Incarnations II:

The Garden






Cyberpunk (kind of)

Sex: No

Violence: No


Feed the Bard:

Incarnations I: The Chosen Road

Incarnations II: The Garden

Natasha walked towards the back of the shop to fetch some plant pots and balls of string from the storeroom in order to re-stock some shelves. She had been working here for a month and she felt quite happy. It was not a spectacular job but it was easy and quiet and the customers were almost always pleasant. She liked showing them where to find things, helping them in their choices of plants and flowers and giving what assistance she could.

It was a strange shop in some ways, just a converted barn on a fairly small plot of land, with farmland around it. A straight, flat and sometimes busy road led past it. It was partly supplied by the farms that were its neighbours such that out the front in the right seasons, crates of vegetables were displayed for sale - onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, parsnips. Sometimes there were crates of fruit too - usually raspberries, blackberries, plums, pears and cooking apples. Inside, a mixture of items were for sale: gardening equipment, packets of seeds, a few small barbecues and sacks of charcoal, raincoats and jackets that farmers might wear, assorted tools, and postcards of the picturesque local area - all of which featured images that had been taken by the shop's owner, who was a competent amateur photographer. The shop smelled of wood and earth and candles and leather. It was shady and rather dark because of the small windows and sparse bulbs. Outside the back of the shop was Natasha's favourite area: long rows of potted plants, saplings, herbs and all kinds of flowers of many colours and fragrances, neatly arranged and priced and taken care of - she did her best to tend them as well as she could. They were starting to grow well as the spring weather continued to warm.

She stopped when she saw a young woman examining one of the many racks of seeds that were stacked on long shelves to the left of the door to the storeroom. She was bending down slightly to look at some packets on the lower shelves. Natasha had not seen her enter - she must have been outside tending to another customer when the woman had come in. She took in the long, gauzy grey skirt that was sewn with vines and flowers, the pale green blouse, and the shawl - or very wide knit scarf - of maroon wool that was draped about her shoulders.

Then the woman straightened and turned to her, smiling as she did so. She had green eyes that were warm with humour and light, a lovely face, and fairly short, feathered blonde hair. A simple, open joy was reflected in her expression.

Natasha smiled too. She found herself quite enchanted.

'Hi,' the woman said. She tilted her head a fraction and Natasha was almost sure she was suddenly wondering about her, perhaps startled by her - that she might be about to forget what she had been about to ask.

'Hello,' Natasha replied. 'Can I help you find something?' She could not help it but found a chuckle freeing itself from her throat; yet instead of thinking there was something strange about her, the beautiful young woman chuckled too.

'Yes, please.' Her voice was pleasing, vibrant and just slightly hoarse. 'I was looking for some radish seeds but there are a lot of types here and I'm not sure what the differences are. And I want to grow some courgettes too, and some spinach. I don't have much experience with growing vegetables but I'm looking forward to trying.'

Natasha much enjoyed the simple enthusiasm that the woman seemed to have just in being there to buy some vegetable seeds.


'My name's Nina,' the young woman said then.


'I'm Natasha,' she replied.




Natasha walked across the lawn behind her and Nina's cottage in the country, about halfway between London and Winchester. They had lived there for twenty years now, and though they had occasionally been away from the place on one small adventure or another, they had always been glad to return. Natasha supposed that their lives had been quieter than most people might want. Neither of them had had very much ambition, they did not care for status, and they only needed enough money to support themselves in their modest lifestyle and maintain their small home. Nina had been given the property when she had been twenty years old, presumably by a relative, though she had had to agree not to try to find out who her benefactor was if she wished to accept the gift.

Natasha had worked in various jobs over the years. From working as a shop assistant when they had met, she had become a truck driver for a while then had worked on a cultivation farm. She had had other jobs too, some good and some best left behind. Nina had mostly painted and sold some of her paintings, never for very large sums, but had made enough to live on.

They had been happy. Ever since they had met, when Natasha had been twenty-nine and Nina had been twenty-five, they had been happy.

As Natasha walked over to the vegetable garden by the old stone wall that divided the property from fallow fields and a woodland, she smiled. She reflected that it was amazing just how much happiness they had shared. Almost every waking moment she had been aware of Nina and her love for Nina, and of Nina's love for her. Every time she looked at her she felt a glow of warmth, a fascination and awe and a welling of deep emotion - sometimes a profound tenderness and sometimes much desire.

