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She laid herself back on the grass and sighed a happy sigh. Her work was done.

The Shepard’s garden looked beautiful, it was the pride of Mrs Shepard, the pride of everyone on Sampson Drive. As she sat outside, sunbathing on the balcony, she would close her eyes and feign ignorance at the masses of couples, dog-walkers and elderly women who would saunter past and pause to look at the sheer beauty of the Shepard garden.

‘What a superb collection of alstroemeria’s!’ they would cheer.

‘I’ve never seen such gorgeous catmint and coneflowers!’ another would exclaim, clutching her heart in a rhapsody of wonder.

‘This has got to be the most beautiful garden in the universe!’ Mrs Shepard envisioned them crying out. She would imagine them weeping ugly, snot-nosed tears, wiping them up haphazardly to avoid staining her oh so pristine garden, the most beautiful garden anybody would ever see. She sat there on her balcony, eyes closed and waiting for the sweet comments to flood upwards between the sweet serenades of the wind chimes. And it would make her feel glorious. It would make her feel the most desirable woman in the world, the most desirable wife one could ever want. And those oleanders! My, those were her very favourites. The oleanders were absolutely wonderful. The way their silken, rosewood petals danced in the sunshine made Mrs Shepard feel giddy with glee.

She was abruptly brought out of her reverie, back onto the spotless grass of number 37 Sampson Drive, by the giddy laughter of a young female.

So why in God’s name did he want that stubborn little bitch so?

She knew what the scene would be, before she even dared turn her head around. The sight she abhorred more than any in the world, the sight of her fool of a husband, there once again, chatting it up with the first bubbling, big-breasted slut to jiggle down the road. And of course, women like that always made sure to stop by the garden and exclaim just how very perfect it was.

And there he would be, at the end of the drive, going on and on and on to her about how very hard he had looked after it! The intolerable prig! She was the one who worked so hard, day and night, ensuring that they were the talk of the town, they were the ones everyone envied and gazed at adoringly through their greying blinds and William Morris curtains. She was the one who made all this possible, and yet he was more than happy to take all the credit when it came to the women like that coming round to visit the garden.

Mr Shepard was laughing at something the unpleasant woman had said, laughing in that way he never laughed at his wife. When he spoke to his wife this grin she saw now was never spread across his face; instead there was always that same look of derision, of ever so subtle distaste. As if she were a slightly gone off rhubarb custard, that he wanted to enjoy, but was ever so slightly unpleasant. But it was too late for him to extract it from his very person, so he simply just had to put up with it until it was gone. But she knew she was considered something abject; something to be removed at the earliest convenience.

Mrs Shepard hated that look more than anything. The way he rested a wrinkly hand on that dirty whores shoulder, looking into her eyes with the same admiration that people would gaze with at her garden.

Now old Mrs Campbell and Mrs Riordan were peering through there curtains again, but not at her garden this time. Oh no, they were all looking at this brilliant, half-naked brunette sat on the street corner, giggling and cooing like a pathetic baby at her husband. They were making Mrs Shepard look like a fool.

She furiously glared back down at her garden. All of a sudden the oleanders seemed to have lost their beauty; in fact, they were almost wilting. The hung their distended heads down, like children waiting to be punished, waiting for a belt to the bottom from the hand of a violent drunkard father after a long night at the pub down the road. They sickened Mrs Shepard.

What did this pathetic garden even matter? What did it all matter? No matter what she did, it was never good enough for that bastard of a husband. There was simply no point to it all.

‘Get off my property!’ she screamed at the woman, her voice echoing all the way down Sampson Drive, ‘We don’t want you here. Just go! Just go! Just go!’

Silence. The two in front of her were speechless. Even the muted whisperings of the wind chimes grew silent.

The young woman was taken aback, moving back away from the tender embrace of the man who still held a firm grip on her shoulder. Slowly, but surely, she jogged off in the opposite direction.

Mrs Shepard turned to Mr Shepard. His mouth was still hanging open, till she raised her eyebrows and he shut it. He looked side to side for a few seconds, remembering his surroundings, then paced back indoors, shutting the front door firmly behind him.

Mrs Campbell and Mrs Riordan weren’t the only ones staring now. The whole village seemed to be watching Mrs Shepard with intense anticipation, waiting to see what she would do next. And this made her angry.

‘Oh just fuck off, all of you!’ she screamed at the top of her lungs. She looked down. Those deplorable oleanders were now positively withered. They hung there like bodies hanging from a noose, the most obsolete and useless features of the entire garden.

She grabbed them forcefully by the stems, tearing them out by the roots, salmon petals raining from the sky as she ripped them from their beds. Mrs Shepard didn’t stop until nothing was left.

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Sherratt

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