To celebrate being at Supanova – Pop Culture festival in Adelaide this weekend, I am sharing the first chapter of Through The Fig Tree as a bit of a Teaser for you all.
She turned to watch him leave, her emotions reeling from their farewell. She was sitting on a bench in the park, surrounded by magnificent trees and plants, watching the man she loved walk away from her. He left the path and began walking across the grass toward a tree; from where she was sitting it looked as though he would walk into it and she nearly gasped aloud.
It took her a second to realise that he had not collided with the tree – she had heard no thump – but he was gone. Not just that he had left her; it would take her days to come to terms with that, but he had not physically reappeared on the other side of the tree. She spun around, searching, but could not see his blonde head anywhere. She turned back and started to run toward the tree, utterly confused and more than a little scared, trying to find an explanation for his disappearance.
She approached the tree from the same direction he had, looking ahead to where she thought he should be. They had been in a clear area of the park and there were only a few other trees around, yet she could see no trace of him.
She approached the tree where she had last seen him, looking at it closely. It was a Moreton Bay Fig; it must have been relatively young as it was only about a metre around, not like some of the older ones she had seen in the park. She examined all the gaps between the giant roots, half expecting to find an Alice hole to fall down. She circled the tree, twice, and returned to the point where she thought he had disappeared to examine the tree from the ground up.
She was standing in a nook between two of the giant roots which were about the height of her knees. She examined the layer of twigs, leaves and litter in the gaps, but there weren’t any signs that they had been disturbed. There was a broken beer bottle still firmly buried in the twigs at the entrance to the opening and a plastic bag holding a small puddle of water and dirt. She ventured in cautiously and then paused as she noticed something glittering at the point where the two roots met the trunk. She realised there was something shiny nestled in the leaf litter, knelt down for a closer look and froze when she realised what it was.
It was a silver locket with an emerald on the front.
* * * * *
Their romance had begun through a series of accidents, ones that he had been in, and had come into bloom over four months.
The first time they met, he was being wheeled into the emergency room at Sacred Heart Hospital in a wheelchair with his arm in a sling. She was immediately struck dumb by his golden hair and the chocolate eyes set in his softly smiling face. Of course it was a slightly droopy smile which could probably be attributed to the pain killers he had been given for his injured arm, but she liked him for it anyway.
“Hey V,” called Mariusz, the paramedic behind the chair, “I think this one is for you,” he winked at her over the patient’s head.
She stifled a laugh; she had known Mariusz and his wife for a few years now and he was always trying to set her up with people he brought in, or family friends, or the person he sat next to at the football on the weekend. He made his opinion that she needed a man in her life very well known.
“Hi Mariusz, what have you got for me?”
“This fine young gentleman came off the worse for wear in a battle with an escalator.”
She looked at him, puzzled.
“An escalator?” She queried.
“Yes, I believe I had an issue with the dismount.”
The voice came from the chair, she had trouble placing the accent, it wasn’t quite the local drawl, there was a slight hint of the British Isles, but it wasn’t definite.
“Ah good, your voice is unaffected. My name is Violet, I will be looking after you today Mr….”
“Bond. James Bond.”
She looked at him speculatively.
“You’re right, I’m kidding. It’s really Daniel Connery, but I figure I am nearly an actor from a Bond movie, so I like to dream a little.”
She rolled her eyes at him.
“Thanks Mariusz, I’ll take him from here,” She said, taking the handles of the wheel chair.
On that first occasion, he managed to get away with only a sprained wrist, no cast needed.
A few weeks later, he turned up with a broken ankle.
“A treadmill got the better of me,” he said, grinning sheepishly.
She saw him in a corridor on the day he had his cast removed, then again the next day, when he came in for X-rays on his shoulder.
“What on earth have you done this time?” She asked him.
“Well, there was this bicycle,” he began, “and this track…”
He had taken a BMX on a track and fallen off on a banked turn, resulting in a suspected broken collar bone.
“You are a little accident prone, aren’t you Daniel?” Violet asked while wheeling him back to the ED after his shoulder X-ray.
“Well Violet, the truth is, I would do just about anything to see your pretty face.”
“Ha,” she laughed, “you really don’t have to go to such lengths just to see me.”
He didn’t need any further encouragement and before she knew it she was at one of the swankiest restaurants in town, wearing one of her nicest dresses and sitting with a man she could quite easily love.
It wasn’t just his eyes, or his hair, it was his laugh, the accent she still couldn’t quite place and of course, his smile.
“So where did you grow up,” She asked when the enigmatic accent finally got the better of her.
“Here and there,” he said, “my family travelled a lot when I was younger; defence force family, that sort of thing.”
It sort of explained the accent, but she still felt there was more to it.
“What about you?” he asked.
“Me? I’ve been in this town my whole life; I’ve never even left the state!”
“Maybe one day I’ll take you to my favourite beach; it is out of this world!” He told her, “Do you like fishing? You can catch some amazing rainbow fish there.”
