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Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fern - Chapter Three

The third chapter of Fern is below. 


Chapter Three
My mother gave me a generous sum of money to help me redecorate.
I think it was due to the guilt she felt for never allowing me to do it in our old house. Even for my own bedroom my father had arranged for an interior designer to handle and purchase everything from the furniture to the frames that would hold the photographs hanging from my walls. He would never appreciate it when he walked in to find I had rearranged my furniture or made some sort of life-size cubby house.

Majority of what I had spent with my mother’s money was for items to be placed in the backyard. I’ve always quite preferred the outdoors so I intended to make a haven for myself and my mother, where we could sit, talk, relax, drink wine and watch the forest. After hours of laboring and putting together the flat-pack furniture whilst my mother treated the carpets and scrubbed every non-fabric surface in the house, I made a remark that if there were such things as bachelor pads then this must be a hens retreat.

It was getting dark when my mother and I decided to call it a day. Apart from the small things here and there to make the house more homely and more us, we were just about complete anyway. 

We had gone to a furniture store first where I spent majority of my funding. Apparently this town only knew old classic designs as opposed to minimal modern pieces but that was okay.
My mother arranged for the store to deliver it to us due to the lack of space in our BMW Sedan. We had just gotten home when we received the boxes for the two white wooden sun chairs, a day bed and an outdoor coffee table. I placed the sun chairs on the grass looking out to the forest, the day bed and table under the vine patio.
We also purchased a small four person dining room set in mahogany. I convinced my mother to purchase a bright orange sofa with wooden legs as well for the lounge room.

From another store I purchased pink and orange cushions that were made to be placed inside but I scattered them on the day bed instead with matching candles, to mimic the colour scheme of the sunset over the ocean which would now be difficult to see.
I twirled twinkling fairy lights around the border of the wooden pillars as well as the trees closest to us, lining the edge of the forest as I had imagined the night before. It wasn’t much but the forest provided a good enough backdrop that we didn’t need a whole lot.

I was lounging back on the sun chair staring at the forest. Mother had called it a day and a night, heading off to bed a little after seven o’clock to catch up on sleep. She insisted we had a bit of a day tomorrow but for what I didn’t know.
I could hear the calls of birds from high up in the branches. It was soothing being here. 

At our old house it wasn’t uncommon for people to constantly be over, whether they were for my dad or for me. And I liked the company of my friends, I really did. But the frequent discussions of other people, who was doing what since school ended and where we would take pills the coming weekend was boring and tiring. I felt as if sometimes I wasn’t allowed to be sad or to just be.
It was frowned upon to be unhappy if the entire neighborhood envied your house and paying bills was never an issue.  I understood that.  I was appreciative of what we had, and perhaps I am a pessimist to be disappointed of what I didn’t.

I wonder what my father, who was the most important man in my life, would think of this place. I imagine he would stick his nose up and shudder at the thought of sleeping in such a small and old home for even a night. 
But I imagine that our lives would have been much better if we had lived here and not in the upper class suburban area that we did. There wasn’t exactly much temptation here, after all.

“It’s looking good”, I hear a familiar voice. I stare out into the forest and see Fern appear through the trees with a smile, the twinkling fairy lights shining bright on her.
“Thanks”, I reply. “It’s quite cozy”.
Fern nods. “Mind if I sit with you?”
I shake my head.
I watch her as she walks over to me. She’s wearing a pale green sundress and a brown cardigan that hangs loosely around her pale shoulders. She’s barefoot I noticed, but she looks pretty; carefree and natural.
I am wearing tight black jeans, a red jumper with black ankle boots. I am amused by the contrast in our appearances.
Back home it wasn’t uncommon to dress almost identically to your friends, whether intended or not.

Fern sits on the sun chair beside me, outstretching her legs on the wood in front of her.
She stares at the forest and the glowing trees. We sit in silence for some time. I feel uncomfortable and the obligation from back home to entertain our guests has kicked in, but I do not know what to say.
Several minutes pass and eventually I say, “Halloween seems like a pretty big deal around here”. 
Fern giggles that tells me she is well aware. “Superstitious is a common trait amongst small town folks”, Fern agrees.
“Are you?” I ask, turning my head to look at her.
“You could say that”, she answers, going quiet.
I nod, not knowing what more to say.

