The blooming beauty of life

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

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Contemporary Inspirational Romance

The golden sunlight beamed through the large window behind the couch stirring up the dimness of the living room into a glow. It glazed the television and kissed Flora’s blush shoulders exposed by her tank top. She shielded her eyes as she rested her arm on the warm velvety cushion and gazed at the empty street and lush lawns. The snow had finished melting a few weeks ago and began the start of a damp, sweet smelling season. 

Just below the window, where Flora peered out of, almost out of sight from inside was a collection of carnations that paraded all the way down the front lawn lining the edges. Their bold, yet soft, light red presence coloured the boring green grass and stood out among the leafy bushes that had not yet bloomed into pastel hydrangeas.

As Flora sat up off of the couch the cold slapping of feet on hardwood pounded through the hallway. The sound drew nearer as she approached the kitchen. 

“Flora!” Her dad spoke, groggy and surprised. “How long have you been up?”

“A few hours.” Flora shrugged her shoulders and kept her head down staring intently into her empty mug. 

“Flora, it's barely eight.” His tone was filled with concern as he stood still waiting for her attention.

“I know. I’m fine.”

Flora set her mug down into the sink and tiptoed around her half asleep dad as her heart began to race. She slid onto a cool barstool and forced her hands together on the counter as if she were waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive at a fancy dinner. As she closed her eyes her breath flowed forcefully above her lip. While she attempted to steady her mind her fingers broke through their self contained prison and began to fidget as if uncontrolled. 

“Hey, dad, have you watered the plants yet this week?”

“No, I was going to after work today. Why do you ask?”

“I can go do it now!” Flora replied, almost popping up out of her seat with excitement at the idea of an activity to take her mind off of her racing thoughts.

“Yeah, of course.” He turned around with a twinge of confusion in his voice and watched as Flora ran out of the house.

Flora filled her lungs with the breezy spring air and twisted the tap turning on the water that slowly dripped from the hose. As she stepped over towards the cold lawn her heart pounded and heated her cheeks. Her lungs heaved as she tried to pattern her breathing again.

“One…Two…” Flora whispered calmly, counting after each exhale. “Three...Four…” 

Her arms twitched occasionally as she pointed the hose at the carnations and premature hydrangeas. Swaying back and forth in one gentle motion she watched as the droplets hit the rosy petals and fell off onto the soil. The dripping of water took her mind off of her tense chest, showing her peace and comfort.

Not a second later, a slow approaching boom of explicit music drifted through the street in a dull white sudan. The vehicle stopped, with one wheel completely on the sidewalk, in front of the neighbors driveway. It looked as if the car was going to run over the, neatly tucked, hyacinths and narcissus that waved just before the concrete. Flora inhaled the flower infused air trying to hold onto the tranquility as the screech of the neighbor’s door opening shattered her focus. Accepting this awkward encounter for what it was, she glanced up at the porch. She could feel her fingers pull into her palms and her blood boil as her eyes met her neighbor, Aaron. Their startling gaze fell as he slammed the door behind him and put on an obnoxious smile followed by thunderous hollering to match his friend’s. 

Flora threw her head down at the carnations that seemed to glow as her neighbor strutted down the driveway. She lost focus of where she was watering and noticed the harsh up and down movement of her chest. The sleeves of his letterman jacket almost matched the red petals as he seemed to blend into them. However, the moment he passed the manufactured meadow he would stand out among everyone. They would stare at him in awe of his dazzling charm and swift athletic talent. No flower could outshine him.

The night was warm from inside Flora’s bedroom but her thick, heavy sheets were cool to the touch. They chilled her fingertips as they grapled at the edges while shifting herself back and forth. Her chestnut hair was strewn across her flattened pillow like the thoughts scattered in her mind. The stillness of her stucco ceiling taunted her, mocked her. Her heart beat at the speed of light, bashing at her ribcage. Her breath pushed her mouth open as she dragged her hands over her eyes. Forming tears blurred her vision as she flipped over and saw the clock; two thirty-eight. She sat up and hugged her duvet covered knees. Sobbing quietly, trying not to disturb her parents, thoughts of another nearly sleepless night tormented her. 

“Why can’t I just be normal?” Her delicate voice soaked into the sheets and swirled around her room.

Flora placed her hand on her chest and quivered while it thumped so fast it was too hard to count the beats. She tried to keep her breathing steady but the soreness of her chest took her focus. In an intense staring contest with the dotted pattern on her sheets, Flora’s mind wandered to the morning earlier, when she saw Aaron in his driveway. All she could think about was how many friends he had, how much people liked him, and how many exhilarating things he was doing. Flora had never set foot in a party before and he probably went to one every night. It seemed as if he was hanging out with a million people every day and he never had to be scared or worried about anything because he already had everything. Why does he get all of this attention while Flora was alone, crying herself to sleep? 

