Garden of Secrets

Written by James McCann

Photograph by  Alisa Anton

Photograph by Alisa Anton

Melanie was tending her garden, the late spring morning seemed to be made specifically for tending a garden. Despite the cool breeze she still managed to work up a slight sheen on her her forehead and a damp patch on her lower back. Small, but dark, quarter moons had developed beneath her arms. The beauty of tending the garden was that she wasn't actually having any affect on it, she was merely knelt down in old jeans, turning soil over with a trowel.

They, being Melanie and her husband Thomas, had a man who came in once a fortnight to sort the garden out (clipping the bushes, mowing the grass etc) whether it needed it or not. This was just something Melanie enjoyed as a form of relaxation and meditation. The garden looked pretty, if not slightly mismatched in terms of where things were. A garden designer would have put certain flowers together, knowing that come their bloom the colours would compliment each other and everything would look so pretty.

But, not in this garden. Not in Melanie's garden of secrets. They were secrets because, each flower, each bush, each gnome, each piece of furniture, represented something that Thomas wasn't aware of, and he never would be. Each part of the picture represented something that Melanie had attempted, or only ever thought of attempting. The three gnomes, painted brightly in green, yellow, blue and red, had been bought after Melanie had tried her hand at writing a novel. She read a lot, so she thought it couldn't be too hard to make the leap to writing them as well. She only manged to get down one chapter (and that had felt like a lot of work to her) and had quickly sent it out to people, and had quickly heard nothing back.

That was the end of that endeavour.

A rose bush had been bought and planted when she'd considered joining an evening class. Twice a week she was going to spend an hour learning Italian. Melanie had never got the end of the online application. The idea had been to watch the rose bush grow as her knowledge would grow. The garden was supposed to be her world, she was going to watch it bloom and grow, and thrive.

Whenever Thomas wanted, Melanie was happy (for the most part).

to give herself physically to him. The physical side of their love had always been very good and satisfying, but there were parts she could never show him. There were parts secrets she could never let him know about. There would always be a part of her, of who she was, that would be inaccessible for him, for anyone. She supposed the same was true for Thomas himself, that he held secrets, and each time he bought a new book or a coffee mug (how many did they need?) that it was representative of a failed attempt at life, that it was the symbol for one more secret he was keeping from her.

Melanie supposed that was how most, if not all, marriages worked. Everyone kept a secret or two, and perhaps it was our secrets that defined us?

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