The powerhouse sister team of Carrie and Laura bring us Pinkorama #4, The Garden Peeptrigue, from, you guessed it!, Pink IX, The Garden Intrigue!
While Laura and Carrie’s craftsmanship is, as always, beyond all imagining, I think what I might love best about this entry is their description of the scene:
Our ruffled romantic rhyming rapscallion thinks he’s in love with his goddess of a boss, but is inexplicably attracted in an annoying pigtail-pulling, drive-you-crazy, can’t-stay-away manner to the brash, diminutive American best friend of the step-daughter of a rapacious dictator on whom he is supposed to spy. Matters deteriorate when attempting to have an intense conversation with said Love Interest while said Rapacious Dictator is trying to take over the world in the same rose garden.
“Where shall we go? The back of the house is occupied and the house itself is swamped with people.”
Oh, yes. Their mysterious talk. Despite her growing unease, Emma strove to keep her voice light. “I draw the line at the stables. And the gardeners are very protective of the greenhouses.”
Augustus didn’t look at her. “What about the rose garden?”
It wasn’t an unreasonable suggestion. Leaving aside the romantic connotations of roses, it was well away from both the revelers in the back and the pirates in the theater. A long alley of trees led down one side, shading the area and separating the roses from the bustle of the drive. It was as private as they could hope to be, with only one small caveat.
“Is the Emperor working in the summerhouse?” Emma asked, as they turned their steps in that direction. “If he is, we might want to stay out of the way.”
She’d forgotten that Augustus didn’t know Malmaison. Sometimes, it felt as though he had always been there. “It’s at the end of the alley,” said Emma, “just past the roses. On fine days, the First Consul—I mean, the Emperor—brings his work out there. As long as the windows are closed, we should be all right, though.”
“Mm-hmm,” said Augustus, which might have meant anything from yes to no to maybe. Emma took it as yes.
Emma glanced at Augustus’ shuttered face, doubly screened by the long fall of curly hair. One thing was certain. She wasn’t getting anything out of him until he was good and ready to speak.
They cut around the far side of the house from the theater, along an alley of trees leading towards Mme Bonaparte’s famous roses and the nondescript, octagonal façade of the summer house. Some of the roses, the earlier sorts, had already unfurled their petals to the sun. The leaves were stiff and glossy. There were rare and exotic varieties, Emma knew, smuggled in from all around the world, whisked into France in direct contravention of the blockades. The authorities knew to turn a blind eye when it came to Mme Bonaparte’s garden.
Emma knew she ought to know more about it, to be able to appreciate the distinctions of this rose versus that, but her knowledge of horticulture was limited to “ooh, aren’t the pink ones lovely!”. A connoisseur might appreciate the niceties of specific species; Emma had only a jumbled impression of color and the heavy, heady scent of roses, all the more intense in the hazy heat of the day.
The low buzz of the bees was broken only by the sound of voices from the summerhouse, too low to be distinguishable, just loud enough to jar the peace of the garden. Emma could hear the earnest tones of Mr. Fulton’s voice, followed by the Emperor’s sharp bark, then another voice, softer, interceding. It must be very hot in there, with that many people crammed inside, around the small table.
A bee bumbled past, drunk with pollen.
Emma looked at Augustus, who wasn’t looking at her. “All right,” she said. “We’re here now.”
Augustus clasped his hands behind his back. He paced towards the summerhouse, head bent, body angled forward, pausing for what felt like a very long while. The silence stretched between them, broken only by the staccato rhythm of voices from the summerhouse and the low hum of bees among the roses.
Emma’s skirt brushed against a rosebush, catching on thorns. She yanked it free again, making the flowers shake. The bee buzzed angrily and zig-zagged away.
She knew how it felt.
The day was humid, despite the hot sunshine. Drops of sweat dripped down beneath her bodice, catching between her breasts. There would be a storm soon, if she wasn’t much mistaken. She could feel it in the prickling of the skin below her gloves, in the frizzled hairs at the nape of her neck.
“Do you have something to say,” Emma burst out, “or would you rather just stand there?”