It was a place for the landed gentry to stroll once they had tired of the paintings hung in the house. A place for guests to experience the wealth of the family, and for the family to quietly congratulate themselves on their own success. Ill-gotten gains. Those four walls, through vast glass panes, saw finery, laughter and scandalous stolen moments between lovers who never should have been.
These days though, occasional dog walkers and teenage couples aside, the crumbling brickwork witnessed very little life, its eyes long ago put out. The straggling ivy, intent on survival, like a poor relation; a taunting reminder of the building's history of exotic flora. But the orangery didn't seem to mind. It stood upright like a proud old military man still living his life as if on parade despite his ailments. And it knew. It knew the secret so often overlooked by its infrequent visitors.
For in one corner, one tree remained. Two if you looked closely: the trunk of a lemon tree intertwined with that of a pomegranate tree. And, looking closer still, you would see their faces pressed together in one final kiss, eyes closed in blissful ignorance of the power the orangery held over them. The power of knowing what was meant to be unknown, the power of seeing what was supposed to go unseen. The power to ensure the family's downfall.
Of course it could have allowed the scandal to come to light, as inevitably they all do. But then, where was the satisfaction in allowing nature to take its course? No, it knew the one remaining successor must not survive to continue committing the family's atrocities. Even its own grandeur and ornate stonework told of the abominations carried out by them. It had heard their conversations. It knew of the ships, the trade, even the transport conditions. Its own rows of fruit trees, hibiscus plants and other foreign wonders were a constant and stark reminder of what the family were doing. Forcefully taken. Yes, the next-in-line had to be the last in line.
And the orangery shows no remorse. It stands innocently, only eliciting rose-tinted imaginings of times gone by. For if it reminded us of what really went on, then it would be giving away its secret. And we'd like to forget all about it, thank you very much.
Photo and inspiration courtesy of @abbiemann1982