Anne’s Doberman, Lucky, greeted me at the front door. Although intimidating at first glance, his smile soon betrayed his daunting appearance. He pressed his nose against the storm door and tried to catch my scent through the glass. I braced myself for Lucky’s powerful reception, but when Kate appeared at the door I was completely caught off guard.
Her dark gown was a stark contrast to her pale skin, her boney frame evident through layers of clothing. I hugged my friend of twenty-one years and we wept until our shoulders were soaked with tears. Every May, Anne and I took a trip together. Last year we had spent the week on the beach. This year I had come to be with my best friend when she died.
Early the next morning, I crawled out of bed and tiptoed into Anne’s room. I found myself listening for her breath, checking for the rise and fall of the sheets. Reassured by the rhythmic sound of shallow breathing, I turned to leave.
Lucky, sprawled at the foot of Anne’s bed, gently slid off the side and followed me into the kitchen where I started breakfast. Soon, the scent of fresh baked muffins filled the air. Just as I placed fresh strawberries on two plates, Anne shuffled into the kitchen. “Smells great in here.”
“Thanks. Would you like to eat outside? It looks like a beautiful morning.”
“The patio’s a mess. I can’t stand to look at it.”
Shortly after breakfast, Anne went back to bed. When I opened the French doors to the patio Lucky bolted outside, and I stepped into the crisp morning air. Last spring, baskets hung all around the patio; pots bursting with color were scattered throughout the flagstone deck. Now weeds grew in the garden like the tumors that spread in Anne’s body.
The sight of the weeds made me furious. I ripped their roots from the ground, yanked fall’s dead plants from clay pots, and filled garbage bags full of leftovers from winter’s refuge.
Later that morning, I searched for Anne’s garden journal. Leafing through its pages, I discovered a meticulous garden plan for spring. She’d not only listed her favorite flowers but what she planted in each hanging basket and every container.
From her journal, I made a list. Later that afternoon while she slept, I slipped off to the garden center. That night after Anne had fallen asleep, I turned on the patio lights and went to work. I planted into the early morning hours.
When Anne walked into the kitchen that morning she found me sipping coffee and flipping through her journal. “Now, I never thought I’d find you reading my garden journal.”
“Actually, I found it very interesting.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Well, there’s something else you may not believe.” I stood up and locked my arm in hers. “There’s something I want to show you.”
Together we walked to the patio door. When she stepped outside, she gasped. “My goodness! How long have I been asleep? Jan, the patio looks beautiful.”
“It does, doesn’t it? But I have no clue how to keep it alive.”
She laughed until tears streamed down her face. We ate breakfast outside that morning. Afterwards, she went inside and brought back her journal. “I want you to have this. Everything you need to know about gardening is here.”
Over the next couple of weeks we ate every meal outdoors and Anne often napped on the chaise lounge. One afternoon while Anne rested peacefully, I rocked in the swing. When Lucky started whimpering, I found him nudging Anne’s hand to be petted. I called out to him, but he was intent on waking her. He got his nose up under her hand and slid it to the top of his head. Her hand gently slid over his ear and down the side of his face before it fell lifeless to her side.
A year after Anne’s passing I sat in my own garden, swinging gently back and forth on a new wooden swing. Perennials I’d harvested from Anne’s garden promised to bloom, while annuals embellished my flower beds. Across the lawn, Lucky slept with one paw over his brow. I called out to him and he trotted over to me, a smile on his face. He lay his chin on my lap and nudged my hand. Smiling back at my new best friend, I held his face in my hands and kissed the top of his head.
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