By Len A.Hynds

When I was feeling better, Helen my nurse would open the French windows of my private room and I would sit for hours looking at the flowers in that small garden. Helen knew that I didn't want visitors, but if unavoidable, the hospital had made me a mask which covered the frightening disfigurement of my face I had shuddered when I had first seen that mass of scarred and twisted flesh. Thank god I had been unconscious when that fire had burnt into my skin.

I had got over those initial operations, and was now in a rehabilitation hospital although what they could do for me was beyond my comprehension. They had spoken of skin grafts, but that would take years and years, and I had no wish to be seen by anybody. It would have been better if they had allowed me to die. As it was now, it was like a living death.

As the weather improved during the latter part of May, I walked out most days into that small garden, peering through a gap in the back hedge at the woods beyond with its carpet of bluebells and those marvellous wild primroses. As it progressed into June, I would sit for hours in the sunshine, reading or dozing, with Helen frequently checking on me or bringing me tea.

One day I heard subdued talking through the fence of the adjacent garden and asked Helen if the room next to mine was now occupied. She told me that a young woman in her mid twenties had just been transferred in. She had been caught in a fire and her face had been badly burnt. She was to undergo skin grafting as I was. From what Helen said, her disfigurement, poor girl, was worse than mine, and in a way I felt ashamed of my own frequent depths of misery, thinking how much harder to bear, it must be for a beautiful young girl.

It must have been a week later when I heard the young woman gently coughing on the other side if the fence, and guessed that she was sitting in the sun, reading as I was. I called out "Good Morning" and after some silence she answered me. I explained who I was, the patient next door, and we introduced ourselves. Her name was Penny, and we conversed most days during that long hot summer, and became friends, never once catching sight of each other.

All she ever saw of me was my arm passing over the fence a book or newspaper. I got to know so much about her, and I suppose she of me, and we both had similar fears for the future, of when we would be discharged from the hospital, and to have to face the world.

It was in the August that I first realised that I was becoming fond of young Penny, and our daily chats seemed to be of a more intimate nature, not of what we said to each other, but in the way that we spoke. In the early part of September rain kept us both in our rooms, but with the slightest good weather our friendship continued, and it was one day we were both sitting either side of that fence, when in a very high wind the fence began to creak ominously, and I leapt out of the way as it came crashing into my garden.

There she was, sitting there looking at me in amazement. I couldn't believe my eyes, they had all been so wrong. She was the most beautiful girl I think I had ever seen. She did not have a blemish on her face. I suddenly realised that my horrible face was uncovered, and put my hands up to cover it, but she said, "They have all been telling me lies, you are so handsome, exactly as I imagined you."

She walked into my garden and into my arms.

Handsome man and beautiful woman