The June air filled her lungs with the scent of Jasmine and honeysuckle reaching for the saltwater air. The house had always been one of the most beautiful places Beth had ever been to, it was a shame so many memories crowded in to interrupt her delight at the rolling law leaping out into the ocean. Or the way the sunset lingered in the rose petals even as the rest of the yard grew dark and the stars beamed out.
Beth walked out to the edge of the cliff that the house overlooked. She gazed out over the sea, watching the sea foam form and drift away as the steal blue waves crashed and their water trickled around the pale yellow sand. She turned back around and looked at the garden in all its full glory and bloom. The whole place lit up as Beth took her first steps toward the house. In the garden the old, weather bitten white table was laid out with a summer’s bounty of food. Large green-glass bowels of grapes and a dark cranberry colored glass plate Beth remembered lovingly as a girl offered giant, ripe figs.
Beth sat down at the table and picked up a tarnished sliver butter knife. The metal still gleaming in the soft yellow candle light from the hanging glass lamps above her head.
“It’s been such a long time.” Beth’s father said.
Without turning around to look at her father Beth nodded, “Almost longer than I was with you.”
“Did you ever think about me?” her father asked, a shade of darkness in his voice.
“Every day for a very long time. Then one year I realized I could go days without thinking of you.” Beth answered, bile coming up on her tongue.
“Why didn’t you ever come home my Bethabell?” he asked, playing tears that did not fall.
“Was this supposed to be home? This was a chamber of nightmares not a home for a little girl.” Beth said quietly but strongly.
She wrapped her hand around one of the large, succulent figs and stabbed it with her nail.
“You always did judge me so harshly.” He said, smiling at her as he neared Beth, walking down from the stone path that lead to the house.
“Did I? And all this time I thought I’d been too kind, never reporting you, never telling mom while she was sill alive.” Beth crushed the fig as she spoke, taking a moment to wipe her hands with a rough lilien napkin.
“Your mom knew.” Her father said with a weariness in his voice she had never heard before, it made Beth smile a wicked smile of pleasure.
“I know she did, when she died I came home while you were at work and we talked. I didn’t forgive her and I will never forgive you.“ Beth said and threw her napkin on the ground.
“Not much I can do about that now.” He said, bending down to pick up and fold the napkin in his big roughly tanned hands. Beth had been so frightened of those hands as a girl, she had wet herself once when she saw them coming for her.
“There never was anything you could do. I don’t get those years back, daddy. The monster doesn’t go back in the closet once it's out.”
“There is a monster that lives within me. He knows no bounds. No horror may keep him away.” Her father said, now allowing the tears to overflow from his soft grey eyes. Dampening the deep cresses around them.
“I wanted you to love me.” Beth shouted, pushing the chair back and staring at her father.
“I did.” He said, making no movement to come nearer his daughter.
“You loved me too much then.” Beth said, suddenly unable to get up from the white wicker chair.
“How can you weigh and measure my love?”
“Because you loved me so much, you held me so tight I broke into pieces.”
“I remember the puzzles we used to put together.” He said, almost laughing with the memory.
“Out in the hammock, you’d lay there and I’d put them together. A smile, a hug, maybe a kiss for each right piece.” Beth let out each word of the prizes slowly, as though they had become solid on her tongue.
“You see, I did love you.”
“What you loved wasn’t me. I’m not even sure it was you.” Beth said, finely turning to look at her father’s face.
Her father disappeared into the thick night mist that had blown in while Beth spoke with the deepest ghost of her past. The garden was bright again and the small fireflies fluttered around her. Beth fell from her chair and wept out years of hurting. Her own personal monster was gone, dead for the last week. The haunted house and its garden was now Beth’s to finely come home to.