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The Gardens III
Published Jul 15, 2020

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Lee: So how was the second time around. Did you strike out again?
Nic: Nope. It was pretty cool.
Simon: Really?
Nic: Yeah. I mean she's no ordinary female you know. She knows a lot. Super intelligent. Most of the stuff she taught herself.
Lee: So what's next. You going out again or did she turn you down.
Nic: No one has ever turned me down.
Lee: Except for this one.
Nic: I asked her to go bowling next week. And she was more than willing to go.
Simon: More than willing huh? That means you had to beg her.
Nic: I don't beg. I just asked and she said sure. Nothing to it. Who knows she could be the one.
Simon: The one what?
Nic: You know. The one. My mom said it only takes a moment.
A month later.......

Melany: I can't believe you didn't tell me. I thought we were closer than that.
Sansa: Tell you what?
Melany: All this time I thought you were just being studious. I thought you were busy in the library or studio somewhere. But you and Nic are a couple.
Sansa: A couple?
Melany: I had to hear it from the gossip girls on campus. But I forgive you. They say you two are together.
Sansa: Me? Nic? No way. We've just been hanging out that's all.
Sansa: We went out bowling cause I told him how much I love it.
Melany: Wasn't it just the two of you?
Sansa: Yeah but it's not like. We didn't hold hands or anything like that. It was just two people bowling.
Melany: What about when I saw you two coming out of the movies?
Sansa: We both like horror movies.
Melany: I heard he's been driving you to school for weeks.
Sansa: We live in the same house.
Melany: But you don't have the same schedule.
Sansa: Last week, we ALL went out together to the Bar-cade. What was that?
Melany: A group date of course. Didn't he ask you to come?
Sansa: Yes but-
Melany: Sansa, you've been dating. The coffee and donuts at the cafe, working out together at the gym, skating rink, eating at the park. These were all dates. Man girl!
Sansa: Okay but that doesn't make us a couple. We're just two people hanging out.
Melany: I knew something was up between the two of you when we went to the Karaoke bar. That wasn't a coincidence that he was there with F3. And the way you two were flirting...
Sansa: I was not flirting.
Melany: Yes...flirting. Smiling and laughing with each other.
Sansa: I wasn't flirting. I don't know how to flirt.
Melany: Well you were. I could tell. I'm a pro at it.
Melany: I couldn't help but notice the way you looked at him. It's not the same as when you look at Lee. Admit it, Sansa. You like him.
Sansa: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Melany: You had this look in your eyes.
Sansa: I don't have a look, Melany.
Melany: What about the two of you singing?
Sansa: He dared me. And we did win free buffalo wings.
Melany (laughing): Girl you are in such denial. I think everyone sees it but you. He's into you and you are so into him.
Sansa: Stop. I couldn't possibly like Nic. He's loud, competitive, has a short temper, spoiled. We just don't mix. He's not my type.
Melany: So what is your type?
Sansa: Not him.
Sansa: I don't care what anyone is saying, I am not dating Dominic Wright. He and I are so different. I like Lee remember.
Melany: It's okay to like more than one guy. I've liked three at the same time.
Sansa: I need to talk to Dominic. I need to make sure he doesn't get the wrong idea like the rest of you.
Melany: It's not that serious Sansa.
Sansa: It is. I don't want Lee to think that as well. They are best friends you know. Can I see your phone?
Nic, Lee, and Simon were in Founders Hall when he received a text from an unfamiliar number.
"Can we meet. I need to talk. Sansa"
Nic smiled.
Simon: You're smiling big time.
Nic: Sansa. She wants to meet.
Lee: It's about time. You've been asking her out for over a month now.
Nic: Yeah. I'm going to play it cool though.
Sansa arrived moments later.

