The Garden Bench Joan Vincent

What follows is a short story I wrote after I looked at the photo to the right for a few moments. How this “world building” happens is unclear to me. I started typing with a physical visualization and the story veered off onto its own track. This is called writing "by the seat of your pants." It's like someone else is telling your fingers what to key. I've had this happen often with a really stubborn character intent on taking a story a different direction than I may have outlines. If I try to go "my" way words just won't come. When I go his or her way, it's like someone is dictating. Strange even weird at times.
Think a moment or two before you read my story. What story did you think of?

The Garden Bench

There was a chill in the air despite the brilliant sunshine. Brilliant sunshine that should have brightened the heart of the slim young woman hurrying down the garden path. Her posture bespoke quite the opposite. Hunched shoulders, lowered head, and an occasional swipe at her cheeks told of an unbearable weight.

Halting in the middle of the stone-paved path, Allison Worley blinked back tears. She took her bearings. Saw to her right the neatly trimmed privet hedge that bordered two sides of the garden. The neatly laid geometric beds framed by it were alight with the different colors of spring blooms. Red tulips blazed here, golden daffodils glowed there. Her gaze went automatically to the more serene colors and halted on the toss up of blue hyacinths and pink tulips.

The blues and pinks jumbled as if tossed by a careless hand. They probably had been tossed but there was not a careless notion in any part of its design. If one looked carefully and adjusted for one or two tulips out of line, Allison saw a capital A on the larger corner. Framing three corners of the pale blue trellis was an “L.” A half sob escaped and Allison bolted for the garden seat angled within the sides of the trellis on the paving stones.

Sinking onto the wrought iron bench Allison gasped for a quieting breath. She clenched her fingers on the edge of the seat. The iron was cold despite the sun. It spoke to the chill numbing her heart. “It’s wrong that the iron is cold,” was all Allison could think. “It glowed red gold and white with heat when Davin forged the pieces of this bench. It should be warm still with the love he used to create it.”

But it’s cold. Cold as his body, Reason twitted.

“No. No,” Allison repeated dumbly. She twisted about on the bench and desperately drank in the blues and pinks of the blooms, the greens of stems, leaves, grass and hedge. They shouted “Life!” and with heart, mind, and soul, Allison echoed them. “Life! We were to have a long long life together. We were to see these flowers, this trellis, the hedge year after year. No,” she whispered as the flare of energy drained from her. “I won’t believe it. Never, Davin. Never.”

Allison closed her eyes. She made her mind’s eye dart from the sight of those two military officers on her door step two weeks ago; from the dreadful news they brought of Davin’s death in Afghanistan. She fled to the memory of Davin’s arms about her as they sat on this bench. He had promised that pink tulips would spell an A and L if only she looked carefully. Allison had hugged him fiercely after Davin explained their pink color would bespeak of his gratitude and appreciation for her love and as a pledge of his.

“Davin,” Allison cried, eyes still tightly squeezed shut, as she clung to her belief that he still lived. They had refused to tell her what had happened; told her it was better she remember her husband as she’s last seen him, not as the IED had left him and his fellow soldiers. She shuddered at the scenes that filled her nightmares. How could it be better not to know?

“Allie,” a voice croaked softly. “Allie?”

Blinking back tears Allison braced herself to present a braver face for Davin’s father. She owed Davin that much. Both hands to her cheeks, she brushed back tears and forced her eyes open. The figure before her blurred in her tears’ sheen. Allison growled angrily at the mirage and knuckled her eyes fiercely. “Please go inside, Dad,” she said with iron willed resolve not to upset this dear man anymore than he was. “I’ll come inside in a moment. Why don’t you set the kettle on?”

“Give me a smile and I’ll go do that,” the familiar voice urged.

If only Dad didn’t sound so much like Davin. I’ve got to get past that . . . and so much else. With a last swipe of her eyes Allison said, “I’ll come with you, Dad. We’ll have a cup together.” She stood and took a step forward and then froze in place.

“I’ve aged,” Davin croaked, “and am a tad worse for wear but really, Alli—”

“Dear God,” Allison gasped, her eyes wide, searching. A thick bandage covered half of his face and another his throat, his left arm was in a cast but it was Davin. Eyes overflowing with tears and heart flooded with gratitude, Allison gently took him into her arms and laid her head on his chest. Explanations could wait. She didn’t care what they were. The assuring steady thump beat of his heart brought a huge lump to her throat. Acknowledging her miracle Allison said a silent prayer for the woman whose man would not return.


Penny Rader said...

What an absolutely beautiful story, Joan! I love the ending. My future son-in-law leaves for war in a couple days. Your story gives me faith and hope that he'll return home safely. Thank you.

Joan Vincent said...

Thank you Penny. I think Memorial Day must have partially inspired it and also thinking about my marine nephew who served two tours in Iraq. But I came up with that reasoning after I wrote the story--I was rather surprised by the story myself. The mind is a wondrous and strange thing.

Pat Davids said...

Wonderful story, Joan. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Reese Mobley said...

Very nice! Very touching! Great job as always.

Joan Vincent said...

Thanks for stopping by and posting Pat.

Joan Vincent said...

Thank you, Reese. You and Pat are too kind.

Becky A said...

Wow Joan! I am impressed at all that you found in one picture. What a great story. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the happy ending. I am thankful that my son came home in one piece. It bothers me to think about all the kids that don't.

Becky A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Vincent said...

Thank you Becky, for the compliments and for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I'm very grateful for those who defend and protect us and for all the sacrifices they and their families make.

Starla Kaye said...

I'm so pleased you used one of my photos from Giverny, at Monet's Gardens. I loved the place and that special bench. I often thought how nice it would be to sit there and actually do some writing.

Your story was beautifully written. The descriptions and emotions wonderful.

Joan Vincent said...

The photos you shared were great story starters, Starla. Thank you for sharing them. Thanks also for your compliments on my writing.