On the weekends, or sometimes even during weekdays, when she got too stressed out, Lara went to the botanic gardens located just a short bike ride away from her home to relax and center herself. She had been to the gardens well over a hundred times, and so she knew every nook and cranny, which meant that even if there were a lot of people there, she was still able to find a secluded spot where she could get rid of all her negative energy. It was her happy place – Heaven on Earth.
The banyan tree located in the far corner of the gardens, off the beaten path, was her favorite hiding spot. With its many branches and a thick trunk, the tree provided shelter from the sun and prying eyes. On summer days, Lara would sit on a soft, baby blue blanket she had laid down and rest her back against the cool tree. She’d close her eyes and listen to the surrounding silence. Sometimes, she heard kids wailing in the distance, but it was a quiet spot for the most part – an oasis.
Every now and again, Lara wondered if anyone would notice or care if she hung a swing or a hammock from the tree’s branches. But ultimately, she didn’t want to rock the boat. “Lest they cordon off this part of the garden, and I lose my spot,” she’d worry and push away the dream of turning the tree into a fortress with a playground. If anyone knew, they might have found it peculiar that she put more thought into that than decorating her own apartment. Lara shrugged. The blanket in the summer or a folded chair in the winter would have to do. At least for the time being.
Lara sat down by the banyan and closed her eyes. The air she breathed in through her nose filled her lungs. She envisioned them expanding, wrinkles smoothing out, all of the tiny lobe crevices waking up rejuvenated.
The world slowed down.
For a few seconds, Lara held her breath.
The world stopped.
“And out,” she thought as she slowly exhaled through her mouth with a woosh. She let go of a figurative balloon that soared to the skies, but the worries of the world she brought with her still filled her mind. Even though she acknowledged those were still there, Lara did not let that bother her.
On the second inhale, she allowed her ears to hear. It’s as if tiny elves living in her ear canals opened up the windows for spring cleaning.
She heard the different birds arguing, the leaves chasing one another in the light breeze, and even the sun smiling. “Do we handicap ourselves on a daily basis by only focusing our eyes and ears on certain things and tuning out others?” Lara mused.
After eyes and ears, it was time to go back to her lungs and nose. A deep inhale. There was a hint of mowed grass in the air. And it just smelled of a summer that was coming to an end. You had to have smelled it before to be able to understand; some things you just can’t put into words. Lara was grateful to be able to experience all that. That’s how she zeroed herself.
At the bayan tree, Lara would make plans for practically any facet of her life – work, relationships, gym, writing, and more. It was then that she felt at her optimal. The banyan tree was her safe space.
While work had been good lately, her personal life weighed on her and caused her stress that time around. Her boyfriend seemed to have a split personality – one day, he claimed that she was the most perfect of humans, while the next – she was not even worthy of being labeled a human. She was getting really tired of the hot and cold.
It was hard to think at home, but in the gardens, once she centered herself, she was able to tend to her problems from a third-party perspective. Once her mind was clear, Lara was able to be more objective and rational when thinking through challenging issues. Yes, Robert had some good sides, but mostly he had the bad, and he seemed to be determined to sharpen the bad ones and destroy the good.
That state of affairs saddened Lara, but she reminded herself that the only person she could change was herself, which wasn’t something she thought was needed in that scenario. “I’ll tell him things need to change, or else I’m done.” She would even offer help by agreeing to go to therapy, but that was the extent of how far she was going to go. She had been through too much.
Once she was done strategizing, as usual, she opened a book she was reading and lost herself in it. Brooks definitely would make for a better boyfriend, and butter chicken sounded like a great dinner idea. She smiled. Life wasn’t so bad. At least by the banyan.
*** A few days later ***
“You’re delusional!” Robert exclaimed, making a fist. “You think the world revolves around you,” he continued as he paced across the room.
Lara, seated at her desk, smirked. Wasn’t it funny how people accused you of the very thing THEY were guilty of? “I’m trying to fix things, and you’re just-“
“Oh, this is a laughing matter to you? Are you having fun? Blame me some more, why don’t ya?! Huh?” Robert approached Lara and looked straight into her eyes.
