Chapter 8

The Garden

The rough wood of the gardening table was bleached by rain and sun. Flowers in pots were lined up along the far edge of the table. Small shovels and a watering can were arranged in the middle. Saga picked up a potted flower and examined its leaves.

Chiyoko lifted a bag of soil from the ground and deposited it on top of the gardening table. She quietly asked, “How long has she been sleeping here?”

Saga glanced up at Kana, who was sitting quietly next to Una on the other side of the backyard garden. Saga said, “She found me at the funeral. She seemed very tired so I brought her back here to sleep.” Saga opened the top of the soil bag. She said, “When she woke up, she jumped out of the bed and ran outside. Then she just sat in the back corner of the garden for almost an hour.” Saga ran her hands through the soil in the bag. She continued, “Since then she has been staying in the backyard and sleeping on the stone bench. I brought out some bedding for her.”

Chiyoko looked at the stone bench. She said, “It does not seem like that would be very comfortable for Kana.”

Saga nodded and said, “But I am not going to tell her that she needs to do anything different. She barely trusts me enough to sleep in the backyard.” Saga bent her head lower and said, “I am certain that the only reason she wants to stay here at all is because the fire was so… frightening for her.”   

Chiyoko murmured, “I hope she does not mind us being here. This garden might feel like the only place that she can be safe and alone right now.”

Saga turned toward the back of the house and said, “I can’t tell if she wants to be alone or not. When I am in the house, she will move to a place in the garden where she can see me. When I come out to the garden, she moves farther away. I think she wants to be able to see that I am here, but not be so close that I might tell her what to do.”

“Ah,” said Chiyoko, “We can work with that. Do you think that she might like to do a bit of gardening? It can be very soothing.”

Chiyoko picked up the bag of soil and brought it to a bare patch in the garden. Saga brought some small shovels and they began digging holes to plant the flowers. 

Without looking up, Saga said, “Kana, Una, if you would like to help us, I have some soil that needs mixing before we plant these flowers.”

Chiyoko poured some soil from the bag onto the ground. She began mixing it with the dirt from the ground using the small shovel. Una stood up and walked between the small trees and shrubs to join them. She sat down. The plastic of her knees clicked as she settled onto the ground. Una looked at Chiyoko and then Saga, her huge black eyes, as always, seeming to be fascinated by everything she saw.

Saga gave Una a trowel and showed her how to use it to dig into the soil and mix it. Kana warily stood up and walked closer, remaining partially concealed by the bushes, but close enough to watch. Chiyoko helped Una test the soil to see if it was fully mixed. They ran their hands through the thick dirt, looking for clumps. Kana slowly crept closer. 

Chiyoko stood up. She said, “Excuse me a moment, I am going to get some more things from the house.” 

Saga showed Una how to remove a flower from its pot and hold it by supporting it from below. Then she demonstrated how to place it into the hole in the ground. Una watched every movement and gesture, and then she removed her own flower from its pot and supported its roots with her plastic fingers gently cupping the soil. She looked at Saga. 

Saga said, “That’s right, Una. Now you can just place it into the hole.”

Una gently deposited the flower into the ground and swept soil into the hole to fill in the gaps.

Kana scoffed, “Una, you dumb… you did it wrong. Now that plant is going to die.”

Una turned her huge black eyes to look up at Saga. Then she turned to look at Kana, who was scowling with her arms crossed. Kana seemed upset about the attention and she turned away. Una looked back to Saga again.

Saga said, “You are doing a good job, Una. We never know for sure which plants will live or die. We just do our best and then step back and accept that things will happen.” Saga brushed her hair out of her face. She said, “Would you like to plant another flower, Una?”

Una looked down at her hands, wringing her plastic fingers anxiously.

“I’ll be right here,” said Saga. “I’ll be watching you, Una, so you don’t need to worry about doing something wrong.”

Una looked at the empty holes in the ground and at the row of flower pots waiting to be planted. She looked up at Saga’s face and then held up her hands. Saga gave one of the flower pots to Una and then picked up one for herself. Together, they gently tipped and extracted the flowers from the pots. Saga placed her flower into the ground. Una mimicked her actions. Saga swept soil into the gaps around the flower. Una watched her and then did the same. Together they moved down the row, filling the holes with flowers.

Chiyoko came back out to the garden, knelt down by the stone path and began planting another row of flowers. Una looked up from her empty flower pots and then walked over to join Chiyoko.

Kana walked next to where Saga was kneeling down. She looked at the flowers, newly arranged in the dirt. Saga used the watering can to dampen the soil around each flower.

Kana said, “Una is not like other nubots.”

Saga nodded. “I see that. She seems very special,” she said.

