ANGIE OF THE GARDEN, by J.E. Hall, AuthorHouse, 212 pp., $16.95.
Angie of the Garden is a story about a psychiatrist named Hollis Simms. He is an affable individual who is dedicated to his patients, and his family. Hollis is married to a provocative and wealthy woman named Olivia: their irrepressible teenage daughter is named Annabelle. She used her considerable resources to purchase the estate called Fairhaven for them to live in.
As a boy Hollis found a diary written by a woman named Angie Barton buried in a garden. The journal told of the hardships and deprivations suffered by the woman from Boston as she traveled on the Oregon Trail. She became his first love. One evening as Doctor Simms walked past a garden on the estate he encountered the spirit of Angie Barton. Hollis learns that she worked at Fairhaven as a house servant after returning from the west. He cannot fathom how this adventurous woman could have come to such a station in life. Hollis decides that Angie must have experienced some kind of trauma. During her subsequent appearances he entices her into recounting the long trek westward in order to discover the cause of her malaise.
Hollis’ obsession with the woman from the past also begins to strain his relationships with those closest to him. Hollis is determined to find the reason for Angie’s moribund spirit. In the end he does, and Angie finds peace. Then a chance encounter reveals something else about the woman in the garden.
Hollis enjoyed walking the grounds of the estate after dinner. He was doing so one evening when he came upon the garden. The doctor walked up to the gate with the intention of going inside, but stopped as soon as his hand grasped the handle to open it. Hollis had caught a brief glimpse of a woman in black with long, flowing hair in the darkness. The image barely lingered long enough for him to realize that someone was there. Then a sudden burst of light consumed the woman, and she was gone. Hollis stood there for a long time after but saw nothing else unusual. He finally attributed the experience to his imagination and walked away.
Three days later Hollis walked past the garden once again. There was a half moon in the sky, so he could see much more clearly on this evening. As Hollis approached the garden he saw a flash of white light illuminate a figure near the rose bush in the back. The woman was bent over and seemed to be searching for something. He carefully moved closer.
“Hello there. Can I help you?”
The woman raised her head and stared at Hollis with the most piercing green eyes he had ever encountered. Her dark hair was now in long braids, and was in striking contrast to the apparition’s pale, grayish skin. She wore the attire of a house servant. This was in conflict with a theory Hollis had been formulating in his mind. He was anxious to find out who the interloper was, but knew that his attempt to do so should not be too abrupt.
“You look as though you’ve lost something,” he continued. “Perhaps I can be of some assistance.”
The woman in black moved backwards, but did not disappear. The apparition seemed to be floating along the ground instead of walking on it. She carefully observed her questioner.
“What’s your name?” Hollis finally asked her.
“Well, sir, I do not think it would be appropriate to give you my name. You are the stranger here. Are you a friend of Mr. Ellsworth?”
“I’m not familiar with him. Who is he?”
“Only the owner of Fairhaven,” she replied with an incredulous grin.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. My wife and I have owned this estate for over 20 years. My name is Hollis Simms.”
“Mr. Ellsworth has sold his home? Then I am the trespasser. I apologize, sir. I will leave at once.”
“There’s no need to do that,” Hollis quickly replied. “You’re welcome here. I’d just like to know your name.”
“Angelica Barton, Mr. Simms.”
She was the author of the diary.
She thinks that Ellsworth still owns Fairhaven, so Angelica must also believe that she’s still in the 1800s. I wonder if this spirit knows she’s dead, Hollis thought to himself.
“The trees here remind me of home,” Angelica told him. “Especially that one. I played in a tree just like it as a child.”
“You’re from Boston, aren’t you?” Hollis asked with a smile.
“How did you know that?”
Hollis was about to mention the diary, then thought better of the idea. This woman might not be comfortable with the idea of someone knowing her innermost thoughts. He would have to gain her trust first before broaching that subject. The doctor came up with another explanation instead.
“I recognize your accent, even though it’s not very pronounced.”
“That’s because I’ve lived in many different places,” she explained. “But I was thinking of Boston when I mentioned home before. The beautiful trees here remind me of the ones that Mayor Lyman had planted along the common when I was a girl.”
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