Kew Gardens


They would meet every Easter Sunday at Kew Gardens. Family tradition. The kids were running ahead, laughing and chasing each other. The adults were walking in a disorganised line, peacefully, and Emma would move from one to another.

She strolled with Kate her older sister for a while, sharing secrets of unhappiness . Petty things.  John travelling and exploring the world. Meeting men and women. Having conversations. And Kate stuck at home doing school runs, and baths, packing lunches and cooking diner. This year, John was not even joining their day at Kew Gardens. After a while, Emma bailed out, pretending a stone in her shoe.

She walkedwithPeter her brother, one year younger than her, her childhood companion. They slowed down and synchronised their stride, like when they were children walking to school together.  His pace was supple and light, as if following a new trail promising new discoveries. They would always talk about politics, big ideas, rarely about their lives. Peter was still looking for his soul mate, going from guy to guy, youngeror older ones, elusive relationships which he never talked about.  She would take his arm, in an old fashion way, and talk about her dreams in the hope that he would share back. He would listen, ask thoughtful questions, encourage her, but keep his dreams silent. That day Peter had dark circles under hiseyes. He had green eyes with golden specks. Today his eyes were lifeless, the golden specks dark and shine less.   Emma worried about him.

There would be always be one of the kids falling, crying, fighting and she would walk towards the children, shoulders back, taking her mother ready to interveneposition. That day, the kids had stopped running and were all bundled together, still, intensely silent, staring at something. Emma and Peter came closer. Leo, her son was holding a tiny frog in his hand. It was green and purple, legs ended by3 disproportionallylong fingers with a little dot at the end of each. Leo was holding her in her hand, looking one of its foot with his thumb.

-"Leo, don't squeeze too hard, you will hurt her"

The frog was trembling, her silvery throat was moving up and down. She was ready to jump.

Anna, Marion, Leo's sisters, and Tom and Nick, Leo's twin cousins,  were all bundledaround Leo, trying to touch the frog shiny body. Paul, Sam, Nick and Alex, the older cousins were standing around them, pretending to be moderately interested.

Peter squatted next to the kids, smiling.

-"It is quite beautiful,  not the usual frog you find in this country" said Peter

-"May be it is because they are special flowers in the garden" whispered Leo

-"May be, you should let her go, she is very scared, you are so big…" Peter put his hand on Leo's arm.

Léo frowned. He was not letting the frog go, anytime soon.

-"Can I take her home?"

-"She will die if you take her home Leo, let her be, you do not want her to die, do you?"  said Emma.

Leo very slowly relaxed his grip and the little frog jumped. It was a big jump, which seems out of proportion for her tiny trembling body. And then she was gone. The kids resume their walking and running ahead of the adults. The frog event had killed the momentum of Emma's conversation with Peter. Those conversationsnever seemed quite finished. So much unsaid works. Suspended in the warm air around her little silent butterflies.

Emma walked to Elizabeth. Elizabeth, Lizzy, was her younger sister, quiet, with a strange sense of humour often laughing at herself and all the drama in her life. She had 4 boys . Her husband Phil was killed in an avalanche went she was pregnant with Tom, her youngest boy. She cried briefly and got on with her life. Her sons all looked alike and she often made the joke that as babies they were exactly the same and that she had the impression of giving birth to the same baby four times. The boys were thoughtful and wise, and loved their uncle Peter.

Emma held her arm gently.

-"All good sis?" she asked.

Lizzy nodded. Emma noticed she had little shades movingon her cheeks, hair dancing in the sun. The sun was out and the sky was deep blue, with large of cloud in formation ahead, slowly moving towards them, projecting large shadows on the green.

-"What should I get for Leo's birthday?" Lizzie asked.

Birthdays and Christmas presents, child after child, years after years, life after life. Those were the slim proof of their family links, the artefacts of their blood connections. No one ever missed the children's Birthday. They were all written one year in advance in calendar hanging in their kitchens, in notebooks and agenda, in drawers in their secretary desks.

-"He has everything, just give him a book" she said.

Emma and Lizzy walked under the grey shade of a cloud, the air was suddenly cooler and heavier. As if they had entered into the cloud, in a textured shroud of invisible humid particles.

All of the sudden,  the cloud darkened and a cascade of raindrops were crashing on them, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives, children and cousins.  The adults ran under a centenary trees, laughing, and calling the children back. They waited for a few long minutes for the shower to stop, all bundled together, inhaling the humid air. They were like kids again, laughing and free.  Nothing mattered but the rain, the smell of moss and children's hair, and the Gardens breathing a silvery humid halo around them.

Brigitte Bellan