The Lady in the Garden

The Stealing of Thins [Chapter 1]

Society still has a difficult time taking in the idea of a woman being the main breadwinner for her family. Even harder to grasp is that I, a woman with a husband and two kids, could and does do so working the graveyard shift. The other ordinary, and comparatively boring nuclear families that ours associates with, or attempt to associate with— and mind you, it isn’t that many— always ask how it works. And I tell that it is in fact, quite simple.

I get home in the early morning hours and make breakfast. Well, the breakfast that the three others in the house eat before heading to school and work. It serves as my dinner if you can be flexible with labels. It’s all food to me.

I go to bed not long after. Sometimes wine is taken before the brushing of my teeth and showering. The house is quiet and the blackout shades are drawn. I made them myself, because what sort of woman would I be without knowing how to sew? I am open to sharing how I did so, but the idea of such monotone home apparel doesn’t stick with the diurnal wives from the neighborhood.

While the world passes by outside, I get my shut-eye. The kids get back first, then the husband not long after, and they all know not to be loud and wake mommy. At first, this was by threat, but since a long time, it has become a clear habit. They manage to get along fine playing outside instead of just sitting in front of the TV set like other kids their age seem to do these days.

Dinner comes after, sometimes by me and sometimes by the husband. Yet another concept that baffles our current-day society, to make the man of the house cook. But he certainly isn’t bad. We all eat together, catching up like a normal family would do.

The question of the evening came up like it so often did, and this time I had an answer that warranted me putting down my coffee to answer properly.

“Are you guarding anything cool tonight, mama?” Jamie, the 7-year-old asked.

I leaned forward in the seat and picked up the fork, tapping it away while I answered. “Well, they actually brought in a big old jewel. From an ancient tomb!”

“What’s a… toom… mama?” James, the 5-year-old, puzzled.

“It’s where they… bury people. Old, dead people.” Jamie explained proudly in my place.

“Where they bury rich and powerful people,” I added, waiving my arms out to my sides. “It must have been, or else they wouldn’t have buried this person with such a big diamond. Or was it something else?”

“Like your ring.” Jamie pointed at the simple band and singular, meager faceted rock on my finger.

“Like that,” I nodded, “but much bigger.” I folded my arms into a ring in front of me to make an unfounded approximation of the size.

Jamison, my husband, laughed. “Next, your mother will want an upgrade to match.” I laughed and shook my head, and the kids joined in to match the mood.

It’s not long after the meal that I go off to work, somewhere between putting the kids to bed and Jamison going to sleep himself. The museum is a ways from where we live, but at least at that time of night, the roads are mostly serene and empty. When I arrive, I enter through the back entrance, gab a bit with the swing shift workers, and leisurely get dressed to start my night. And not to brag, but those next few hours are not much harder.

Yes, despite what my little boys think, my job is certainly not as exciting or dangerous as it sounds. Frankly, to say I am a guard is a stretch. I do guard things. Alas, I have no badge, nor a weapon. My supervisor does allow me the use of a heavy flashlight that could be used to give a potential burglar or thief a nasty clunk on the head. That is, if I were not directed first to shine the bright beam in their eyes to, quote, spook them off. Not that I’ve ever come that close to a conflict, though. But I am sure that I could handle such a thing if it came up.

I have heard from my male colleagues not-so-quietly behind my back refer to me as imposing, perhaps scary by some definition of the word. I am indeed taller than some of them. I’m sure it was with good intention, as well, when they said that with my short hair, I could be mistaken for a man if encountered in the dark on one of my midnight patrols.

The patrols themselves are the core of my guarding duties. They begin after the doors to the public close, just to make sure there is nobody intentionally or otherwise still inside. Occasionally there are folks who overstay their welcome or get lost or find themselves in the bathroom for longer than expected. I am more than happy to escort them out.

Later in the night, I patrol the grounds outside. This is to prevent the teenagers from defacing the statues with bathroom tissue or strange articles of clothing. It has not happened during my time yet here, but I have been warned that it has occurred before.

That night on patrol, I couldn’t help but hear the rustling of bushes outside the hallway of the anthropology exhibit. My imagination turned to a stay cat, even possibly a raccoon. With flashlight in hand, I dutifully stepped off the path to determine whatever cute little intruder we had.

The beam of my light caught the rustle of something in the hedges, indeed, which caused it to stop. Moving up closer, a face, shielded by a hand, popped up in my view from beneath the sill of the window. “Hey-“ I called out, lowering the light.

The face, belonging to a human, one with fine olive features at that, stared back at me from between a pair of neatly rounded shrubs. I blinked several times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

“You can’t be-“

Before I could continue the warning, the person rushed up before me, taking the side of my face in her hand. Their soft fingers tugged me lightly by the hair down to her level, not with force but by some sort of magical allure, as if I were smelling a delicate flower. Their lips came to rest upon mine, pressing with a firm but soft touch, and the caress of their hand continued. Just when it felt like my breath was at its limit, the olive-toned individual pulled away, dashing off past me and into the night, a lithe silhouette against the low lights coming through the windows. The moisture from… it was unmistakably a kiss… remained.

My collar was tight, holding onto my body heat underneath the thick uniform. Finding my way off the grass, I turned the still-illuminated flashlight back, hoping to see one last trace of the woman.

Next Chapter –>

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