“I was in an enormous, absolutely huge garden.” Megan Caldwell, corporate lawyer, widow, mother of two college students, and closet writer, had waited nearly a full week to discuss her latest dream with the only person in the world who would listen, her friend and writing mentor, Tina DeWinter. But as she began to relive the dream, she might as well have been alone. Her gaze bore into and beyond the iron latticework on the cafe table between them. “It went on as far as I could see. Stone walkways meandered through it, with no discernible pattern. I had no sense of direction. I felt like I was in a maze. But there were no hedge walls blocking my view. I swear I could see from here to forever. And the colors….” Shaking her head, she took another sip of coffee and then, finally, remembered to look 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 raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I thought you said it was a bad dream. That sounds a bit like Eden, to me.” Twenty years Megan’s senior, 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. This was more like … I don’t know, like 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 hazel 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 the past couple of decades, 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.”
“Maybe so. But sometimes it’s simply about listening. Because, Megan, sweetie,” Tina chuckled breathily, a sound that fell just short of a cough, “that’s all I can do right now. I honestly 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, a feeling so intense it transcended the emptiness she’d felt every day of her life since her husband’s death, an emptiness that threatened to drop her into a void of her own making every single day.
“Megan?” Tina’s weathered hand rested atop hers, arthritic fingers curling into her palm.
She heard her name, felt the fragile, tender grip, and used the sensation in her struggle to clear her thoughts, as she’d had to do so many times over the years. She knew she must break herself free of the vivid memory—the shocking cacophony of metal crushing metal, the smell of blood, the shrill cries of her young children, and the unseeing eyes of the man who’d helped her to find her way in the world, the man who had given her confidence and courage, who had shown her she truly could make a place for herself in this big, unsympathetic world.
“Megan, sweetie? Are you all right?”
With a shaky intake of breath, Megan blinked away the water forming in her eyes and tried to focus on Tina’s warm gaze. “Sorry.” She offered up a quick smile. “I think I’ve just decided I don’t want to flesh out that particular story.”
Tina studied her for a long while, knowing eyes searching for secrets Megan kept even from herself. Then she pulled her hand back and shrugged, as though whatever secrets she’d found were insignificant. “That’s up to you. Eden is a bit overplayed in fantasy, anyway.”
No, Megan thought as she made a valiant effort to tuck into her pie. That garden hadn’t been Eden. It was a long way from Eden. And she could still smell her dream garden’s sweet, spicy, and earthy aromas, as though the flowers and greenery still surrounded her, as though she was trapped in a stone-paved maze without walls—a labyrinth every bit as confining as that which might be found in the deepest, darkest cavern.
At that moment, Megan Caldwell felt pretty confident her garden didn’t care whether she wanted to flesh it out or not.
* * *