Chapter 3 Wilderness

Written by: Suraya Dewing

Stephen replied by issuing a barely audible sigh and words which sounded more like a weak excuse. “I had an important appointment.”

Indignant anger flared through her. “My father helped you find your job.”

For the first time since meeting Stephen she saw that underneath his usual loud bravado he was fumbling for certainty. Any respect she might have once had for him vanished. Instead she saw a man who cultivated his good looks but not a good heart or strong minded character. His moderate success at University relied on who he could enlist to help him with his many complicated assignments. Even she had fallen for his boyish helplessness and spent many hours helping him when she should have concentrated on her own work.

A regretful grimace firmed her lips.

She looked out the dusty window at the unkempt garden. Since her father died it seemed to have doubled its efforts to grow into a wilderness. Everywhere she looked, twisted green and brown weeds scrambled across once neatly kept paths and coiled around huddling orange and lemon trees. As she looked she saw the rabbit again, standing on its hind paws chewing on a woody carrot..

“I hoped you would forgive me…” Stephen said sulkily.

"You have to be joking. You sent me a text to tell me we were finished. Did you push the send button too quickly?”

He gave a tentative smile.

“Yes, I guess I did.”

She clicked her tongue and stared out the window again. “Well, you’re wasting your time.” She took a deep breath and a puzzled frown filled her face. “Stephen,” she asked. “Do you see a rabbit out there?” She pointed towards the rabbit.

Welcoming an excuse to leave the seat where he perched he went to the old fashioned sash windows.

He shook his head. “No.”

She could still see the rabbit, licking its paws and washing its face. It seemed to be looking at her through its brown eyes and she wondered what it was trying to say.

“I think you’re imagining things,” Stephen said.

She now understood what the rabbit was telling her.

“Stephen, are you asking if we could get back together?” She carefully couched each word.

Heartened by her tone, he stepped forward and put his hands on her shoulders. Only he was shocked to feel no responsive softening of her body. Instead, it stiffened and stepped out of reach.

Disappointment raced through him.

She continued. “I don’t think that would be a good thing. I’d be forever worrying that when I answered my messages it was you telling me we were over.”

He shot upright, stiff and certain.

“No. I’d never do that…” He trailed away as he caught the next word before it left his lips.

Angelica finished the sentence for him. “…again?” She tilted her head to one side and sent him a half mocking smile.

He guiltily nodded and fixed his gaze on the rambling garden.

The rabbit was still there.

“Can you really not see the rabbit?” she asked.

“No. I think you’re imagining things.” He said. He was aware that he sounded harsher than he intended to. But her rejection hurt and his words were bruised.

“That’s the point,” she said. “We see different things.”

She looked back to the garden and there was the rabbit running its paws over its whiskers. Then it hopped away, white under its tail flashing with each curve of its angular body.