Welcome to 'Beyond the Secret Garden'.
I originally wrote this story almost two years ago and this is a rewrite of the original. The original story 'My Secret' was written in the first person, whereas 'Beyond' is written in the third person. The reason for this rewrite was so I could write from the perspective of different characters - which I was not able to do from the first person. Hopefully, this flows much better as a story now.
A few of you may notice spelling/grammar errors in this story - some chapters were posted in a bit of a hurry, so please don't hesitate to point these errors out to me when you come across them! of course, you're also entitled to tell me what you like about the story as well (smiles cheekily.)
Choking back sobs, the young woman pelted down the shady gravel path, tears streaking down her blotchy face.
Long golden hair streamed out from her head as she ran – she had not had the time to tie it back, nor even the inclination. Her muddy boots beat out an even rhythm on the gravel as she ran, her feet taking her to the one place where she knew she would find the peace that she craved.
Twilight had caused the path to become dimly lit and shrouded in shadow, but she knew it well. She had walked down it nearly every day for the past six years.
As she ran, she flew past many exits coming off the path, through tall brick walls covered in ivy, which loomed ominously like sentries. She could have told anyone where these led to – to the kitchen gardens mainly – however, she was in search of something few would have noticed. She stopped halfway down the path, next to what appeared to be just another wall thick with ivy. Reaching through the strands, with the ease of practice she felt her fingertips trace over the familiar pattern of a lock. With trembling fingers, she then removed a well-worn key fastened to a silver chain around her neck, and took a deep breath, closing her eyes slightly, before inserting it into the lock.
'Where has that girl gone?' Mrs Medlock's voice thundered through the manor. 'I want her found at once.'
The housekeeper stormed into the servant's quarters, where most of the servants were finishing dinner. At the sound of her voice, all gossip ceased, the maids standing to attention. It was well known that when Mrs Medlock, senior housekeeper got her wick up, it was best to do as little as possible to provoke her.
A young man, seated in the corner of the room, turned his head up sharply, at the old housekeeper's words. He had a pretty good idea of who 'that girl' was and where she would be. Quietly, he eased himself off the low bench, and made his way towards the back door of the kitchen.
The Secret Garden had, primarily, been her discovery. Now, more than ever, she felt she needed the sanctuary that the garden had always provided. The young woman took one last, nervous glance over her shoulder, making sure that no one was following her, before entering through the ivy walls.
Once inside, she ran to the far corner, stopping where an old oak tree rose up next to the wall. Her fingers grasped the worn rope of the swing, which hung from one of its branches. She stood silently, willing her breathing to still. Her heart thudded in her chest, her mind reeling. Her fingers clutched the rope as if for support, and her mind turned, once again, to the previous events of the evening.
Mary Lennox was not usually a girl taken to sentimentality and emotional outbursts. However, the news she had just heard, from none other than the thin lips of Mrs Medlock, had rocked her to the core of her being.
'You are to go to London to become a lady. You will be leaving in three weeks time.'
She grimaced at the thought of their earlier conversation, then sat down on the worn wood of the seat, rocking herself back and forth. In silence she watched the orange glow of sunset casting its light across the garden, bathing everything in one final orange glow. It was still early spring, and the days were short. The air was crisp, the warmth of the day rapidly disappearing. She looked around the garden, taking in the beauty of the twilight. Feeling herself calm as she watched the sunlight touching the roses, and the tiny empress of India lilies that lay scattered throughout the lush grass under the trees. Everything was familiar to her, in here, everything was right.
'How can I leave this all behind?' she whispered to the breeze.
Surely, she thought, the old housekeeper hadn't meant it? Surely this was all just some terrible dream that she would soon wake up from? She rubbed her arm lightly. She had pinched herself over and over again, trying to assure herself that it wasn't real, that it wasn't really happening. Yet it was. How can they do this to me? she thought, feeling a sense of panic rise up. You will be alone again... just like you were when your parents died in India. No friends, no family. Everyone here will forget about you, and life will go on without you – as though you had never come here.
And then, of course, there was Dickon.
Dickon had been her constant companion, almost from the moment she arrived at Misselthwaite. She bit her lip now, as she thought about him. Tall, lanky, and with a quiet confidence and cheeky nature, he was the one person who knew her better than anybody. Dickon had helped her bring the secret garden back to life, who had taught her to find pleasure in nature, and the "magic" it created within one's self.