As long as they were together. That was all that had ever seemed to really matter to them. As long as they were together, they felt a felicity and peace, gladness and purpose that was more than either of them had ever hoped for. It did not really matter what they were doing - cooking, or sitting by the fire in silence on a winter evening, or playing some simple game of cards, or talking quietly over breakfast; laughing together in bed as they had a tickle-fight, walking together through nearby fields and woodland, shopping for food or clothes in shops in the nearby village; reading books side by side, or reading a single book together, taking it in turns to be the storyteller. All the little activities and larger activities of their lives had been filled with a glow of magical togetherness and contentment.

Sometimes, of course, they had been apart. When Natasha was at work and Nina was at home, they would always miss each other. When Natasha returned from work, they were always delighted to see each other, and would throw themselves into each others arms, grinning as if they had been apart for weeks.

They had known for a long time that they were different to others. Natasha was forty-nine years old now, Nina forty-five. But for the past ten or twelve years they had not appeared to age at all.

Except that Nina had become ill, two months ago. The doctors did not know what was wrong with her. The illness was getting gradually worse, and Natasha thought that Nina understood now that she was dying - though she had not told Natasha this.

The knowledge lay within Natasha's heart and mind and it was an appalling thing. Nina was her whole life. She knew that she would not want to go on without her.

She stopped, and looked at Nina where she knelt between two rows of vegetables. She was wearing a long brown skirt and a simple blue cardigan. She was picking some spinach and other leaves for salad - a mix that she knew Natasha much liked. Natasha could see the pleasure Nina felt in doing this small thing for her. She marvelled at that small, familiar smile touching her lips.

Nina looked up and her face was lit by the warm summer sunlight. As Nina's smile widened, Natasha returned the grin. It was such an astonishing thing, that just seeing each other could give each other such extraordinary pleasure.

Still, Natasha could see that Nina was in some pain. Her face was drawn and her eyes - still so marvellously bright green - were bloodshot, their surroundings bruised. She had not been sleeping well. There was a sadness in the smile, even through the gladness.

'Hi,' Natasha said, standing before her, looking down, gazing at her love.

'Hi,' Nina said in reply, and a small giggle escaped her, a very characteristic sound of gladness that touched Natasha's heart.

They stayed like that for a little while, just looking at each other in the sunlight, smiling, caught up in each other, deep emotions flowing through them, silently communicating.

Then Natasha knelt down so that they were facing each other. She reached out and cupped Nina's face with her hands. 'Beautiful one,' she said.

She saw the tears well in Nina's eyes then and felt them start in her own. After a moment they leaned together, holding onto each other, and each other's presence was all that mattered.




'I'm so sorry,' Nina said that night, as they lay together in bed in darkness. It was just after 9pm and Nina had been tired. Natasha did not mind. It was good to be in bed and hold Nina close. She loved the feel of Nina against her, her head upon her shoulder and tucked under her chin.

She did not say anything for a moment. She ran the fingers of her right hand in small, comforting circles upon Nina's back, and smoothed her hair with her left. She kissed the top of her head, inhaling the scent that she loved so much. 'You have nothing to be sorry for,' she said quietly then. She did not ask what Nina thought she was sorry for - she knew well enough.

'But I am. Sorry that I will leave you. It will be easier for me, if there is nothing after death. I cannot believe that I will leave you behind but I do not think I can stop it from happening.'

Natasha held her tight, cradling her as she cried quietly against her. She felt Nina's grip, Nina's arm wrapped around her waist, her face pressed into her chest. She felt as if she was being torn in half, such sorrow welling up within her at Nina's pain.

After some time, Natasha said: 'If it happens, I think . . . I think I may go with you.' Immediately she felt Nina tense, then suddenly relax and cry harder. When she had calmed a little, Natasha pressed on. 'I have been thinking about it,' she said. 'You . . . are everything to me. I never dreamed, when I was young, that I would ever have even a fraction of the love and happiness that I have had with you. I feel that I am the most fortunate person that has ever lived. With what we have shared, there could be nothing more that I might want. You gave me everything. And I think that in making the decision to go with you, I will be accepting and happy. I will be filled with my awareness of the love and bliss that has filled me ever since I met you.'

A little while later, Nina's tears slowed and she gradually relaxed in Natasha's embrace. She rubbed her hand in a small circle in the centre of Natasha's chest, her palm against warm skin. 'We are magical,' she said softly.




The End


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