DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Spoils the whole series. No details but it takes place post TV series.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
In My Garden
By Erin Griffin
Everyday she came to my tea house. There really wasn't anything too special about this place. I opened it out of boredom about ten years ago when I needed something to do everyday other than gardening. This isn't about me though. It is about her. About them, really, but I am getting ahead of myself. Before, I never knew her name, but in my mind I called her The Garden Prince. She came in every day right around noon, took her tea in the sheltered garden come rain or shine, and she'd sit and think as she watched the roses. I knew nothing about her, and at first I left her alone with her thoughts. I never found out where she had been, but wherever it was, she shouldn't have been there at such a young age if ever. She couldn't have been older than twenty one when she came in. It wasn't until I found her watering my roses one afternoon on one of my busiest days of the year that she ever exchanged words with me. She thought she was doing something wrong by caring for them in my place. I didn't mind, as the roses seemed to like her. I know that is a weird thing to say, but this prince and my roses seemed so much at peace with eachother, even if the prince wasn't at peace with herself, and I would've bet everything I owned that might have been why she was there everyday. Once a week when I could afford it, I would have Kei, my neighbor across the street, come play the paino in the garden, and the prince always seemed the most melancholy when he was there, yet every time she saw him, she would request 'A Sunlit Garden', a song that I had not heard for a few years when it was popular on the radio. It soon became a favorite in the garden, yet Kei somehow knew that he needed to wait for the prince to request it before he played. It was like he understood why in a small way that she would get lost inside herself for a little while, and she wanted that to happen on her terms when she wanted to, so he let her request it or he would make eye contact near the end of his time to see if she didn't mind before he would start to play. There was one day in the middle of the fall she had given Kei enough money to pay his rent for a week if he would play that song nonstop until she said otherwise. After fifteen minutes (understandably), some of the customers had left the garden, returning almost a half an hour later when the prince had dried her last tear and paid her bill. That was the only time I had ever seen her cry or even come close.
The Garden Prince was usually ready after that day with a smile when I nodded to her in greeting. On sunny days she spoke the most (usually only to me) about the roses. She knew a lot about them, and she had confessed to only knowing so much because she knew someone who once raised the most beautiful roses she would ever see, and that mine had come in really close in comaprison. I wondered often if the person she knew was the person she thought of everytime she requsted A Sunlit Garden. Still, I never asked questions, as it wasn't my place, and she began to speak more and more to me and even some of the other regulars of the tea house. She had been coming to the tea house for almost four years when I began to realize that age was catching up with me. I had to do something about the garden, but if I sold it or got rid of it, I knew it would have deeply hurt the prince more than anyone else, and something told me she wouldn't have been able to stand being hurt any more than she already had. So I decided to speak to her about it. There must have been another way I wasn't seeing. "Excuse me," The prince looked up at me and smiled. She looked at peace that day, more than I had ever seen her. Perhaps she knew something I didn't. Or maybe for once she found some good thoughts to ease her mind and heart, if only for a few moments. I felt that it was a good sign. That day was the best day to ask her this. "I've got something that I would like to discuss with you." She seemed really surprised, as I was never this forward with her. Normally I'd water the roses with her or let her help me with a task in silence until she said something or until I had to say something like 'could you pass the such and such there?', never bothering her thought process unless she wanted me to. Right then, she looked as if I might have been possibly talking to someone else in the garden, but we were alone at that time that day.
"With me?" She was wondering whatever she could've done to merit my wanting to speak with her in such a serious way, what rule she may have broken that she never had before, or what customer she may have offended when all she was doing was drinking tea as she had every day for almost four years. I nodded to answer her question and placed a hand on the back of a chair across from her, asking with my eyes if I had permission to sit with her, and she nodded in return to grant me that permission. I sat down slowly and resisted the urge to groan. I hated how stiff my whole body was starting to feel, how slowly my body was starting to shut down. I tried not to think about that as I looked over at her.
"I know how much you- as well as my other customers of course- love the rose garden, but I am having troubles tending to it and giving it the attention it needs and deserves. I can't stand to see it die, as so many years has gone into it and it is the main appeal of the shop, but I cannot afford to pay anyone to do it. I was wondering if you might have any suggestions that may help me solve the problem. I come to you because you've been here everyday for the last four years and you know a lot about this garden. And about roses. I value your input." The quiet but friendly prince took her cup of tea to her lips but did not drink from it. Instead, she thought things through.
"You run this lovely tea house litterally from your home, right?" she asked after a moment.
"Yes, this house has been in my family for generations."
"You may not be able to pay someone, but if there's space here available, perhaps you could offer room and board for their services. That way, you may also get a helping hand in the kitchen when things get really busy in the spring time. If you find someone like my A- like my friend..." The prince swallowed hard. "If you find someone like my friend who loves to garden, I'm sure they would do it practically for free."
