Bess’s Magical Garden
The sun streamed in the window and illuminated the ivy wallpaper. Bess looked around and felt bewildered until she remembered that she was in their new home in Pineview. After she was fully awake, she realized that the room looked different in the daylight. The streetlights were on when they had arrived the night before. She looked out the bay window and noticed the snow-white apple blossoms. So that was the fragrance she had smelt.
Bess’s thoughts drifted back to the day she had collapsed in ballet class. An ambulance had rushed her to the hospital, where her parents met her. After several tests the doctors told them that she had a mild case of polio. She ended up spending many months in the hospital undergoing treatment and physical therapy before she was ready to go home. She had worked hard, but she still had to wear a brace and use a crutch.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Mother breezed into the room. “Rise and shine.”
“Don’t want to,” Bess grumbled, as she brushed some tousled hair out of her eyes.
Mother smiled. “It’s a warm sunny day. Let’s have breakfast in the garden.” The air was filled with the scent of jasmine as she walked past. Mother took the clean clothes out of the open suitcase on the window seat.
Bess rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “Would rather eat here,” she said. Didn’t Mother know how difficult it was to walk that far? Megan, her cousin and best friend, had always dropped in before school, so they could eat breakfast together. Megan had lived in the apartment across the hall. Bess had stayed at Megan’s last weekend, while Mother and Uncle Joe moved the furniture. Megan beat her at snakes and ladders and checkers several times. The fun-filled weekend ended too soon, and her new life suddenly began. She and her mother had left the city early Monday morning and arrived at their Pineview home late last night.
It wasn’t fair that Mother had wanted to move. The doctors had told Mother that Bess needed fresh air and light exercise and not to lie around the apartment all day.
“Get up and get dressed,” Mother said firmly. “There will be all kinds of fun things to do this summer. Would you like to decorate your room?”
“What’s the point? There isn’t anything to do without Megan,” Bess grumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“There is a path near the patio door that leads into a sheltered garden. See you there shortly,” Mother answered.
Bess reluctantly got out of bed. After tucking her crutch under her arm, she hobbled across the room to look at the clothes that Mother had laid out. Why did Mother want her to dress up? Weren’t her everyday clothes good enough? As Bess tried to decide whether to wear the skirt or a pair of slacks, her thoughts drifted to that day six months ago when they’d received the news about the car crash that took Father away forever. Bess had waited at the hospital with Mother, because she had been released that same afternoon to continue therapy as an out-patient. She and her mother had received the news that someone had sped through a green light and rammed into the driver’s side of the car, killing Father instantly.
Bess proceeded down the hallway to the patio door and hobbled down the path. She stopped and looked around in amazement. For a brief second, she thought that she saw an archway covered with orange flowers that lead into a colourful garden….but it was gone in an instant. Instead, an arch covered in tangled vines with a broken gate swung on its hinges. The space was overgrown with weeds and surrounded by a crumbling stone wall. A tangle of weeds almost hid the stepping stones. She proceeded to the stone bench in the middle of the yard. Not until Mother arranged a tray with an assortment of muffins and fruit did Bess realize how hungry she was
They were nearly finished eating breakfast when Mother said, “Mrs. O’Toole will be here for tea this afternoon and will move in today.”
“Why?” Bess set down her glass.
Mother started to put dishes on the silver tray. “Mrs. O’Toole’s husband passed away recently, and she has no family. She sold her house, but she’ll bring furniture and household items with her. There has to be someone here during the day.”
“Oh,” Bess answered, frowning.
“Let’s go to the general store this morning,” Mother said, as she stood up.
“Can you get a night-light? Everything was dark and creepy last night. The yard looks interesting,” Bess said, gazing around and still taking in her new surroundings.
Mother smiled. “It’s an unusual yard with the paths and arbours, but you have all summer to explore. You’ll like the Snows, the store owners. The store and village are different from what you’re used to, and you might find it interesting.”
“What do you mean?” Bess twisted her hair. She noticed the caragana bush covered with yellow blossoms.
“You’ll see. Let’s put the breakfast things away first,” Mother said, picking up the tray. “Give it a chance. Everyone is friendly, and they understand about your brace and crutch.
