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No one could remember who had built the bench. Few people even knew it was there. The molded concrete sat a bit back from a little-used trail in the woods outside of town, half-overgrown with grass and bushes, greened with moss and lichen. Perhaps when it was built it wasn’t lost in the woods. Maybe there was a garden there once. No one knew, nor much cared, except to wonder in passing at such a thing in such a place.
No. One person knew. One person walked the trail from time to time, stepping carefully not to crush the flowers that sprouted along the way, and sat on the bench, gazing into the tangled woods for an hour or for half a day.
That person knew how long the bench had been there, and why it was there. He could no longer manage the walk often, because the bench he had built to sit on with the love of his life had been there a very long time, and he and it had grown old together.
She had not. The beautiful girl he had loved and had courted in the tiny hidden garden had long since passed from this earth, and from the memories of all save the old man who struggled to walk the overgrown path. He used a cane now, but with utmost care, less its unyielding tip damage the flowers, descended from the seeds she had sown. He was ancient, but she never grew old.
He sat on the bench, and ran his gnarled hands over the whorls and carvings of the seat. He had ordered the bench from Sears Roebuck, ten dollars postage-paid. No doubt at one time many, many more existed just like it. Almost like it. His fingers could still find the initials he had painstakingly carved into the pattern at the back of the seat. “Where only we will know, because you are too precious to advertise,” he had told her. Time had gnawed at the indentations, lichen done its best to fill them, but he could still trace the letters.
Once in a long while some brisk pedestrian or rambler of the woods would pass by while the old man sat. Most would look at him with curiosity, wondering why he chose to sit on the worn bench in the weeds. A few worried that he was ill, and inquired anxiously if he needed help. To those, he merely smiled and shook his head, with a brief, “I’m well enough.”
None of them saw what he saw. When he sat in the sun on his bench, he could still see her, kneeling among the flowers of the wild garden, exclaiming over each tender shoot or tiny blossom, and he was content.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015