and never leaves,

Bodies to Medusa’s trees.

Oh heartache –

The grey stone spreads!”


“Flesh and stone will turn,

Soft skin to grey urns.

Oh heartbreak –

We all lay – ”

“Shut up!”  Lucy screamed at the children. “Shut up, you little monsters!”  She ran at the group, sending them shrieking to their parents.  Yet, even then the last word still tolled in her head.  After all, she had sung the same nursery rhyme when she was young.

Lucy cradled her head in her palms as her mind flashed back to the night before.

“When were you going to tell us?” she had asked her mother after settling her in the parlor.

Lucy’s Mum looked away into the distance. “I don’t know, Lulu.  Soon.  I thought.. it would go away.  Or perhaps it might have been another illness.”

“You’re lying,” Lucy murmured, crossing her arms.  This time it was her turn to look away from all the madness that had eased into her world.  She could hardly stand it.

“I wanted to tell you, but how could I tell my own children that I was dy-”

“How long did you know?” Lucy cut her off, unwilling to hear the truth.

Her mother rolled her tea within her cup.  “Do you really want to know?”

Her daughter cleared her voice and readjusted. “I need to know how long.  So I know what to tell Dr. Bedford.”


“How long?” Pain reached up and stretched her voice raw.

Her mother was quiet for a moment.  “Six years.”

Lucy shut her eyes, feeling the weight of the situation for the first time.  Her mother’s days were quite numbered.  Perhaps not even a week.  A clock on its last wind.

“When are you going to tell him?”

“Adrian doesn’t need to know right now.”

“Mum, when are you going to tell him.  He needs to know that you. . .”  she stopped to collect herself.

Stacy put her hand over her daughter’s. “I’ll tell him.  Just let him have his night.”

Lucy looked at her Mum and nodded in agreement. “Just make sure you do tell him.  If something were to happen. . . I-I-”

“I’ll tell him.  I promise, love, I’ll tell him.”

Silence as Lucy looked to her feet. “Is there a cure?” she whispered, a last desperate hope.

“If there even were one, I’m probably past its effects.  I’ve accepted the fact that this will be-”

“This isn’t,” Lucy replied. “You can’t say things like that.”

“Honey, it’s a blessing I’ve lived this long.”

“But it’s not fair!” she retorted.

“Perhaps.  But it’s longer than most.”

It was true.  But though her mother was right, Lucy found it difficult to accept.

“There’s something else on your mind,” Stacy pressed, her mother’s brow worrying.

Lucy tried to ask about her twin – tried desperately.  But the words never came.

“It’s nothing,” she sighed. “Just some things with work.  Don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure?”

Lucy struggled with the words once more.  Nothing.   Instead she bit her tongue and nodded with a weak smile. “I’m sure.”

The rest of the evening was an array of tiresome discussions about doctors, treatments, with a number of back and forth arguments.  Adrian didn’t come home until late that night.   He was brimming with excitement as he explained everything that happened.  Lucy’s mother had smartly pushed her hair to frame away the grey stone skin.

As Lucy watched Adrian talk, she understood what her Mum meant about waiting.  There was an art to serious discussions.  A timing of sorts that Lucy had yet to master it.  Stacy O’Rourke, on the other hand, had.

“And the Clock Tower, Mum!”

“Yes, Adrian?”

“It moved!” The boy cried with excitement.

“I’m going to bed,” Lucy told them, pressing out a yawn.  Truthfully, she was still trapped between exhaustion and worry-induced insomnia.

On getting to her room, she fell to her bed and closed her eyes.  Her body ached from her earlier run, but her mind was buzzing.  She couldn’t cry, she couldn’t yell, she could only lay awake.

The morning came with a soft fog against a new rising dawn.  Pastel shades warmed the fall day yet Lucy still felt cold and alone.  She had spent a restless night tossing this way and that, never quite finding the place she sought.

“Lucy! Breakfast!” her mother yelled up the stairs.

Stacy’s daughter pulled herself out of bed, doing her best to rub away her nightmares of yesterday before throwing on some clean clothes.

Breakfast was strained between the two women.  Every time one would try to strike up a normal conversation, it ended in a fit of coughs.  Finally, they resolved to simply sup on tea until Adrian came down.  When he did, he was still bursting with more stories about last night.

“Thank you for breakfast, ladies!” he bowed ridiculously.  Leave it to the young brother to lighten the hidden dark moods of the women.

“Well, look who’s trying to be a gentleman now!  Had I known a bit of theatre would cure your ill manners, I would have sent you ages ago,” Lucy teased.

“Ill manners?” Adrian wrinkled his nose at the notion.

“Oh, you two,” Stacy smiled in relief.  It may have been false, but the peace within it felt relaxing.  Lucy’s mother closed her eyes just to take it in.

“Hey Mum, why are you wearing your hair like that?” Adrian asked.  The room grew quiet.  For being a thirteen year old boy, Adrian was quite observant.

And so the peace vanished, as it so quickly can.

“Just like your father to notice,” their mother sighed, trying to laugh it off.

The taboo word felt metallic against Lucy’s ears.  A flicker of a booming laugh, a warm hug.  Then it was gone.  Her mind quickly pulled itself from falling under and drowning in the memories.  It was dangerous to indulge in the past.

“I should go,” Lucy whispered. “I’ll go pick up the groceries for the week.”

“Thank you, darling,” her mother nodded.  Her daughter was learning.

“What’s going on? Why is Lucy leaving?” Adrian’s alarm bells were ringing.

Lucy ignored the frantic boy and simply went to her coat and bag.  She couldn’t repeat last night.  It was a miracle she hadn’t fallen apart already.

And so that’s when she ended up at Key Gardens.  She had somehow managed to numbingly get on a train and travel all the way there in utter silence and without anything but herself and her purse.  She arrived just as the fall flowers were being pruned after the wrapping up of autumn festivals. The chilly wind tugged at her skirts and jacket as she found a place on a nearby bench beside a shivering pond.

She put her head between her knees.  She had to think.  There had to be some way.  There had to be something Lucy missed!  But, as minds do, Lucy could only think back to Sebastian.  His face, his eyes, his voice.  Time changed it all, except those eyes.  And yet, they all still fit the familiar childhood shape as well.  Lucy could trace the scars and smile lines.  But there was one change that hurt the most: there was now a small Top Hat pin pressed into his apprentice jacket he wore.  She knew he would never be able to remove it.

“I hate them!” Lucy felt her fists tighten beside her.  “I hate them!”

Yet, no matter how much she said it, she could never truly hate them.  She could blame them.  She could dislike them.  But the harsh cold caress of hate never passed through her heart.  Lucy was hurt – not scorned.

Suddenly, the whisper of an idea tickled the back of her neck.  Top Hats, she remembered, were more than just demon hunters.  For with a battle against darkness, also came an ability to heal the sick.  Demons, after all, don’t just eat the souls from humans.  They can also infect them with diseases of all sorts.  But with the pain and suffering, comes hope.   Top Hats do more than fight the ever seeping evil with their fire and strength.  They also battle against it with a certain bottled magic.   At least, that’s what the rumors said.  And this particular word of mouth, wound itself tightly within Lucy’s mind before springing out.

“The cabinet!  The Top Hat glass cabinet,” she cried in delight.  A warm hope spread through her chest.

There was a chance.  A small, rare chance.  But it was there.  And to Lucy, that was all that mattered.

©2016 E. M. Vick

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