Leav­ing It To Na­ture

Han­nah’s mum liked gar­den­ing. And it had taught her a thing or two over the years, it seemed . . .

The People's Friend - - Contents - by Tracy Baines

HAN­NAH watched the robin hop along the wall. It sat for a while, look­ing about with small, jerky move­ments, then set­tled to stare straight at her.

The stout red-breasted bird had been hov­er­ing around the gar­den all morn­ing, close be­hind Han­nah’s mum who was digging over the flowerbeds prior to a trip to the gar­den cen­tre.

Pulling at the weeds that had taken up res­i­dence among the paving slabs, Han­nah sat back on her heels and watched as the robin eyed her mum, greed­ily watch­ing for any worms that made an ap­pear­ance.

She stud­ied it as it waited for its mo­ment be­fore div­ing down for the worms and dis­ap­pear­ing into the hedge at the cor­ner of the gar­den.

“All right, love?”

Her mum rested on her spade for a mo­ment. A lock of hair fell in front of her eyes and she brushed it away with the back of her gloved hand.

“Ready for a break?” Han­nah nod­ded and her mother came to stand be­side her.

“What were you watch­ing?”

Han­nah pointed to the part of the gar­den where the bird had taken cover.

“It was a robin, hop­ing for worms. It was so per­sis­tent.”

Her mum nod­ded her agree­ment.

“They never give up, do they? Al­ways sit­ting qui­etly in the back­ground wait­ing for the right mo­ment.”

“Do you think it’s the same one that was here yes­ter­day?” Han­nah got to her feet.

“Prob­a­bly. They’re very ter­ri­to­rial. I did see an­other around a cou­ple of days ago and they flew at each other. That tiny lit­tle bird was puff­ing out its chest. ‘Get off my patch, buster,’ he seemed to be say­ing.”

Her mother punched her fists play­fully, gen­tly fight­ing an in­vis­i­ble foe. She let her hands drop.

“I could do with a hot drink, couldn’t you?”

Han­nah didn’t need any en­cour­age­ment.

“I’ll do it,” she said, mak­ing for the back door.

At the thresh­old Han­nah eased off her boots and stepped into the warmth of the kitchen while her mother washed her hands in a bowl of soapy wa­ter in the sink.

She moved aside to let Han­nah get at the tap, and Han­nah stared at her mis­shapen re­flec­tion in the stain­less steel of the ket­tle as she ran the wa­ter.

She looked ugly and dis­torted. That was how she felt in­side. Per­haps that was why Rob­bie hadn’t cho­sen her and had picked Susie in­stead.

Her mother wiped her hands on a towel as Han­nah pulled out two mugs and spooned cof­fee gran­ules into them. While they waited for the ket­tle to boil, they stood, side by side, look­ing out across the gar­den from the kitchen win­dow. “Look, it’s your robin.” The bird had flown into a shrub with a dry leaf in its beak.

“Must be build­ing a nest,” Mum said, lean­ing for­ward to see bet­ter.

They stood for a while, ob­serv­ing the small bird as it flew about gath­er­ing bits of moss and leaves.

“I think it’s be­hind that pile of logs by the back wall.”

“It must be ex­hausted, go­ing back and forth like that – a lit­tle bit here, a lit­tle bit there,” Han­nah said. “It’s mak­ing me tired just watch­ing it.”

The ket­tle clicked off and she poured the boil­ing wa­ter into the mugs, splash­ing in some

milk from the fridge and hand­ing one over to her mum.

“That’s how big things get done, though. A lit­tle bit here and there.” Mum smiled. “Like the gar­den.”

They heard the let­ter-box open and snap shut. Han­nah went out to fetch the mail.

“Any­thing in­ter­est­ing?” Mum reached out for the two pieces of junk mail Han­nah gave her.

Han­nah was busily open­ing a let­ter of her own.

“A party in­vi­ta­tion.” She tossed the card on the ta­ble and picked up her mug again. “From Susie.”

“How lovely. It’s nice to have some­thing to look for­ward to.” Mum hes­i­tated. “You are go­ing to go?”

Han­nah shrugged. Mum put a hand on her shoul­der.

“You two used to be such good friends.”

Han­nah dipped her head. Used to be. Yes, they used to be good friends – un­til Rob­bie had cho­sen Susie. Worse still, Susie had said yes.

That had been what hurt the most.

“So that Susie can gloat along with all our friends? No, thanks, Mum.”

“Your friends aren’t like that, Han­nah. Nei­ther is Susie.”

Han­nah looked at the wall, frown­ing.

“You need to give Susie a chance,” her mum said gen­tly. “It isn’t her fault that Rob­bie chose her.”

Han­nah sipped her drink, Mum’s words go­ing around in her head. Deep down she knew her mother was right, but that didn’t do any­thing to salve the pain she felt in­side.

A fizzy churn­ing erupted in her stom­ach when she thought of Susie. She missed her so much. Susie had been her best friend. They used to have such fun.

They still could, a voice whis­pered.

