The Walled Garden

Abby dreamed that love was a ghost that would someday slip into her heart and whisper: Togetherness, Joy, Passion, Always. But what ghost was capable of scaling the walls that separated her from the world of love?

She set the book she had just consumed on the table beside her chair. There was no love like that found on the pages of novels. That love was a myth found in escape literature. Such love had no substance. It was the lie told by teenage boys to innocent girls, the lie told by men to woman who begged to believe - wasn't it?

Perhaps she had waited too long, had missed the ship that sailed to the shore of love. Somewhere during the years of struggling to the top of financial security and holding herself a distance from the thorns of relationships, she had slipped into middle age. Now she dreamed of a ghost climbing her walls.

Abby rose and started towards the scent of brewing coffee. Two steps later she slowed to a stop. The house was slient, the quiet she had purchased here in the Memphis suburbs was now a voice that screamed loneliness. She turned a slow circle, taking in the fine antiques she had gathered from the auctions she gathered. They looked cheap and gaudy, like fake jewelry decorating the wrinkled neck of a spinster. The room that had once seemed so light and airy appeared...

Abby started by carrying all the antiques into the basement, then she began to rearrange furniture. Time and again she moved things, but none of her efforts were repaid with satisfaction. Two hours later she stopped to catch her breath and view the room.

A drop of sweat rolled down her forehead and into her eye, but she didn't blink. What had she done? What had possessed her to do this?

Every piece of furniture was pushed against the blank walls. Bare tables stood like stick figures frozen in fear. Stark light lit surrounded emptiness. Abby spun away. Expensive shoes crossed thick carpet and she stepped out into the rose garden.

Here, blooming roses offered soft petals to the afternoon sun. Bees buzzed from flower to floer, searching for the sweet nectar they spent their short lives turning into something greater. The soil she had sowed in this place had produced beauty, a lush world of color, a place of life and change, a place of sweet scents and -- thorns.

Yes, roses had thorns.

Abby slipped the shoes from her feet and tossed them back into the house.

- - -

His gestures were young, his teeth small and white, his eyes clear and free, as if they had yet to discover the bonds that enslave men who have stepped beyond youth's innocence.

He stood at the counter of the neighborhood store, flirting outrageously with old Betty Hanes, who smiled behind her hand and enjoyed with her eyes.

Abby watched, her eyes aglow above the cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup stacked on aisle two. Who was he? Her ears discovered nothing about him but charm. She walked to the counter and when Betty looked her way, Abby cut her eyes toward the man and raised her brows. Betty paid no attention. Abby set four cans of soup on the counter. When Betty next looked her way, Abby nodded toward the man and mouthed the words, "Who is he?" Betty seemed not to notice. Abby nearly stomped her foot.

He smiled as he passed by on the way to the door out of her life.

"Excuse me?" she said, too loudly.

He turned.

"Where do I know you from?" Her words were delivered gaily, off-hand; but she blushed, somehow certain her lame attempt would be heard as a cry of hunger.

It was.

The night of his touches brought no whispering ghost. He smiled conquest in the light that spiked through the windows of morning.

"Leave my house," she said.

Later she stood in the garden, weeping softly and staring at the single drop of blood on the tip of her index finger.

- - -

In darkness she stared into her soul, saw there a murky pond filled with jagged stumps of broken dreams and the sharp stones of misconceptions. She threw the sheets aside and strode to the mirror that glowed in the moonlight.

Thick auburn hair framed a delicate nose, full lips, and soulful brown eyes, beauty softened by age, yet somehow more complete than that of youth. "Who are you?" she asked.

Morning light tripped over the garden wall and danced in the dewdrops that jeweled Abby's roses. She sat nude upon the bare earth, a single rose, stripped of thorns, held to her cheek.

- - -

Nicole was femininity wrapped in silk, warmth and gentleness sang romantic songs in her smile. But the smile was a lie, a lure to a heart crowded with petty jealousies and selfishness.

"Leave my house," said Abby.

No ghost.

Abby stood in the garden, contemplating the high walls that kept the nourishing light from her beloved roses. She sighed. The roses suffered behind the walls, and she was proud of them. Why not share their beauty with her neighbors?

Abby shared a cup of coffee and conversation with Jan Spencer, found her witty and sweet, and glad the walls would be torn down.

When she shared her idea with Ben and Alice, the neighbors to her right, they smiled and asked if she needed any help with her project.

"Is is all right if I walk through your yard and go around back? I need to go see whoever lives back there."

Alice appeared a bit hurt. "Of course you can, you're welcome any time." Then she grinned. "You'll like Bret."


Ben rolled his eyes and smiled. "Bret owns the property behind yours."

Abby's feet felt light on the spring grass as she walked. Why had she waited three years to get to know her neighbors, beyond a smile and a hello? She turned the corner at the back wall of her garden -- and stopped.

He stood in the center of a small rose garden, staring at a drop of blood on his index finger.

"Beautiful garden."

He looked up and smiled. "Sometimes it bites."

Abby grinned. "Yes, roses have thorns."

He stepped forward, and Abby realized Alice had been right.

"I'm Bret."

"Nice to meet you." She pointed at the garden wall. "I live in there. I just came to ask if you would mind if I tore down the walls to my rose garden."

"Not at all. A rose garden? I wondered what was behind that wall."

In three steps he reached the wall, jumped and grabbed the top, then pulled himself up.

"Hey, this is a great garden."

Abby cocked her head, a soft smile touching her lips as she listened to the whispers.

Bret jumped down. "I can't wait to see my wife's face when she sees that beautiful garden."

About the author:

Tim Alexander is incarcerated at the US Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. He started submitting stories about 18 months ago to the small presses. Some of his most recent publication credits are: Armchair Aesthete, Barbaric Yawp, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, and Black Petals.