The Secret Garden
Jessie felt better once she was in the secret garden. She sat down right in the center of its smooth, small square of lawn and looked around.
Yes, here at least nothing at all had changed. This place still made her feel as safe and peaceful as it always had. Clustered around the edges of the lawn, her grandmother's favorite spiky gray rosemary bushes still filled the air with their sweet, tangy smell. Behind them the tall, clipped hedge still rose high on every side. When Jessie was little, she used to think the hedge made this part of her grandmother's garden very special. Its wall of leaves seemed to keep the whole world out.
But, thought Jessie, clasping her hands around her knees, it doesn't keep the world out. Not really. The secret garden's just a place at the bottom of Granny's real garden. It's a place where I can be alone for a while, and pretend things are still the way they were before Granny fell and sprained her wrist. Before Mum started worrying about Granny living alone, and decided she must, absolutely must, move out of Blue Moon, her big old house in the mountains, and come to live with us.
She remembered the last time she and her mother, Rosemary, had come to stay with Granny. It had been winter, nearly three months ago. There had been no talk of Granny moving then. Then, things had been very different.
Jessie had always loved winter at Blue Moon. Every evening, as it got dark, they would light a fire in the living room, and then Jessie and her mother would sit cuddled up on the big squashy chairs watching the flames while Granny made dinner.
"No, I don't want help. You sit down and rest, Rosemary," Granny would say to Mum. "You work too hard. Let me look after you -- just while you're here. I love to do it." And after a few minutes' protest, Mum would agree, and settle back gratefully, smiling.
Then for a while the only sounds they would hear would be the popping and snapping of the fire, the purring of Granny's big ginger cat, Flynn, crouched on a rug, and Granny's voice as she moved around the kitchen, singing the sweet songs that Jessie remembered from when she was a baby. There was one song that she had always especially loved. Blue Moon floating, mermaids singing, elves and pixies, tiny horses . . . it began. Jessie thought Granny had probably made it up, because it didn't rhyme, and the tune was lilting and strange.
Inside Blue Moon it was warm, cozy and safe. Outside, huge trees stretched bare branches to a cold black sky that blazed with stars, and in the morning a dusting of white frost crackled under your feet when you walked on the grass.It had always seemed strange and magical to Jessie. At home there were no big trees and no frost. And the city lights seemed to drown the brightness of the stars.
But if winter in the mountains was magical, spring was even better. In spring everything sparkled. The bare trees began to bud with new leaves of palest green, and in their shade bluebells and snowdrops clustered. Bees buzzed around the lilac bushes that bent their sweet, heavy heads beside the house. Butterflies of every color and size danced among the apple blossom. In spring it was as if Blue Moon was waking up after a long sleep. Everywhere there were new beginnings.
But not this spring, Jessie thought sadly. This spring was more like an ending. She'd been feeling sad ever since her mother had told her about the plan to take Granny home with them at the end of this visit.
"Don't you want Granny to live with us, Jessie?" her mother had finally asked her, as they drove up the winding road that led from the city to the mountains. "You two have always been so close, especially since your dad died. I thought you'd love the idea."
Jessie tried to explain. "It's just that . . . I can't really imagine Granny away from Blue Moon," she said. She turned her head away, pretending to look out the window, but really not wanting her mother to see the tears she could feel prickling in her eyes. "And . . . I'll miss . . . coming up here," she burst out. "I'll miss the house, and the trees, and the secret garden."
"Oh, darling, of course you will!" Mum took one hand off the steering wheel to stroke Jessie's long red hair. "So will I. Blue Moon's my old home, remember. I love it, just like you do. But Jessie, it's been five years since Grandpa died. And you know how worried I've been about Granny living all alone without anyone to look after her." She smiled. "My dad might have been the artist in the family, but he was a very practical man all the same. You wouldn't remember, I suppose. But he was sensible, and took no risks. Which is more than you can say for Granny, bless her heart."Jessie in fact did remember Grandpa quite well, even though she'd been so young when he died. His name was Robert Belairs. His paintings had been sold all over the world and were in many books. But to Jessie he was just Grandpa, a tall, gentle man with kind blue-gray eyes, a short white beard and a beautiful smile. She remembered how he always let her watch him paint in his upstairs studio at Blue Moon. And she remembered the paintings he worked on there -- the soft, misty mountain landscapes, and the fairyland scenes for which he'd become so famous. (Continues...)