Pineview was a peaceful village cupped in a valley surrounded by soft green hills with clumps of trees on the slopes. Bess gazed down the street as they drove along. The trees grew close together and formed an arch that almost formed a tunnel. They rode along silently, each lost in their own thoughts; the only sound was the crunch of tires on the gravel road. Ten minutes later Mother turned on Main Street. Bess looked around in amazement at the small buildings, and within minutes Mother parked the green station wagon in front of Snows’ General Store.
Bess limped down the wooden sidewalk and up the veranda steps. She hesitated, as she looked at the wooden bench partially concealed by lush vines. “What’s that” she asked, pointing.
“It’s a Virginia creeper,” Mother answered, as she opened the door.
A bell announced their arrival as Bess started to gaze at the assortment of items displayed on the long rows of shelves.
Mr. Snow stepped off the ladder behind the counter and walked towards them with a slight limp, “Good morning ladies.”
“Good morning.” As Mother placed items in a basket, she asked, “Do you have any garden tools? The yard at the old Preston house has been neglected.”
“Yes,” he answered, guiding them to the back of the store. “Some say it’s haunted. Sighted any ghosts yet?” He winked at Bess.
Bess’s eyes widened. “A ghost? Really?” She realized that she had blurted it out loud and turned to look at the art display. Was Mr. Snow really serious? Was there a ghost? When she went to the garden, she had seen things that weren’t there and felt an odd sensation. Father had always maintained there weren’t ghosts, just people with overactive imaginations. Her eyelids became damp, and she tried to blink tears away. Her thoughts were interrupted by Mr. Snow’s voice.
Mr. Snow stopped to straighten items on a shelf with his stubby fingers before he directed them to the hardware section. “You’ll find everything there. The garden books on display should help.”
Mother looked through a rack of books before she selected one that had information about a variety of flowers. “What about this one?”
“Oh, sure,” Bess shrugged, as she looked at the book in Mother’s hand.
Mrs. Snow strolled towards them with a large basket. “This is a housewarming present for you,” she said, handing Mother the basket.
“Thank you very much,” Mother answered.
“That’s a good book. You’ll be able to identify the flowers in these old photographs of the Preston’s garden, that were buried in a box in the storeroom,” Mrs. Snow handed Bess a thick envelope.
Bess’s mood brightened as she thought it might be fun to identify the flowers.
“Can you please buy the book?”
Mrs. Snow wiped the cover of a small blue book with a corner of her white apron and handed it to Bess. “This little book contains the early history of the district,” she said her voice tinkling like a small bell. “The Anderson brothers have a restoration business. You should call them
Back in the car Bess turned up the radio to listen to “The Glow Worm” and asked, “Did you notice that large painting in the store’s front window? It looks like our house and would look good over the fireplace. Can you buy it?” Bess looked through the basket that contained homemade jam, jelly, muffins, biscuits, bread, and fruit.
Mother smiled. “Let’s get settled in first and see what it costs. It does look like our house. Dawn Prate, a local artist, painted it.”
Bess enjoyed the visit to the store and the drive despite her resistance. Everything in Pineview was so different.
When they returned to the house, Bess helped put their purchases away. She took the photographs, blue book, and garden book to her room and picked up her walnut writing box, which had belonged to Great Grandmother Skye. Bess put the photos away before she headed outside. Mother had put some writing paper, a diary, a dictionary, a few pens and pencils, and some envelopes in the writing box. Bess sat on the stone bench and flipped pages in the garden book, as she compared flowers in the photographs. She set the book aside and took out a piece of paper and a pen.
We got here late last night. There was a chirping sound in the porch when we went inside. Mother said it was crickets. Thankfully they were out there. It was so dark that it was eerie. There were shadows everywhere. I was so tired that I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. In the middle of the night I heard a soft whispering sound, which made it hard for me to go back to sleep. Waking up this morning was difficult, and I was grumpy and miserable when Mother came to wake me up.
It’s terribly lonesome without Father, and I would give anything to hear him tell a story again. Wish you were here. Mother wants to visit Ava, her boss, in a couple of days. Ava has a daughter, Miranda, about my age. Miranda will be visiting her grandparents for most of the summer. I’m not sure about visiting them, but I don’t want to complain, because Mother will say I’m being rude and uncooperative.
Mrs. Snow, who runs the post office at the back of the general store, gave me some old photos. One of the photos was of an arbour covered with a vine with orange flowers. I found them in the gardening book Mother bought. It’s a honeysuckle vine. The photo was exactly what I imagined this place would be like.
Your friend always,
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