“I was in a garden. It was … enormous. It went on as far as I could see. Stone walkways wove through it without giving me any sense of direction—like I was in a maze, only there were no hedge walls blocking my view. I swear I could see from here to forever.” Megan Caldwell, corporate lawyer, single mother of two college students, and closet writer, had waited nearly a full week to share her dream with the only person in the world who would listen; but at that moment, she couldn’t even see her friend’s patient eyes. Her own gaze instead bore through the iron lacework on the table between them, into a far different setting. “And the colors….” Shaking her head, she took another sip of coffee and then, finally, looked at the silver-haired woman across from her. “It was magical, like the biggest box of crayons you could imagine, or Oz on steroids.”
Tina DeWinter raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I thought you said it was a bad dream. That sounds a bit like Eden, to me.” At seventy, Tina was as striking as ever, her make-up applied with artistic perfection, and her hair trailing down the back of her mock-tie-dyed dress in fine, silken strands, so contrary to Megan’s wiry, forever-blonde curls.
“I said it was sad,” Megan shot back playfully, “not bad. And if that garden was Eden, then I have a whole new respect for creationism.”
“Because the Eden I’ve always heard about was something we lost; but I think maybe the garden in my dream was created to help people recover from something else that was lost, something extreme, something … profound. Not even a return to Eden could make up for it.” Megan looked deep into her friend’s emerald green eyes, searching for some snippet of wisdom, or, at least, understanding.
“So your Eden was made to fill a void, but it’s too big a void to be filled, even by Eden.”
And there it was. Megan smiled. “Something like that.”
Cocking her head, Tina’s lips curled into a thin smile of her own. “Sounds to me like there’s a story in there.”
“Isn’t there always?”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“We,” Megan countered. “What we are going to do about it is flesh that story out.”
“It’s your story, not mine.”
“Are you kidding me? What have we been doing for nearly twenty years now, every single Tuesday, barring the occasional holiday, vacation, or other interfering event?”
“Meeting for lunch.”
“For you, it’s been lunch. For me,” Megan waved her fork over a half-eaten slice of chocolate pie, “it’s been the obligatory salad followed by dessert as a main course. But, seriously. You help me flesh out stories, when you’re not regaling me with tales of your exploits or we’re not looking for answers to great cosmic questions.”
“And sometimes it’s just about listening. Because, Megan, sweetie,” Tina chuckled breathily, a sound that fell just short of a cough, “I haven’t got a thing to say about your garden story.”
“It’s not my garden. Or my story.”
“No, it’s….” And then it struck her. Maybe it was hers, after all. She was the one who’d dreamed up the garden and the one who would end up writing its story down—if she could ever weave the time to do so around her busy schedule. She could make that garden into anything she wanted, just as she could make the hidden void into something of her own imagining. Only … how could she ever imagine any void to be as tragic as the one she had felt in that dream, the one that had woken her to a feeling of overwhelming despair? Perhaps more importantly, why would she want to?
"Megan?” Tina’s weathered hand rested atop hers, arthritic fingers curling into her palm.
Trying to shake her thoughts clear, Megan offered up a quick smile. “Sorry.” Then, sighing, she added, “I think I’ve just decided I don’t want to flesh out that particular story.”
Tina pulled her hand back and shrugged. “That’s up to you. Eden is a bit overplayed in fantasy, anyway.”
But it wasn’t Eden. No, it was a long way from Eden. And as she tucked into her pie, she could still smell her dream garden’s sweet, spicy, and earthy aromas. It was as though that garden still surrounded her, as though she was trapped in its stone-paved maze.
Whether she wanted to flesh it out or not, Megan Caldwell felt pretty confident that garden was not going to leave her alone.