Undergrowth / Overgrowth

The first time I was suspicious, I went into the bathroom to tend to the fresh bruises-to-be on my upper arms. A tiny ceramic saucer of aloe sat in the corner of the sink, its pristine clear gloss reflecting light. I didn’t know where it came from, but I knew someone was looking out for me. I gently lathered and whispered gratitude with each wince.

The second time was after work. I thought I only needed to dig deeper for answers with my students, but I guess the answers I’m looking for come out eventually. “It’s over,” I almost choked. But all that escaped my ragged throat was stillness, as if the reaches of his twiny words and slippery truths were a seed planted into my lungs. “I’ll do better,” he said. “It was only this once.” I believed him.

When I got home, there it was on the table: a warm cup of chamomile tea. A note was wrapped around the outer edge, decorated in chamomile stems. “You came home later than usual today. Warm yourself up,” said the handwritten note in green ink.

The third clue came to me in a dream. The world around me was pitch black, stretching as far as my voice could echo. I called, yelled, begged for someone to help, but all that remained were whimpers through a hoarse voice.

Fear and suspicion vined around my ankles, digging their thorns into soft flesh so that the faint smell of metal wafted through the abyss. Each effort to break free hurt me more, each scream into the void meant spilling hope until all was extinguished. I collapsed into my blood, and the stench of metal—no—the sweet smell—

A wisp of air broke into the depths. She circled around me from my head to my ankles like a fairy, enveloped me in her scent and cut into the thorny green. A warm chilling touch stroked my cuts. Follow me, she said, and I’ll lead you back into light. I woke up to the faint earthy floral scent blanketing me and saw a dried sprig of lavender on the pillow.

I was absolutely certain after the break-up. It happened in front of my apartment. I looked into the beady peephole and saw his fuming being tense his fists.

He tried to break his way in, but Ivy grew and grew, circling around the doorknob, snaking her way around his ankles. A lone leaf gently drifted down and landed on my head. In the same green lettering, it said, “You’re free now.”

I held the note over my chest and finally let my tears flow. Ivy wrapped around me, fiber leaves tickling my skin, spreading a thin layer of aloe on the last of my fading bruises. She gestured me to the bedroom and laid me down. The comforting scent of lavender and chamomile blew around me.
Thank you for taking care of us, the wind and grass whistled. Now it’s our turn.


eyh (they/them) is a non-binary individual living and teaching high school in California. In their free time, they enjoy snuggling with their cat and drinking hot tea.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.