Authors: Concetta Kennedy
“Garden Irene!” There was no answer. “Garden Irene, where are you? This is not a good idea. Remember we've got to hurry because your parents might be coming.” Peter was sure this would get her to come out.
Everything was brilliantly lit through all the hallways by the extraordinarily precise placement of lights. There was no way any of the lighting was natural because they were underground, but it sure looked like the sun was shining everywhere. Plants were used to decorate the hallways, which made Peter feel even more welcome. He was sure that he definitely would like a home like this someday.
Draperies hung along the walls where windows would ordinarily be. Peter knew there weren't any windows because he'd stopped to look before playing Garden Irene's game of hide and seek. The crazy thing was, he had not consented to playing her ridiculous game.
“Garden Irene,” called Peter. “I think I hear your parents.” He was so good at bluffing. He only hoped it worked now. Then he got the bright idea of not moving or saying a word. For sure that would get Garden Irene wondering what happened to him.
Finally, when she didn't come to find him, he slowly moved down the left-hand hall, just waiting for Garden Irene to jump out with her fruitless attempt to scare him. Nothing happened.
“Peter, where are you?”
He could hear Garden Irene call from afar. Yes! He had won! His plan had worked. He continued walking toward where he heard her voice, moving with a confident gait now, sure he had won the game.
“What is taking you so long?” he could hear Garden Irene yell. “I've been waiting for you for so long!”
He realized that the joke was on him, and that he had only thought that she was hiding; instead, she was merely in her bedroom waiting patiently for him to catch up.
He followed her voice and found her in her bedroom. Her room was adorned with swags of sheer fabric coming from everywhere. The colors were of a pastel nature, and these curtains, or whatever they were, went from floor to ceiling, draped across to the other side of the ceiling, and dropped to the floor again. It was really something to see!
What was really strange was that all this pretty stuff looked like it was blowing from the wind, coming from where, however, he didn't know. But then he realized that Garden Irene was not in the room where he heard her voice, but out on what appeared to be a balcony.
By the time Peter got to where she was, he was in awe for the ninety-first time. She had a ferocious waterfall adorning her view about fifty feet in front of the balcony. The force of the water was making the breeze that flowed into her bedroom.
“Garden Irene, this is too much! Who would have guessed that something like this could exist anywhere? Let alone in our own town!” said Peter.
“I know. I think it's cool too,” she answered. “Peter, you are the only person who knows about this except our family. I need to know one more time that I can trust you not to tell anyone . . .”
Peter reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin. He told her that it wasn't an American coin. “Garden Irene, my Uncle Mike gave me this coin, and told me how valuable it was. I carry it in my pocket every day so nobody will steal it. If I give this to you to keep for me, would that be proof enough?” he asked in a tone that was just shy of pleading.
“Let me see it,” Garden Irene said in a way that he was sure meant she was considering letting this be their truce. “What kind of coin is it?”
“My uncle said that it is an Indian coin. He said they used to use them for trading,” he answered.
“But I thought the early settlers gave coins to the Indians for something the Indians had that they wanted. If that were the case, maybe the Indians made this coin for themselves to use for trading. Or maybe they traded with people who weren't early settlers, or from this country.”
“All I know is that it is an Indian coin, and the only thing I can see on it is just one word and part of another,” he said.
“Peter, are you sure your uncle knew what he was talking about? Because it looks like I can see the words: WE TRUST. The rest of the words are worn off,” said Garden Irene.
At that moment she ran back into her bedroom and opened the top drawer of her chest of drawers. “Peter, look! I have a coin my dad gave me, too. And it almost looks the same, but mine is an old fifty-cent piece that got run over by a train. The words are worn on mine, too, but I can still tell it says âIN GOD WE TRUST,'” she said.
“Well, I'll be! I wonder why he told me that it was an Indian coin. He told me that if I kept it forever, someday it would be worth something,” said Peter in a rather disappointed voice.
“Actually, he was right. My dad told me the same thing. And for your information, Peter, the first Americans were called Native Americans, and they were Indians.”