"Why, that is the perfect solution! I can clear out one of the rooms my kids had, and the gardener could sleep there. I could definately afford to feed another mouth around here, and might even be able to give them a small allowence every week for play money or whatever... I think it'll be nice to have someone else around when the store closes for the night. Thank you so much. I can't believe I hadn't thought of that." She gave me a bright smile that seemed forced.
"You're welcome. Sometimes if you really stress over something, it clouds up the really easy paths that need to be taken. Talking it out helps, so you were right to come to me for for someone to hear you out, and I am glad that I helped you think of the solution." That was the most she ever said to me in one breath without me saying things in between. I placed a hand on hers for a split second and withdrew it again quickly when she flinched.
"You're too young to be this wise." To that, she didn't respond.
It wasn't until a couple of weeks later I had found the perfect candidate after wading through applicants who weren't really serious about gardening. She sounded sweet on the phone when she called asking about the job. She was young, possibly the same age as the Garden Prince, and she was very soft spoken, yet she spoke up when she had something to say on the subject of roses. She knew what she was talking about. It really helped when she said she had been all over the world in the last few years, mostly in America and was back in Japan to settle down. She said she liked to cook as well, especially new recipes she never tried before. She said her favorite thing to make was shaved ice. I wanted the prince to be the first to meet her, as it felt like the garden was just as much hers as it was mine, sometimes more so. I felt as though the new gardener had to meet her approval as well. I really liked and trusted the sad prince, even if she never told me her name and I never asked. The Garden Prince had come by many times over those two weeks to be my muscle when it came to clearing out the spare room and redecorating. She even went above and brought a small welcoming gift. A brush with rose carvings on it. It was very beautiful. Though I didn't tell the prince anything about the new gardener except for the the fact she was female, the prince still wanted to do what she could to make her feel welcome.
The gardener was schedualed to come on the same day of the week I usually had Kei play the piano, and the prince was back to feeling melancholy. It didn't help that it was raining cows and horses outside. Large droplets hit the windows with great force. I remembered that much. She was the only one in the garden that day with Kei, but she hadn't requested her song, and I wondered if she just didn't feel like it. That couldn't have been it. Maybe she didn't want to get lost in her thoughts with the gardener coming. Maybe she felt it would've scared her off. When I checked up on her, she was running her fingertip over the rim of her teacup absently as she stared at the white roses. It was times like that I wished to know her secrets. At least then she wouldn't bare her burdens alone, and maybe she, too, could see the clearer path to take. "Hello?" I turned to see a beautiful, shy smile and the longest purple hair I had ever seen. It was at the moment clinging to her neck and back, but she didn't seem to mind it. On her shoulder was a very wet, small blue monkey who looked to be attempting to eat a soggy cookie. I smiled and nodded at the girl.
"You must be Anthy Himemiya. A pleasure. And who might this be?"
"This is Chu Chu. It won't be a problem having him here would it?"
"Oh no. Chu Chu is welcome here. You can set your things here and hang up your coat on that rack. There's someone I'd like you to meet. Perhaps you could cheer her up."
"Well, I'll certainly try my best. I do not like to see people so sad." I led the way to the garden, and she took the time to touch a couple of plants along the way. "Hello," I said to the prince, who slowly looked up with her greeting smile. "There's someone I'd like-" It seemed there was no need to really introduce them, as the prince's eyes looked behind me and widened in shock. I looked back at Miss Himemiya, who looked just as shaken by the sight of the prince.
"An... Anthy?" Was my new gardener the friend the prince had spoken of when I sought her advice about the roses?
"Miss Utena!" My new gardener went to the prince so quickly her hair flew behind her, then seemed to slap against the back of her neck when she'd stopped moving once she was in the prince's arms. The prince had wrapped her left arm around Anthy's waist and her right hand linked with Anythy's left.
"Anthy. My beautiful princess." There were tears in both of their eyes, and the scene was enough to crumble walls surrounding the cruelest of hearts. I'd never seen anything more beautiful as I watched Anthy's head get covered in kisses and tears. Slowly I backed out of the garden, giving Kei the signal that he should, too. So the prince and Anthy had a past together that was deeper than friendship. Deeper than love, even. It seemed so odd to me that they met again in my garden.
Shadow Girl #1: Okay, this will be done to the rhythm of Humpty Dumpty. We'll alternate these two lines, then we come in as one on these two, okay?
Shadow Girl #2: Okay, I'm game.
Shadow Girl #1: Okay. Aaaaand... scene.
Shadow Girl #2: *whisper* This will be fun.
Shadow Girl #1: Utena Tenjou was a great prince
Shadow Girl #2: She saved the Rose Bride but wasn't convinced
Shadow Girl #1 & 2: There was so much time, and there was so much pain, before Fate brought them back together again.
Shadow Girl #2: (Though I suppose the owner of that tea shop had something to do with it.)
Shadow Girl #1: Hey, that's not how I wrote it on the script!
Shadow Girl #2: I know, but it seems wrong to not give credit where it was due.
Shadow Girl #1: *sigh* I guess you're right. (Looks at script) Man, why didn't you tell me that this script sucks?
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