Greenly, Vermont had never been an interesting town. Nothing bad ever happened; children played outside until it was too dark to see, mothers drank red wine while discussing the latest PTO meeting, and fathers worked until 5:00 and came home to delicious homemade dinners. No one expected something so tragic to happen in such a nice town.
When people drove down the street, everyone noticed the upscale houses. However, tucked away at the end of the street, one house was different. This small house sat unnoticed amongst its neighbors. The faded blue paint chipped and peeled off the wood; the trim had rust lining its sides. The lawn, as dry as a desert, hadn’t been watered in months. The front of the house displayed four windows, each with white tattered shutters and each one closed and covered so no one could look inside. The house looked awful except for the garden that sat next to the front door. From down the block the garden drew everyone’s attention. It’s dark, rich soil held various types of plants: purple hydrangeas, white roses, irises, begonias, and many more. The floral scent carried from the garden all the way to the local grocery store positioned at the opposite end of the street. The flowers bloomed, fluorescent under the sun. The garden appeared well loved and taken care of, as opposed to the house. Whoever lived there must have deemed that garden most important.
And in fact, Abigail, the homeowner, did prize that garden. She had lived in that house for her entire adult life. By age 76 Abigail's lips appeared thin and wrinkled, but whenever she smiled the crinkles near her eyes and broad grin showed genuine happiness. However, she hadn’t smiled in years. Her skin looked like brown leather stretched across her features. The lines and wrinkles on her face looked as if they belonged there. Her eyes looked worn, the color of a chocolate lab’s coat or the dirt in the garden. A red line traced the inside of them. When people looked into Abigail’s eyes they saw a glimpse of sadness and grief, but her eyes hadn’t always been like that. Her hair had started to thin out; she once tried to keep up her wavy, chestnut locks, but had given up and let the silver strands overtake her head like weeds. Her hair went down to her breasts, long for a woman of her age. The roots started strong and healthy but as the hair traveled down it became frail and weak. She didn’t bother cutting it anymore. She stood at 5’3” but always looked shorter because she leaned over a cane due to horrible arthritis in her joints. For the past two years Abigail had been letting herself go. She no longer cared about herself or her appearance.
She now lived alone. After 50 years of sharing the house with her husband, Ernie, Abigail had to adjust to doing things on her own. Everyday she wished that Ernie hadn’t died two years ago from a heart attack. If Abigail wasn’t busy, and she never was, her mind would slowly drift to thoughts of her husband. She remembered when they were young, and longed for more walks after dinner to talk about whatever they wanted. She remembered his dark grey hair, cobalt blue eyes, and square jaw. He had always been masculine and strong; dirt could always be found underneath his nails. However, his masculine features were balanced by his round, thin-framed glasses and small upturned nose. Whenever she thought of Ernie, she pictured him tending to the flowers in the garden and longed to hear his voice one last time. She missed when he used tease her: “The only thing I love more than my hydrangeas is you.” Ernie would spend hours weeding and watering the flower bed. Abigail watched as she sat in a lawn chair, knitting mittens and scarves. He treated each flower like a child. Sometimes, he would pick a flower in his garden that reminded him of Abigail — usually the white roses. He gave them to her and smiled, “I love you, my Abigail.”
These lonely years without Ernie left her depressed. She always felt tired and fatigued. Her depression had complete control of her life; she was a puppet and it had taken ahold of the strings. She thought that if she had someone to talk to she wouldn’t feel so much sadness. With thoughts like this, she couldn’t help but yearn for a child. She and Ernie tried for years but had never been blessed with a baby of their own. Her infertility caused so much pain, but with Ernie there by her side she could stay positive. Now, without Ernie there, having no children left another empty void in her life. All Abigail wanted was to see her husband again, to no longer have the title of “widow,”and sometimes all Abigail wanted was to be dead too.
Saturday, June 9, was an uneventful day for Abigail. Little did she know that it wouldn’t be boring for much longer. She realized she had done nothing productive – unless she took into consideration the scarf that she had knitted. Other than that, her day consisted of waking up late, eating a bland meal of oatmeal and browning bananas, napping, knitting, and mindlessly watching the television. When 7:30 pm came, Abigail settled into her big, soft, faded pink reclining chair. She reached for the cool black remote and clicked the TV on to her favorite channel, GSN, the game show network. Tonight they were airing Wheel of Fortune, which was Abigail’s favorite. As she sank into the plush arm chair, she allowed her mind to wander. She began to think of Ernie. Fear had a tight grip around her, pressuring her to think of him for fear that if she didn’t his memory would be lost. She continued to tend to his garden after his death; she couldn’t bear to see that die too. Everyday she watered the flowers and pulled the weeds. It never seemed like a chore, in fact, it almost brought her great joy. Almost. Her mind consumed with thoughts of the garden, she suddenly remembered she forgot to water the plants that day. Even though it was late, she still pushed herself up and out of the chair.
A gentle breeze, sticky and warm with humidity, rustled the leaves of the trees. Abigail leaned on her cane as she shuffled down the steps of her front porch. The clouds hid the moon and stars, leaving the sky a misty black. The dim, yellow, flickering light next to the cracked wooden door lit the front of the house. She felt uneasy; as a single woman in her 70s, she always got nervous when venturing outside at night. When her eyes met the garden she took in a sharp breathe. Abigail choked on the overwhelming sea of emotions that flooded her body. Her heart, what used to be a fragile white rose, now withered and torn apart. With one final blow she was left with nothing: the garden was destroyed.
The hydrangeas were ripped from the ground. Shredded and trampled, they lay lifeless on the upturned dirt. The roses were ripped apart, the petals blown about the grass, the stems left with a nub of nothing on top – the thorns still there. The other flowers were completely missing; the only thing left of them were the dead roots. The garden looked exactly how Abigail felt, the last bit of joy in her heart uprooted and dead.
She collapsed to the ground, not sure what to do. In a matter of minutes the only thing that meant anything to her had been destroyed. She clenched the dirt in her fists and began to sob. “Someone!” cried out Abigail, “Someone help me!”
The neighbors rushed to Abigail’s front lawn where they saw her holding a broken hydrangea to her chest, kneeling down, sobbing, and rocking back and forth. Someone tried to calm her, but it was no use. The police were called and arrived shortly after the neighbors. Once Abigail felt well enough to talk, she explained to the cops what happened. Her eyes, puffy and red, leaked tears which she could not stop. Her voice shook when she retold the destruction of her garden. She finally managed to relive the horrifying experience, a difficult thing for Abigail to do. The cops consoled Abigail and promised her that they would find whoever destroyed the garden. Abigail didn’t care, however, she just wanted her garden back. More importantly, she just wanted her Ernie back. It was bad enough that she’d lost her husband but now she lost his garden too.
After everyone left, Abigail stood inside leaning on the kitchen counter, numb from the pain. She began to look for something: an old bottle of pills from when Ernie was sick. Cabinet after cabinet, they were nowhere to be found, but at last the tinted orange prescription bottle presented itself behind the tea bags. Abigail looked inside; 16 round, glossy pills sat on the bottom. Satisfied, she hobbled to her room. She sat on the queen sized bed and emptied the contents of the bottle into her hand. She tossed them back into her throat and swallowed. She laid back on the pillows, still in her dirty clothes, and closed her eyes. She went to bed happy, something she hadn’t been able to do since Ernie’s death.