Rosalind sat at her desk beside the open window of her bedroom. Beyond the window was the garden. It was May and the garden was in full bloom.
On the corner of her desk was a clear glass vase with light pink peonies she had picked that morning. Beside the vase right in/on the middle of her desk slightly tilted to the left was a sheet of paper and a pen. The paper lay blank. The pen lay unmoved, untouched.
Rosalind’s gaze was absent minded and yet fixed on the page.
Today she felt uninspired. Her mind was as blank as the page. Perhaps she shouldn’t try to write at all. Maybe today the page was supposed to lay blank.
The screen the trees made reminded her of a day back in preschool. Back then she didn’t know how to read or write.
Back then her greatest achievement was when she learnt to tie a knot. It was one of those things she could never go back on but that she didn’t want to. The feeling of accomplishment had been one of the greatest she would ever experience. Maybe that was why she wanted to write this story so badly, to feel the sense of accomplishment once she had finished it.
In the hopes of finding inspiration she did the unthinkable and opened her diary.
No, there was nothing worth basing a story on only idle complaints about things and people. Maybe she was being pessimistic but today no words came to mind.
Rosalind placed the pen and paper into her desk drawer, locked her diary and left the room.
Claira sat at her desk behind it was a window and beyond the window there it was, her secret garden. No one knew of its existence except her.
When her parents had bought the old home they had let her pick a room from any of the twelve rooms in the left wing. She had picked this room because of what was now her secret garden.
Back then it had been the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine. The high walls which shut it in had been covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they matted together.
All the ground had been covered with a grass of a wintery brown and out of it had grown clumps of bushes which had later proved to be rose bushes. There had been a number of standard roses which spread their branches so far that they looked like small trees. There had been other trees in the garden, and there had been the climbing roses which she had allowed to run over the trees. Claira thought it must be different from other gardens.
On Monday Rosalind’s friend Claire came over and read what Rosalind had written.
Claire looked confused as she read and asked.
‘Do you have The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett?’
‘Can I see it?’
Rosalind found the book in the study and came back to the living room. Claire took the book and skimmed the pages.
‘Ah, ah! Just as I thought, look here on page 79. What you’ve written is nearly identical.’
Rosalind took the book and read. Her friend was right.
‘This is horrible. It’s like I’ve plagiarized.’
‘Of course not, you were just inspired by it. It happens to the best of us.’
‘No. This is worse than terrible.’
‘Come on Rosalind don’t beat yourself up. It’s not like you were going to publish it and then be sued. It’s just one story and you’ve barely even started. Just maybe avoid writing something about gardens.’
Rosalind smiled, and then laughed.
‘I guess you’re right. No more gardens.’
‘Exactly and like Gilbert says to Anne in the movie ‘Well, if you want my opinion, Miss Shirley, I'd write about places I knew something of and people that spoke everyday English.’’
Rosalind smiled once again. Her friend was right in choosing that quote plus it came from Anne of Green Gables one of her all time favorite movies.
So, Rosalind took up her pen once more and tried to write a story.
Two years ago they had moved here. It was suppose to be their last move her father had promised. Penny hadn’t felt too sure. All her life they had moved from one place to the next not staying for more than four years at a time, but that was the life of a diplomat and his family. A life Penny did not want for herself, though she was grateful for the many experiences it had permitted her. Some people have a gypsy spirit, they are nomads at heart, and others need a soil for their roots. Penny needed a soil for her roots and this one was the one she had chosen. She could no longer travel the world. Her search for where she belonged was over.
Rosalind re-read what she had written. It was okay but there was something missing and she didn’t quit know what it was. So she took out a new sheet of paper and tried to re-write it.
This year she was finishing her second year of college. The rest of her life they told her. Naturally it was starting to feel like a cliché but that didn’t bother her. Some things were comforting to hear over and over again. It was almost as if people were trying to convince themselves more than her that this was true especially since they had said that every year since she graduated high school.
In her mind it made complete sense, even after she painstakingly questioned herself about it. Here she had family, roots and an underlying sense of well being and belonging. Belonging, something she had too often struggled to feel whether it was at new schools, with her friends, or in her family. Now the pieces of her puzzle seemed to fit, the next natural thing would be to enjoy it.
A few days later Rosalind tried to write something completely different.
The first time she had seen him was two years ago. Back then he seemed to glow with an aura and walk like a roman god. His quiet manner his soft gaze, His smile. It was nothing new to her. The right smile on the right guy could make her heart go pitter-patter. It was as if the brightness of the smile made her blind to everything else. What she wanted was a kind guy with a wonderful smile, because a smile made her heart melt. Naturally her romantic notions were all to be found in her collection of romance novels to which she clung as much as to her bible because in a way they were parables, she believed, that would lead her to romance. Due to lack of experience in anything amorous she found herself googling the subject constantly and thinking about him all the time. Most girls liked ‘talk, dark and handsome’ while she liked ‘tall, kind and smile.’ So it was naturally no surprise that she had crushed on him.
At the beginning she never even looked at him. He was always curious and curiosity best suited puppies and not so much gown men. So it was only four years later that she had actually looked at him for the first time. Since then she could barely look at other guys.
He had become the god of her crush world, and being monotheistic in real life she could only have one god in the land of crushing.
To normal people he might just be a normal average guy but to her he was THE guy.