Sansa: Can we talk.....alone?
Nic: I'm cool. These are my guys. Whatever you need to say I'm sure Simon won't mind. (smiling)
Sansa: It's about us.
Nic: Oh. What about?
Sansa: I'd really like to talk alone.
Nic: These are my best friends. I'm going to tell them anyway. You might as well say it in front of them.
Sansa: I don't want to date you!
Nic stopped playing. The room went silent.
Sansa: People think we're dating and I want to make it clear that we are not. That we're just hanging friends. We're not a couple
Nic: Friends.
Sansa: Yeah. I mean you know we both really don't like each other. Not like that. But I appreciate us going friends.
Nic: Friends.
Sansa: I like someone else and I don't want them to think that you and I are....
Nic: Right! Yeah, sure. I know. I'm just shocked you cared about what everyone else has been saying about us. But. It doesn't matter. We know we're just friends right. Look, I'm glad you stopped by to clear things up.
Sansa: Good. Okay. Well. I guess I'll be going.
Nic: Sure. I don't want to keep you.
Lee and Simon didn't say anything. The hurt on Nic's face was enough. He walked over to the couch and slumped in his seat.
Nic: Friends.
Sansa spent the next days with Melany. She was finally given a break from work and decided to stay the weekend with Melany to avoid being in the house with Dominic.
She remembered the look on Dominic's face when she told him she wanted to be his friend. She ran over the scenario in her mind. She was trying to let him down easy but just blurted out the first words that came to her mouth. They weren't smooth at all.
Melany: You can't avoid him forever you know.
Sansa: I will talk to him when I get ready.
Melany: Fine. Then let's call him.
Sansa: I'm not ready yet.
Melany: Are you staying with me cause you want to hang out with me or to avoid seeing Nic.
Sansa: I'm not afraid of Nic. Am I wrong for wanting to spend time with my best friend?
Melany: No. But you've also spent all weekend at my house. And every time he calls my number you tell me not to answer.
Melany: You're just friends right? That's what you wanted right?
Sansa: I did. But now, it just doesn't feel right. You should have seen the look on his face when I tried to explain it to him.
Melany: If it was exactly how you told me, then I would be hurt as well. You were a little harsh. And you did it in front of his friends.
Sansa: I asked to speak alone. He wanted to talk in front of F3. I didn't.
Melany: He's been calling me. He knows you're with me. So he is obviously trying to get a hold of you. You could at least talk to him.
Sansa: I'm not ready. I just don't want to talk. I'll go home on Monday. If that's okay with you.
Melany: I'm okay with that. You are always welcome to stay as long as you like. But you're going to have to face him sometime. You can't hide here forever.
Sansa: I know.
Monday afternoon:

Sansa arrived back to the Sullivan estate. She knew no one would be home at this time but her aunt and a few of the staff. Everyone else would be busy at work or in class.
Sansa: Aunt Ina!
It was silent in the house.
Sansa: Where is everyone?
Hera: Sansa?
Sansa: Mrs. Sullivan. I didn't know you were-
Hera: Where have you been? We've had everyone looking for you all weekend.
Sansa: I was with a friend. Is something wrong? Did I forget to do something?
Hera: I had Dominic call the only number he knew how to contact you, you really need a cellphone child.
Sansa: What is it, ma'am?
Hera: Your aunt. She fainted the other night.
Sansa: What? Where is she? Is she alright?
Hera: She's in stable condition. The doctor's said it was just a little exhaustion. She's been asking for you. I had Dominic out looking for you but we couldn't find you. He called the only number we knew.
Sansa: Oh goodness! Aunt Ina!
The tears began streaming down her face. She couldn't breathe as her throat tightened.
Hera: The doctors suggested she take it easy for at least a few weeks. We called your uncle to make arrangements for her to stay with him for that time. To get some rest. I felt a new environment is what she needed.
Sansa: Thank you. I'm sorry I wasn't here. I thought....I didn't know.
Hera: It's okay dear. I figured since school would be ending soon for the break that you could accompany her as well.
Sansa: But what about my work?
Hera: I'll just get new staff. Your aunt's health is much more important than her work. And with both of you together this would be good to spend quality time together. In Idaho.
Sansa: I guess. If you think it's best.
Hera: Of course. Dear. I'll have the chauffeur drive you to the hospital to visit her. And when she is released we'll make the travel arrangements. I'm here for you both.
Sansa: Thank you ma'am.
Clark: I told Sansa she could stay and finish out the school year.
Hera: But I sent Ina back home. She can spend the rest of the year with her aunt.
Clark: Yes I know what you did and I undid it. Ina will be coming back once the doctors say she is well enough to work. And I told Sansa that once school returns back next week she can come back to work.
Hera: I can't believe you.
Clark: Me. What is it with you and Seraphina? Why do you hate her so much?
Hera: She shows me no respect. She looks down at me. The help looks down on ME! I'm your wife.
Clark: It's all in your head, woman. Seraphina is the best and hardest employee in this house. And Sansa has been great as well. What more can you ask for?
Hera: If I didn't know better I'd say you were trying to replace me with a new, younger Mrs. Sullivan. You did it once before.
Clark: How dare you, woman! I have made my decision. Sansa will continue to work when her break is over and Seraphina will come back to work when she is well. I'm going on a business trip and I don't know how long this will take. But when I do get back I want to see Sansa back here working. Understood.
Hera: Understood.
Clark: Good.
After being discharged from the hospital, Sansa and Seraphina left the Sullivan estate to go back home to Idaho. There Seraphina could recuperate while Sansa helped her uncle around the house. It didn't take long for Seraphina to regain and strength. Uncle Nehemiah: I have to admit, these past days with you and Ina have been great for this old man. I kind of miss having you around kid.
Sansa: I knew you would uncle. You always pretended to be this big bachelor but deep down, you are a family man.
Uncle: And if you tell anyone, I'll deny it.
Sansa: I'm just happy Aunt Ina is doing well.
Uncle: I told that woman long ago she needed to stop working. Our parents left us this land and she refused to just leave that family and come home. She stayed for that boy.
Sansa: You mean Dominic.
Uncle: Yeah. He's called here every day since she left. He always treated her like a mother. Especially when his own mother died. They so close. I think he asked about you too. Or at least that's what I overheard.
Sansa: Me?
Uncle: Every day. You must have made a big impression on him as well. We have that effect on people (he winked).
Seraphina entered the room.

