High, low, overhead, underfoot, filling every crevice, climbing every wall – camellias! Claire had stumbled upon an overgrown garden, a pink and red paradise. She gasped in amazement, enraptured with the staggering bounty of blooms. In the distance she could hear Lady Margaret’s garden party, but those sounds were quickly receding.

A much nearer voice caught her attention. The half-light of dusk made it hard to see, but the words were clear.

“Peter, we don’t have much time.” The woman’s gentle voice somehow combined calmness and urgency.

“First, we must hide this where the Earl’s men can’t find and destroy it. Then we’ll hie away to the convent where you’ll be safe for your lying-in.” As her eyes adjusted to the twilight shadows, Claire saw Peter’s kind brown eyes, his tender look that circled the woman like an embrace. The couple didn’t seem to see her, so she inched closer. When Peter unfurled the scroll, Claire peered over his shoulder. A priest’s signature. Their names, and a date too faint to read. “Clarissa, over here!” Peter pulled aside camellia branches to place the scroll in a strongbox hidden at the foot of the wall, then helped Clarissa onto his steed and mounted behind her. The camellias swung back into place, a blur of pink hiding a great secret.

Claire suddenly remembered her grandfather murmuring something just before he died. He was old and ill and could only manage a few halting syllables. Ba…by. Mur…der. Birth…right. Your birthright, she thought she heard him say.

Claire’s soft brown eyes filled with tears. Finally, she shook herself back to her present reality. Within a few minutes she had arrived back at the immaculate lawn. Lady Margaret hurried to her side.

“There you are, Cousin. Did you enjoy your walk?”

“Something important is hidden in the camellia garden.” Claire searched Lady M’s face. “But there is no camellia …” Lady M stopped, confused. The current Earl appeared out of nowhere and steered his wife firmly by the elbow. “Come Margaret, our guests are waiting.” He glanced back at Claire, his eyes hard and cold.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

I love the mystery in this Fuji, the haunting descriptions, the ghostly voices reliving their memories. I do hope your protagonist finds what she needs to look for.

Emily O'Leary
Emily O'Leary(@emily-oleary)
2 years ago

Another lovely tale Fuji! I so wish to know more! Clarissa… Claire… the mysterious birthright! Very engaging!

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
2 years ago

Like other readers, your story makes me want to go on reading, to know more about the hidden scroll, the truth behind what is kept in darkness, and Claire’s ability to see a rich, beautiful camellia garden which doesn’t exist for others. As always, your language is precise, pictorial, and rich (the expression “to hie away” was new to me) – a pleasure to read.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
Reply to  Fuji
2 years ago

Re-reading your story makes me look deeper into it and see more clues, Fuji. Not only the similarities of the women’s names, but also the color (brown) of the eyes of Claire and Peter. Suddenly, I understand the close relationship between those three persons and can understand about the murder and why the current earl is suspicious and aggressive. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark! Very nice job, Fuji!

Susan Dawson
Susan Dawson(@susan-dawson)
2 years ago

Sounds like we have swapped countries and you have come to England for your story. What a lot of mysteries you have left for us to think through. Well done.

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

A Period mystery and a detective story too! It can’t get much better Fuji. I loved reading this tale. It’s full of tantalizing clues and I liked the way you just mention – a Priest’s signature, another hint. I believe Fuji that all of a sudden you will begin not paying so much attention to the chosen word and that everything will just start to fall into place as you write. You… Read more »

Katy Bizi
Katy Bizi(@katy-bizi)
2 years ago

This mysterious air that oozes out of the story is so perfect that every time you read the story, new thoughts arise in your mind. And that is what makes your story so good, Fuji.

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