Her name was Laurel Rose Thornberry, a veritable treasure trove of flora. She always wore flowers in her hair and an almost endless array of buttercup print blouses. In fact, there wasn’t a day went by without her dressing in some kind of resplendent petal orientated wardrobe.
One day, when I was feeling particularly brave, for speaking to girls was never my forte, and she was so pretty as to make my mouth work even less well than normal, I plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date.
A private school seemed never private enough for me, but smiling my most convincing look of self-confidence, I gathered my courage and asked, “Excuse me, Laurel, but I was wondering if I might be allowed to accompany you on a once around the gardens? My father is the groundskeeper here, it’s how I gained admittance, and although students aren’t allowed off premises, I believe I might be able to swing it.” Laurels look of absolute joy was worth the collywobbles it induced. Her simple Yes even more so.
I collected her from the rear gate, the one that separated the boys’ and girls’ dormitories, offered her my arm in a very refined manner, and led her into the grounds.
The Oxley Estate, that which our school was situated within, was one of rolling green, unkempt meadows and highly decorative intervals of exquisite green-fingered detail. The mixture of wilderness and manicured perfection was one of subtle brilliance. Laurel loved it. Her beaming smile never once left her face. Her eyes blazed in constant wonder, fingers trembled with excitement. I felt like the king of the world.
When we returned to the rather less natural comforts of the school grounds themselves, Laurel spoke for the first time. I had not dared spoil the happiest moments of my life with inane babble, so had waited for her. She had not been willing to speak either. It had altered nothing of our enjoyment, our mutual appreciation of the beauty nature possessed, so I hadn’t cared.
“Am I so boring as to not merit discussion?” she asked.
“N… N… Not at all,” I stammered. “You looked so happy, I did not want to spoil your enjoyment.”
“I was not smiling at the gardens.”
“Then, what?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“I smiled because of you, as I frown now for the selfsame reason.”
“But you didn’t even know me before today. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for you to be in a position to smile about me.”
“I smiled because I feel I have always known you.”
“But I am nothing special. I’m shy, nervous, not much to look at, in fact, I would have said half the boys in the school would be superior to me.”
“I would not.”
“Thank you,” I said, but still suspected she played some trick.
“If we walked some other time, would you tell me of your life?”
“Of course, Laurel, though there isn’t much to tell.”
“Must you always be so self-deprecating?”
“It is in my nature. I can’t help it. Until today, I was all the things I have already spoken of and unhappy to boot. Now, I am all the things I have spoken of, but euphoric. These have been the best hours of my life and everything up to now seems even less worthy of discussion.”
“And yet you ask why I would wish to talk to you after that?”
“I don’t understand?”
“You will one day.”
“Will you be there on that day?”
“Of course, I shall be the one explaining it.”
And that was how Laurel Rose Thornberry and I first met. That was how natural beauty entered my world, and with it happiness.
I do hope it offers some explanation for my actions. For you see, my children, you who are the readers of my final words, this is why I couldn’t go on. This is why I too had to leave you. The beauty of flowers had departed this life, my sunshine gone, and I did not wish to dwell in darkness alone.
Robert William Thornberry-Smyth.
Now, forever dwelling in that garden with your mother.