The Golden Garden

March 8, 2011
Athena’s soft fingers gently brushed against a smooth green leaf of another of her magnificent trees. The wind rustled her long black hair, and a golden ray of sunshine fell upon her beautiful face. She took long walks like these daily, and added a few extra minutes to her outing when the weather was exceptionally pleasant. Her garden was a wonderful place to walk, as it had an abundance of gorgeous plants. Athena’s garden had every kind of plant imaginable—every kind of tree, shrub, or flower could be found in her delightful garden. Even the most uncommon plants were in this massive garden. Athena was very proud of it, and taking walks through her garden gave her feelings of hopefulness, serenity, and bliss, and filled her heart to the brim with the best kind of happiness.

And each day at exactly twelve o’clock noon, the fiery sun came down on Athena’s garden at just the right angle, and the whole garden would appear to be the color of gold, shimmering beautifully in the sunlight. Athena would stand outside and admire the golden garden every day. Watching the petals of the flowers and the leaves of the trees glisten and sparkle put tears in her eyes because it was so beautiful. The garden would become green again at exactly twelve thirty, when the sun moved to a slightly different angle.

Even though Athena was a beautiful girl of about twenty-four years, she preferred to spend her life isolated from other people. Big crowds terrified her, and her solitude gave her a sanctuary that only she could understand.

But today, as she walked through her assortment of plants, Athena felt a sharp pang in her heart that she had seldom felt before. The feeling passed quickly. Athena couldn’t quite detect what she had felt and stopped a moment to think. Could it be sorrow? Could it be anger or trepidation? Or perhaps it was loneliness.

Loneliness...Athena decided this must have been what she had felt. She was never lonely before. She tried to shake the feeling, deciding that it was something to be ignored.

But the feeling returned late at night, when Athena awoke from her sleep. She had had a horrible dream, in which she was sprawled out on the floor in the center of an empty white room, and she couldn’t move at all. In the dream, her ears rang with the high-pitched chime of silence as the world closed in around her. She shuddered in bed, her eyes drooping with fatigue. Chills ran down her spine. Athena rested her head against her pillow, making another unsuccessful attempt to fall back asleep.

And in the early morning, Athena’s heart was jabbed once again with the dreadful feeling of lonesomeness. She couldn’t take the intensity of the heartache, and she knew she must do something about the awful feelings she was experiencing. Tears welled up in Athena’s big brown eyes. She felt as if she had failed herself, or proven that she would be no more than a lonely girl for the rest of her existence.

At twelve o’clock, the garden glistened gold, and Athena went outside to bathe in the warm sunlight and admire the beautiful colors of her garden. Being in the golden garden made her feel special, and it temporarily drove out most of her bad feelings. She felt safe and sheltered here once again. But she longed for so much more.

At exactly twelve thirty, the sun changed positions in the sky and the garden returned to its original color. Athena sighed, and gently touched a flower on her big dogwood tree. She became entranced with the flower, focusing her mind on the unique color and texture of the dogwood petal.

A faint rustle came from the row of trees behind the dogwood. Athena paid it no mind, for she heard sounds from her garden often. A flash of color bound between rows of trees. Athena whipped around.

A face popped out from behind a tall bush. Athena’s heart skipped a beat, and then began beating fast. She was surprised and afraid, and was unsure of what she should do. There was an intruder in her garden!

“Hello?” Athena called.

Out of the bush came a boy. He looked about Athena’s age, though Athena had never seen him before in her life.

“Hello,” said the boy. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Athena looked at him with wide eyes. She wasn’t sure what to say. Her social skills were out of practice, and she was afraid she would sound dumb if she talked. Then she reconsidered, reminding herself that she would appear dumber if she said nothing.

“What are you doing here?” Athena asked. She hadn’t intended to sound rude, although it must have sounded like that to the boy.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and his eyes showed that he was truly sorry. “Every day on my way home, I walk past your beautiful garden. It truly is a brilliant garden, and today

I wanted to get a closer look. I didn’t realize I was intruding.” He paused, looking up at her with sparkling eyes. “My name is Spiro.”

Athena had known her garden was outstanding before, but to have someone else say it to her made her incredibly happy.

“It’s fine,” she said. “And thank you. My name is Athena.” Spiro looked at Athena’s garden with eyes full of emotion. She realized he looked at her garden the same way she did, with that soft look of love and pride.

“Would you like to take a tour of my garden?” Athena offered. She was nervous about spending time with a real person, but she felt that if she came to know someone, anyone, maybe the lonely feeling would go away. Spiro’s face brightened immediately at her offer, and the two walked about the garden. Athena hadn’t planned to spend a long time with Spiro, but she lost track of time. She showed him every last inch of the garden, naming all of the beautiful trees before him. He smiled every time their gazes met. Athena’s heart was joyous in the moments when she was with Spiro, and she was awfully upset when the garden tour had to come to an end.

“Thank you so very much for the wonderful tour,” Spiro said. Athena’s eyes glittered as she stole one last long look at him before he left. But right then, Athena couldn’t think of anything worse than Spiro leaving and having to endure the loneliness again. She couldn’t have someone come so close, and leave her before the friendship could flourish.

“Wait!” Athena cried, her voice cracking. Spiro turned back around. “If you would come back tomorrow, at eleven fifty, I will show you something incredible.” She silently hoped that he would agree to return tomorrow.

And Spiro did agree. When he finally left the garden, Athena was as happy as could be. She needed to do something to contain her happiness, so she cleaned. She cleaned everything. She cleaned the counters and the windows, organized her bookshelf, made all the beds, and scrubbed the floors of every room. When Athena was finished, her home looked brand-new and spotless. She felt as if she had accomplished a lot for one day, and that feeling made her proud.

Athena slept very peacefully that night.

The next day at eleven fifty, Athena waited out in the garden for Spiro to come. Athena had begun to worry that he would not make it, but at eleven fifty-five, Spiro came walking through the garden straight to Athena.

They greeted each other and chatted for a while. Then Spiro asked what Athena had wanted to show him. She smiled.

“Every day at noon, the sun comes down on my garden at such an angle that the entire place shines gold. Watch.”

And the sun shone upon the garden, and before their very eyes, the garden slowly changed into a golden wonderland. Spiro’s eyes widened, and his lips trembled at the beauty of the garden.

They watched the garden sparkle for a long time. Slowly, his hand found hers, and they admired together the beauty of the golden garden. Athena never wanted this

moment to end. It was as if the sun had heard her thoughts and obeyed; today, the garden remained golden just a little longer than usual.

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