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