At the conclusion of her thoughts, Flora dried her eyes and peeled herself from the cool cocoon. She placed her feet into worn out bunny slippers and trailed down the hall as if sleepwalking. A few more tears trickled down her cheek as she reached for the front door and felt them turn cold as the night breeze caressed her face. The cement block of a front step was hard and icy underneath her thin slippers but her pajamas were even thinner. As she looked down at the cuffs of her pants blowing around her ankle, she regretted not grabbing a blanket. 

Staring back up towards the road, her lips parted for the release of an agitated breath. Her arms wrapped themselves around each other and her body sunk onto the concrete block. While Flora wiggled around to find a comfortable spot a blaring voice crept into her ear. Her heart rattled in her chest as she swung her head around to the cause of this disturbance. The loud voice turned into two. Flora planted her hand on the block and turned her knees towards the top step. She shuddered at the deafening crash of the neighbor’s door thrown open. Her body turned to stone despite the boisterous feud next to her and studied Aaron. He shouted, waved his arms, and nearly pushed the screen door off of its hinges. Flora had never seen him so loud or angry as he stamped down the driveway and flung open his truck door. Her breathing was quiet and her eyes softened as he stared at her from the street. His hand bent around the top of the door while the other pressed against the roof.

“What are you looking at?” His blonde hair danced messily above his face, rosey with anger.

Flora froze. Her mouth stayed shut while she forced her gaze away. At the sound of his truck’s engine starting she finally regained her ability to think and noticed the garden in her view. 

The neighbor’s coloured lawn glistened beneath the street lamps. She watched as the tiny purple flowers on the hyacinth swayed with the breeze, overpowering the slick white petals of the narcissus. They moved sharply as if injured. They looked upset, uneasy. Their dance in the wind was forced as they sobbed alone, in pain.

The breeze slammed against Flora’s face and held her hair back as she jogged up the sidewalk. Her arms pumped as her runners slapped the concrete. She could feel her heart hammering throughout her body but it brought a smile to her face. Her heart pounded because she wanted it to. Her daily run forced it to. She was in control.

The soles of her feet became sore as her house came into view. She slowed as the soft red carnations on her front lawn stole her attention. Their colour entrapped her as she approached a divot in the sidewalk. Her toe fell into the crack and propelled her down as she threw her arms in front of her body. Flora landed abruptly with her knees painted red and grey. Her eyes were wide open and her palms had been dented by rock shards. 

“Are you okay?” Asked a deep voice hovering over her.

She responded mechanically as she peeled her hands off of the cement. “I’m fine.” 

Rubbing her palms on her nylon shorts, she stood back up and wobbled until her feet steadied. She tilted her chin up and brushed her hair back behind her ears finding herself stood in front of Aaron. Her cheeks flushed while her shoulders tensed. 

“You sure you’re okay?” A hint of a smile fell upon his lips.

Flora nodded quickly with her teeth gritted. Memories of the night before drifted through her mind while Aaron’s gaze pierced her. For just a second she wondered if he could hear her thoughts. She always felt so vulnerable next to people like him. 

Just as Aaron began to turn away Flora noticed a row of yellow roses along his fence, dancing hopelessly.

Flora wiped away the blood and dirt from her legs. The cool cloth froze her knee and sent her teeth into her lip. They bit harder at the thought of smashing into the sidewalk in front of Aaron. Suddenly the thumping in her chest was back. She set down the cloth and stood in front of the bathroom mirror breathing slowly. She looked at herself. Stared into her leafy green eyes and felt her legs tremble. Taking a step back she hugged herself squeezing her arms as if the pounding would stop if they were tight enough. Thoughts of trivial tasks awaiting her triggered a rush of adrenaline. Her fingers tapped and twitched against the granite counter. The silent screaming in her mind pushed against her skull as if trying to find a way out. She began gasping for air as her body leaned over the sink, pushing her forearms into the dense surface.

Tears dripped onto her shirt as she left the house. Her heart banged against her chest so hard that there was no room to think. As Flora twitched and stumbled down the sidewalk she soon found herself near an empty park. Pools of sandy water sat beneath the swings and slides. Trees bent in the wind and flora curled up against the monkey bar poles. She shook while her hands tucked themselves in her jacket pocket, scratching the fleece fabric.