His eyes used to be the color of the calming ocean. These days they were the color of a bottomless pit of despair.
“I’m just trying to get us some help,” Lara muttered, her head hanging low.
“She wants to send me to a SHRINK! I swear…” he went back to pacing, scratching his arms, and biting his lip. “YOU are the one that needs help. Not me,” he added, pointing his finger at her.
When she was in the gardens, things always appeared black and white to Lara. She knew they were having problems; she would suggest a potential solution and then either work on their relationship or walk away. Simple as that. But the reality was anything but. Emotions came into play, and Lara was caught in the web of ‘well, I’m not perfect either, I should be able to help him, we’re a team, and I am responsible.’
Lara shook her head. Not this time.
Lara stood up from her chair and looked her boyfriend straight in the eye. “Robert, I might not be perfect, but you’re the one that needs professional help. You contribute nothing to this relationship, and you only cause it harm. I’m tired of this. But it’s not just our relationship. It’s also your life, and I would love it if you were able to salvage it. PLEASE, get some help.”
Robert stood there, speechless, surprised by Lara’s confidence and directness. She hadn’t been like that in a long time. He thought he got that weeded out of her.
“We need to break up. For the good of both of us. I will stay with Nancy tonight, and tomorrow I will come, and we can talk logistics.
Usually, whenever she would try to leave, he would block the door, but this time she was prepared, and he was stunned.
“I’ll kill you, and then myself!” she heard him scream as she locked her car door. “I know where you’re going!”
She swore she did not breathe until she got to the gardens.
“Just breathe,” she kept telling herself as she walked to her spot. Finally, being able to stand her ground felt good, but it also filled her with a ton of anxiety about the future. And the exit threat was worrisome, too, of course.
*** The following day ***
“What do we have here?” Detective Oaks asked.
“A young female with a head wound. Bludgeoned to death,” Officer Peterson responded.
“This is a pretty remote spot. Who found her?”
“The groundskeeper. He walks around the gardens each morning to make a list of the things that need to be done that day in order to keep this place in pristine condition. As you can imagine, this is far from pristine.” Peterson chuckled.
Oaks wasn’t there to chitchat. He came in to assess the situation, gather the evidence, and figure out what happened and who did it. Newbie officers were just in his way. “Anyone saw or heard anything?”
Peterson shook her head. “No, sir.”
“Check her pockets for a wallet and an ID and text me the address. I’ll see if there is anything or ANYONE of interest there.”
*** An hour later at the address ***
“What can I help you with?” asked the man at the door.
“I’m Detective Oaks, and this is Detective Moore. Does Ivette Green live here?”
“Yes. I’m her husband – Derrick. Is everything OK?”
“No, sir, it’s not. Can we come in?”
*** The night before ***
A short distance before ‘her spot,’ Lara stopped. There was someone else by the banyan. She couldn’t believe it. Twice in one week! The first time she saw someone in her spot, she decided that she could use that as an opportunity to go to the bookstore instead. But the second time…
Lara turned around and headed back to her car. First, she had a big argument with Robert, and now THIS? “This is MY spot. I can’t let another person walk all over me,” she told herself as she pulled out a foldable chair from her trunk.
*** A few days later ***
“Finally back together!” Lara said to the tree as she ran her hand over its smooth bark. She was worried that the cops would never remove the yellow crime scene tape. “Took them long enough,” she thought while looking around to see if there was any blood left. “I try to be so good to people… I let her have my spot once. I didn’t even say anything to her… Maybe THAT was why she thought it was OK to return…” Lara wondered if things would have ended the way they did if she politely asked the girl to never come back to the banyan… But it didn’t work on Robert. No matter how many times she asked him not to do something, it did not matter. He still trampled right through that. That’s how people were…
Lara laid the blanket down and started her routine…
P.S. I know this could have been developed more, but I didn’t want to make it lengthier than it already is (or turn it into parts).
“Write a story inspired by the word ‘peculiar.'”
– prompt used for this CW piece.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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