“So this must really be worth something, huh?” said Peter. “I sure hope I never lose it.”
It was then that Garden Irene realized how much the coin meant to Peter. She knew that if he gave her the coin, that he would never tell their secret.
As Garden Irene and Peter retracted their steps to leave the castle, by the time they reached the first floor she decided to go out the back way so she could show Peter her collection of stalactite pieces. They had been chiseled by her dad when he was doing the lighting and electrical work.
They passed through the dining room, then the kitchen. Peter figured that the dining room was so immense it could seat the president and all of Congress. “I've never seen such a long table,” he said.
“We use it every night when we eat supper,” said Garden Irene.
“Gee! What do you do? Use megaphones to talk?”
This made her laugh. “No, we all sit at the end closest to the kitchen.”
When they slowly moved out of the dining room and into the kitchen, Peter's first thought was that the kitchen looked to be about the size of the Olympic-size swimming pool that his neighbor had. “Nice kitchen,” he murmured.
“My mom would love this, except she'd probably get lost,” he added to Garden Irene, who was already out the French doors that led to the wooden deck.
The kitchen had the most beautiful cherry cupboards lining two and a half of the mile-long walls. The refrigerator certainly wasn't like any Peter had ever seen. Garden called it a Sub-Zero fridge, and the front double doors were also made of cherry wood. He almost didn't know it was a refrigerator.
There were double ovens to the left of the porcelain sink that was straight ahead, and the window over the sink viewed the lower part of Garden Irene's waterfall. The counter tops and middle island were beautifully veined, black marble granite. The island looked to be about twenty feet long and it cradled an inserted stove-top. To the extreme right, where the cherry cupboards stopped, there was a large nook that housed a cherry breakfast set which consisted of a large, round, pedestal-based glass-topped table with six chairs. It all looked so very cozy.
When Peter finally made it through the French doors, he thought that Garden Irene's collection of stalactites looked like snowy diamonds, and each piece shone more than the last.
“Wow! I've never seen stones like this.”
“Peter, these aren't stones,” corrected Garden Irene. “I told you they are stalactite pieces.”
“Sorry,” said Peter.
She put her collection away just as fast as she had pulled it out, but not until she had given Peter one to remember that day.
“Here, Peter. I think you'll like this one. It kind of sparkles, but the shape looks like a baby grand piano. It's one of my favorites. And just remember that it's not a stone. It's from a stalactite.”
All he could think of was those large fangs that were everywhere outside of the castle. He also knew he was due to embark back to that scene very shortly as he left.
No sooner did he have these thoughts, than Garden Irene told him they had better take the elevator up so he could go before her parents arrived home. As they marched toward the doors of the elevator, she stopped short in her tracks. She turned around to him and said, “We better shake on our secret.”
“Okay,” he agreed. They quickly shook hands on their secret and continued on. Peter wasn't ready to go yet because it seemed like he had just arrived. But, he knew the consequences for Garden Irene if he should still be there when her parents got home.
The ride to the ground level went fast and stopped with a jolt.
“Well, here we are,” said Garden Irene. “And here are your shoes. You almost forgot them,” she said as he moved toward the door. “Guess I'll see you on Monday.”
Peter stepped out of the elevator and into the mud-room. He put his shoes back on, tied them as slowly as he could just so this surrealistic dream of waterfalls and enormous kitchens and deep sea-foam-colored carpet wouldn't end, and then he stood up. But he knew it would. He sighed.
“See ya,” he said reluctantly.
Garden remained in the mud-room as Peter opened the door and went outside. Before he closed the door behind him, he turned to Garden Irene and said one more time in a voice still filled with disbelief, “See ya.”
Garden Irene never worried about school on Monday, because she knew no one would ever find out about her underground castle. Peter never worried about Monday either, because he was too busy trying to figure out when he could go back and visit Garden Irene when no one was home.
Garden Irene heard her mom come home a little later. She yelled out Garden Irene's name, letting her know she was home. Shortly after, her father arrived, but Garden said nothing about her day to either one of her parents.
