To find out more about The Amberly Chronicles, and to get links to previous episodes, go to The Amberly Chronicles page.
Episode Ten: The Garden.
I step out of the elevator and almost smack into Oliver. He takes a step back and we both apologise. We stare at each other, an uncomfortable silence stretching between us. I have no idea what to say to him.
“You weren’t supposed to catch me,” he says, giving me a small smile.
I frown. What the hell did he mean by that? Was he here to see another girl?
He points down and I see a trail of purple petals leading from where I stand to my bedroom door.
“I was about to leave you a message asking you to meet me in The Garden,” he says.
I was planning on going up to The Garden and having a look around. I don’t like my chances of finding a way out through there, but it’s worth a try. Though I don’t want to get Oliver in trouble. I’ve learnt my lesson from the incident at The Lake.
His smile fades and a tinge of pink colours his cheeks. “Right then. I shouldn’t have asked. I had hoped…”
“It’s fine, Amberly.” He drops his head and moves behind me to step into the elevator.
After what he told me about the other girls, and with me having no talent and therefore gone in a few days, I should just let him go. It’ll be easier that way. But the crushed look on his face has my heart twisting and I’m stepping onto the elevator before I have time to think about it.
His head shoots up, one eyebrow high in question.
I gulp. “I have been meaning to see The Garden.”
I move next to him, my back against the wall. Out of the corner of my eye I see him try to hide a smile. He tells the elevator to go to The Garden. There’s an arm’s length between us, but the whole of me is fully aware of the whole of him. My body aches to move closer, my shoulder calling out to his, wanting to be pressed up against it. I remember the feel of his lips, of his hands on my bare skin. My face turns red. I try to picture what The Garden will look like in hopes my blush will disappear before Oliver sees it.
The elevator stops and Oliver indicates with a wave of his hand that I should go first.
I step out into the small metal space. Like at The Lake, it’s no bigger than a walk in robe. No windows. What I wouldn’t do to find a window in this place.
When Oliver steps behind me, the door to The Garden slides open.
Again, Oliver lets me go in first. I gasp, pausing to gaze around me. They have managed to fit a forest into a room. It blows my mind, just like The Lake did. It’s beautiful…enchanting, like it has been pulled straight out of the pages of a fairytale.
There is tinkling birds hidden in the canopy. It’s dark under foliage of not just regular green, but deep blue and dark violet as well. The trunks of the trees are wide and vines dangle from them. Moss grows on some of them in shades of green, yellow or pink. Small glow bugs dance around me. I’ve never seen one before in real life and reach for one. It darts away.
Oliver puts his hand on my elbow. “This way.”
My shoes crunch the leaf litter as we walk. There is a path through the trees, lit by large trumpet like flowers that shine as bright as the bottoms of the glow bugs.
“What is this place?”
“This is The Garden.”
The trees clear and a square patch of short grass stretches out before us. It’s surrounded by a wall of green foliage with small flowers in various colours dotted within them.
In the middle of the square is a picnic rug, a feast spread over it.
I stop in front of the rug, looking at Oliver.
“You did this for me?”
He nods. “I meant it when I told you I wanted to get to know you.”
He goes to the other end of the picnic rug and sits down. I kneel where I am. “But how did you do this? It’s not like you can just pop down to the grocery store and buy this food.”
“I put in a request,” he tells me.
I blink at him. “No one told me you could do that. What can you request? How can you request it?”
He smiles and sinks to the ground a bit more as he relaxes.
“The computers. They have a request icon on the main screen. I’ll show you after. That’s how I sent a message to your room, too.”
I cross my legs, getting more comfortable. “And?”
“And, I don’t know? You can request stuff like an extra blanket, or a new guitar, or clothes, or food for a picnic.”
“I’m guessing you can’t request to be shown the front door?”
“I don’t think so.”
I try to think of something I can request that will give me a clue about what’s going on here. It’s a long shot, but worth it if it’s going to get me out of here.
“Are you going to eat?” Oliver asks, bringing my attention back to him.
I look over the spread. There’s a bunch of grapes, sliced watermelon and strawberries with a bowl of cream next to it. There is also a garden salad and what smells like fresh baked bread. And fish! I haven’t had any meat since I got here.
Oliver pulls a bottle out of a basket. “How about a drink?”
I try to see the label. “What is it?”
I frown. “I don’t know…”
“You can’t get drunk off this wine.”
My eyebrows furrow. “What do you mean?”
He pops the top and pours some into a wine glass. It’s blue with a swirl of purple in it.
“Beside water and juice, this is the only drink they give us here,” he explains. “It tastes like wine, but you can drink two bottles of it and all that happens is you feel really good. Really relaxed. Your mind is still clear as.”
I don’t like it. Is this what they put in the water to make everyone complacent? “I’ll pass.”
He shrugs and takes a sip. I want to tell him not to drink it either, but what right do I have?
I pick up the plate in front of me and place a piece of fish on it, followed by some salad. The fish is swimming in some kind of lemon, pepper butter and it tastes divine.
“This is no steak, but boy is it good to have some meat.”
He grins. “Tell me about it.” His eyes glisten as he looks at me and I look down at my plate. I become aware of my heart. Why did he have to be so cute? Why did he have to want me? Why couldn’t I just have a stupid talent?
“I’m singing tonight,” he tells me. “It would be great if you’d come watch.”
I move a tomato around with my fork, keeping my eyes on it. “I don’t know.” I need to start trying harder to get out of here. I’m already wasting good time being here with Oliver. And with everyone at the concert I can move around without anyone watching me.
“C’mon, it’s the only thing on tonight. You can’t tell me you’re busy?”
“I will be busy.”
“Are you practising for your own concert?” he asks, grinning. “Are you finally going to show us what you can do? I’ve been dying to hear you sing. Singing’s your talent right? Actually, you never told me what your talent was.”
My heart beats thunderous in my ears. This is it. I need to tell him. I’ve waited too long already.
“Oliver?” My voice is small and I lick my lips, staring at his knee. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
He waits for me to go on. The words are a lump in my throat.
“I.” Breathe, Amberly, breathe. Just do it fast, like when ripping off a BAND-AID. I find the courage to meet his eyes.
“I don’t have a talent.”
© Rochelle Sharpe 2015.
Cannot be reproduce in any form without permission.