Chapter 2: Welcome to the Human Race
"Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race.” - Electric Light Orchestra
Marietta awoke the next morning at 6:30 and swiftly went about her routine. She stretched, dressed, and fed Lola. After eating breakfast she began subduing her unruly mop of hair. She deftly weaved the front into a neat crown braid and pinned it into place. Throwing on her rubber gardening boots and a sun hat, she made her way outside at exactly 7:15.
The Casey estate was a five and a half acre property consisting of manicured lawns, palatial trees, and a small pond. Next to the mansion was a large garage containing the family’s four cars, which were polished to a shine every morning by Samuel. The back of the house held an expansive brick patio and entertainment space, complete with a pool, a hot tub, and a grand fire pit. The patio overlooked an acre’s worth of lawn, beyond which lay the 50 square foot plot that was Marietta’s precious garden. To the side of her garden sat a tool shed and large dog house for Lola. A full two acres behind the main villa lay a much smaller house intended for the groundskeepers, and the shed where the equipment was stored. All in all, the Casey estate was one of the most expansive and enriched properties in Old Greenwich, and had been in her father’s family for generations.
Making her way across the back lawn, Marietta spotted Wade, their previous groundskeeper, speaking with two strangers. She took a deep breath, gathering her courage. She could do this. As she approached, Wade straightened up immediately.
“Miss Casey, good morning,” the burly man greeted pleasantly.
“Good morning, Wade,” Marietta replied, and she was proud that her voice only trembled slightly. Wade quickly turned and gestured to the man and woman standing next to him.
“This is Tommy and Jean Morell, they’re going to be taking care of the property now that I’m leaving. Tommy, Jean, this is Miss Marietta Casey, Mrs. Holt’s daughter.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Marietta said politely. She studied both of them carefully as she shook their hands.
Tommy was tall, exceeding six feet, with a head of dark curls and a three-day beard. He was handsome in that scruffy, wiry way that girls her age were often charmed by. The woman, Jean, wasn’t quite so tall, but she still stood a good five inches above Marietta. She had dark features and a sharp jawline that gave her a striking appearance. Perceptive brown eyes calmly met Marianna’s green ones as they shook hands, and the red head quickly looked away.
“Ah. Are you, uh. Are you two married?” she asked, deciding to address the friendlier looking Tommy. The man abruptly let out a boisterous laugh, and Marietta almost jumped.
“No, no” he said, giving a lopsided grin. “We’re brother and sister. I’m pretty sure if anybody was married to Jean, they’d be committed to a facility.” The man adeptly side stepped a smack from his sister, smile only getting wider. Marietta simply blinked at the exchange, predictably confused.
“A...facility? For what?” The tall man’s grin faltered as he tilted his head, raising an eyebrow inquisitively. Wade looked between the two uncomfortably.
“You know, like a mental facility. Because she drives people nuts.” Marietta mentally panicked, still confused.
“Oh I see,” she said, smiling uneasily. “That is funny.” The taller man gave her a strange look, but said nothing else. Wade quickly interjected.
“I was just telling them how important your garden is, and how they must be very careful to follow your instructions.”
Marietta quickly followed his lead. “Yes, yes, that’s what I wished to talk to you two about.” She chanced a look at the intimidating woman, who was listening attentively. Breathe. Get your point across.
“I take care of nearly all aspects of the garden, including watering, pruning, and planting. There are 37 different varieties of plants and they all have very different, specific needs. So it’s very important that you don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to.” At this, Marietta managed to sound stern.
Wade visibly tensed next to her, presumably remembering the time he had taken it upon himself to weed the Dandelions growing in the corner of the garden. Little did he know she had been growing them for their vitamins, and she had given him quite the earful on how weeds were not inherently bad.
“The only thing you need to do is trim the grass and green growth on the outside of the garden borders,” Marietta ordered. “Be very careful to maintain those borders. Please. When certain plants fruit, I may also request your help in picking and harvesting, if you’re able.”
Tommy nodded. “Sure, no problem,” he said, giving her a genuine smile. Marietta could tell he smiled a lot. Looking to the woman, Jean, Marietta was surprised to see the faint traces of...was it amusement in her eyes? Still, she said nothing.
With the important business taken care of, Marietta thanked them all and excused herself, quickly heading to the garden. That had gone well. She felt her chest swell with pride at the small interaction.
She opened her tool shed and began her real task for the day. She had to lay down fertile soil to plant the Witch Hazel in. Large bags of planting soil were stacked neatly in the corner, and she figured she was strong enough to wheel out two at a time in her wheelbarrow. Once she finished preparing the Witch Hazel patch, she could conceivably get the plants in the ground by the end of the day. Just the thought of it made her grin.
