I heard about this from my grandma. It seems there were these two families who didn't get on too well. They'd been in the same town for over a hundred years and many of them were still in the town. But well, these two, a girl and a boy left the town and went their ways. She went to Nottingham and he went to London. After a few years they came back to their own town. He'd brought with him a rhododendron with white flowers. She'd brought back a small dog. He didn't care for the dog, she didn't care for him much either.
He left again and went back south. This time she also left and went to London. They both moved around and after a few months ended up next door to each other. They were both still single too. He still had a small rhododendron bush with white flowers. Her small dog picked a fight with a doberman and the doberman won. She got a cat and settled into the small house next to the bloke. Every morning at six, he left for work. Every morning at seven-thirty, she left for work, so it took a while before they realised they were neighbours. When they did, she ignored him. She wore the most beautiful clothes that she made at home. She told herself they would make him realise what he was missing and in any case she was dressing for herself.
He ignored her and concentrated on decorating his house and the garden. One evening on the way home from work, she was drenched by a car going through a deep puddle. Her lovely dress was soaked and so was she. A man passing offered her his coat. It was her neighbour.
"No thank you," she answered primly.
"You'll catch cold and you're wet through," he reasoned.
"My family hates yours and you lot hate ours," she answered as if stating the obvious.
He grinned then.
"I won't tell if you won't."
She humphed, but she let him drape the coat over her and put his arm about her. When they arrived at their houses, she thanked him coolly and reminded him that his plant was coming through her fence and she had every right to cut it.
"Which plant is that?" he asked.
"I don't know, I'm not a gardener. It's got white flowers," she answered crossly.
"Ah, the rhododendron," he said, "I'll see what I can do, but it tends to get a bit wild. The flowers are pretty though - like you."
"Humph!" she said, but she blushed slightly, for she rather liked him saying she was pretty.
The rhododendron grew up the side of the fence and pushed through the gaps in the wooden boarded fence into the garden next door. She did not cut it even though she had a legal right to as she'd said. The flowers were pretty. Further down his jasmine climbed over the fence too with its dark pointed leaves and starlike flowers with their delicate scent. From her upstairs window, she could see down into his garden. Her cat was lying sprawled in his flowerbed asleep, just the tip of its tail twitching gently. Often he would get back before her and sit in the garden with the cat on his lap and a cup of tea in his hand.
He did not realise it was her cat any more than the cat did. Cats don't belong to people they merely live with them. When she saw from her bedroom window one evening, the cat on his lap she opened the window and yelled down to him.
"You do know that's my cat, don't you?"
He and the cat looked up at her. Her slightly heart-shaped face was framed by her long dark hair and he wanted in the lines from the fairytale to say,
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair"
Instead he shook his head and answered that he didn't know. Then, looking at her lovely face he asked her,
"Why don't you come over and I'll make some more tea."
She said nothing but drew in her head and humphed as she changed out of her work clothes. She pulled on jeans and a white blouse grumbling all the time about him. When she had changed she suddenly felt at a loss and went downstairs and into his garden through the side gate. He was still there sitting with her cat on his lap. I am so not jealous of my own cat, she told herself. She sat on another chair opposite him and folded her arms.
"You do look lovely," he said quietly.
She was about to humph but changed her mind, looked down and thanked him. He asked if she'd like some tea or maybe a glass of wine. She said yes to the wine and he picked up the cat and handed it to her. She took the animal and placed it on her own lap. The cat paused for a moment, sat down and began to wash itself.
He came out with a bottle of wine and two glasses, placed them on the table and went back into his house. She looked around the garden and found herself sighing. It was nicer than her scrappy lawn and the occasional half-dead plant around the border. Somehow she'd never got around to doing up her garden. From the kitchen window, he gazed at her. She sat with the cat now falling asleep on her lap, looking around the garden. There was something peaceful and still about her as if all the busy, noisy world existed outside of her and did not touch her. When he came back out into the garden with two plates and a bowl of chicken pasta salad, she looked up into his face and he longed to lean forward and kiss her.
"It's a lovely garden. Must have taken you ages to get it like this," she said softly.
"Thank you, yes it took a while. Come around and sit here if you like," he answered gently, spooning food onto her plate.
The cat, smelling chicken sat up, whiskers twitching, eyes wide. She took a piece of chicken from her plate and fed the cat who ate it and sniffed her fingers for more. She laughed. It was a light, happy laugh, unaffected. He could bear it no longer and leaning over her, he kissed her. She was taken by surprise and he realised he should not have done it. But to his surprise she put her hands to his face and pulled his mouth back to hers and kissed him.
"I've been waiting for you to love me for so long," he murmured.
"Is that why your plants keep coming into my garden and bringing me flowers?" she asked with a smile.
I believe they were married three months later. The fence between their houses was pulled down and the garden enlarged. He taught her gardening and she taught him how to live beyond his plants. In the centre of the garden there was a large rhododendron with white flowers.