Seraphina: What did I miss?
Sansa: How come you didn't tell me Dominic has been calling?
Seraphina: Cause I didn't think I had to tell you every time someone calls me Warden.
Sansa: I didn't mean it like that. I just didn't think he cared.
Seraphina: That boy was always protective of me. He stayed in the hospital with me when they were looking for you. He didn't want me to be alone. Dominic is my sweet boy.
Sansa: I would never think to put Dominic and sweet in the same sentence.
Seraphina: You just have to look past the hard shell. Besides, he asked about you.
Sansa: And you didn't tell me
Seraphina: I didn't think you cared. I thought you didn't like him remember. You always complained about him so I didn't want to trouble you with telling you that he asked if you were okay.
Sansa: Oh. Right.
The next day, Sansa woke to laughter in the living room. She could hear her Aunt talking to someone but could not make out who.

Ina: It's so good you came to see us. I know Sansa will be so surprised. I've missed you all these past days.

Sansa quickly dressed and fixed herself up. She had an idea who it was.
She rushed to get ready almost tripping over everything in her way. She composed herself one last time before opening the door to the living room. She tried to put on her biggest smile. She peered across the room to the figure on the side talking to Aunt Ina. But she was even more shocked to find out it wasn't who she thought it was.

Sansa: What are you doing here?
Lee: I've come to check on you. You don't want me here?
Sansa: No no! But how did you know where I lived.
Lee: Nic. He knew I was passing over and told me you lived here. So I made a small detour to check on you. I hope you don't mind.
Sansa: No. I'm just shocked.
Lee: We've missed you. I've missed you.
Sansa: You have?
Sansa and Lee went to the local bar just minutes from the house.
Lee: Nice.
Sansa: My uncle owns it. I used to work here all the time to help.
Lee: Good.

There wasn't much said between Sansa and Lee. She was so nervous to be around him. She kept playing with her hands in lap.
Sansa: I'm really happy you came to see me.
Lee: I missed seeing your face. And Nic is beside himself. It's almost annoying. I can't wait to have you back at school. Things don't feel normal.
Sansa began to blush.
Lee: To be honest I don't really talk much to women. I never know what to say. But with you, it's easy Sansa. I see why Nic likes you.
Sansa: I have to be honest. I didn't think you liked me at all.
Lee: To the contrary, I always thought you were a wonderful person.
Lee: You're not like everyone else at the university. I knew that the moment I heard you play. And then I was assured when I saw how you stood up to Nic. Not many people do that.
Sansa: I like you too. I especially love listening to you play. Maybe you can play for me one day.
Lee: That would be great.

