The sound of footsteps on the gravel path made him look up. The Gatekeeper was approaching.
"Good morning, Gatekeeper. I hope you like the garden. I'm just planning some bulbs for the spring. Should be a blaze of colour."
The Gatekeeper seemed pre-occupied."Gardener, I need to talk to you," he said, the beginnings of a stern expression forming on his face.
"Is there something wrong?"
"No. Well, not really. The garden is beautiful. It's much better than I could have hoped. How long have you been here?"
"It's difficult to tell, Gatekeeper. But this will be fifth time I've done a winter planting-out, if that helps."
"You've truly put your heart and soul into this. But I can tell that there is something you're missing."
The Gardener looked down at the neatly-mowed lawn. His words came slowly."You're right, Gatekeeper. I love this little patch, and you've been very generous. But sometimes I wish I could share all of this..."
"I think I know what you mean," said the Gatekeeper. He was thinking. Then he raised his head and looked the Gardener in the eyes. He spoke softly, almost a whisper. "I think it's time, you know."
Months later and the garden was a blaze of colour. Each bed was planned to perfection, every pot a riot of colour. The Gatekeeper was unsurprised; this was another triumph for the Gardener. But he could tell that there was something extra at play.
The Gardener's dwelling, now that was a different matter altogether. The Gatekeeper hadn't really noticed this place before, but he found himself drawn to it now. It had been somehow transformed. He couldn't really put his finger on it, but it was a home now, not just a place for living in.
The Gatekeeper was sitting on a long sofa. French windows opened out into the garden, a gentle breeze moving the apple tree branches to and fro. He could hear the trickling of a water-course, while the smell of baking wafted in from the kitchen. It was almost as if the garden and the house complemented each other. He looked around. There was an armchair next to the fireplace, knitting patterns and balls of wool strewn across it. Quite the largest aspidistra he had ever seen nestled in a blue and white pot in the corner, while a herd of small china hedgehogs marched steadily across the mantelpiece.
"Another cup of tea, Gatekeeper?" asked the Gardener's wife from the small kitchen.
"No thank you madam." Secretly he was hoping that another jar of pickled onions was coming his way, but he didn't want to press matters. "Are you settling in well?"
She bustled in through the doorway, drying her hands on a small towel."Oh yes," she said, "I've never been so busy." She motioned to the garden. "He thinks he knows it all, but every now and then he needs a little supervision. Plus his cardigans were were getting a little worn at the elbows. There's always something that needs doing." She chuckled to herself.
"The garden does look lovely."
"Oh, I know. All the colours. Reds, blues, yellows. I never thought I'd be able to see them like this again. It's been wonderful, you know. Just how I rememebred it."
The Gatekeeper leant back and regarded the Gardener's wife. "You know, madam, in my line of work I get to meet lots of people. Scientists, mathematicians, people of logic. If you were to ask them what one plus one comes to, they'd say it was two. But seeing you and the Gardener together, I'm not so sure any more."
Her eyes shone brightly as she replied. "Yes. Sometimes, one and one are worth more than that."
"Just one question, though. Why have you got the number 198 on the front door?"
She grinned. "Ah. I can explain that. You might think you know everything there is to know about paradise, Gatekeeper. But me and Alf, we'd been perfecting this for quite a while."
"That makes sense," said the Gatekeeper. He noticed her looking intently at him. "What's the matter?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm just trying to figure out if you're a 42-inch waist or a 44-inch. I've got this spare wool, you see, Gatekeeper. I think you'd look quite smashing in a nice cable-knit."
In loving memory of Edith Sawyer, 1917-2012. Enjoy the colours, Nan. Hoping you and Granddad are planning the spring bulbs together once again.