There was so much dirt under Anya’s fingernails at this point that she could feel it pressing between skin and nail. Between fresh skin and dead skin, separating what was from what will be. She poured and packed, poured and packed the dirt carefully into the pot, careful not to crush the bulb beneath the surface. When it was full, she picked it up off the ground, setting it on the wooden side table in front of the window box. All she had left to plant was the ivy. It would climb up the lattice on the south side of the small patio, shading the plants that would just be starting to poke their heads out. It didn’t look like much now — just a few terra cotta pots and boxes strewn about a five by ten concrete patio — but it was growing. It was starting new.
When Anya had first found this tiny basement apartment, she was drawn to that patio. In the pictures, it had been covered in beautiful, untamed flora. Some may have seen it as overgrown, but Anya was mesmerized by the wildness of it. The studio apartment was in the basement of a neglected yellow house in the middle of nowhere just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. The owner of the home had always rented out the basement but had died almost a decade before, and the estranged relative who managed the estate had never felt the need to sell it. Instead, the original apartment listing created by the late homeowner stayed on the small, buried housing page of the town’s website. No one would ever have found it if he weren’t looking for it, and in fact no one had been. Until Anya, that is.
Anya had been hit for the last time. She finally decided to leave, packing a bag in the middle of the night and slipping out while he drooled the whiskey out of his system. She took the cash in the drawer and hit the road before the sun came up. It was poetic, really, and she was determined to see that poetry through to the end. So when she pulled up the housing website for the town her mother had taken her to visit twenty-two years earlier and saw the big yellow house with the basement apartment with a little, vine-covered patio, she knew she had found her destination. She was done being contained; she was done being trimmed to someone else’s satisfaction. She would live in this apartment and grow beneath the vines and tower above anyone who tried to cut her back. So she made the call and paid the deposit in cash and picked up the keys from the management company.
But when she got to the apartment, the plants were gone. The vines had been pulled, and the potted beauties had been discarded.
Anya was heartbroken at first. She called the management company and demanded to know why they had been removed, claiming false advertising and getting half off of her next month’s rent in the process. But the plants were gone, and they couldn’t be restored.
So Anya decided to make that patio her own. She went to the local nursery that afternoon and spent nearly a third of her remaining cash on plants, beautiful flowers and greenery that would grow right along with her. She took them home and planted them right away. And as the sun was setting, she stepped back and admired her handiwork, feeling the dirt under her nails and breathing in the smell of new life. They weren’t much to look at now, but they would be unstoppable soon enough.