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The inner garden
The inner garden

She was tempted.

On one hand, it was hers, and hers only. Her private place. Her inner garden, secret, hidden. People always praised her calm, her ability to defuse any problem, to turn any anger into melancholy, any heartbreak into bittersweet comedy, any storm into breeze. She closed her eyes, you closed yours, she would open her mind and you would follow her. She would lead you by the hand towards a dark thicket of heavy fronds, a fabled garden built around a mossy well. The wild grasses would cushion your pain and you would pour all the water of your drama into the still blackness of the well, and then both of you would emerge, hand in hand, out again in the sharp, real world. You would knew that your pain was gone, replaced by something that was not happiness, but was warm and pleasant nonetheless, and that would last for a while.

That was her gift, unique, deep and personal.

But then, she knew it was also worth a lot of money. There were so many ways she could handle it for everybody's mutual benefit, they said. Paid admission into the garden, ads plastered over the well, product endorsement, self-help books, whatever. They had shown her the market research, with all the pretty coloured bar charts that told her, in no uncertain terms, that she would no longer have to worry about retirement, her father's healthcare and functional plumbing. She was