It's not flowering at the moment, but that doesn't matter. I know, like all the best things, it will be worth the wait. I know that when the white buds return they will surprise and please me again, taking me back to the day I first saw it.
The first time we met was the day I took the photo for his ID card. Like all new members of staff, his introduction to the organisation included the humiliating ritual of stepping into my small office and facing the camera. Like the others, he stood patiently while I struggled to assemble the tripod, while I waited for the laminator to heat up. We made small talk while we waited. At least I did - I think he probably watched in stoic northern bemusement while I went through my standard "oh you'll like it here, everyone's very friendly" routine.
It was probably a year later that I got a promotion and we ended up working in the same office. I finally felt I was moving on - making some progress, from the failed marriage, the unfinished teaching degree, the never-quite-good-enough job as mother and the gratefully accepted but never-quite-aspired-for role in admin. He treated me like a grown up and a proper colleague, listened to what I had to say, argued strongly when he thought I was wrong, but never once patronised me or treated me like an idiot.
He sat at the other end of the office. I couldn't see him from my desk, but I could hear him. Some days he drove me mad, coughing and clearing his throat, until I ended up choking in strange sympathy. Other days he circulated Tommy Cooper jokes that caused a ripple of laughter to circulate round the office, so you'd know each time someone else opened the e-mail.
I remember the summer day when he spilt sugar all over his bare sandalled feet and spent the day with sparkling grains between his toes, I remember how pleased he seemed when I finally managed to make a cup of tea strong enough, how I never told him that I'd cheated and used two teabags. I remember how I felt when he said he liked my new haircut.
Sometimes we'd sit together in the canteen at lunch-time, he the committed vegetarian, moaning about the quality of the fish; me the total carnivore marvelling in the roast pork and crackling. We never really knew much about each other, but he'd stop and talk sometimes when he passed my desk, and I guess that's why he was the first to know that I'd managed to climb another rung on the slippery ladder, that I'd be leaving in a month to work across the river in a bigger taller building.
I hadn't expected him to come to my leaving drinks, I'd never seen him out with the Friday night crowd, I don't think I'd ever seen him outside of work. I was pleased that he joined us as we walked up towards the Windmill pub in The Cut, it felt right when he fell in beside me as we passed the Old Vic. I'd already had my leaving presentation in the office and I'm ashamed to say now that I can't remember what they'd all clubbed together to buy me. But I'll never forget the present he shyly handed to me as we walked up the road.
We bought a new pot for it when we moved into this house, it sits on the windowsill above the sink and it's there every morning when I look out at the garden. It's more than ten years old now, and like him it's become part of my life. It might not be flowering just now, but I know it will be just beautiful for a long time to come.