Lisa removed the keys from her pocket and tried the “S” key once more. The lock turned, but as the gate swung silently open, the key vanished.
Bending down, she examined the lock. The key had simply disappeared into the keyhole as the gate swung open. She walked through and, once again, saw the path before her.
She kicked off her shoes. They were beyond repair. The grass was soft and warm to her toes, yet the air felt chilly. She pulled her fur tighter and continued up the narrow path.
Soon, the path twisted through another garden. This garden was sparse, only bits of grass, juniper and pine. Rock and stone. Everything hard and barren. There was a gate, similar to the previous, but this time with an “R” carved in its center.
She inserted the “R” key. Nothing.
“Okay. What now?”
She looked about the garden and noticed a large picture frame leaning against a pine. Fully six feet tall, it was made of dark, ornately carved wood, but empty within its beautiful frame. She reached out, passing her hand through its center to be sure.
Walking slowly, her mind raced as she surveyed the new garden. What was happening here? Was this a test? She expected to see Maggie. Or another bench. But there was nothing, save this bare frame.
She returned to the frame and now, saw Dallas gazing up at her in its reflection. She spun about. Maggie and Dallas stood behind her.
“What do you see?” Maggie asked.
“I-I don’t know. Nothing was there when I first looked. Only an empty frame. Then, Dallas was in the reflection.”
“Is it real? Are you real with those you love?” Maggie asked.
“Nothing is real here! You tell me. None of this is real, is it?”
“There are many real things that cannot be seen. There’s an entire world we cannot yet see. Can you see love? Pain? Are you real?”
“Of course, I’m real. I have a husband. A daughter. Two sons. I love them very much!”
“Come with me. Look in here.” Maggie led her to a new frame.
There were now four more frames in the garden. Lisa didn’t even try to explain they’d not been there earlier. She merely obeyed Maggie’s instruction.
“That’s my family.” She looked into the first frame. “Tiffany’s decorating a cake. Edison’s playing pool with Christian. And Mason. He’s only five. He thinks he’s hiding under that table sharing the icing bowl with our dog, Penny.”
“Where are you, dear?”
“I’m not there. I’m at the club… a planning meeting, I think.”
Lisa watched as the glass faded. She reached out, but only touched the void within.
“Come.” Maggie guided her to the next frame.
“That’s Belle Chere Country Club. I’m meeting my girlfriends for lunch.”
“Who’s crying in the lady’s room?”
“Someone said something about her clothes, and you only laughed in agreement, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t think she’d heard what was said.” Lisa watched as the picture faded to nothing, an empty frame left leaning against a juniper.
“Look here, dear.” Maggie brought Lisa to the next frame.
“Those are my parents and their friends, the Harrisons. They’ve met for dinner once a week for nearly twenty-five years. Are tears in their eyes? What are those pictures they’re looking at?” Lisa asked, as it, too, faded to nothing.
“Come.” Ignoring her question, Maggie and Dallas made their way to the last frame.
“Oh, my goodness. That’s my brother, Mike. He was four when…,” Lisa paused, pain in her voice.
“When… what, Lisa?” Maggie gently asked.
“When I let him die.”
To be continued . . .
Until next time. Be sweet.