I pull out the packet of cigarettes from my back pocket and light one up. I take a draw, blowing the smoke out above me before outstretching it to Fern.
She takes it with a smile, following suit.
I look at her, her large brown eyes and wavy blonde hair and think that she looks far too innocent to be smoking. The picture doesn’t look right.
But I have always liked people who don’t meet initial expectations. Everyone I used to know was nothing more than what I had first thought, and there is something about Fern that I find so mysterious and intriguing.
Perhaps it’s the fact that she has come to this small town that contains no more than eight stores or a large old room with broken chairs that they called their cinema. Or that she speaks so bluntly without revealing much of herself. Instead it just opens me up to wonder more. 

“What are you trying to get away-“I begin, but she speaks at the same time and asks, “why did you move here?”
I adjust my seating position and look back out to the forest.
“My mother and father are getting a divorce”, I answer in the most natural tone that I can manage.
“Oh”, Fern says, though I don’t look at her. 
Then there is silence for some time and I assume that Fern is waiting for the tears, the sobbing and the cries of how much my life sucks. That’s what everyone else had expected. 

“You must hate your life”, my friends would say. But I would never reply. I didn’t hate my life. Sure, I hated this awful but brief period of time where the pain is still fresh and painful, but I didn’t hate my life.
They would stare at me, waiting to hear how sad and broken I was as if they got something out of it. And the sad thing was that I am quite broken and hurt. My father didn’t just betray my mother afterall. but I never felt as if I was able to tell them that. Or anyone.

I turned back to Fern. She was reclining in the chair, one leg bent upwards while her head hung back. She is taking a draw of the cigarette and blowing out the smoke into the sky.
For once I have not been interrogated as to why my parents are getting a divorce or how much money my mother had gotten from it.
Fern doesn’t seem to care in the slightest and for some reason that bothers me.

“Is that it?” I ask.
Fern smiles, sits up and hands me the cigarette. I take it and watch her, waiting for her to say something while I take a draw.
“Divorces happen”, Fern shrugged.
I resist the urge to let my mouth drop in mild shock to her uncompassionate and inconsiderate response.
Instead I take another draw and rest my head back on the chair; allowing my automatic standoffish mode to take pilot.

I close my eyes, feeling the heat of the cigarette between my fingers that rests on the arm of the chair. I keep my eyes closed, feeling unfamiliar to these sorts of reactions of being offended and not knowing what to do or say. Usually I was the one to have the last word; to cause others to not know how to react to my bluntness but I have been out-blunted.

I can feel the cigarette burning to the tip so I sit up and open my eyes and find Fern sitting up on her own chair, leaning into me. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
I let the cigarette go and fall onto the ground. I step on it with my boot until the glowing ash dims out. 

“Nothing”, I reply, staring out to the trees.
“There’s an ocean under there”, Fern oddly states and I look at her in confusion.
“What are you talking about?” I ask, my eyes narrowing at her.
She shrugs coolly. “You present yourself like a puddle”.
Was she reading from an invisible book? I didn’t quite understand and the confusion makes me feel vulnerable, adding to the frustration that had already begun to build up over the last few minutes. I stare at her and her gaze doesn’t falter. I consider telling her to leave but she smirks.
“I thought so”, Fern says as if answering her own question.
I am silent. I have no idea what to say or what to make of what she had just said.
“You know, if you want to tell me something you just should”, she said as if seeing straight through me.
“I don’t”, I say I almost too quickly and she raises her eye brows in response.
“You just took me off guard. It’s not quite what I’m used to”, I argue.
Fern lies back on her chair, crossing her feet and lifting her hands behind her head. “Well, when you do, you know where I’ll be”, she closes her eyes.
Truth is I do want to talk about it. I just never felt that I could. Or more like, whether or not I should. 

I didn’t exactly trust Fern. I barely knew her. But it wasn’t the lack of trust that made me feel uneasy about sharing my life story with her. It was just that I was scared or didn’t know how. I wasn’t sure. After all these years of keeping things only to myself it had perhaps become a bit of both. But either way, not sharing was something I had become good at.

“Why don’t you tell me something?” I asked.
She opened her eyes and peered at me. “I will. But not now”.
“Why not?” I asked, sounding almost demanding.
“Same reason as you”.
“But how would-” I began but she interrupted me with a “shh”.


I met her gaze towards the forest. I could hear birds squawking from the far distance. 
 I didn’t notice the full moon hovering brightly just above the tree line. It was beautiful. Fern and I continued to sit there in silence just staring out and for once I didn’t feel the need to interrupt it. 
I was one who felt the need to listen to music during almost every moment of my day, as if to drain my thoughts out or something. But this quiet was nice. And maybe I listened to music far too often that it left a stain because it almost sounded as if there was music coming from deep within the forest. 

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