The sun began to set leaving a watercolor painting in the sky. As the air cooled down to an early spring chill, Flora’s nose grew cherry and her jacket migrated to her chin. She looked ahead at the houses across the street and noticed their brilliant red flowers. They were almost the same as the carnations on her lawn but these were darker, more beautiful. They were roses. She dazed helplessly at the floral abundance and lost track of time. Her mind became numb to the whirling of wind and swishing of cars driving by. An hour had past and night was settling in as a stocky figure came to join her. It approached the park in the same solemn manner that flora had. 

When the figure came closer Flora noticed his messy blonde hair, the worn out Nike sneakers, and his bold, demanding presence. She flung herself off of the plastic platform and leapt out of the sand pit. Despite the calm nature of the park, she felt a slap of embarrassment sting her. However, she paused when she noticed his tears.

He turned towards Flora, noticing her from within the shadow of the slide. “What?” His eyebrows furrowed and his fists clenched. Veins popped out from his temples.

“Are you okay?” Flora spoke without thinking.

Aaron’s eyes grew soft and his head went limp. He opened his mouth to yell but nothing came out. He pulled his eye-catching letterman jacket tighter as he collapsed onto the platform that Flora once occupied. 

“I’ve never told anyone about this.” His voice shook and begged her not to leave. “I know you saw what happened last night...between me and my dad.” 

Flora sat down next to him, pulled in by the severity in his voice.

“This isn’t the first time it's happened. He yells at me a lot. Sometimes I think he might hit me but deep down I know he never could. I know he wants to change. Why does he have to be such a jerk?”

Flora brought her eyes down to her knees and dug her heels into the sand feeling every grain. She rubbed her palms together as the shock set in.

“Sometimes I just wish that I could live somebody else’s life” Aaron slumped down into his palms with his elbows balanced on his legs.

“Me too.” 

Aaron raised an eyebrow at Flora. “What do you want to change so badly?”

“My brain.” Flora straightened her posture and twisted around. “Every day is a battle to find peace. Overwhelming thoughts make it so hard to think of anything else. I have nervous twitches that are getting worse.” 

Aaron deflated. “I had no idea.”

“No one ever does.” Flora held onto her words like the smell of a flower that had finally bloomed. “I always thought that your life was perfect. I guess we were both wrong.”

The wind blew stronger as the evening progressed and the roses across the street shone underneath a fluorescent spotlight.

“I’m sorry, Flora.” 

“For what?”

“For not saying anything to you sooner. I’ve lived here for three years and we’ve never spoken.”

“It's fine.” Flora spit out her habitual response.

“No it's not. I’ve just been so angry because of my dad for so long that I forgot how to live.”

Flora glanced up at Aaron spewing his baggage and was struck by how different he was. She noticed how soft his face glowed in the street light. His intimidation was turned off and his eyes were delicate cornflowers. The beauty of life permeated her body.

“Let’s go home, Aaron.” 

She led the way to the edge of the sandpit while a sense of comfort washed over her.

As the conversation faded their feet fell in sync, drifting through the calm night. Their presence warmed each other and shielded their minds from the growing issues rooted within themselves. Soon the houses from which they both had run from came into view but this time there were no tears, clenched fists, or bustling thoughts. 

By the time their flowery gardens took hold of their gaze Flora paused. Her head tilted as she tugged at her sleeve. Flora found herself gazing at bushes of brilliant, bloomed hydrangeas. Pinks, purples, and blues popped through the vibrant leaves overthrowing the weak red carnations. Their colour defied the night sky and glistened brightly. Flora smiled as her bewilderment met with relief. Her feet found the grass and drew her to the mysterious, beautiful plant. Her fingers outlined the petals as a gentle hand laid itself on her shoulder. 

Aaron spun her around as he slid his hand up, through her chocolate hair, to cup her cheek. When they looked at eachother their eyes both longed for something. Something that they began to discover tonight. For the first time in years their hearts were full. Their problems that held them in corners broke out into the open. They forgot the word “shame” and remembered how to smile. Aaron wondered inside of the blooming forest within her grassy green eyes and lost himself in a sensation he didn’t know he was chasing. His dark, rosey lips parted as he closed the gap between them.

As Aaron blew with the wind, back into his house Flora stood in front of her garden wondrously. She felt alive, calm, grateful. She smiled a toothy smile for all that she had. The problems that forced her mind into guilt lost their power. Her anxiety was not her fault and there is no shame in having problems if everybody has them.

As Flora drew open the screen door she looked back at her garden one last time soaking in the pastel comfort. She would never know just how these flowers bloomed so quickly but she would always remember the thin petals. How velvety they were to touch, how easily they could rip, but how beautiful and magnificent they grew to be.

March 26, 2021 16:37

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