What will I do without Dickon? she wondered. And who will tend the garden with him when I am gone?
The snapping of twigs brought her out of her reverie.
Mary Lennox swung her head up sharply, with the trained ear of someone who has spent many hours in a certain environment and has memorised every sound.
Dickon was approaching her from across the lawn. She found herself frowning at his appearance. He was not striding forth as he normally would, instead his hat was in his hands, and his head was bowed. She felt her heart jump up in her throat, and fresh tears threaten, as she watched the young man walking across the lawn to where she sat.
'Dickon.' she gasped, her eyes shimmering. 'I knew you'd come.'
His blue eyes shone with compassion as he looked down on her. Wringing his hat in his hands he answered rather nervously.
'I've just heard tha' news. I had t' see if tha' was alright. I knew I would find thee' here, in th' garden.'
She nodded, wiping away tears. 'Its the one place where I feel safe.' the lad nodded, and she continued, her voice rising. 'Dickon, they want to send me away!'
The lad's forehead furrowed with anxiety. Mary watched, realising that she had never seen Dickon looking quite that way before. The expression looks queer on him, she thought.
'Is there nuthin' tha' can do?' he asked. 'surely tha' Uncle wouldn't send thee away? he's not an unreasonable man.'
'He was the one who arranged it in the first place.' she sniffed. 'He wants me to be with Colin in London. He said... he said that I am growing wild here, and that being in London will help turn me into a lady.' She emphasised the last word bitterly, her eyes flashing.
She saw him frown in consternation. 'An Mrs Medlock canna' educate thee herself? or he canna' hire a governess?
The girl shook her head. 'He wants me to be able to get out in society. Meet the right people, all of that rubbish! Dickon!,' she grabbed the boys arm and looked up at him, pleadingly. 'Please help me. I don't want to be sent away!'
He knelt down next to her, his voice gentle. As if he were talking to one of his creatures, she thought.
'Miss Mary. Nothin' is certain yet, aye?'
She looked up into his blue eyes, and saw only kindness and compassion. His voice soothed her, and she felt his hand on her shoulder in reassurance. She sighed, closing her eyes briefly. Why was it that Dickon seemed to have the power to make her feel completely at ease, regardless of the situation?
'You're right. My Uncle said it won't be for a few weeks. There is still time to change his mind. If I can only tell him how much Misselthwaite means to me then perhaps... ' her eyes searched upwards, watching the sunset. 'Perhaps he will allow me to stay.'
The lad chuckled. 'Tha' had enough power t' heal thy cousin. Perhaps th' magic will work again and tha' will be able t' stay?'
She knew he was making light of the situation, for her sake, and she appreciated it.
'Yes, Dickon. Let us hope that the magic will help.' she sighed. 'But given how stubborn my Uncle can be, I think I will need more than magic this time.'
His warm hand stroked her shoulder, and she closed her eyes, feeling stronger than she had before.
'Come Miss Mary.' he said softly. 'They are lookin' for thee back at th' house. Would tha' like me t' take thee back?'
She nodded. 'I'd like that, Dickon.'
'Tha is verra welcome.' he replied, smiling, offering her his hand. She took it, pausing for a moment to marvel at its warmth, and together they made their way across the lawn and back to the manor house.
'Could we...' she swallowed nervously, casting furtive glances up towards the front door of the house. 'could we perhaps meet in the garden tomorrow. I would like that. Perhaps then we would have more time to talk together.'
The young man smiled. 'Of course, Miss Mary. If old Ben agrees, I can meet thee here around noon.'
Mary felt a smile begin to form on her face. Suddenly, the following day which she had been dreading, did not seem so terrible after all. If I can somehow manage to get through it until I see Dickon. The thought of him will help me bear it!
'Thank you, Dickon. Thank you!'
She ran inside, before he had time to answer. Glancing back at the top of the stairs, she turned to watch the young man departing into the night, fading into the blackness of the trees that surrouned the manor house. He moves like a wild creature, she thought, full of grace and ease. As she wondered why she had never really noticed before, she turned and made her way up the remaining stairs, and into the house.