MARION ANN BERRY
A man wanders into my garden that I don’t recognize at first.
My garden is full of raspberry bushes and sunflowers, like my grandparents garden. I used to wander through the tall sunflowers, getting prickled by the raspberry bushes when I tried to get to them. The smell of crushed berries on the ground lingered in my memory.
“Tabby?” I hear his voice and it hits me with a million haunting memories. Flashes of anger and feelings of lost love creep up my shoulders. It’s been almost ten years since the last time we spoke.
“Jason?” My arms have crossed over my chest.
My friend’s little girl, Alice, calls from the tree house that there is a stranger on the property. I am babysitting for a week.
I’m calm for Alice; she can pick up on my energy quickly.
“There is someone here to see you.”
Jason smiles. I forgot how his smile could turn anything around, even when I caught him cheating on me for the third time.
“Sorry, I didn’t call.”
“How did you know where I lived?”
“The powers of above.” He types on a pretend keyboard.
“Well, what are you doing here?” I wonder why Phish hasn’t barked even once. I start to think we should’ve gotten the pit-bull instead of our boxer who is tamer than me at times.
“I read your book. I. . .I wanted to see you; I mean I wanted to tell you that I was sorry. Really.”
His words fly out of his mouth with a stutter. Jason is still standing at the edge of my garden and I am shaking the sunflowers for Alice. She wanted sunflower seeds and I wanted to pick some raspberries for dessert. That was the only plan of the day.
I blink. I didn’t think he would ever pick up a book that trashed our relationship. I have no idea what to say. I am still in shock that he is standing here after all this time. The last time I saw him was in Atlanta, waving good-bye as I walked through security. He had that look of knowing something, like it was the last time he would drive me to the airport. I wanted to hit him for the shitty way we broke up after that, over an email.
“Do you want some tea?”
“Well, come to the house, we’ll sit on the porch.”
“Only if you’re not busy.”
“You should know better. I haven’t changed that much.” I am thinking of running from the garden to the house and locking myself in, but Alice runs towards me.
“Are you almost done?”
“Yes, yes. Just don’t tell your mother or she’ll kill me. Can you run into the house and start the stove for tea?”
“Raspberry tea! Thank you Auntie!”
“Full of life isn’t she?” Jason always pointed out the obvious. “Yours?”
“Still? See, you don’t listen. I said her mother would kill me for giving her a snack so late time in the afternoon.”
Jason blinks as I scold him. It was too familiar. At least now he was on my land. I could talk to him anyway I wanted.
“Sorry, I guess I didn’t hear that. I was watching the way you were picking raspberries, so softly.” He is so goddamn good with making things sound like nothing is wrong. This is wrong, me still allowing him to stand here. He said he was sorry, I thought that was all I wanted from him.
“I do my best pre-writing thinking out here. Let’s go up to the house. Alice should be yelling for help about now.”
“So, Alice is your niece? You’re still an only child?”
“I know, sounds funny. Alice is Tanya’s and Steve’s little girl. They are away on their ten year anniversary.”
“Hard to believe, but true. ”
“Married? Yes, as a matter of fact.”
“Well, I would be too if I was dating Michael Nice.”
“It was before he got on the tour. Is that why you are really here? You want to meet Michael?”
“No, I really needed to tell you that I am sorry. I want to talk about your book.”
I peaked in the kitchen. Alice didn’t need help with the stove; she already had the tea pot out, cups, and the tea box. She sits on the porch with her sunflower seeds and starts spitting out the shells. Each time she spits, she giggles and whispers slippery.
“Reminds me of you.” Jason smiles again.
I pour tea into three tea cups. I don’t have to talk anymore to fill up the awkward silence – silence like we always had.
I can tell he wants to say something. Alice is sipping her tea in-between spitting out sunflower seeds.
“Alice, why don’t you go inside and set the table? Then maybe we’ll go for a walk to the lake before Michael returns.” Alice jumps up.
“Maybe we can get some flowers for dinner.” I nod in agreement and Alice runs into the house. We hear her singing as she starts to pull out silverware.
Jason stares off as he sips his tea. I don’t have anything to say to him. When we broke up there was no closure. I finally stopped thinking it was me, and it was his issue that he didn’t know how to treat me, when all I asked for was communication.
“I wouldn’t have known or read your book until my ex-wife mailed it to me with a note saying, “you want to know why, read this.”
“Ouch.” I’m screaming for joy inside.
“She left me two years ago. I was cheating on her with work; never left the kitchen until late and was never home to say good night.”
