Someone once asked me how many plants there are in the world.
I think it was a freshman at Queen’s University when I first began teaching in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was a young bride then. I’d spent my childhood living on a farm near Charleston, South Carolina. The love of my life, John Lee, had taken me away from all that, and we settled into his family’s home.
It was a wonderful old house – dozens of rooms and an acre of land right in the heart of the city. The house had been in his family for generations. The first thing I did was to plant a tiny blue spruce tree in the tall foyer. John angered his parents by changing the house and putting in a skylight above it.
John wanted to be a Charlotte police officer. Nothing I could say would change his mind. He and his friend, Al, joined the police academy on the same day and were partners when they went out on the street.
It terrified me at first. Thinking about John dying in the street kept me up at night. His good humor about it only made it worse. I’d hoped when he made detective that it would help. It didn’t.
As time passed and our son, Paul, was born, the fear became something I learned to live with. It was always there in the back of my mind, but nothing terrible had happened. There were a few scrapes and sprains but nothing more than if John had been a construction worker.
When he was home and we were dreaming, we’d always talk about opening a garden shop. We both loved gardening, even though I was the botanist. He liked to help me with my ‘experiments’ as he called them. We planned to call the shop, The Potting Shed. We pictured ourselves being old and gray, selling peonies and azaleas, living out our lives together.
That time never came. John was killed while answering a domestic disturbance call. Al came to our front door to deliver the news in person. I thought my life was over too. To make matters worse, Paul, who had always wanted to be an architect, suddenly changed his mind and wanted to become a police officer.
We argued – battled – over his decision. I could tell by the look in his face that he wanted revenge against the mysterious man who had ended his father’s life. John’s killer was never found. I couldn’t stand the idea of losing my son too.
In the end, I had no choice. Children do what they want. No one can stop them. My father told me that when I left Charleston.
I took all of John’s pension fund and life insurance and invested into a garden shop in Charlotte and called it The Potting Shed. We should have done it while he was alive, I reasoned. It was what he would’ve wanted me to do.
It was expensive. I took on extra work at the university, becoming an expert in botanical poisons. Between running the shop and teaching, I hardly had a spare moment to myself.
And then HE came into my life.
I’d never even had a hamster when a 140-pound Great Dane decided that I was his rescuer. He needed rescuing, poor thing. He was nothing but skin and bones. He made my acquaintance and I fell in love – with him AND the man who healed him, Dr. Steve Newsome.
My life suddenly took a sideways shift and hasn’t looked back.
I still run The Potting Shed and I still teach botany sometimes. I also work as a contract forensic botanist, helping the police solve cases when they need to identify living matter like grass, flowers and soil.
I’m married again now – to Steve – and my first grandchild is on her way. I live a full life.
Sometimes I still look back and see John’s laughing eyes. Our blue spruce is thirty-feet tall now. Our dream, The Potting Shed, is successful. I still miss him sometimes late at night, my first love. But I’m grateful for my life and the people I share it with.
As for the answer that was posed to me so very long ago – no one knows how many plants there are. Scientists find new ones every day. Maybe there are as many plants as there are dreams in the world. It seems that for every dream that dies, a new one is born. Life is good.
Joyce is giving away one (1) digital copy of A THYME TO DIE and BURIED BY BUTTERCUPS for Kindle or Nook only for two lucky commenters. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends June 22.
You can read more about Peggy in A Thyme to Die, the 7th book in the “Peggy Lee Garden” mystery series. The first book in the series is Pretty Poison.
Meet the authors
Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com or on Facebook.
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