Ghosts and Other Lovers

Ghosts and Other Lovers by Lisa Tuttle

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Authors: Lisa Tuttle
busy in the kitchen when I arrived, so it was Howard who took me outside to show me around. Inside the walled garden it was very beautiful and peaceful. I could hear birds, distantly, and the wind in the pines. The air was blueing toward night. I looked around and made polite, admiring noises at whatever Howard pointed out, but I wasn't paying attention to him and hardly heard a word he said. I was far too tense, vibrating inside and out, my nerves and senses all unnaturally sharpened and focused on this moment to which, it seemed, my whole life had been leading. Only one thing mattered. What I was looking for -- and praying not to see -- was a little girl in pink pajamas.
    She didn't come. Yet I couldn't relax. I kept waiting. And when Howard led me back indoors, I don't know if I was more relieved or disappointed. What a joke, if the little girl I had been had seen me with my sister's husband! What a bitter joke, when I had believed I was seeing true love, if I had built my whole life around a misunderstanding.
    I must have been a terrible guest that night. I felt such a sense of loss and such undirected bitterness that I couldn't stop brooding. And halfway through the dinner I could not taste I was suddenly struck by a new fear: did Jean know? Might she guess? Had she recognized the garden? Would she say something? I waited in torment.
    But, of course, she didn't know. She had probably entirely forgotten the garden fantasy. Years had passed since that last, bitter conversation about it. It was my experience, not hers. It had never been hers. Of course she didn't remember. At least, I hoped she didn't. I couldn't be sure, because I couldn't ask her without reminding her -- and I didn't want that. If it was forgotten, please let it stay forgotten. At any rate, she didn't say anything that night or on future nights.
    For there were future nights, despite such a nearly disastrous beginning. I made sure of that. I made friends with Jean and was often invited to dinner. Jean liked giving dinner parties and I became a regular guest. Sometimes I brought a boyfriend, and sometimes she would invite a man for me to meet. I encouraged that, although I never admitted how important it was to me. After the initial shock, I had my faith back again, more strongly than before. I had found the garden I had been looking for. Now, all I had to do was to wait for the right moment to come around again.
    I had made a few wrong assumptions, I could see that now. I had imagined that the garden must be mine, or my lover's -- but why should that be? It was just a place, after all; a place where anything might happen; a place where something special would happen when two times of my life overlapped. I might not meet him there for the first time, but in that garden I would recognize the man who had been meant for me.
    Three years passed, and I was not unhappy. Jean and I became friends and shared many things -- although I never risked telling her about the garden. She was already playing her part. I began to like Howard better, seeing how happy he made my sister. He wasn't as bad as I had thought, or maybe life with Jean had improved him. And he liked me and flirted with me in a way I enjoyed. I flirted back, meaning nothing by it.
    And then, finally, my time in the garden came around again. It was a dinner-party night: Jean and Howard, a couple of neighbors, a junior partner from Howard's firm and his wife, me and Jonathan. Jonathan was a man I had recently met and been out with twice. We hadn't so much as kissed yet -- maybe we never would. By that time I had developed quite a strong superstition about the garden and liked to bring men there who were still basically unknown to me, before anything had happened. Howard teased me about all my boyfriends; Jean defended my right to be choosy, praised my good sense in not settling for anything less than exactly what I wanted. I had a few affairs, but I couldn't really, entirely believe in a relationship

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