Valentine’s Garden

When she opened the letter, Meg burst into tears. She had never won a competition before.

Well, – she had now.

It had been a few months since she entered, and a lot had happened since then. She had forgotten all about it. ‘Tell us what you would do for your loved one on Valentine’s Day’ the competition urged her, and Meg had smiled, allowing her mind to wander.

‘If you win, we will make it happen!’

Meg knew exactly what she wanted to do for Andrew. There was a small piece of private woodland for sale, not far away from their flat. They drove out that way sometimes, and parked the car. Andrew could still manage a little walk. He loved the countryside. It was good that they were so close to the edge of town, even if they didn’t have a garden of their own.

If only they had the money, they could buy a piece of land like this one, and spend their days, sitting quietly in the leafy sunlight. Silent, sometimes. Listening to the birds. Watching them compete with each other for space in the trees. She would put up nesting boxes.

She would plant the kind of shrubs that attracted butterflies. She had read about those, even if they didn’t have a garden of their own. Butterflies were a joy to watch, too. She would put in a couple of sturdy wooden seats, and a small wooden table, so that they could be comfortable. She was pretty sure that was allowed, in private woodland.

She would carefully tend the trees and shrubs herself, and plant violets. Oh, yes, and primroses. Andrew loved those. In the spring she would make sure that there were daffodils, and poppies later on. Lavender was nice. Wild roses, perhaps? To sit there and smile at each other across a drowsy summer evening, while the air was full of sweet summer smells would be heavenly.

Of course, a special piece of ground like that need not be just for the summer time. There were things that had colour – even flowers – in the winter months. Meg had read all the gardening articles. Winter jasmine, that was a good one. She had read about that. Perhaps she would find a space for a beautiful Japanese maple, close to their seats, so that they could enjoy the rich crimson of its leaves. Something evergreen, too. That would be nice. Strategically placed, so that the woodland itself would not be just a stark bare place, when summer had gone.

‘Tell us what you would do, in a hundred words or less, and we will make your wish come true!’

Before she knew it, Meg had written out her dream. It certainly came to less than one hundred words. The image of a woodland garden for Andrew was clear in her mind. She described the special place that she would make, where she and Andrew could be together, and the plants and flowers that she would put there.
She sat at the kitchen table, she remembered, chewing her pen, staring at the little space that had to contain her words, and smiling at her beautiful dream. How Andrew would love that! She could bring her knitting, and sit, in peaceful silence, just enjoying the tiny patch of nature that was theirs to care for.
Carefully, she copied out her dream on to the competition form. She even remembered to post it, when she walked down to the shops. Then she forgot all about it.

Now she had won. The letter confirmed it.

She read it again, certain that there must be a catch, but no – there was none. She really had won the competition. With a shaking hand she picked up the phone, and began to talk to the organisers about the way that the prize would actually become a reality.

They were exceptionally nice. She had specified the little piece of woodland in her entry, and it was still available, within the prize money allocated to the competition. Meg could hardly speak. There was an amount of money, they explained, so that garden furniture, and some plants and bulbs could also be included, as part of her prize.

Meg was overjoyed.

It was less than a month later, when all was completed, that she found herself the owner of the tiny patch of woodland which had always been Andrew’s dream. She parked the car in its usual place, and let herself in. She had a key to the padlock on the gate, now. The woodland itself did not disappoint her. Birds sang in the trees, and a path led straight into its heart, dappled and mysterious.

The competition organisers had been as good as their word, and in the centre of the wood were two sturdy wooden seats, with a table between them. Meg sat down on one, and put her knitting bag on the table. Sunlight filtered through the leaves, and Meg closed her eyes, for a moment.

Then she opened her knitting bag, and took out the urn, placing it firmly on the other chair.

‘There you are, my love.’ she said to Andrew. ‘This is how it should be.’

Birds sang in the trees, all around them.

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