I smelled lavender again today.
Nigel would bring me lavender from his walks across the fields, throw his arms around my shoulders and smother me in a hug. Lavender: the scent that meant his absence, his return. He would never come back now. Instead the lavender’s perfume arrived, bidding me remember, remember.
I turned back to the dishes drying in the rack, but the mundane task held little appeal now. A breeze carried the aroma of the asters blooming outside the back door. On impulse, I dropped the towel and stepped out the back door. In a moment I was enveloped by the rich fragrance of the climbing honeysuckle and by the dazzling warmth of the midday sun. Its touch felt like the embrace of love.
I passed under the arch, where the white-spotted ivy twined, and limped over to my little herb garden. My mother always said my crooked leg would keep marriage out of reach. Nigel said he never minded. ‘I will always know you are home waiting for me.’ I tended the house well, waving him off when he rode away, patient until his return. I tended well.
Nigel always laughed at my attempts to domesticate ‘the wild,’ those unknown forests and streams where I could not follow him. I longed sometimes to go with him. He promised a carriage one day to take me down to the city so I could hear the Nightingale sing. He brought me lavender even though I told him it meant mistrust. The language of flowers was just advertising, he scolded, like Mrs Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound—and just as effective.
But my garden was my joy. The sage towered proudly and the basil plants waved, ready to season the pot. The mint threatened once more to burst beyond its careful hedging, and the leeks had shot up another inch over night. But in the center, my pride and joy, the lavender seemed to be multiplying as I watched. The scent was heavenly.
There are no roses though. Roses are simply for show. They don’t do anyone any good. Just look pretty. Nigel sometimes smelled of roses. I would stand in my garden and breathe in the lavender to chase the scent out of my nose. But the thoughts didn’t leave my heart. I did not like my Nigel coming home smelling of roses.
In a shady corner my belladonna grows. I made a special soup for him one night spiced with the shiny black berries. Nearly four feet tall this season. Last year it had barely survived—just goes to show what the right fertilizer can do. ‘And you won’t leave ever again, will you, Nigel