Kana looked away and a tear ran quickly down her cheek. She said, “I mean that she is really not like other nubots.” She bit her lip and then continued, “Una doesn’t forget.”

Saga controlled her startled reaction. She said, “Ah, I see. That is a little different.”

Kana said, “All nubots forget when they recharge their batteries, but they don’t have to. They are made that way.”

Saga nodded, patting wet soil with her fingers and carefully not looking at Kana. 

Kana continued, speaking quickly and quietly, “But I met someone who knew how to fix a nubot so it would not forget… and I asked him to fix Una.”

Saga slowly stacked the flower pots, choosing her tasks and pace to give Kana as much time as she needed to talk.

Kana said, “Una doesn’t forget… and now I am worried that I broke her.”

Saga looked up briefly at Kana’s grief-stricken face.

“I think I broke her,” Kana said again. “I am the one who had her changed so that she cannot forget.” Kana’s voice broke and a tear fell to the ground. “I am the one who brought her with me to the burning building.” Kana’s tears began to choke her voice. She said, “I am the reason that she will never be able to forget that fire.” She wrung her hands anxiously and murmured, “Una will never be happy again, and it is because of me.” A stream of tears ran down Kana’s cheeks, which she wiped away with her dirty hands.

Saga opened her arms and Kana fell into them. Kana pressed her face into Saga’s neck and rested there breathing shallowly through thick tears.

Saga cradled Kana’s head and whispered to her, “Shhhh… it’s okay. Shhh… it’s okay.”

Kana lifted her head to come up for air. Her nose was too congested to breathe and she gasped air through her mouth. She wiped her face across her sleeve and tried to compose herself.

“Sometimes I get scared,” said Saga. “Sometimes something happens that makes me feel like I will never be happy again, or even like I may never be okay again.” She rested her hand on Kana’s shoulder. “And when that happens I want to just forget it like it never happened. But also, it seems like I will probably never forget and never be the same again.”

Kana nodded.

Saga continued, “Maybe it seems like Una will never be the same again, and that may seem scary.” 

Kana hugged herself. 

Saga said, “Maybe it also seems like you will not be the same again, and that may seem scary too.”  

Kana hugged herself tighter.

“There are times when I have seen things that scared me,” said Saga. “I have seen things that I wanted to go back and make them never happen, or just make it so that I never saw those things.”

Kana hugged herself and nodded.

Saga ran her hands through Kana’s hair. She said, “But those things did not break me.”

Kana looked at the dirt and crushed a dried leaf between her fingers. She asked, “You’re not broken now?”

Saga said, “No, I am not broken. Some of my experiences were very hard to accept, but I learned. It just takes time.”

Kana pushed the leaf bits around in the dirt. She said, “I used to be different. I could take care of myself. I did not need to ask anyone for anything. I ate and slept wherever I wanted. But now I don’t know how to do those things any more. When I try to sleep… I have bad dreams. When I try to eat, nothing tastes right. I used to be able to go wherever I wanted. I want to be like that again. But everything feels broken now. I feel broken now.”

“You can stay here for as long as you want,” said Saga.

“I can stay on the garden bench?” asked Kana.

“Yes,” said Saga. “I want you to stay for as long as you want.” Saga looked at Una and Chiyoko, who were sitting next to each other and digging in the far side of the garden. Saga said, “I want you to know that I won’t tell anyone what you told me about Una. I will keep it secret.”

Kana nodded. She said, “I know you won’t tell. That’s why I stay here.” Kana stood up, wiped her face, and brushed dirt off of her knees. Then she walked over to Una and Chiyoko. Soon Kana and Una were busy with digging. Chiyoko stood up and walked over to join Saga.

Saga remarked, “It is nice to see them digging together.”

Chiyoko commented, “They are trying to dig the deepest hole that they can. I hope you are interested in a little rearrangement of the garden in that corner.”

Saga smiled. “I would love to rearrange the garden,” she said.

Chiyoko poured some soil from a bag into a flower pot. She said, “I had a chance to converse with Una.” Saga said nothing so Chiyoko continued, “The conversation was a bit surprising. I recall seeing Una recharging this morning, and yet Una was describing to me some events that happened a few days ago. She seems to remember things from before her most recent recharging.”

“Oh, really?” asked Saga, feigning surprise and pouring some soil into a flower pot.

“Normally, I wouldn’t mention it,” said Chiyoko, ”but Una was telling me that she and Kana were in the freight tunnel where the fire started.”

“Oh,” said Saga, mixing the soil in the pot.

“Apparently Una and Kana saw the remains of the cable cars before they were destroyed by the fire,” commented Chiyoko. She continued, “It may be that Una saw some things that may be of a… sensitive nature.”

“Oh dear,” said Saga, her fingers sinking into the soil of the flower pot.