Winters up north were getting to be a little too much for John. As a writer he spent a lot of time indoors but didn't hibernate the way some writers do. Since he wasn't the kind of man who could pin himself up in the house all day he decided to spend the winter in Florida. He rented a house online that was completely furnished, loaded his computer and everything he needed into his van and within less than a week he was settled into his winter home in Tampa.
Eager to get back to work he sat at the desk with his morning coffee to go through the files on his computer. The temperature was a comfortable 78 degrees outside and every window in the house was open. Lifting his cup, he stared out the window at a patch of plastic stretched out on the ground in his neighbor's backyard directly behind his house that he assumed was some kind of garden bed. It was then that he first saw her.
Trash bag in hand, she came out of her house through the back door and put it into the garbage can. She looked to be about his age, maybe a year or two younger, and as the weeks passed he was convinced that she lived alone and he was tempted to try to meet her. But having second thoughts he convinced himself that he was just lonely and as pretty as she was she had to be seeing someone.
As a writer, words came easy to John but approaching women left him groping for words like a tongue-tied teenager and he was afraid of looking foolish. Nevertheless, as the days went by he found himself waiting for her to come outside, glancing quickly at her back door at the slightest sound. The woman had gotten his attention and he became obsessed with meeting her. Every day he would devise a plan to approach her and every day he chickened out.
However, early one morning she came out her back door and began pulling back the plastic on her garden patch. From his morning coffee to his afternoon sandwich she worked on her garden and he wrestled the whole time with the notion of walking out there to meet her but he just couldn't do it.
Having only a few weeks left on his lease he became desperate and called Freddy, an old buddy of his up north. "It's good to hear from you, John," he said. "How's Florida?"
"The weather's incredible, Freddy. It's beautiful here."
"How's the writing going?"
"Okay I guess."
"I got a little problem."
"There's this woman that lives behind me here and I've been dying to meet her for weeks. You're always telling me about what an expert you are when it comes to women. How do you think I should approach her?"
"Well, she's your neighbor. Walk up to her and introduce yourself."
"I've been here for a while now. It's a little late for that."
"Are you telling me-?"
"Don't act so surprised, Freddy. You know how hard it is for me to approach women."
"What's she doing when you see her?"
"Lately she's been working on a garden in the backyard."
"Is there a fence?"
"Then walk over and talk about gardening."
"What I know about gardening wouldn't make a complete sentence!"
"That's the point, John. Women love it when they think they know more about something than us and they love to share. When she sees how inadequate your gardening skills are she'll offer to help."
The sun was going down that evening as John opened the garage door to take the garbage can to the curb for the morning truck. Rolling the can caddy down his driveway he saw a young man putting three potted plants out by the curb. Strolling across the street he stood next to the guy looking the plants over.
"You want them?" he asked, securing the lid on the garbage can. "They belonged to my mother. Dad never has had a green thumb and while Mother was in the hospital they stayed in the garage without sunlight. I don't think he even watered them."
"They do look a little puny."
"Anyone who knows anything about plants could bring them back to life. Remove the dead leaves, give them some water and sunlight, they should recover. Actually, she was going to plant them in the yard."
It was dark when John carried the plants to the backyard, putting them close to the garden patch. He had no idea what he was going to do with them but he left them there and went back inside.
The next morning, coffee brewed in the kitchen while John showered and shaved. It had been a long time since he felt such apprehension. He was excited, terrified, giddy, and anxious as questions filled his mind. What's going to happen? Should I wait for her to come out or go out and wait for her? What do I say to her if she does come out?
Morning sunlight spilled through the windows as he finished his coffee and went out the back door. He had made up his mind to be there when she came out and let the chips fall where they may.
Examining the plants, pretending to know what he was doing, he got down on one knee and slowly began removing dead leaves. It was only a minute or two later when she stepped out her back door and a lump rose in his throat. He swallowed hard and said, "Good morning."
"Good morning," she said, approaching him with what he believed was the sweetest smile he had ever seen.
"I'm trying to help these poor plants I got from a guy who was throwing them out. I put them here to give them some sun. They look like they could use it."
"Philodendron," she said. "I have one of these growing in a pot in my living room.
"Yeah, that's where I'm going to put this one as soon as I get it back in shape."
As she reached for the other plant, John couldn't help staring at her delicate hands and how tenderly she touched the plants as she said, "I used to grow rosemary."
"Yeah," he said, reaching for a leaf on the plant she was touching, "this rosemary plant will look good in my house."
"This is a sword-plant. The other plant is rosemary."
Staring at the other plant he laughed softly, realizing that he had exposed his ignorance. "I know. I was just testing you to see if you knew."
"Oh okay," she said with grin.
"Actually, I've always liked plants but I didn't want to bring a living thing into my house only to have it die because of my ignorance. When I saw these plants on their way to the garbage-"
"You wanted to try to save them."
"Yeah, they were doomed anyway."
"I think that was very noble of you."
Standing there with her, staring into her smiling eyes, listening to her laughter, John hated himself for not getting to know her sooner because he could tell that she was just as happy to meet him as he was to meet her. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he conjured up all the nerve he could muster and asked, "Do you think you could give me some pointers?"
The kittenish grin she gave him touched his heart as she stepped closer to the plant and said, "The sword-plant has big leaves and needs plenty of sunlight to . . ."
Warm feelings surrounded him as she described the plants. She began removing the dead leaves and he proceeded to help, which is when his hand first touched hers and all of his anxiety and apprehension dissolved. Her every blush showed how much she was enjoying his company.
The dead leaves had all been removed and she was about to show him how to check the plants for moisture when he glanced at her garden patch and said, "I hope I'm not keeping you from your garden."
"I treated the soil yesterday and I'm going to let it sit for a while."
"Well I'm glad you came out. There's no telling what I would've done to these poor things."
"I've seen you sitting at your desk through the window. This is the first time I've seen you outside since you moved in. I thought it was a good opportunity to finally meet you."
"I've seen you working in the garden and I’ve wanted to meet you too. I'm John."
"You're kidding! Like the plant?"
"It was Mother's favorite plant."
"Is that what you're going to grow in the patch?"
"Actually, it was going to be a vegetable garden."
“My ex-boyfriend started it with me. We broke up about three months before you moved in and it's a little too much to take on by myself."
Looking back at the garden patch, a huge grin covered his face. "I don't know much about gardening but I'm a fast learner."
“Sure, why not? I love fresh vegetables and need the fresh air and sunshine and I like a challenge. But there's something I'd like to ask you."
"Would you have dinner with me tonight?"
"I'd love to."
The owner of the house John was leasing had no problem renewing his lease. Rosemary had captured his heart and he decided to stay a little longer and see what came of it. To John's surprise, growing vegetables was fun and rewarding. They drove stakes, tied vines, and he loved the tan he got just working around in the garden.
Even though John was a Christian he rarely attended church. As it turned out, Rosemary was also a Christian and was actively involved with the local church, which she invited him to attend.
As the months passed, John's relationship with Rosemary grew stronger, along with his relationship with Jesus Christ. Ultimately, he rededicated his life to the Lord and proposed to Rosemary. Less than a year later, they were married.
God works in mysterious ways.
Read more articles by Patricia Lunsford or search for articles on the same topic or others.