In some ways this bothered Garden Irene. She wasn't used to keeping anything from her parents. She loved them so much.
The entire weekend was disrupted by Garden Irene's thoughts about what would happen if her parents knew about Peter. Would they ask her to move out? Or maybe they'd go to his parents and ask them if they could adopt Peter, then they wouldn't have to worry about an outsider knowing their secret. Peter would be a member of the family, and she'd have a yucky brother.
None of Garden Irene's moments of silence during the weekend were comforting. She kept asking herself: How could she do this to her parents?
Each day it got worse. She wouldn't want them to keep a secret from her. She was just going to have to tell them. She decided that secrets aren't so fun if they are kept from the wrong people.
All day Saturday, Garden Irene pretty much stayed in her room watching the waterfall and planning her moment of truth. Her parents thought she was doing homework.
Just to do something different, she rearranged her stalactites about ten times, by shape, color, and degree of shine and sparkle.
Sunday was even worse because she spent so much time with her parents. First there was church, then breakfast out, then ice skating, before finishing homework. There really wasn't time to have private thoughts about the guilt she felt by keeping the big secret from her parents.
The last bus arrived in the back parking lot Monday, and Garden Irene was the second one to step out. Usually she was about the last one off the bus. When she heard the bell telling them it was okay to go into the school, she rushed to find Peter. Once she was inside, she quickly went into her classroom.
“Good morning, Garden Irene,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said in a voice that told Garden Irene she was very happy to see her.
“Good morning, Mrs. Fitzpatrick,” answered Garden Irene, half looking at Mrs. Fitzpatrick, while at the same time searching for Peter.
When she found Peter, she saw him crouched down in a corner of the room reading one of the library books that Mrs. Fitzpatrick made available to everyone. Just as Garden Irene started toward Peter, Mrs. Fitzpatrick said for everyone to take their seats. By this time Peter saw that Garden Irene had started toward him across the classroom. He thought it was best that no one got the impression that they were getting friendlier than they usually were.
Luckily, he did catch Garden Irene's eye just before perfect silence was obtained by Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Peter gave her a quick smile, and for the first time, tried to give her a knowing wink like he saw older men give girls, but he wasn't sure if it came out right. At least Garden Irene smiled back at him, so it couldn't have been that bad.
There were the usual student hands that went up to tell about something that happened the night before or over the weekend. These were fun and adventurous stories that the students wanted to share with their classmates. Mrs. Fitzpatrick called on Chester first, who couldn't wait to tell about the three-week-old fox his dad got for him from a man who raised them just for their fur. He planned on treating this like a pet dog. Everyone was in awe.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick called on Molly Dune, who said, “Could Chester bring his fox in for us to see him?”
Mrs. Fitzpatrick said, “We'll see if it's safe for him to do so. You know that a fox is not a domestic animal. It's actually a wild animal, and we don't always know when or if these animals may turn on us.”
“Gosh! I never thought of that,” said Chester. “I'll ask my dad.”
Garden Irene was so relieved. The students seemed to have forgotten what she had said last Thursday about her underground castle. At least the worry was over. She didn't have to fret about the class remembering, because they were too immersed in Chester's fox.
Next Joelle told about her cousins who came to stay with her from South Bend, Indiana, and how they had a major pillow fight. Then Cameron told about his goldfish dying because he forgot to feed him for four days. He went into detail about how the goldfish bowl smelled like rotten eggs because he forgot that he hid the fish from his sister in his closet for two of the four days he forgot to feed him.
Life sure was going to be easy for Garden Irene. She had nothing to worry about anymore. When she saw Peter's hand go up, she figured that he just wanted to be Peter, and tell something about his weekend, or maybe he wanted to be in charge of something in the classroom that day.
“Yes, Peter,” Mrs. Fitzpatrick said as she nodded her head toward him.
“Mrs. Fitzpatrick, what about what we were talking about on Thursday? Aren't you going to let us ask questions of Garden Irene about where she lives?”