A couple of weeks after the drunken escapades of the Ethan Blaine gig, Maria decided it was time to move out and back into the real world. She’d decided to sell up the large estate she’d once shared with her father, unable to face living alone in the huge house, and had used the money to buy a smaller, but still impressive, house on the cliff tops. It was on the same side of town that the Rivers lived on, as well as her work, so she still spent most days hanging out with her adopted family!
Ivy had spent the time partially cut off from society. After having a much needed shower the morning she returned home from her sordid night, she had turned off her mobile phone. She didn’t want any calls from a certain someone, so decided it was easier to just turn off the only point of contact rather than go through the whole screening thing. Every time she remembered Ethan strolling into the room while she stood there half naked she felt her face burn. How on earth could she face him again? Not that he would call. A millionaire super-rock-star with a gazillion girls at his feet? Why would he call after the one who practically sprinted from his house after stuttering at him? No, he definitely was not going to call her back. But, just in case, phone off.
Before he knew where he was, it was time for Matthew’s birthday. He decided on a small, family affair, although naturally Maria was invited. He didn’t want a big audience as he debuted his new wrinkles!
‘Aw love, don’t you look distinguished!’ Cassie cooed as she went over to her husband, running her fingers playfully through his newly silvered hair before lightly placing a kiss on his cheek. Tristan rolled his eyes and set about cutting the cake, muttering about how embarrassing his parents were as teenagers do, while Maria beamed and squealed out her birthday congratulations and started talking nineteen to the dozen, as was usual for her! Ivy stood a little on the sidelines grinning, not one to jump right into the middle of things. Glancing through the window of the back door she noticed a branch from one of her apple trees sticking out at an odd angle; the tiny saplings she’d planted upon moving in with her parents had since grown so high Tristan could reach out and pick apples from his bedroom window. Asking her brother to hold her slice she popped out to check on it, finding that the branch had half snapped. She would need a saw to sort this out, something she didn’t have in her gardening collection. Without thinking she whipped out her mobile and turned it on, trying to remember the number Kym had given her for a local garden supplier. As the phone flashed into life, it suddenly started to ring. Still trying to remember the number, Ivy answered it.
‘Hello, Ivy Rivers speaking…’
She froze. She knew that voice.
‘Um… Ethan… Hi?’
‘Had you fallen off the face of the earth or something?’ Ethan forced a laugh, trying to keep his tone light hearted. He’d expected that it would go straight through to voicemail once more, where he would be unable to leave another message. He’d already decided that this would be his last try at calling Ivy…
‘No, no, just… Y’know. Been busy.’
‘Oh yeah? What’ve you been up to?’
‘Gardening mostly. And helping my friend move home.’
‘Right. Have a lot of things, did she?’
Ivy laughed in spite of how awkward she was feeling. ‘You know, she really did!’
Ethan relaxed, Ivy’s laughter setting him a bit more at ease. ‘So, er… Are you still busy? I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime, maybe. I’m back in Sunset Valley for a week or so.’
‘Back in the Valley? Where’ve you been?’
‘In Bridgeport. I had a couple of shows to do with the lads. If you’d answered your phone at all, you’d know!’
Ivy’s face burned. ‘Sorry. I really have been busy…’
‘I’m not accusing you of anything, don’t worry! I’d just really like to see you again. What do you say?’
Ivy’s mind whirred. She’d convinced herself that upon turning her phone on again she’d have nothing waiting for her aside from maybe a couple of texts from her service provider. She’d told herself not to expect this…
Ethan seemed nice. He really did. But he was a rock star. A super-mega-popular rock star. And she was just Ivy. How could she compare?
‘Um, well… I’ve got a lot more to do in the garden, a lot to focus on right now. If I get a spare evening I’ll ring you and let you know?’
Ethan’s heart sank a little. ‘Okay, fine. No worries. Hope your plants grow nicely!’
‘Thank you! Talk to you later!’ Ivy replied shrilly before hanging up. Oh, gnomes.
* * *
‘Aw, sounds like Matthew had a lovely birthday, bless him!’ Sue grinned after hearing Cassie’s tales of Matt’s big day. The pair had decided to meet for lunch at the Scrumptious Nibbles Café on the sea front, although naturally this meant that they stood chatting for half an hour before even finding a table!
‘He really did! Quiet and intimate, just as he wanted.’
‘As opposed to the raving party you’ve got planned for yours?’ Sue winked. Cassie’s own birthday was only a few days away!
‘At my age? You’ve got to be kidding! Besides, I think only Ivy and Maria would be able to keep up with something like that!’ Cassie joked. ‘Having said that, I’d like to see how you’d cope on the dancefloor at The Grind!’
‘Now then Cassie, do you really think I’d go out and support a rival business?’ Sue said in mock anger. ‘No, no. You’d have it at the Blue Swan if you had it anywhere!’
‘Well, thanks for the offer of a booking, but I think I’ll just stick to you and the family in the back garden. Another quiet affair! And I’m looking forward to it, thank you very much.’
‘Fair enough! I’m glad, to be honest. I don’t think you could match my moves!’ Sue did a little twirl, being very careful not to move too far from the fencing just in case her old knees went. ‘Wouldn’t want to upstage you on your own birthday!’
The old friends laughed companiably. ‘So, what’s young Ivy up to these days? That girl’s the image of you, you know, every time I see her I remember the day you walked into my pub,’ Sue chuckled nostalgically.
‘I know! Everyone says so. She’s a professional gardener now!’ Cassie beamed with pride. ‘She’s already selling her produce to the local supermarket! I’m sure she’d do you a discount, too!’
After her phone call with Ethan Ivy had decided to make her white lies the truth, and had registered at City Hall as a professional gardener. It was what she loved doing, after all, and she’d had no other ideas for a career. She couldn’t see herself wasting away in an office all day. This way she could be out in the sun, day after day! She was surprised she hadn’t thought of it before.
Her little fruit and vegetable patch in the back garden became more important that ever. She used it to grow ‘prototype’ produce, testing out different fertilisers and soil types and so on, discovering which had the best effect before using them on a larger scale.
The Community Garden had opened recently in downtown Sunset Valley, a facility built by the council for those registered with them to use as an extension to their own gardens, although as a park it was open to all.
Every single plant you could possibly imagine grew within the fence walls, from apples and limes to potatoes and watermelons. The council had even imported from abroad, so you could even find the exotic plums and pomegranates growing in the Valley! There were also facilities for wine making, as well as an allotment devoted to growing the many different kinds of grapes for making it. Ivy was excited to try that out!
The Gardens were finished with a small playground, mainly to keep gardeners’ children occupied while they worked, shower facilites and a barbequing area. And Ivy loved every inch of the plot.
The multitude of plants meant that it was a haven for wildlife, with butterflies swarming everywhere and ladybirds encouraged to help keep pests at bay. The people who worked on the garden were determined not to use chemicals on their prized produce, trying to be as organic as possible. For nature loving Ivy, it was heaven on earth! She could dig about in the soil all day, and catch butterflies and other insects during her break periods. She actually pitied everyone she’d see walking or driving to work, looking uncomfortable in their pressed suits and stressed about the amount of paperwork that would be waiting for them upon arrival, as she leisurely raked leaves in her comfortable work dungerees. She really did have the best job in the world!
Having said that, being out in the open did have its disadvantages. Toiling away in the grape allotment, Ivy felt a presence watching over her.