His small grin made her blush again. She couldn't believe he came all the way here just to see her.
They moved over to the dartboards. `
Sansa: Best two out of three?
Lee: Sure. I haven't played in a while.

Lee won both games in a row.

Sansa: You are good. Are you sure you haven't played in a while?
Lee: Nic taught me. He's an archery champion so darts is nothing.
Sansa: But I beat him before. Twice.
Lee: Nic doesn't let anyone beat him. He's a horrible loser. He holds the highest score at the bar on campus.
Sansa couldn't believe what she was hearing. She remembered that night he bet her for a date. And she beat him. She won.
Sansa: Maybe he was off that day.
Lee: Maybe. I just know no one has ever beat him.
Sansa tried to forget about Nic. But the thought of him kept popping in her head the more time she spent with Lee. It was borderline annoying. Even this far away he was still getting on her nerves. And why did he let her win? He could have easily made her go on a date with him. Was he just playing with her?
They walked around the time in silence. He was busy listening to her explain all the sights and people of the town. She kept talking to avoid the awkward silence if she stopped. And when she tried to joke he just smiled.
Lee walked her to the door as they ended their evening.
Sansa: I'm glad you came to see me. It was nice spending time with you.
Lee: It was nice.
Sansa: Also, I wanted to thank you.
Lee: Thank me. For?
Sansa: For letting me take the exam when I missed it. If it wasn't for you, I would've lost my scholarship if you hadn't talked to the board for me. It means a lot that you believed in me.
Lee: I didn't talk to the board.
Sansa: I heard someone from the board talked to my professor to let me take the exam. It wasn't you?
Lee: I am President but I can't use my power for that. I wasn't supposed to tell you but it was Dominic.
Sansa: No. He's the reason why I couldn't take the exam in the first place.
Lee: He felt bad about what he did and talked to the board to give you another chance. I don't know what he told them but it didn't take long for them to agree.
Sansa: I don't get it. First, he makes sure I can't take the exam. Then he fixes it so I can.
Lee: Nic does a lot of things that don't make sense. Maybe you slapped some sense into him. Anyway, I have to catch my flight. See you when you return back to campus.

Sansa stood on the porch a little longer after Lee left.
Sansa: I need to sleep.
But it was hard going to sleep that night. Sansa tossed for hours. She kept thinking about her time with Lee. It wasn't as great as she thought it would be. It was like she was hanging out with a friend. She wanted to feel fireworks but instead, she felt nothing.
She kept thinking about Dominic. She didn't know why but she couldn't stop. Even after she told herself not to. There were so many questions.
Why was he so mean to her one minute and nice the next? Why did he help her after making her miss her exam? Did he let her win in the dart game if he was such a great player?
Boys are so stupid.
Sansa finally fell asleep but when she awoke it was almost noon.

