One little girl bends over purple autumn crocuses, her scarlet plastic raincoat stiff, flared behind her, her feet in bright yellow wellingtons crushing the fragile stems. One little boy, in blue trousers, jacket and boots, all adorned with Postman Pat, digs with a plastic spade in sodden earth. These two children are free to roam in a garden of damp grass, below drooping branches laden with golden, red and yellow leaves, ready to fall.

There's a break in the series of wet autumn days.

Jessica and Jamie now blow dandelion clocks, giggling between each breathy puff.

Mud is drawn to their legs as to a black hole. I sigh.

I wander the garden with gloves, a trowel, and a moss-green garden sack. There are toadstools everywhere and I fear for poisoned toddlers.

There are beige crinkly toadstools by the swing, cork-sized brown cones on long thin stems scattered over the lawn, big flat yellow monsters on the old half barrel against the back fence — and by the Wendy House there are great spotted red Death Caps, just ready for the elves to perch on. You'd think they had been manufactured in a factory, they're so perfect and so perfectly placed by the wooden play house.

Each one is beautiful, but they cannot be allowed to remain in this children's playgarden.

Lush landscape is marred by growths popping up unwanted out of fertile ground. I cut them away, ruthless. They have no place here. If left, they will run riot, spoiling the garden for the sweet young blossoms that should be growing here.

Water droplets glisten on the long green blades and silver spiders' webs carpet the ground, waves rippling gently in the wind. The children's boots become coated in white lace. The tree trunks are tangled in misty sheets of cobweb.

Threads float in front of my face, tiny black spiders clinging fast, riding the thermals, spinning silk as they drift on the wind. I crouch in the middle of the lawn and show the children how the spiders spin their silken threads.

"Ugh," says Jessica," It comes out of their behinds!"

And Jamie hurtles around the garden yelling "Spiders' bums!"

Even as I hug my small daughter in the middle of the garden the spiders link us with bright strands. We are woven together, entwined in fragile threads. We do not move, not wanting to break the spell, entranced by the busy activity of the tiny spinners.

I'd always wanted a daughter. Now there is one little girl who has my green eyes and determined chin, while around us circles one little boy with red hair just like me and an affectionate caring nature — always eager to please.

A voice breaks the stillness of the moment, calling: "Jessica!"

My sister enters the garden. She is slightly taller, slightly slimmer than me. Her darker curls are cut shorter than mine.

Jessica runs, gold highlighting her hair in the fading sun, spiders dancing from her fingertips: "Mummy, look!"

It is not to me she is running. My sister looks and laughs, and sweeps her up. Her eyes reflect the brilliance in the child's. She glances at me, anxiously.

"Thank you for looking after her. I hope she hasn't been any trouble?"

I shake my head. Jessica winds her arms around my sister's neck and rests her bright head against her throat. Love zings between them. She is my daughter, but she does not belong to me. I turn away, fixing my eyes on Jamie's red hair and busy hands.

"Thank you, " my sister says, and again, heartfelt: "Thank you."

The word whispers in the wind from a happy Jessica: "Bye!"

My small son digs, absorbed in the colours of the damp earth, unconcerned. I crouch in the middle of my garden, flicking water droplets from the grass stalks and from my cheeks. I am surrounded by webs. They are building up around me, entangling me in their sticky threads and consequences.

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Helen Whitehead

Part of this work was submitted as the Dissertation for the MA in Writing

Nottingham Trent University

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genetics | motherhood

Last amended on 8th September 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead