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Two Roses, Two Loves
for Jannie - February 14, 1997

In the days when fairytales were more than tales told by fairies, there lived a beautiful, young and happy woman. She lived with her parents who cared deeply for her.

One day, the woman met a man. He was immediately struck by her beauty, and in that moment he vowed to take her away. And this he did.

The woman was taken far away from her family, to live in an old castle that stood on a hill fronting a never-ending valley.

The man was, mostly, a caring man and he provided for her. For a time they lived there together happily. But the woman was young and unknowing and the man was the first to ever say he loved her. She was naive and unaware of the path that lay ahead of her.

Within time, the man became somewhat indifferent towards the woman, and the woman began to worry about their future together. She strived to rekindle what they once had, but no matter how hard she tried, things seemed to be out of her hands. She became fearful that the man's heart was not with her. In time, she was sure of it. The woman became feverish and began to feel deeply ill, within days she was bed ridden. No one could find a cause or cure for her ailment, and for several weeks they feared the woman would pass on. One dark evening as she lay in bed, she was suddenly struck with blindness. In the few days that followed, the woman miraculously returned to good health but was told that she would never see again.

In the months that came, the woman struggled to adjust to her blindness and to find some direction in her life. The man was increasingly annoyed with the woman's frustrations and he became very controlling of her. She was overcome with grief until one night she had a dream. In the dream she saw a great garden, more beautiful than anything she had ever imagined. And in the dream she felt content and happy. She awoke suddenly to find tears running down her face.

For years she continued to live with the man, though they grew more distant. In this absence, she took up tending a garden in the valley behind the castle. Here she spent most of her waking hours, content and adamant to follow her dream.

In her favourite area of the garden she had grown rose bushes. Where from each morning, the woman would pick a single rose to place in her soft hair.

Her garden grew with astonishing speed and eventually began to spread throughout the valley beyond the castle. The flowers bloomed with exceptional beauty, except for one rose bush that had died shortly after its first blossoming. The sky would shine bright with sunlight when the woman worked in her garden. This she would do until the man returned home for the day, when she would leave her garden to tend to him as she was expected to. Then as she entered the castle, the sky would almost immediately darken and cloud over. In the evenings, it would often rain late into the night.

For many years the woman continued to tend her garden, which by now, had grown uncontrollably far off into the distant valley.

Often the man, who had grown tired of the woman, would sternly demand that she end her obsession. "It's ludicrous, let go of this fantasy and get on with your life!" he would say.

The woman, believing there was still something missing in her life and that her garden was the only hope in finding it, would somehow find the strength to refuse him and carried on with her work.

Becoming more and more withdrawn and distant the woman grew silent and saddened, but still refused to give up her dream. The man tolerated her presence, but it was clear that he had given up on what he had first found in her.

One morning as the woman worked in her garden, she heard a quiet voice in the distance. She could not make out what the voice was saying, but she found herself intently listening while she worked.

The following day, in the late afternoon, the voice came to her again. She stood and walked in the direction of the voice. The garden narrowed to a path which she followed for almost an hour. As she walked, the voice grew louder, but never enough for her to make out the words. Growing tired, she returned to the castle.

The woman arrived to find the man standing in the doorway, angered and anxiously waiting for her. "I'm sorry," she said, "I found a path in the garden and I followed it but it does not seem to end. Do you know where it leads?" she asked.

"Don't be so foolish," the man said, "it's the road to nowhere."

The woman quietly dismissed the man's thought and went to prepare his evening meal.

The following morning, the woman went to the garden and immediately headed towards the path. As she did, the voice came to her, as though it were encouraging her to continue. She followed the path for a couple hours and still could find nothing. She feared upsetting the man again, so she returned quickly.

For many weeks the woman followed the path, always rushing to return to the castle before the man. Though, each day she would become more anxious and journey further along the path. The further she travelled, the louder the voice became, and the more beautiful the flowers along the path would smell. But never could she make out the voice in the distance.

The woman knew that sometimes the man would go away for several days. If only the man would take another of these trips soon, she kept wishing. And sure enough, one morning he did just that. The woman was excited and sure this would be her chance to find the end of the path she had travelled so many times.

As soon as the man left she rushed to the path, stopping only to pick a rose for her hair. And with a smile she hurried along. For three days the woman continued walking, without food or rest. She grew weak and lacking the strength to continue fell to the ground exhausted.

She awoke, several days later, in a strange bed with an older woman sitting nearby. "Goodness gracious," the woman said, "we were afraid you wouldn't come out of it."

The man, who had been looking out a window at the other end of the room, turned towards her and shouted, "What were you thinking, going out like that without telling anyone! This has to end!"

The older woman escorted the man from the room and the woman was left alone to sleep. She awoke late that evening and, fearing the man's continued anger, dressed and climbed out the window.

Still hoping to find some answers, the woman wandered aimlessly, stopping anyone she encountered. To an elderly man, she asked "Sir, do you know of the path behind the old castle? Do you know where it leads?"

"Don't waste your time," the old man grumbled, "it's the road of a thousand lies." A woman she bumped into later replied, "It's the path of despair, honey, don't go there."

All of the people she met seemed lonely, angered, and withered... "It's the path of never-ending pain", "The path of broken dreams", "The path of hopelessness" were the things she heard.

The woman grew discouraged and returned to the man, who was further angered by her disappearance, "Where have you been!" the man scolded.

"I went to ask others about the path." she answered.

"Do as I tell you! Give up this foolish obsession! I have had enough and I forbid you to speak to anyone or to leave the garden again!" he shouted.

The woman kept silent and headed to bed, crying inside, fearful to show him her hurting.

She awoke the next morning and went to her garden, as she had done each morning for many years. But this morning she was deeply saddened by the discontenting answers she had received from her enquiries about the path.

She reached to pick a rose and was startled when she pricked her finger on a thorn. Suddenly, the woman began crying uncontrollably and turned and fell to her knees, head in hands. As she cried, tears rolled from her face onto the dead rose bush that was before her amongst the others. She continued crying for what seemed to her like never-ending days. And then she heard the voice again. As she listened, her tears continued to fall upon the branches of the dead bush and magically a small rose bud appeared there and began to open. As it did, the voice became clear enough for her to hear one word...

"Believe." the voice said.

She reached forward and, unknowingly, picked the special rose and placed it in her hair. She stood and headed to the path, but to her surprise the man had built a fence at its entrance. Furiously, she kicked at it until finally it fell to the ground. With tears still falling from her face she continued on.

As she walked along the path, the voice become louder and clearer almost to the point of recognition. But the woman became fearful of what lay ahead and again fell to the ground. For a moment she cried, but then spoke loudly, "I believe!" With that said, she gathered the strength to stand again and walked forward.

After only a few minutes of walking she came to a bridge, and as she crossed it she was startled to find her sight returning. By the time she had reached the end of the bridge, her sight had returned completely and she found herself overwhelmed at what she saw before her.

She had entered a circular garden filled with flowers, more glorious than anything she had ever imagined or smelt. The garden was spectacularly lit by the sun which shone directly from above, and from every direction she could see paths that led to the garden, hundreds of thousands of them. On these paths she could see people walking or rushing either towards or away from the garden where she now stood.

So enticed by the beauty before her, the woman almost did not notice that the voice she had heard for so long was now clear. She followed it to the center of the garden where she found a man kneeling on one knee.

She listened intently, but found that though she could now hear the words, they made no sense to her. Each time the man spoke, he turned to face a new path and with each path his voice would change. But still the woman could not understand what was being said. While she listened, the man continued turning from path to path until finally he turned towards her. "Welcome," the man spoke, "I've been expecting you."

"Who are you?" she asked, "And what is this place?"

"This is the Garden of Everlasting and I... Well, some call me Cupid or even Romance, others call me Attraction or Valentine. To each person I am someone different and each hears me in a different way."

For a moment the man paused and laughed to himself, "To those who are blind to my existence, to them, I am called Misery. These people hear nothing. But, for those who have the strength and belief to find me, to these, like you, I am The Keeper Of True Love."

"Why, when I searched the path for so many years, did I never find anything? And then this day, in only a few minutes, I arrive here?" the woman asked.

"The path has many directions and all of them are hidden." he began, "If you chose your direction blindly your path may have no end, as yours began. Until you believe with all your heart, the path is never ending and True Love can never be found. But the direction of the true path is chosen by your heart and you must find the strength to follow it. If you choose not to believe, you may never find your way. In the desperation of the search, people often become lost forever or blinded, as you were. But I tell you now that there is a place for everyone in The Garden Of Everlasting, and True Love, for each who has the belief and strength to look."

"And you, what of your True Love?" said the woman.

"I, too, am a believer. Like you, my path led me here alone. In the absence of my own True Love, I chose to help others find their way. In time, I forgot how to see and I became blind. I once had a dream as you did, and in my dream there was a beautiful woman, whose face I will always remember. In the dream she gave me a special rose, and I have kept that rose in my heart for all time. But my path ended here, long ago."

At that moment, a second man appeared beside the first and he began to speak. "Your time here is done." he said, "Your path did not end when you arrived here, it goes on."

"But, my sight?" the man asked, "I am blinded."

"Open your eyes," the second man said, "you have been blinded, not by sight, but by your choice to help others find their way."

He did so, and as he lifted his face, his vision cleared and before him he saw the woman. "It was you." he said, "You were the woman in my dreams."

The woman reached to her hair and took the rose from its place. "And this is the rose I gave you." she said softly.

The man stood from his place at the center of the garden and walked to the woman. They embraced.

Concerned, the man turned to the other man, "But what of my place here? What will happen if I leave?" he asked.

The second man knelt to the ground and smiled. "Your path lies ahead, and now is your time to follow it." At that moment, the garden changed and a single path appeared at one end.

As the man and woman walked hand in hand towards their new path, The Keeper Of True Love turned towards them and spoke softly...

"Two roses, two loves... united as one, forever."

- The End  -

© 1997 dhomas trenn