A Night Garden
By Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Hands. Whose hands are they? A lady’s hands, in peach lace gloves. No, not peach. White. White that has taken on a peachy hue under the gaseous orange glow of the street lamps. Gaseous, orange, as steaming organs. But what organ is orange? The spleen? The bladder? Oh, Bladder. What a pressing. Press the knees together, just so. That’s right. Knees move under fabric, rippling blue shadows with peach. No, not peach. White. A white skirt, remember. You are wearing a white skirt, therefore, you must be a lady. A lady, delicate as a lily, a gardenia, and with a delicate name: Delia. Delia, hear the rustle, hear the whispering of leaves…Look up, Delia! The trees are calling you. Textured as coral, swaying sensitive and bright, seemingly porous. Pitted by the night. The night, which gnaws through the leaves like a caterpillar, like a snail through letters left in a mailbox while the world pitter-patters outside, sodden and grey. But the world is bright. Don’t you see it, Delia? Colours so bright that they scare you, a bobbing, peachy moon so big you feel it might fall, shatter any moment. Watch the moon. Watch it widening. Your eyes will widen too, when you find the moon is constellated, pitted with tiny black stars. When you find that great peach moon is really your white, eyed lace parasol. From the garden party, remember? Can you remember the garden party? No, you cannot. Something is pressing you. Not just your bladder, but your ribs. Hard like a gun’s muzzle. What is it? Pressing against your ribs, the parasol’s wooden handle. You squirm, a sleep-deprived child, not caring that you might be under gunpoint, not caring that his eyes have been on you this whole time. Black eyes, set close in a thin, wily face. His pink mouth mocking, moving all the time, saying God knows what. What in God’s name has he been saying? He, whose name you cannot recall, but who you know from his top hat, his forked beard, his mouth, which moves in such a way as to make your skin crawl every time. His mouth moves. You strain to understand. You don’t trust this man. This man, who is he? Betherford. Betherford, of the forked beard and moving mouth. Your skin crawls to see it move, to see him looking at you in that way, the way he has been looking at you all along. At the garden party. Was he at the garden party? Lace and chilled champagne, grown warm as the afternoon wore on. And Betherford. Betherford watching you, leering at you, leaving the party at the same time. He has a cab. He will take you anywhere, through the gardens of night, where Bether-bats flitter around trees as textured and bright as coral. "Will you see the night flowers?" his mouth moves. He touches your hand. "Will you see the night flowers?"

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Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a student and writer from Melbourne, Australia. Some of her favourite things include: books, sweets, transatlantic accents, verdigris, and Victoriana.

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