Photograph from: http://images.mooseyscountrygarden.com/gardening-journals/garden-journal-04/60/
Anna stared out of the window, with hands tightly clasped, and watched her little sister hurriedly push herself beneath the camellia. She knew the terror that filled Lottie’s trembling heart because the same bile rose in her own throat, and nausea washed over her as the back door slammed, and Lottie’s soft-pink shoes still remained peeping out from beneath the shrub’s protective canopy. Anna raised a useless warning hand as his heavy brogues made their way up the path. She could barely breathe, but Lottie’s Mary Janes disappeared beneath the waxy leaves.
Her hands uncurled as he strode past the budding camellia, and she held her breath as he paused by the small, stone wall. He rested his hand and wiped his forehead. Anna smiled; a tiny, knowing curve of her lips. He didn’t look good.
He moved a step further and Anna noted his lethargy, the annoyance in his eyes as he glanced across the garden, and the way he clutched his abdomen after he wiped the sweat from his brow. Heavy drops of rain began to fall and her smile grew. He called and her little sister’s name rang out in the still evening air, a mixture of cajoling and pleading and Anna’s smile slid from her face.
But the camellia hid its treasure well.
Anna watched him move and begin searching behind the potting shed, and up towards the rhododendrons. Above him the laburnum, its golden racemes now faded and ugly, rippled in the slight breeze. He moaned, and the menacing sound carried through her closed window. She clenched her fists, it was fitting that he now gripped his stomach and collapsed beneath the tree.
She couldn’t help the surge of triumph and recalled the moment a few weeks ago when he’d asked what she was putting in his hot chocolate. “Vanilla,” she’d answered quickly and easily, “you’ll like it.” And she continued pounding away at the seed pods with the mortar and pestle. Vanilla essence flavoured his drink…and he liked it.
He was now retching and shaking like a dog, spittle hanging from his pale lips, and Anna watched as he buckled, and sank into the long grass behind the huge rhododendrons and beneath the laburnum’s veil of blackened pods.
Both she and Lottie would sleep safe in their beds tonight.