She dragged her yellow wheelbarrow out of the shed, but was quickly dismayed to find it would not stay upright. She bent to inspect the wheel and cursed. The wheel axel had partially broken off, and the wheel was thus crooked. She had no idea how to fix it, and without her wheelbarrow, moving the soil bags would become extremely difficult.
Biting her lip in frustration, the redhead pondered for a few moments. She did not want to wait to plant the Witch Hazel. She was just going to have to drag the soil bags the whole way. Sighing, she proceeded to grab the corners of a bag, tugging it off the pile. Before she could begin her slow trek into the garden, however, she was startled by an amused voice.
“Would you like some help with those?” Marietta almost fell over as she snapped towards the sound. The woman, Jean, was standing near her shed, watching her curiously.
“I uh...I...what?” Marietta’s brain was a whirl of panic. Jean casually approached, pointing to the soil bags. “I saw that your wheelbarrow was broken. I hope you’re not intending on dragging those bags. That’s super bad for your back.” At this, the brunette frowned slightly.
Marietta licked her lips, looking from the bag to the woman and back again. She had no idea what she was supposed to say.
“I really want to plant my Witch Hazel,” she finally managed, as if this answered her question.
Jean flashed a toothy grin. “Well, we better get this soil out there then,” she chuckled. In one swift movement, the taller woman slung the heavy bag up onto her shoulder and began striding towards the garden. Marietta blinked, momentarily astonished by the other woman’s actions. What was she supposed to do next?
Marietta hurried after the brunette. “The uh, the Witch Hazel patch is going to be over there,” she said, pointing towards the south east end of the garden. Jean nodded and began following Marietta towards the spot, easily shouldering the weight of the soil bag. Marietta did her best not to stare at the other woman’s well-defined arms. Her strength was, for lack of a better word, impressive.
When they finally reached the Witch Hazel patch, Jean let down the bag and straightened up. “Do you want me to bring the rest of them?” Marietta wrung her hands awkwardly.
“Yes, please, that would be great.”
“Sure.” With that, the woman left to retrieve another bag. Marietta cut open the bag on the ground and nervously went about spreading the soil. After Jean had brought back all the bags, she faced the redhead. “You know I could fix that wheelbarrow for you, if you want.”
Marietta wiped soil off her hands. “Could you really?”
Jean shrugged nonchalantly. “Sure. That’s kind of my thing, fixing stuff. Motorcycles, tractors, washing machines. Wheelbarrows.” She flashed a dimpled grin. “My Pop used to be a mechanic, so I learned a ton from him.”
Marietta raised her eyebrows, impressed. She tried to imagine what her Mother would say if Marietta had expressed interest in learning such things. She was barely able to tolerate her daughter’s obsession with gardening. Oh Marietta, you are a lady. Those are things men do, and poor men at that. You should really be interested in things that reflect your standing. The redhead smiled.
“What?” Jean said, quirking an eyebrow at Marietta’s expression.
“Oh, nothing, it’s just that...well. I’ve never known a woman who could do those things,” Marietta said shyly.
Jean snorted, shoving her hands into jean pockets. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
“I’d love it if you could fix my wheelbarrow. Thank you very much,” Marietta asked quickly, not wanting the other woman to be offended.
“Not a problem. I’ll get on that as soon as I can.”
Marietta smiled warmly at Jean, pleased at how easy the conversation seemed to be going. Jean grinned back easily.
“So, what’s the deal with the garden?” the brunette questioned, glancing at the many flowers surrounding them. “Have you always loved plants?”
Marietta swallowed nervously. Jean was asking about the garden. She had to be careful not to ramble and annoy her new acquaintance.
“Yes. Ever since I was very young, plants have fascinated me,” Marietta said carefully.
Jean nodded. “You seem to have a lot of different types here. I don’t know a lot about plants, but I know this is definitely the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen.”
Marietta’s heart soared. “Really?” she asked softly.
“Oh yeah,” Jean assured. “The colors, the variety, the layout. It’s gorgeous.”
Marietta was now trying very hard not to cry. No one had ever complimented her garden so genuinely before. “Thank-you,” she said, blinking back the moisture in her eyes. “That means a great deal to me.”
If Jean noticed how emotional the redhead was getting, she didn’t show it. She simply nodded kindly.
“Well. I better go help Tommy set up our new house. I won’t forget about that wheelbarrow,” she assured.
“Oh, yes, of course. Thank-you for your help.”
“No problem,” the taller woman said. “And Miss Casey?”
“I sure would love to hear more about your garden sometime, if you ever feel inclined.”
Marietta broke into the biggest smile she had ever worn.
“I would love that. Very very much.”
Jean smiled back and turned away. “See you later, Miss Casey.”
Marietta watched her leave.