The humidity is stifling.
Within moments of entering the glasshouse, moisture is gathering in the runnel of her spine, under her arms, in the pleats and layers of petticoats and bodice and all the fabric that constrains her limbs and torso. It feels like being wrapped in a hot, damp sheet, though with it comes the longed for thrill, the prick of excitement, the memory of which stops restful sleep.
The heat, the nervous energy that claws at her mind makes her breath come short and sharp.
Scent hits her and she gasps. The flower names he taught her are committed to memory, the syllables tripping from her brain, intoxicating as heat and perfume: frangipani, gardenia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, datura. Words and scent and heat making her mind spin, her knees weak and shivery as if she is in the grip of a fever. She clasps the handle of her parasol, reaches for something to stop her falling.
A hand clasps her arm.
‘Come with me,’ he says.
Helpless to refuse, she allows herself to be led through a fog of mist, palm fronds caressing her cheek. There’s a door, a dark room that smells of earth and damp leaves and wood filled with spores and mould. Warm, pungent, dark and soft as a womb.
And she’s lost.