Her mum was right. It wasn’t Susie’s fault.

An in­com­ing text bleeped on her mo­bile phone where it lay on the kitchen work­top. She punched the but­tons to read it.

Mum didn’t say a word but her ex­pres­sion was ques­tion­ing.

“It’s Susie,” Han­nah told her, “ask­ing if I got the in­vi­ta­tion.”

She put the phone back on the ta­ble with­out re­ply­ing. What could she say? A sim­ple yes wasn’t enough. Susie de­served more than that.

Han­nah knew she needed to build bridges like the robin was build­ing a nest, bit by bit. But where to start? Her mum was right. She, Han­nah, had been in the wrong, though it hurt to ad­mit it. Truth hurt. Like the truth that Rob­bie had pre­ferred her friend.

Her mother sipped her cof­fee, eye­ing her, then put it down.

“It seems to me that you and Susie are like our lit­tle robin out there.” “What do you mean?” “I mean that you keep telling her to go away, but Susie is hov­er­ing nearby, watch­ing, wait­ing for her chance.”

Mum drained her mug and got to her feet, push­ing the chair back and pulling on her grimy gar­den­ing gloves.

She was quiet for a mo­ment, ob­vi­ously mea­sur­ing her words, won­der­ing how best to present them to Han­nah. She did that a lot lately.

“You know, Han­nah, that robin is tir­ing it­self out mak­ing its nest, but when it’s fin­ished he’s not go­ing to live there alone.

“He’ll find a mate, and then there will be ba­bies and the nest will be full. He might be ter­ri­to­rial now, but it can be aw­fully lonely, liv­ing in a nest on your own.”

Han­nah didn’t re­ply. What was there to say? She was al­ready lone­lier than she’d ever thought pos­si­ble. But where would she start to make amends with Susie? She couldn’t do it at the party in front of ev­ery­one. And how? She had no idea where to be­gin.

They re­turned to the gar­den and Han­nah got back to loos­en­ing the moss from be­tween the slabs by the side of the house. Her mum picked up her fork and headed for the flowerbed that ran along the front wall of the gar­den.

Han­nah lis­tened to her chat­ting to a neigh­bour who had stopped to pass the time.

“It’s a case of do­ing what I can do then leav­ing it to na­ture, Mrs Brooks.” Her mother’s voice was strong and cheer­ful, a re­flec­tion of who she was, how she had al­ways been.

Es­pe­cially to Han­nah over th­ese last few weeks. It couldn’t have been easy – Han­nah knew she had been a real pain to ev­ery­one. How­ever, she felt that she had backed her­self into a cor­ner . . .

She sat back and leaned against the wall of the house. She had stuck her phone in her pocket, and now she pulled it out and flicked it on to Face­book.

She kept up with what ev­ery­one was do­ing by read­ing their mes­sages. It was eas­ier that way.

All her friends knew that Han­nah had been dev­as­tated when Susie had said yes to Rob­bie. But how

They had been good friends – un­til Rob­bie had cho­sen Susie

much longer was she go­ing to sit and wal­low?

She mulled over her mother’s words, gen­tle and en­cour­ag­ing as al­ways. Mum was right – it was no fun sit­ting in a nest all on your own.

She looked up and saw the robin watch­ing from nearby, al­most bounc­ing from perch to perch among the clods of earth her mother had turned ear­lier.

She tossed a few lumps of moss on to the soil, nearer its reach. No harm in giv­ing it a help­ing hand. The robin hopped to­wards a clod, clasped some in its beak and flew off.

She watched it dis­ap­pear some­where down at the bot­tom of the gar­den, and then a few min­utes later it was back.

How long did it take to make a nest, she won­dered. Did you keep the same one or have to start all over again each year?

How long did it take to make a new friend? A good friend? A friend like Susie?

Her mind was so full that she barely heard her mother’s voice. When it fi­nally pen­e­trated it star­tled her for a mo­ment.

“What was that?” Han­nah asked.

“There’s some­one at the gate look­ing for you.”

“Who is it?” Han­nah stood up.

At her mother’s si­lence Han­nah peered round the side of the house. Susie was stand­ing the other side of their gate, look­ing away from the house and down the street. Wait­ing. Just wait­ing.

“An­other robin.”

As she spoke Han­nah brushed her hands down the front of her trousers and stood tall. It was time to swal­low her pride and apol­o­gise for be­ing an id­iot to her friend; a friend who hadn’t given up on her, even if she de­served it. A true friend.

Her mum smiled at the re­al­i­sa­tion that their ear­lier con­ver­sa­tion had hit home.

“Can I tell her to come in?”

Han­nah saw the robin wait­ing for them to leave so it could gather the moss. She shook her head. “No need, Mum. I’ll tell her my­self. I need to say sorry. She didn’t de­serve the way I treated her. Like you said, it wasn’t Susie’s fault, it was mine.”

Han­nah walked down the path to­wards her friend. n

She knew it was up to her to make amends. But how?

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