The Wisteria Whisperer – by Deborah Mercer (Adult)
If you had to go to boarding school, Griffin House was the best kind. It was in a redbrick Victorian house, but the teaching methods were modern and tolerant – and though it did well academically, girls whose gifts lay elsewhere were nurtured and encouraged, quirks and little ways accepted and welcomed. The teachers were kind and sensible – and knew that some of the girls weren’t there for happy reasons.
Thirteen year old Harriet’s parents were going through a messy divorce, and thought she was best shielded from it. They had no immediate family to look after her. “Kept out of the way, more like,” she murmured to the wisteria growing up the right wall of the school. She couldn’t quite believe it when the head, Ms Charlton, first told her it was over 150 years old, the oldest in the country. But there were undeniably faded sepia photos of people in Victorian dress standing by it. The older girls sometimes liked to make out they were cynical and say the photos were fakes, or the wisteria not the original one, but at heart, even they knew it was true, and furtively came to collect their thoughts with no-one to witness them but the mass of clinging purple flowers, a woody, tall, dark stem growing through them.
Harriet had hurtled from a lesson, knowing that she was going to break down, and suddenly desperate for fresh air. It was raining, but she did not care, as she whispered her fears and loneliness to the wisteria on the wall, and it seemed to be weeping with her. There was that stillness that only seems to come as summer rain is abating, and time itself almost seems to stand still. Harriet knew she should make her way back to the classroom, but lingered for a few more moments.
“They do love you, you know,” the whisper was gentle and clear. “And remember the saying. This, too, will pass.”
Harriet didn’t look to see if anyone were there. She knew perfectly well they were not.
Author’s Note: This is a work of fiction, but the record-breaking wisteria does indeed, exist. I’ve taken the liberty of transforming the Griffin Pub into a school.