In the last few months Rosalind had become tormented with thoughts about a guy. In the last two months she had dreamt of him almost non-stop. Every time she saw him she ran to her friends and ended up laughing endlessly as if she had lost her mind, which she honestly believed. He was just a guy. He wasn’t even that good looking or at least she hadn’t thought so two years ago. In utter confusion she asked everyone about ‘boys’ even asking her four, five and six year old cousins. Their conclusion was simple ‘if you like a boy tell him’.
After writing her little excerpt based on him made her up her mind. She would finally find the courage to speak to him.
On Monday she was still full of resolve to do this but as she saw him her heart started to beat faster, and she turned 180 degrees.
On Wednesday ‘I’ll do it.’ She told herself.
She was but three feet away from him when she suddenly fainted. As she regained her senses she noticed she was in his arms and fainted once again, this time as she opened her eyes her friend Joanna held her arm.
‘What happened?’ asked Joanna.
Rosalind gave her a look.
‘Him? Really? Oh my Gosh Rosa. That’s so cute.’
The next week came along but this time she held out a box to him with cookies and opened her mouth but no words came out. She tried to make a sound, any sound. Nothing.
Joanna came to the rescue. She took Rosalind’s arm and said ‘Orlando would you like a cookie?’
‘Thanks’ he said with a smile as he grabbed one.
‘Rosalind made them herself.’
‘There’re very good’ said Orlando smiling.
Rosalind stood smiling.
‘Well we should go see if Claire wants any shouldn’t we Rosa?’ said Joanna forcing her to turn.
The next week Rosalind went to a party after being dragged by Claire and Joanna. At the party she found herself sitting in a corner trying to write a story. One never knew when inspiration would hit. Maybe it was the 1960’s theme but she didn’t quit know.
Suddenly her heart went piter patter , piter patter.
‘Had she not moved on and put this silliness aside? She thought for there he was.
And here she was being a party pooper because instead of enjoying this moment she had been hit with inspiration to write. If only he would shut up! Then, her heart beat would be normal and she could finally write something worth being read.
Piter Patter, piter patter. Behind she could hear his laughter. His face appeared in her mind though her eyes were burning into the sheet of paper in front of her.
He stopped speaking so she glanced. He was still there. Now she hoped he would speak though she kept to herself writing away. She looked once more. How handsome he was in his suit, grey pants, white shirt, navy blazer and tie.’ She thought.
When the party was over she saw him leave. He didn’t notice. She felt slightly sad but not completely since in her hands she had the story.
The next day Rosalind went to Joanna’s house.
The girls sat in Joanna’s room quietly for a few minutes then Rosalind handed her friend the story she had been working on at the party. It was all printed up and tied with a pink ribbon. Underneath the pink ribbon, placed vertically, was a light pink peony.
‘What is this?’ asked Joanna with surprise.
‘It’s my story,’ replied Rosalind with a smile.
‘You finished it?’
‘Yes. And you wanna know something? I realized that I could write any other story but it just wouldn’t be mine. It wouldn’t be my story.’
‘What about the romantic stories you tried to write?’
‘I couldn’t keep mixing fiction with reality.’
Joana took the peony and smiled. She then took the ribbon and proceeded to read the story.
She looked out the window of her aunt’s home. On the horizon the sun was slowly setting over the Tejo River that she loved so much. She was finally happy. She was finally home. Her mind wandered to memories created only hours before; the house she had left, the tears that had unknowingly slipped from her eyes as she parted, the unusually tight hug that her father had given her, the last minute goodbyes from her friends just before she went through security into the international terminal, the moments of hesitation that were diminished upon seeing the triumphant smile on her mother’s face, then the moments of anxiety and ecstasy as she came out of the burrow that was baggage claims and saw most of her family members all waiting for her and her mother at arrivals.
They had all gone to her aunt’s house which was the nearest to the airport to celebrate the long awaited arrival. Yet slowly the cousins with their children had happily dispersed through the Lisbon area to their homes.
Now only the aunts and uncles were left still chatting away in her aunt’s living room, most of who were now grand-parents save for the youngest uncle who had finally become a father.
But suddenly she recalled a picture from her baby album. In the picture her uncle sat on the beach rubbing her hands with sand as she smiled in utter joy and amazement. Beside her uncle was her cousin, a boy of eleven years whose childhood emanated joy. In this picture she was no more than nine months old, the first time that she had been to her mother’s land. She was not sure but that was likely to have been the time in which she had first fallen in love with her mother’s land, the land of the Tejo River, of the navigators, and of Camões. She knew this love had only grown more and more with each visit. Part of it was the land itself. The other part was her family. The old cliché was true ‘home IS where the heart is’. It had been hard getting to where she was. Many things had impeded her from ever getting her dream, her wish of going to live in her mother’s land.
At first, her father had kept her and her mother from getting her wish. He had wanted to keep things the way they were. He would not allow it. But even he had changed. Sadly at that point her grand-parents had passed on and she had not been ready for a new beginning having only just started high school. Her mother’s work had also been an impediment. Through the grace of God things started happening that would eventually make her dream come true.
Her mother, who had been working since she was sixteen, was tired of the demands of work so she retired. Her mother was also propelled to do this because she had made an ultimatum. ‘I’m going with or without ’she had said. So her mother decided to go with her.
Consequently here she was looking out her aunt’s window knowing that this was just the beginning. Suddenly, she heard a burst of laughter coming from the room beside and was awakened from her thoughts. So slowly taking in a breath of the cool breeze she took one last look out the window. To her left the lights of the Expo 98 site shone with vigour. The brightest were the lights of the Orient Station, then as her eyes moved to her right the Tejo River surrounding the city of Lisbon.