I backpacked for exactly one year, travelling the world, seeing all the sights I’d dreamed about, sending Maddie postcards from every location, especially the gardens.
She loved flowers, Maddie, the girl next door, but it wasn’t until I strolled through Dutch tulip fields that I realised I no longer felt neighbourly toward her; no, I wanted to go home and ask her to spend the rest of her life with me.
“How’s Maddie?” I asked Mum, driving home from the airport.
Mum fell silent before answering. Fear gripped me, my heart thumped. Had Maddie found someone else while I gallivanted around the world?
Mum continued. “After you left, Maddie was attacked on her way home from work. Bruises healed, and they got her handbag back, empty, but she couldn’t leave the house. The doctor diagnosed post-traumatic agoraphobia.”
Maddie hadn’t said anything in her emails. She’d filled me in on local news and I hadn’t suspected.
I unpacked, then knocked on Maddie’s door. She opened it tentatively before inviting me in. We talked for hours but she didn’t mention the attack or her condition.
I gently kissed her forehead as I left, an idea forming.
The following morning I began the first part of my plan.
In the early afternoon I knocked on Maddie’s door.
“Just one step, Maddie, to the Gardens of Versailles.” She looked terrified, peeping outside to see the mini-garden I’d re-created in a terracotta pot.
“I can’t,” she said.
I returned the next day and the next until at the end of the week, Maddie held my hand and took that step to inspect the tiny garden.
I made a replica of Kirstenbosch, followed by Kew Gardens; each week another, a few steps further on until Monet’s Garden outside Mum’s front door.
Maddie’s hand never left mine as she challenged herself and eventually the trembling abated.
I proposed beside Monet’s garden, dropping to one knee.
Maddie said yes but it will take time. Each day another step until one day Maddie will walk down St Joseph’s aisle toward me, and an altar festooned with flowers.
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    3 years ago

    Hello Sandra-

    I just spent a delightful hour reading your story and then exploring all the gardens you mentioned. Since I can’t travel right now, I explored online! Wow – Versailles, Kirstenbosch, Kew, Monet – what a joyous journey. Like Maddie, I am now venturing a little further each day. Here’s a video I found that all of our folks might enjoy:

    musing mind
    musing mind(@musing-mind)
    3 years ago

    Loved to read the description of the gardens through your writing. Very impressive.

    Susan Dawson
    Susan Dawson(@susan-dawson)
    3 years ago

    Had to look up Kirstenbosch. I have been to Versailles, Kew and the Dutch tulip field, and seen Monet’s in his paintings, so thank you for taking us all on a tour of all those gardens in a few small steps.

    Lyric The Great
    Lyric The Great(@lyric-the-great)
    3 years ago

    Wow! I can actually imagine this story happening! I’m really impressed. You have a way with words. In fact, i really liked the description.

    Eric Radcliffe
    Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
    3 years ago

    Hi Sandra. First, I enjoyed reading your story – it’s so very imaginative. I have just returned back home from Australia and what I love about your country is the huge diversity of flowers, trees and of course the birds, especially the variety of parrots. I love their colours, amazing. I made friends with a family of magpies. They would come to the front door and warble till I fed them. Don’t… Read more »

    Eric Radcliffe
    Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
    Reply to  Sandra James
    3 years ago

    I stayed in Victoria, and I remember also seeing black cockatoos in the next garden. I was told that it was a rare sight to see. A page for poetry – I would love that, as poetry is my real love. It wouldn’t have to be in a competitive way either, just sharing – like apple cores – Ha, ha.

    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    2 years ago

    Sandra, this story is so beautifully written and really touched my heart. A lovely, hopeful tale.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    2 years ago

    Hi Sandra-
    I love to be there in the garden since I really love flowers. I can’t imagine how beautiful your Dutch Tulips are. Very impressive. Thank you so much for taking me to your garden in a few steps.

    2 years ago

    It’s been almost a year since I first read this story, Sandra, but it popped up today on the Stars page so I had the great delight of reading it again. I have to say I think this is one of your best stories – it’s such a treat to think of all those gardens and a love so strong and patient that it can gradually heal a person who has been… Read more »

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