Monday, February 18, 2013

Prompt: Unappreciated Efforts

“Ohhh!” Sharon growled as she stomped into the kitchen and jerked open the refrigerator door. She pulled out a beer and popped off the top, taking a long draught, then pressing the cold bottle against her forehead. She turned around and saw Jenny watching from her perch on a counter barstool. Jenny raised her eyebrows in question.

“I am so effing aggravated with that woman!” Sharon ground out. She rounded the bar and leaned against the stool next to Jenny.

Jenny shook her head, lips twitching. “I hate to say I told you so—”

Sharon held up her hand. “Don’t! I know, you told me not to take the job. She’s difficult and never satisfied, and I’ve sworn after the last three jobs I would never so much as drop a dandelion seed in that woman’s garden again. But Jenny, the Foundation grounds? How could I say no to that?”

“And it’s all come together beautifully, just as you promised, so what’s the problem?”

Sharon glared at her. “Do you know how many nights I’ve been up till the wee hours growing those seedlings? Do you know how exhausting it is to pull three years’ growth in three months?”

Jenny stood and gave Sharon an encouraging hug, then tugged her arm to walk out onto the patio, overlooking the very project that had overtaken their lives for the last three months. “Yeah,” she said, “I’ve been right here, Sharon. I have a pretty good idea.”

They watched as the shadows crept across the central English gardens and the jasmine maze on the eastern wall, and fireflies began to flash their patterns in the twilight blue sky.

Jenny grew up in greenhouses. Her father was the head gardener for the Stedham Family Gardens, the largest supplier of fresh flowers in the Southeast. She had found Sharon sleeping under a pile of unused frost covers in her father’s research greenhouse, when she was sneaking in to see his latest hybrids. Sharon had no memory of where she came from, but she had a gift for gardening that ensured her place in their family from that day forward.

Sharon could make seedlings sprout in minutes, newly planted flower beds bloom in days, trees push down roots and grow at a visible rate over weeks. Jenny’s father called it a gift from God and said she should cherish her gift, and share it with the world. They tried it on everything, but she could do nothing for grains, legumes, fruits or vegetables. Her gift would help to make the world more beautiful, but it would not feed the starving. And it exhausted her, drawing the energy out of her own body, so that she slept for days and ate voraciously once she recovered.

Sharon and Jenny were best friends—sisters by choice, they liked to say—inseparable from the day they met. They shared a room, clothes, interests, homework, boys, and dreams. After college, they started their own landscaping business in Atlanta, backed by the prestige of the Stedham family reputation.

They had their share of successes and a handful of failures. And one notoriously difficult client. They had ambitiously bid to design the landscaping of her new home south of Stone Mountain. She micromanaged, criticized and generally drove both of them crazy, without one word of acknowledgement or appreciation. Except that she referred everyone she knew to them, making their business an overnight success. The second job had seen similar results: great frustration and gnashing of teeth, followed with a complete lack of appreciation, accompanied by a big fat check and still more business.

Jenny told Sharon they should just say no, because the woman aggravated Sharon so much. But Sharon couldn’t resist the challenge that each new project posed, including this last one, the 120 acre grounds of the Rencroy Foundation estate. With the added twist that the project must be complete and the landscaping mature within three months for the annual Foundation Gala.

With only one week remaining, Sharon had been working night and day, pulling new growth from all the plantings around the estate grounds. The maze was fragrant with blooming jasmine. The patterned English gardens featured flowers and herbs that took years to establish. The rose beds perfumed the patio. Lavish beds spread riots of color and scent across the front lawn in a dramatic Celtic knot design that wrapped around the sides of the main house.

Dogs in house:
Buddy (we are visiting)

February word count:

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