The Garden of Darkness

The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gillian Murray Kendall
Tags: Science-Fiction
She remembered little else. Once she had run into him in the school hallway and had noticed his strange face, pale and thoughtful. Otherwise, he was a shadow in the background.
    “You were a good cheerleader,” Jem said. He was looking at her eyes.
    “It’s not a very helpful skill now, I guess.” said Clare, looking down, embarrassed.
    “I know what you mean. But I’m still carrying around a travel chess set.”
    “Just now I thought you were a Cured. That’s why I tried to bash your head in.”
    “I’m really glad you missed.”
    “I bet your shoulder hurts.”
    “Yes.”
    Clare felt awkward. “I’m sorry I never knew you in school.”
    “The high school didn’t have much time for ninth graders,” said Jem. “And we didn’t have much time for you, either, I guess. But it’s hard not to remember a cheerleader.”
    “They made me a cheerleader because I can do back flips,” she said. “But I read real good, too.”
    Jem laughed. “You’re different close up.”
    She had liked being a cheerleader, though. It felt good to hurtle through the air. And, besides, her back flips made Laura Sparks—whose cartwheels were pitiful—so very jealous. Laura had once dropped her on purpose when they did the pyramid formation. After she had found out about all the phone calls from Michael.
    And now all of that high school intrigue was over forever. All Clare had left of those intertwined relationships was Michael’s jacket.
    “What happened to you during Pest?” Jem asked.
    “Everything.”
    “Yeah,” said Jem. “Me, too.”
    They left the store, and Clare found herself blinking in the light. The town was no longer silent. Clare could hear laughter.
    “What’s that?” she asked.
    “That’s Mirri,” said Jem. “She’s at the playground. She’s with me. So’s Sarai—they’re both little girls.”
    “I didn’t know if there would be others or not,” said Clare. “I only knew for sure that the Cured were out there somewhere.”
    “One of the Cured follows us sometimes,” said Jem. “But she seems to be okay. Insane, yes, but not violent. We haven’t seen any others. I try to be vigilant. You know. Watchful.”
    “I know what ‘vigilant’ means.”
    Jem looked embarrassed. “I forgot you read real good.”
    In the playground, Clare could see the two little girls. Two. Suddenly it was as if the whole world had been repopulated.
    “The one pushing the swing,” said Jem, “is Sarai. She’s nine. Mirri’s the little one with the bad haircut. She tried to do it herself. She’s seven.”
    The older girl pushed the swing; the younger pumped her legs and yelled “Higher! Higher!” and laughed her uncanny laugh.
    When Clare and Jem got closer, Clare noticed that there was something bizarre about the picture. Sarai wore a dress that reached to her calves, a pair of hiking boots and a sequined T-shirt. Mirri had on jeans, but over them she wore a frilly pink tutu. Both were crowned with tiaras.
    “They like to dress up,” said Jem. “But I figure there aren’t any more fashion guidelines. I never understood what those guidelines were about, anyway.”
    “They were mostly about who was in and who was out,” said Clare. “And we’re all in now. Or out. I don’t know.”
    Clare thought about what it must be like to take care of two people. She realized that she could barely take care of herself, although Bear had shaken her out of her lethargy. Yet Jem, at thirteen, had taken on these little girls. Sarai’s dark hair was drawn back carefully into a braid, and her brown skin glowed against her pale shirt. Mirri jumped off the swing, her shaggy badly cut hair gleaming red-gold in the light. She was certainly cleaner than Clare.
    The instant the girls saw Jem and Clare, they stopped playing.
    “Jem?” Sarai asked. “Is she okay?”
    “Yes.”
    “Her Pest rash isn’t very bright,” said Sarai, and Clare pulled Michael’s jacket close around her again.
    “I like my Pest rash,”

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