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Thomas rose from his modest flower garden and wiped his filthy hands on his jeans. He stood there for a moment, his eyes lingering on the lush blossoms. A sense of accomplishment overcame him. Though the plot was humble, what it lacked in quantity, it was overly abundant in quality. The blooms were vibrant and full of life; the stems and leaves were rich and crisp. Even the dark earth was fresh and moist to the point that it caused his neighbors to envy his garden.
However, very few people knew the amount of blood, sweat and tears that had gone into perfecting his garden. He had prepared the foundation of the plot himself, choosing the strenuous task of double-digging rather than tilling the soil, which loosened the earth even further so that his precious blossoms wouldn’t struggle as they stretched out their roots. After planting the seedlings, Thomas had applied a thick layer of organic compost – ground leaves, banana peels, coffee grounds, and grass clippings – to ensure that the flowers would receive proper nutrition. Atop that, he deposited a thin coat of mulch to assist the soil in better retaining water. Thomas had even insisted on using an organic fertilizer that, as far as he knew, could not be found in stores. The price was dear, but he soon found it was well worth it.
The first time he laid his loving gaze on the pioneer stem that had broken free of the earth’s clutches, an overwhelming rush of joy seized him. He was sure that the feeling could never be surpassed. He was swiftly proven wrong the next day, however, when he was delighted to find that two more seedlings had followed closely behind the first. A childlike joy filled his life, one that he had desperately been seeking. Thomas was never late to tend to his plants. He was often caught singing to each blossom individually just as the morning light broke over the horizon and bathed his garden in an elegant radiance. At these times, even the dew droplets danced and shimmered like diamonds. It was breath-taking, and he never wanted it to end. Thomas kept his adoring stare glued to the graceful blooms, even as he heard a faint rustling behind him that soon turned into muffled footsteps.
“Thomas? Thomas Conner?”
As a momentary scowl of frustration passed over Thomas’s tender face, he reluctantly tore his eyes from his darling garden and turned around. To his surprise, he found himself face-to-face with his long-ago childhood friend.
“If it isn’t ol’ Roy Mather!” Thomas chuckled, moving in to greet his old friend with a hug.
“In the flesh,” Roy joked.
“What brings you back to this sleepy town, buddy?”
Roy tossed his hands into the air in mock defeat. “The wife insisted it was high time we came down here and visited the family. Women, eh?” A wily grin cut across his boyish features, but it was cut short. It was as if a storm cloud had passed over him, one which Thomas could neither see nor feel. “Speaking of... I heard about Tabitha—“
Thomas quickly cut him off, in no mood for an unannounced pity party. “She’s in a better place, Roy.”
Roy seemed uncertain. “I suppose so... I might complain a lot, but I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Carroll. As sad as it might sound, I don’t think I could properly function without my wife’s constant nagging.” He flashed a half-hearted smirk. Thomas placed a firm hand on his friend’s shoulder and squeezed tightly. The two stood there for a few minutes in silence, allowing the awkwardness to evaporate until Roy finally broke the quiet.
“Those sure are some mighty fine flowers, Tommy.”
Thomas couldn’t help but feel a sensation of pride. “Thanks buddy. They’re my babies.”
“Carroll and I – well, mostly Carroll – have been trying to grow our own flower garden for over a year now, but it seems we don’t exactly have green thumbs. Could you let me in on your secret? So I could pass it along to the wife, of course.” He beamed sheepishly.
“Just some good, old fashioned TLC,” Thomas mused, snickering at what appeared to be an inside joke.
Slightly confused, Roy thanked him and headed off, leaving the man giggling to himself.
“TLC,” Thomas repeated as he brushed some stray dirt off of a plaque at the base of his garden. “Isn’t that right, dear?”
He ran a dirty finger over the words inscribed. In loving memory of Tabitha L. Conner.