I was bewitched from the moment I set eyes on you. Your long, slender trunk trailing past the bedroom window so that I had to lean out and take a closer look. I could see to the ends of the branches, brown and bushy, waiting to bud. ‘Let’s live here,’ I say as I sigh and watch you curl up into the sky. Stan didn’t see you the way I did. He liked to stay up late, watching television or listening to his music, while I went to bed with a good book. Now when I sit in bed in our new house I can tell I’m not alone. I watch the shadows rippling across the bedroom wall and I can barely keep my mind on the page. I’m becoming restless.
‘I swear that tree’s got bigger since we moved in,’ says Stan when he comes to bed. One of the branches stretches out like a hand, rattling at the window. ‘It needs cutting back,’ He says. ‘Oh no, Stan,’ I say. ‘Leave it!’ I think it’s wonderful is what I want to say. I feel as if there’s something about it that could sweep me up in its arms and carry me away … which is a sight more than you do. Before long Stan’s snoring and I start to drift, listening to a song from the tree. Isn’t it a bit late for birdsong? I start to ponder but not for long.
‘Rosehip tea! What’s this in aid of? You’re not on one of those diets are you?’ Stan says the next evening. ‘You don’t have to drink it,’ I tell him. I found it in one of those health food shops in the high street and I fancied trying it. Each to our own pleasures, I want to say. Instead I pass him a can of lager, ‘There are other ways to relax you know.’ He flops down into his chair and I know that’s it, another night over before it’s begun. When did the rot set in, I wonder? Who would have thought Stan and I used to go dancing together. We were never champions or anything but it was fun. He was a different fella back then. When he used to put his arm round my waist I let my imagination run away with me.
‘I’m not sure if the sort of man you’re after even exists,’ said Alison gloomily, after we had a heart-to-heart one day. ‘But don’t forget, you chose to marry him.’ She says that because she had to wed. They had a baby on the way but Stan and I could never have them.
Later when I go out into the garden I find myself tearing down one of the climbers, it’s a passion-flower though it’s all dried up now. Then I spot the ivy covering the wall, with its dark green tendrils. The garden’s overgrown I think but all it needs is a bit of tender loving care, and I’m glad it’s mine. I’d always fancied a bigger garden. I break a piece off from both of the plants and have a go at twining them together to create a hoop. The heads of the passion-flower still look pretty but I can see it’s in danger of looking like a bird’s nest until I find some winter flowering jasmine to give it some colour. Then I place it on my head. I tell myself, I’m having a bit of fun, playing at make-believe but I can if I want. Why can’t I be Titania, Queen of the Fairies, if I fancy? I wouldn’t mind an outfit to go with it, I giggle. What would Stan say if he saw me? I go back to the weeding but the spell’s not broken. I feel different somehow, exhilarated. Maybe it’s working outside that’s does it, getting close to nature, here I forget about everything else.
‘What’s happened to dinner?’ says Stan disappointed when six o’clock comes and I’m only just scrapping the mud off my boots. ‘And what’s that stupid thing on your head?’ I ignore him and carry on visiting the garden whenever I want. You could say it was the sap rising but I know something’s changing in me. I feel it in the house too, especially in the bedroom. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere, whatever the time of day and at night I stop drawing the curtains. I can see your silhouette. ‘What’s this? A bleeding peep show for the neighbours?’ says Stan but I won’t let him spoil it.
One night when Stan doesn’t come to bed I wake up and go downstairs. The telly’s not on but he’s gone to sleep, a collection of empty cans on the floor as he lays on the sofa. I decide not to try and wake him and instead, I go out into the garden. The crown I made is where I left it on the bench, far enough away from his scorn. I look up at you. ‘He’s given up,’ I say. He thinks his way’s right, he says we’re too old for being luvvy, dovey, as if there’s something wrong with it. As if there’s something wrong with me. Then I gasp as I see you and I gaze at those sinewy muscles holding you together. ‘I thought it was natural,’ I say. And I know you understand.
Then there it is, a tingling in my toes and the hush of rain starting to fall. But I’m sheltered here with you. I put my hands out to touch you and I can feel the bark of the wood while inside, your spine, holding a secret so divine. There’s no need to wait and I dive in and lie close to white flesh. ‘What about Stan?’ A thought creeps in. But it’s too late, any binds have gone and something far greater has opened up to me. I realise Alison was wrong and I wish I could tell her. ‘It’s not true, he does exist.’ I want to shout it from the roof tops and that’s when you take me up towards the bedroom window. For a moment I see in through the glass.
‘There’s no need to stay,’ I say. ‘Just keep going. ’I’ve never been so far. You seem to know what I want before I do and in no time at all we’re up on the roof. I can see the moon dripping its pale, liquid light over the tiles.
‘Do you know what you’ve done?’ I say and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. ‘You know it’s me, don’t you? I’m not really Titania, I’m more like Ginger Rodgers!’ I laugh and we start dancing, right there on the roof, and little white petals fall around my feet. ‘I’m confetti in your hands,’ I say and I laugh some more, and I know that I’m not going back. I’m staying here with you and I’m going to carry on dancing. If anyone should happen to look out they might spot two branches swaying in the breeze.
But there is no breeze.
It’s only our breath making its way through the tree.