patricia seed

@ferociousqueak wanted more of Shepard and the ghost house, and some stuff happened.

I think there may be another couple of chapters’ worth of this.

#

August

The house is suffused with quiet. Shepard has never lived anywhere like this before – not in the home of her youth, crowded with three younger brothers, not in the series of barracks and shipboard bunks that lasted her military career, not in her glitzy borrowed apartment on the Citadel. This house holds quiet like a sponge. Shepard wakes in the morning to sunlight arcing through her window and birds chirping, and goes to sleep with the sound of crickets.

There’s no sign of the ghost for the first few weeks. Shepard could almost believe she had just imagined it. Garrus says he hasn’t seen or heard or smelled anything out of the ordinary. He’s taking to this retreat better than she would have expected; he set up a workshop down in the basement, where there are long tables and a surprising amount of light. He plays music over his visor while he tinkers away, and sometimes hums along.

Shepard does a little digging and discovers that the previous occupant of the house was a middle-aged academic who taught literature at the college in the next town over. She’d lived here alone. It seems like a lot of house for one person; some days, it seems like a lot of house for Shepard and Garrus. They’re not even using all the space. They keep the guest rooms closed up, and they don’t have enough furniture of their own for the living room.

“Oh, she wasn’t alone,” says their neighbor, Patricia. “She always had students in and out. Let them stay the night sometimes, or during school breaks.”

Patricia lives half a mile down the road. She’d come over the second day with an apple pie, heaping with apples and cinnamon and brown, flaky crust. She’d apologized for not bringing anything for Garrus.

“She was a nice lady,” Patricia tells Shepard. “Kept to herself a lot, but never seemed lonely.”

Shepard mostly sees Patricia when she goes out for a run. If she goes the right direction, she loops past Patricia’s house, and sometimes Patricia’s out working in the garden, and Shepard slows down to say hello. One of those times, Shepard asks about the lights in the basement.

“She used to garden,” Patricia explains. “She’d start seeds down there in the winter.”

Shepard’s father had been an agronomist, but it was all large-scale, developing plants that would thrive on Mindoir. They’d had only a tiny garden and a couple of houseplants, no room for anything like that in their cramped little house.

“She had a lot of hobbies,” Patricia adds. “She didn’t garden so much, the last few years before. Don’t know if she got bored with it, or if her arthritis was acting up.”

Shepard thanks her and starts her run home. In the warm glow of movement, sweat prickling along her scalp and trickling between her shoulder blades, she thinks about their predecessor. It sounds like a nice life. Quiet. Reading good books, teaching young people, going home to her peaceful house and her garden. It’s the kind of life Shepard has never had, nor ever particularly aspired to have, back when she was a restless kid. Even then, before the attack, before everything, she’d thought vaguely about enlisting.

And now… here she is, not yet forty, but with her military career behind her, and the rest of her life stretching ahead.

When she arrives back at the house, she surveys the clumps of plants on either side of the front door and wonders if she can tell the difference between plants put there on purpose and weeds. Maybe the extranet will tell her, and later she can come out and yank out some of the weeds.

Shepard climbs the front steps and enters the house. Inside, the kitchen smells like turian spices, not like tea and cookies.

Keep reading