Contemporary Fiction Friendship

They hadn’t seen each other in thirty-five years. They had met when they were young and in love with two men who were good friends. Now, both those lovers were dead and they still lived. Corinna’s mind was filled with images of those days long ago. The immediacy of her friendship with Hensley went back to those youthful days of yesteryear. Their friendship had lasted all these years and been sustained through telephone and US Post exchanges. They enjoyed calling themselves pen-pals.

Now, here she was on her way by train along the Hudson River to visit her dear friend Hensley. The sounds of the train, the views from her window gliding along beside the river encouraged her heartfelt memories of those bygone days. She had never seen her friend’s house and garden except in photos exchanged via letters and cards. Once the internet brought email into their lives, they sometimes used that method of communication as well. However, out of their personal choices, they had been more committed to old school communications of telephone and handwritten letters with emails sandwiched between those handwritten letters and phone calls. When she planned what she called her Great Train Trip from the West Coast to the East Coast, she had spoken with Hensley who extended an invitation to come and visit in Woodstock. Corrina had been delighted to accept the invitation. She had no idea what a great visit it would be. She only knew she loved Hensley and wanted her companionship. She trusted Henz, her personal nickname for her friend, would understand her struggle at this time in her life.

After a few days staying with friends in New York city, she had boarded the train at Penn Station with her destination being Rhinecliff in upstate New York, the closest train station to Woodstock. Hensley had happily agreed to pick her up there. Corrina was so excited to see her friend once again. She had barely slept the night before. The train rocked her to sleep and she dreamed.

Corrina awoke with a start as the train slowed down. The porter announced the station, but it wasn’t hers.

“Next stop,” he announced, “Rhinecliff.”

That was her stop! She gathered her belongings together. It wasn’t long now.

The train pulled into Rhinecliff. She stretched and picked up her bags. As soon as she stepped off the train, she saw her sweet friend waving at her. They began walking toward each other as if in a dream. When they reached each other, Corrina dropped her bags and they engulfed each other in a giant hug as if to make up for all the missed hugs of years past.

Hensley pulled back from the hug first, “Oh, let me look at you. You are like a poem personified,” she said as she picked up one of Corrina’s bags, and continued in a rush, “Do you want to grab a bite here. It’s about a half an hour more or less to my house in Woodstock, where lunch awaits.”

Corrina smiled saying as they walked toward the parking lot, “Then onward, I want so much to be with you and see it all…and that lunch will be perfect.”

“Good. Onward it is, and here’s my car.”

They stowed Corrina’s two bags in the trunk.

“We’re on our way,” Hensley said joyfully as they pulled away from the train station.

The lush green of summer was all around them as they drove to Woodstock. They rode for a while in contented silence feeling the magical glow of once again actually being in one another’s presence.

Corinna broke the silence, “I’m so glad to be with you, Henz.”

“You know you are the only one alive now who calls me that. I love it. Ditto about being with you. Tell me about your trip so far. How has train travel treated you?”

“It’s been amazing. The mountains, plains, and rivers of this country gliding by. Seeing the backyards of small towns where houses are close to the tracks. Wondering about the lives inside those houses. Letting my imagination take flight.” Corrina paused. “And now this special and long overdue time with you is like the icing on a cake, to use a cliché, because it so fits!”

Hensley reached out and patted Corrina’s hand never taking her eyes off the road.

“It’s so green and alive here, Henz. I feel like it is healing me already.”

Hensley patted her hand again and then put both hands back on the wheel announcing, “Look here we are entering Woodstock. My house isn’t far on the other edge of the village.”

Minutes later, they turned off the main road onto the lane whose name Corrina knew so well from addressing letters to her friend. Then, Hensley slowed and turned the car onto a gravel drive of what looked to Corinna like a scene from the Land of Faery. She opened the car door and stood soaking it all into her mind. Photos would come later. The stone fronted house sat amidst a flower garden wildly bursting with color. House and garden were surrounded by a waist high stone wall with a stone archway where the garden gate invited entry.

“Oh, Henz, you built this wall yourself! It’s magnificent. Way more beautiful than the pictures you sent.”

“Thank you. I had some local help with the heavier pieces,” Hensley replied, as they collected the bags from the trunk. “Wait here. Explore the wall while I put the car away.”

“With pleasure,” Corrina answered. She pulled her camera from her handbag and photographed the garden gate below the arch leading into the garden showing the path leading to a bright red front door. Putting away the camera, she began to examine the wall more closely. It was filled with surprises. Here and there embedded into it were exquisite miniature sculptures of woodland creatures that she knew Hensley had made.

“That squirrel is one of my favorites,” Hensley said when she returned from putting the car into the garage detached from the house.

“It’s all truly magical, Henz, just magical…the wall, the sculptures, the garden, the house, all of it.”

“Thank you, but I must warn you. There’s a villain in this magical place.”

“No,” exclaimed Corrina.

“Yes, Lyme disease ticks. The little devils are in the plants. You can’t see them. I have to wear special gear when I work in the garden and always body check myself and shower afterward. A necessary but exhausting ordeal. So, this summer I decided to let it all go wild and just keep it trimmed clean away from the path to the door. So far, there’s been plenty of rain, so I don’t even have to water. It has attracted lots of bees and birds as well as those vicious ticks. Like life, the good with the bad, eh?”

Corrina nodded, receiving the reference to good and bad in life as a gift of understanding from her friend.  She noted the cleared path which cut a wide swath through the garden thick with fully blooming flowers like hollyhocks, cosmos, marigolds, and more she could not name. It looked like a massive bouquet. She stood transfixed by the beauty.

“Anyway,” Hensley continued, “just look, don’t touch…villains lurk just beyond the path which we must use to reach the steps leading up to the door. Do you like my red door?”

Corrina nodded and smiled at her friend.

Hensley swung open the gate and led the way carrying one of Corrina’s bags navigating the path keeping her body and Corrina’s bag from touching a single plant. Corrina followed carrying her other bag making sure neither herself nor her bag touched any plants.

Thus, began Corrina’s deep healing from the ocean of grief she had been dealing with since the death of her beloved parents about three months ago. They had died three weeks apart. Mom went first and Daddy trailed after her three weeks later. She had barely allowed herself to grieve at the time. So much to deal with, but now in this beautiful space with her caring and compassionate friend, she knew she could and would lean on the energy to be found here and that she would heal. Loving friendship was the best medicine for her heart’s pain. Only love could replace her loss. Henz offered that compassion freely in thought, word, and deed like she was offering shelter to a beloved weary traveler, and Corrina accepted gratefully. She intended to honor Henz’s gift of loving friendship and fully return it with the grace with which it was bestowed.

December 03, 2022 00:08

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