She was swept away on the tide of his enthusiasm and was looking forward to spending more time with him when he dropped her home that night.
Over the next few weeks they spent more and more time together, but he was ever the gentleman and they never shared more than a few chaste kisses.
One evening after they had been seeing each other for about two months, he arrived at her door with a bunch of red, red roses. They were large, open blooms with a scent that would blast away the odour of a week old garbage bin. The roses were arranged in a bowl with a small, wooden box nestled in the middle
“Oh,” she gushed, “They are beautiful.”
“Beautiful roses for a beautiful lady,” he said.
He reached into the arrangement and pulled out the box, “This is for you.”
Her heart was pounding as he held out the box. When she didn’t reach for it, he placed the roses down on her hall table and opened the jewellery box, very slowly.
Nestled inside was a silver heart on a chain with a deep green emerald set in the delicately worked design.
“The emerald is green, like your eyes, and my heart is like the silver, it shows that you will forever be in my heart.”
Her eyes misted at this statement, it was the closest he had ever come to saying that he loved her.
“Oh Daniel,” she gushed, “It is lovely, thank you!”
She leant forward, breathing in his aftershave as he fastened the necklace around her throat. It was a short chain and the pendant sat nestled in the dimple between her collarbones.
“There,” he said, “The perfect place for my heart to rest.”
She felt a warmth settle in her belly and a deep feeling of happiness rose over her.
“I love you, Daniel Connery,” she declared, reaching her arms around his waist and tilting her face towards him.
He leant down and kissed her gently.
“I love you too, Violet Truman,” he said, only to her, it sounded as though there was more sadness in his voice than happiness.
Just weeks later, she had sat with him in the park as he prepared to leave her.
“Violet, I’m sorry, I have to return to my parents,” he told her, emotionlessly, “I have heard that my father is facing some trouble and my family need me.”
“Where are you going?” She asked, “Can’t I come with you?”
“No, that would be impossible, what would you do?” he asked her, “You have your work here, and your friends, it would turn your life upside down.”
“You have to know that no-one here means as much to me as you do now,” she told him.
“I know, but I can’t do that to you. Our relationship cannot go anywhere from here and it would be cruel for me to give you any other impression. Violet, we come from two different worlds.”
“Is this about money?” she spat at him and drew away, unspeakably hurt by the implication that she was not good enough for him, “Obviously, you don’t think that I belong in your world, not that you have given me any kind of chance. Clearly, I am not worthy of your heart.”
She unclasped her necklace with trembling hands and thrust it toward him. He looked utterly baffled and did not move to take it.
“You do not understand, sweet Violet, my heart will ever be yours.”
“And mine can never be free with yours across my shoulders.”
She tossed the necklace to him and he moved instinctively to catch it against his chest.
“I understand,” he said, sadly. He took her hand, kissed it, and breathed, “Goodbye. I’m sorry.”
Then he turned and left her – shattered – with the bench all that anchored her to reality.
Now she stood, staring down at the betraying sparkle of the cold green stone in the dappled sunlight under the tree.
Bitterly, she thought back to his comment about it being like his heart, did he mean his was twisted like the design, or was he simply cold like the silver?
Her gaze wandered up, she planned to peer up through the branches to get a view of the sky overhead, but when she got to the height of her belly, she caught sight of a strange pattern.
At the point where the two roots she stood between reached the tree, a raised row of bark extended up the trunk, converging just above her head. At the height of her belly button was a raised round gnarl, with three concentric circles around it. She bent down to look more closely at the gnarl, slowly reaching out a finger to touch it.
She moved her hand closer and placed her index finger on the centre of the protruding gnarl. It felt smooth and warm, and she was startled by a distinct click when she applied pressure on the spot.
She examined the tree trunk again, noticing a slight glow coming from the right hand side of the bark frame that she had not seen earlier. She blinked, wondering if she was suffering some sort of post traumatic shock. She pressed a finger toward the edge of the frame and pushed, the bark moved slowly inward, opening a larger gap between it and the trunk. She straightened slowly, unsure of what was happening.
She looked down to her feet, where the necklace lay resting in its bed of leaf litter. In hindsight, she thought, there may have been more to his story than Daniel had told her and she should keep the necklace until she found him and made him explain everything. She bent down and picked it up, then pushed it deep into her pocket, she couldn’t bring herself to wear it again yet.
She wondered what she should do. On one hand, she had absolutely no idea what would lay behind the strange doorway in the tree, but she knew it was unlikely to be like anything she had ever known. On the other hand, she was absolutely certain that the man she loved, or thought she had loved, had told her he was leaving and had disappeared through this tree.
She knew there was something he wasn’t telling her and she was determined that she was going to find out what it was.
Her uncertainty resolved, she straightened, placed her right hand against the door and pushed.
So, there you go.
If my story sounds like something that would be of interest to you, you can get it on Kindle or pick up a signed copy at Supanova this weekend for my show price of $15. If you do miss out, please feel free to send me a message through my Facebook page.
Enjoy life and be happy folks xo