“I know how she feels.”
“I didn’t know that you were bulimic, how did I miss that?”
“You were at work.”
“Not all the time.” Jason sounds dumb founded.
“Don’t kid yourself, all the time and in between. And in between that, someone else’s bed.” I’m telling him the truth now. There’s that silence.
“I’m sorry for not calling you more often when I moved to Atlanta. I just didn’t know.”
“Know what? That I was waiting for you and you didn’t have time to tell me the truth?” I’m getting angry again.
“Don’t waste my time. I hurt like hell when we broke up over the phone. It was like a scene out of “Sex in the City” breaking up with a post-it note.”
Jason looks at me like he doesn’t know what I’m saying. Was he really here asking stupid questions to make himself feel better? I couldn’t hear Alice humming any longer and wanted to check in on her.
“I remember you calling me at work and that was the hardest thing to do over the phone.” Jason takes a breath. “Why didn’t you let me break up with you that day in Edmonton? Why didn’t you let me just say goodbye when we were face to face?”
I tried many times to break up with Jason, giving him an easy out. The last time he cheated I was done with our relationship, but I couldn’t find the strength to walk away.
“I thought we would make it.” Jason puts his hands together as if to say something else.
“Your famous line ‘we always get through it baby.’ I have to tell you, I hated when you said that.” I hated him for always thinking his way was going to save us no matter what.
Jason sighs and bends his head to the left to look at me.
“When you called me that afternoon, I had no idea you would call. I thought you would just send me an email and I wouldn’t respond, but when I heard your voice I knew I wouldn’t be able to let go. When I heard your voice I realized that you and I were meant to be together, and that all the shit we did to each other didn’t matter. I loved that you were able to talk me down from any emotional rollercoaster.”
Jason stops, he is good at saying the right things to get away with whatever he might have done — cheating, working twelve to fourteen hours without calling to say he’d be late. Our life was a mystery half the time.
“Then, when you called me and asked me what I was doing, I was really at work and “working”. Then when you asked me Do you still love me? I said what I meant.” He is stirring up the past again.
I remember exactly what he said, it took a long time to forget the whisper. Not in that way anymore. I didn’t like thinking about the past, and it compelled me to ask Jason why he was here again.
“To tell you that I’m sorry.”
“Well you’ve said it and now you can go.”
“Please don’t be like that, Tabby. I don’t want to walk away from here with you hating me.” Jason had a secret fear of anyone not liking him. He would stay up nights trying to figure out how to have the latest chef like him, or how to make the new girl he’d had a one night stand with feel better when she found out I was his girlfriend. He had a fear of saying no.
“Listen, even though you want to make yourself feel better, coming out here to say you’re sorry after ten years doesn’t help. I’ll take your apology , but don’t come out here and give me a sob story about your “should haves.” The past began to slither back into my memory.
Before he left for Atlanta one night, I yelled at him over the phone “I hate you”, and slammed it down like some teenager. I really did hate him then. I hated that he was leaving and I was staying behind in a small Alberta mountain town, far from him and the life we created.
He had come home within ten minutes to make sure I didn’t really hate him.
“We always make it through baby,” he whispered to me as I cried.
Jason’s voice interrupts my memory.
“I guess I better go. I just thought this would be different.”
“No, Jason. This is the way you left it and now you feel the way I did, how your ex-wife does, and whoever you have in your bed.
“You still know me.”
“Next time please just email me. The address hasn’t changed.”
“I guess I needed to see that you were okay. I knew you would be; I just needed to see you.”
I watch him walk away and hold myself.
Alice stomps up the stairs from the wine cellar. I guess that’s why I couldn’t hear her.
“Auntie, I got this one. Mom says it reminds her of two of you.”
I glance at the Mission Hill Gewurtraminer and smiled. It’s the wine that Tanya and I would drink while watching Sex In The City episodes and eat popcorn, with me in tears over Jason.
“Great choice. You’re so intuitive.”
I open the fridge to put the wine in, and glance at the beer leftover from Michael’s brunch last weekend.
I think about how I will tell Michael about Jason’s visit. I take one of the beers and whisper to myself “This will be a hell of a story.”
Marion Ann Berry’s passion for writing began early. She was raised in Nova Scotia, where she took a BA in English Literature. Ten years in hospitality in the Alberta mountains gave her many experiences to write about. With her great love of nature, she moved to Tofino, where her quest for creative expression through her writing was realized. She currently lives in Victoria.