by Josh T. Alto
A boy creates a fantasy world and falls in love with a girl. Can fantasy become reality?
|The secret garden behind the old door, a place where he could be alone whenever he wanted, a green spot in the middle of the city but well hidden from eager looks. It started there, sitting in a far-off corner with his back against the stones of the garden wall. As a child he often sat there after he finished his homework, waiting for his father to come home.
The garden itself existed only in his fantasy; he never entered it physically. No one ever opened the old door on the basement floor, there were not any keys either; at least not that he had seen. He sometimes wondered why the door looked so much older than the rest of the house but he could not find any reasonable explanation. It was just an old door that did not lead to anywhere.
But when he was a child, daydreaming at his desk, it made him create a fantasy world behind that door, trees edging the garden walls, a colorful meadow with lots of daisies and a tiny stream running through the middle of the garden; he could even hear the water gurgle. Faraway in the distance there were some other trees and even mountains, which somehow made the whole garden even more unrealistic; there were not any mountains nearby, not even a small elevation.
In the beginning he pictured himself standing up, walking to the door, opening it and entering the garden, but later it was enough to close his eyes and he was there immediately. He had already known his garden for some years when renovations on the house began. Parts of the basement floor were rebuilt, and he was not sure anymore whether the door still existed, but it did not really matter; the garden in his fantasy could not be taken away.
After some time he even imagined a watermill there, stretching over the small stream that flowed through the garden, as the wheel turned round slowly, sunshine glittering on the water drops falling back into the stream. One day, to his astonishment, he glimpsed a little girl sitting in the grass on the other side of the stream. He did not know how she could come there; he expected no one ever would find his garden.
First he thought he had fancied her as well, otherwise she could not appear from nowhere but he never meant to let anyone enter there. The whole garden was something more private, nothing for other people. But she sat there in the grass. He watched her carefully and tried to figure out what she was doing. First he thought she was writing but later he learned to accept that she probably was drawing or painting. From that day on she sat there quite often so he got used to her finally.
She had nice long hair, shining in the color of the straw in august when it’s been gathered from the fields and piled in huge stacks near the stalls. He often saw them when he visited his grandfather in the country. Having been there in the summer he could stand hours at the edge of the sunlit cornfields and watch the corn ears bowing in the soft wind.
As he was quite sure the girl existed only in his fantasy along with the whole garden, the stream and the watermill, he was totally astonished when the girl one day waved her hand at him. He was so surprised that he even waved back at her. Then she smiled the most beautiful smile he had ever seen; a smile like the first rays of the sun over endless cornfields, as he later remembered, and disappeared behind the watermill. Seeing her there almost everyday, set his fantasy afloat and made him speculate a lot. Could it be possible that she lived there in the mill?
It was true that he had pictured the watermill only a few weeks before when he thought the stream looked too sad, as if something had been missing there. Maybe it was not him at all who brought the watermill into the garden, maybe it was always there but he only was not able to see it before. Maybe its inhabitants wanted to hide it away from his eyes. He sometimes wondered how it was to have an invisible house somewhere around, it would make the whole garden more mysterious and he was very satisfied when he discovered the mill.
Day after day they only sat there, he on his rock with his back to the garden wall, trying to write a poem or only watching the flowers of the meadow or listening to the birds twittering; and she on the other side of the stream painting or drawing on her paper, looking up from time to time to have a look at the stream or the trees near the garden wall. They waved at each other when coming or going but they never went nearer, as if they were afraid that the whole garden would disappear when they did, and they would lose each other forever.
Sometimes he wondered what his parents would say when they got to know his secret, that their son spends most of his afternoons together with a girl, in a garden that does not exist, but they never did. As the years passed by he spent less and less time in the garden, there were certainly his studies but also his interest that shifted from his fantasy world to more realistic things. He grew up and became more like his parents. He did not even notice that after a while he had almost totally forgotten the garden. Sometimes when seeing a similar landscape on TV or meeting a girl with long blond hair and a beautiful smile, he thoroughly ransacked his memories trying to find the place and time it reminded him of.
He always wanted to write about his garden but he never did it. Sitting there, everything was so obvious that he could not write anything about it, and later the whole garden seemed so unrealistic that he could not find words again.
So it happened one day that, while walking through the city park, he saw a girl among the young artists sitting on the square and making drawings of tourists, whom he could not take his eyes off. She looked like the one from his fantasy, the girl from his secret garden, whom he had almost forgotten by then.
He went up to her, let her make a portrait of him and they started talking. They met later that evening and walked there in the park under hundred year old trees, talking about things they had never thought they ever would tell to anyone, as if they had known each other since long before. Though, he never talked to her about the secret garden, he didn’t want her think he was a daydreamer, chasing a mirage. It even turned out that they lived in the same block of flats, though their entrances were on parallel streets, that’s why they had never met earlier, they even attended different schools.
Once she invited him into her home because she wanted to show him some parts of their house. Beside the entrance door there was a plaque commemorating the old mill that stood there over a hundred years but was demolished when the new town houses were built. He had heard talking about the old mill in his district but he did not know it had been so near. It was even said to be haunted by ghosts for years after having been left there deserted before it was finally pulled down, and he sometimes imagined the mill with its glassless windows faintly illuminating in the dark.
When they entered the house he already had a funny feeling as if he had been there before and as they passed by an old door on the basement floor he suddenly remained rooted to the spot. It was the same old door as the one he had at home, even the old lock looked similar, as if they were the two sides of the same door. When he could speak again he asked her where the door led. “It’s the door to my secret garden” – she said and smiled at him. He could remember clearly that smile; it was like the endless cornfields of his memories lit by the first rays of the rising sun.
(Word count 1,415)