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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Updated on July 16, 2017

An Allotment Tale

The late afternoon sun cast a roseate glow over the allotments. Amanda paused, leant on her spade and gazed across the large area. Despite the lateness of the hour - it was nearly 6pm - the place was still fairly busy.And for late August, it was still incredibly hot.

She loved it here, Amanda realised. Even though she'd been tending her allotment for only a few months, she'd made many friends. No-one was too busy to lend a hand, to offer advice or just to stop and chat. It was good to feel wanted, to belong. They had been David's friends, but they were her friends now.

Hearing a step behind her, Amanda turned. It was Tony, one of her late husband's best friends. 'Hello,' he said, drawing close. He looked over her patch. 'You're doing really well here.'

Rubbing the small of her back, Amanda smiled. 'Thank you, David would be proud of me, don't you think?'

Tony nodded and smiled. 'It's great to see you here, carrying on his pride and joy. And may I say, you seem to have as great a talent as he for gardening.'

Inwardly, Amanda felt a stab of pride. Since David's death earlier this year, she had sought ways to occupy herself, to somehow use up that energy borne out of grief. And taking over the allotment had been one way of doing that.

First had been the challenge of just getting to grips with the space. Previously, her involvement had only been using what David had grown and cooking the produce. So her first days here had been a steep learning curve.

As she gradually learned her way around growing, pruning and everything, she fell on another challenge. To see if she could do better than her late husband. She smiled to herself. If anything, she felt closer to David here than she ever had at home.

Now she felt so alive. Amanda turned her face to the sun, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. Opening her eyes again, she turned to Tony. 'Fancy a cuppa?' she asked, indicating the flask on the bench.

Tony nodded and they sat on the old bench. It was right by the shed, so they could lean back in comfort. Cradling their mugs, they gazed around in silence for a moment. It was a comfortable silence.

Breaking the silence after a moment, Amanda said, 'Tony.' She pause again, then resumed. 'What do you think my chances are?'

Tony looked at her, puzzled. 'Chances?'

'Of winning the vegetable competition next month.' Amanda's voice was serene, but there was a nervousness in her eyes.

Tony sucked in his cheeks, then blew the air out slowly. He took a thoughtful sip of tea. 'Well,' he began. 'I'd say your onions are a marvel. Put mine to shame they do. Same goes for your potatoes. As for you strawberries - well!'

'Stop it,' Amanda laughed. 'You're embarrassing me. I mean, you've only gone and won 1st prize the past two years running. Where as I am only having a go. A tribute to David, if you like.'

Tony fingered the mint that grew wild by the shed. Its fragrant scent mingled with the other herbs that grew anyhow and in proliferation. He smiled at Amanda. 'It's a lovely sentiment.' He thought of the many times he had sat here with David, discussing gardening or just putting the world to rights. It had been a simple, uncomplicated, genuine friendship. He missed his old friend very much. 'I'd say your chances of winning are very good indeed,' he added.

Amanda realised she had been holding her breath. She let it out and relaxed. Leaning her head back and thought, yes!!! Out loud, she said, 'Do you ever feel David is right here with us? I frequently do.'

Tony nodded. 'He loved his allotment so.' Tony also thought that his situation wasn't as bad as Amanda's He'd been divorced for over three years now. His ex was still out there. She'd moved on. Perhaps he, Tony, should move on too.

Drinking his tea, Tony stole a look at Amanda, who was now gazing across the allotments, a faraway look in her eyes. Her hair was shining like burnished copper. Just then, she reached up and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, leaving a smudge of earth on her cheek as she did so. It made Tony look at her again. She was really most attractive, he realised suddenly. And for the first time, Tony felt the first faint stirrings of something towards her.

Amanda was saying something. 'Sorry, what was that?' Tony asked. He hoped his face had given nothing away.

'It's only a game,' she said, gesturing with her hand across her patch. 'To see if I could beat you all in the competition, where dear David never could.'

Accepting another cup of tea, Tony asked, 'So, what's your secret?'

'Secret?'

'Yes. David once told me you were no gardener. All fingers and thumbs. Cooking yes, but not gardening. Yet in a few short months, you've achieved all this. We're all curious.'

Amanda looked over at Tony's plot, next but one to hers, His crops were looking almost as good as her. But only almost, she thought to herself and smiled inwardly. Spreading her arms wide, she said, 'Maybe I do have a talent for growing things after all.'

'Beginners luck, you mean?'

'Something like that, I suppose.' Just think, all those years, I left the growing to David. I never took the slightest bit on interest. And look at me now.' Amanda smiled a disarming smile at Tony. Again, he felt that stirring. Not quite so faint now. And for the first time, Tony wondered what his chances would be with Amanda.

But as Tony looked at Amanda, she stood up, brushing a leaf off her trousers. Bending over, she pulled up a weed and threw it in a trug with the other unwanted bits. Two other allotment holders walked past and they all chorused their "hello's" to each other.

The sun was a little lower now, still not. Tony fanned himself with his battered old straw hat. Amanda started hoeing. Lost on her thoughts, she was unaware of Tony's gaze. She was thinking of David, how he'd loved this place. She wondered of her husband would approve of what she was doing and how she'd done it. And suddenly she felt he would very much approve indeed.

Tony stood up, his feet crunching on the gravel path. Amanda looked up, slightly startled. She had been totally lost in her thoughts. 'I really should be going,' Tony smiled. 'Thanks for the tea.'

'Thank you too,' said Amanda. 'Stop by and chat, any time.'

'Anytime' Tony repeated. On a sudden whim, he asked, 'Amanda, do you fancy a drink and a bit to eat over at the pub?' He nodded over at the "Fox and Hounds", just over the road.

Startled, Amanda straightened up. 'Well, yes, why not?' she replied. 'Just let me tidy up here first, then I'll join you. Okay?'

Tony nodded. 'I'll do the same.' He walked back to his own allotment,a definite spring in his step.

Amanda watched, laughing a little to herself. She picked up her tools and took them into her little potting shed. It was very hot in there, but Amanda still closed the door. She kept it very neat and tidy, something her husband had never managed.

Satisfied, Amanda went over to the corner shelf. furthest away from both the window and the door. From behind a tub of tomato feed, she took out an anonymous looking tub, with no labelling on it.

Amanda handled it gently, reverently. It was nearly empty now. She stood there for a moment, lost in thought. She then turned and looked through the grimy window at her allotments with its huge fruit and vegetables. As she did so, she laughed out loud.

Carefully placing the tub back on the shelf. Amanda went out, carefully locking her shed behind her. Tony was standing there, waiting for her. Pocketing the key, Amanda walked forward.

She was thinking of her husband and his ashes that she had been using as a fertiliser.

© 2017 Alice Dancer

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