Neela adored her garden. As a hardworking, middle aged, single woman, she would spend her Sundays gardening in her modest backyard, lovingly pruning, clipping, watering her plants, getting lost in the fragrances of the multicolored blooms.
Her favorites were the apricot color roses, planted in rows outside her fence; its intoxicating smell filling the air heavily in late summer evenings.
One evening, as Neela was pruning her plants, she noticed that several of her precious roses had been rudely cut. A sudden anger filled her and she felt violated. These plants belonged to her and it was on her property. How dare someone take her roses! She lived in a decent neighborhood, so was surprised that any of her neighbors would do that.
Sadness filled Neela’s heart and she went inside in her home. She did not have many friends. She had chosen a life of a fulfilling career, and had not the time to develop a relationship with anyone. Now, as she was in her mid-forties, she was often lonely on weekends since her friends were all married with children. Her parents and siblings lived on the East Coast and she would meet them mostly during the holidays.
The following weekend, Neela was in her window sipping hot tea when she caught a glimpse of someone outside her fence. She quickly ran outside to see who it was. There was a young boy with scissors who had a couple of roses in his hand and was in the act of cutting some more.
“Hey,” Neela yelled. “Those are my roses! You’re stealing!”
The little boy turned to her with a scared expression and bolted in the opposite direction. Neela decided to chase him, despite the fact that she was in her flip flops and pajamas. She had caught the boy red-handed!
The boy sprinted around the corner and entered a brick faced ranch house. The door was still open. Neela furiously rang the doorbell twice and stood impatiently in the doorway. After a few minutes, there appeared an attractive, middle aged man wearing an apron who appeared to have been cooking.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Suddenly Neela felt flustered. “There was a boy who came into this house. He stole some roses from my garden,” she replied.
The man’s face fell. “I am so sorry,” he said in a soft voice. “I didn’t realize those were from your garden. I thought it was from the neighborhood park. He’s my son. He cut those for my mother who is very sick. She’s blind and loves the smell of roses in her room. My son wanted to help cheer her up.”
Neela felt very embarrassed. She never imagined such a scenario.
He went on, “I am a widow and take care of my mother alone. It’s hard for me to keep a watch on him when he’s outside the house. I truly apologize.”
“Don’t worry,” Neela blurted out. “Your son can come by to my house and I will give him the roses myself. I would love to share my roses with someone who appreciates it. And if it helps your mother feel better, it’ll make me feel good too.”
The man looked at Neela with appreciation and put his hand forward. “I’m Sooraj,” he said with a wide smile.
“I’m Neela,” she said shyly.