Aunt Ina: You slept most of the day away. Did you have fun on your date?
Sansa: It was nice.
Aunt Ina: I know that face. What's wrong?
Sansa: Am I a nice person?
Aunt Ina: Why would you ask that question?
Sansa: Before I left, I may have said something to someone and hurt their feelings.
Aunt Ina: Who dear?
Sansa: Dominic
Aunt Ina: Why Dominic?
Sansa: People were saying things about us. I just wanted to make sure he knew that I didn't like him like that. I didn't want people thinking we were a couple. I like someone else and I didn't want him thinking we were dating. Dominic's not my type. He's spoiled, quick-tempered, self-centered. And well, I may have hurt his feelings while telling him how I felt.
Aunt Ina: I see. Well, let me give you a small history of Dominic. He wasn't always this Nic Wright everyone at school calls him. I met him when he was just a loving little toddler. He was glued to his mother. He was curious, happy, and loving. But when his father divorced his mother, his world changed. Mr. Sullivan fell for his assistant Hera and decided to leave his wife for the younger woman. I stayed with Mrs. Sullivan as she was getting ill to help take care of Dominic. He stayed by his mother's side through it all. Many said she grew sick from a broken heart. And when she passed away, Dominic was devastated. And instead of his father being there for him, he sent him to boarding school. He turned cold and devious. Dominic was kicked out in less than a year. He didn't trust people anymore. Only his two best friends. He started to rebel and just didn't care anymore. It didn't help that his father was gone most of the time running the company. So I stayed with him. He was barely 13. Aunt Ina: He may seem to be mean, but he lost the only person he loved a long time ago. And his bitterness is only for his resentment of his father. He blames Mr. Sullivan for his mother getting sick. He blames Ms. Hera for ruining his family. Honestly, he's just a hurt little boy that doesn't know how to show true good feelings.
Sansa: So it didn't help that I blew him off like that.
Aunt Ina: It's not my place to tell you that. But if he showed you his good side, I'd hate to be on his bad side.
Sansa sat in the bed thinking about what Aunt Ina told her. She wasn't afraid of Dominic. But she didn't like being mean. That wasn't like her.
She decided it would be better to talk to him again.
Sansa: To clear up the clear up. Yep. That's what I'll do. We can at least be friends since I'll be working for him for the rest of the school year.
A few days later Sansa packed her things and was ready to go back to The Gardens.
Sansa: It's not going to be the same without you there Aunt Ina.
Aunt Ina: I will be there soon. These weeks won't be that long. You take care of yourself. And please, take care of my Dominic. I know he may be a handful, but he's a delicate person once you get past the hard shell.
Sansa: I'll try. But I'm not making a promise.
When Sansa arrived back her bags were placed outside a room that was not hers. At least not when she left.
Sansa: This isn't my room.
Staff 1: It is now. Mr. Dominic requested your room to be moved to this one.
Sansa looked outside the room. It was down the hall from Dominic's wing.
The room was three times the size of her old room and decorated with her favorite colors.
Sansa: This can't be mine.
She sat on the bed. It was just as comfortable and bigger than her old bed. The door in the corner gave her a private bathroom and another door led to a balcony with a beautiful view of the gardens in the back of the estate. The sweet smell of the flowers danced across her nose as the wind blew.
It took an entire day but Sansa finally gussied up the nerve to say something to Dominic. She remembered what her Aunt said and knew she needed to make the first step. She knocked on the entrance wall.
Sansa: Dominic? It's me, Sansa.
Dominic: Come in.
She came around the corner with a big smile on her face. The room was almost dark but she could see him sitting on the couch. He was alone and she was relieved.

Sansa: Hi!
He didn't say anything.
Sansa: Ina sent her cookies for you. I brought them when I came yesterday.
Dominic: I saw.
Sansa: Did you do anything for the break?
Dominic: Nope.
Sansa: I stayed with my Uncle. He did a lot of renovating after I left so there was enough room for the three of us.

It was still silent.
Sansa: I just came by to say thank you. For the room. It's really nice. They say you moved me.
Dominic: Yep.
Sansa: Well I really like it.
Dominic: Good.
Sansa: Lee came to see me during the break. He said you told him-
Dominic: Before you keep going, may I?
Sansa: Well okay.
Dominic: I moved you because your Aunt asked if I could have you work for me as she did. I obliged only because I respect Ina. That's all. And if you're going to work for me then I felt you needed the closest room to mine. In case I need something immediately. And I don't care about what happened between you and Lee. I heard enough of it when he came home. I'm your employer and I don't care what you do in your personal life.
Sansa: Okay.
Dominic: And if you don't mind, I'd like for you to dress appropriately when entering my wing. I don't want anyone from the staff to think you have special treatment or anything. You know what it's like to not want people thinking we're anything more. Right?
Sansa: Right.
Dominic: Outside the house or after your work hours then we can be friendly. But while you're on the clock let's keep it professional. You know. Employee, Employer.
Sansa: Right
Sansa: Well I guess I'll go then.
Dominic: Okay.
She left the room just as quickly as she walked in.
Sansa: That went well.
Dominic sat up to call her again but changed his mind. Instead he slumped back on the couch letting out an irritated sigh.

Dominic: You could have said something. Hi! I hope you're okay. I see you changed your hair. Dumb move Nic.

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