FOLLOWING THE BREAK of dawn came a crisp, sultry morning – the kind only found in picturesque countryside, or in a realtor’s advertisement for beachfront property. The breeze was gentle; the sky a deepest blue; and the early birds’ songs were in full swing as she picked listlessly at some blades of overgrown grass. While her parents were busy finishing up the unpacking, Chloe decided it was an excellent opportunity to survey the garden and surrounding grounds of the house. She had been roaming about for the better part of an hour and now took a short rest, cross-legged beneath the shade of a tall tree – the same one she saw yesterday from the kitchen window – which turned out to be a great oak.
She had traipsed around the outside of the house numerous times in clockwork fashion and discovered the many curiosities that made up the sizable area of the Wolfe Estate. Her roundabout rambling served the purpose of helping her commit to memory an internal map of the grounds: this was her new home after all and she made it her mission to know every square inch of the place, inside and out. Every time a lap was completed, she would rest at this same spot, close her eyes, and try to recall in detail what she saw, each trip filling in more and more of the image that was forming in her mind.
She took up some nearby twigs and began to fidget, spinning them this way and that whilst reminiscing about the grounds’ layout. She knew for certain that the current stretch of garden ran alongside the kitchen/dining room, or the eastern side of the house. It was a large open space with a handful of mature trees littered about its edges, including the venerable oak and a rather wistful weeping willow. A rusty, green garden shed sat near trellises of ivy climbers that ran along the perimeter; indeed, the entire area was walled off from the surrounding woodland with high-rise stonework; a lot of grainy, dark-wood trees peeked out from beyond.
Those dark trees shivered in the wind, their rustle scratching along the gentle breeze. A flash of imagined bramble caused her to break concentration and quickly glance around. For a moment she became paranoid that something sinister could be lurking in the nearby brush but shook the feeling off in the pleasantness of her surroundings.
Tearing more of the plentiful blades from where she sat, she carelessly wrapped strands of grass around her gathered twigs. The next leg of her reminiscence lay just around the corner path, towards the rear of the house. After going through a terse, winding passage canopied by pergolas of moonflower and butterfly pea she would find herself on the west side of the property. Here was home to a range of attractions such as a conservatory, which connected back inside the house; a pond filled with lily pads; and an idyllic smattering of flowerbeds of all types and shades. The previous owners must have been very diligent in their gardening, she thought, to create such a sprawling scene of flora that pervaded in almost every nook and cranny of the promenade. It was one of the most colourful gardens she had ever seen with its patches of indigo, turquoise, and pink dotted about and she wondered just how much watering and weeding was required to maintain its lustrous bloom. A smile perked up the corners of her mouth as she imagined working in the garden on summer days like these, in the fresh air and with ice-cold pitchers of lemonade at the ready. A few pebbles had found their way into her wrappings of twig and grass. She was unaware of the form taking shape.