The flowers’ stems broke as they fell from her hands.
The delicate petals fell, colors kissing the soft lilting grasses of the plain. Another time, she might have stopped to grab them, brushing off the dirt and laughing about loose grips. But now, her darting eyes followed her newest friend, the girl with the sun-kissed cheeks and an eggplant-purple oversized dress. She would certainly grow into it with age, the girl’s parents said. The pair’s youth was a clouded lens, hiding the children from the worries of money. To the sharp-eyed adults, cloth was a luxurious item, far less important than sustenance. Her own patchwork hand-me-down blouse was equally as oversized, and it chafed on her knees as they walked through the field.
Another hundred for school? A waste. Should’ve given up the little brat when she first learned to talk.
Tell me about it. Ours is the same.
Giggles filled the air like shy puffing clouds, matching the cotton candy white filling the sky. The girl turned to her, face shining with excitement.
No fair, you have a head start!
They tore through the field, carelessly trampled wheat leaving footprint-shaped marks in the distance. Her chubby hands grabbed, feet stumbling through crumbly dirt to reach the girl before they met the end of the plain. The girl’s sharp taunts and cross-eyed faces made her legs move faster than they ever had before.
Hurry up, slowpoke!
I’m gonna get you!
She was a race car, engine purring at the last lap. No, she was a horse, a galloping stallion at that. Or maybe, she was a plane. She’d heard that word in the whispers of adults, talking about something called mortgages and moving costs. Eyes narrowed and dirt flew, colors and grasses whirled. She was mere millimeters from the girl’s collar.
In your dreams!
With a thud, her foot hit an obstacle. The obstructive rock stuck firmly in the ground, refusing to budge. Losing her balance, she tackled the girl to the ground with a puff of peanut brown dust and a joyful shriek.
Hey, no fair!
Chests heaving and smiles widening, they rolled away from each other into the long wheat. Her grin widened, cheeks a bright rouge. They lay there for a while, talking and laughing, chestnut brown and chartreuse green eyes sparkling with mischief. Suddenly, her face darkened.
They’re gonna catch us if we don’t go.
Who cares? They hate us anyway.
They weren’t supposed to be in the field, especially when the chickens were hungry and the windows weren’t clean. Sharp tongues would click and tears would fall if they were found. Nevertheless, they lay there until the sun began to fall, watching the sky’s mesmerizing path. It was only when they heard angry shouts they ran, eyes widening to saucers in fear. Despite their terror, however, the glint of mischief remained. They hugged a quick goodbye, loose pigtails leaving hairs on each other’s clothes.
See you tomorrow.
The flower’s stems broke as they fell from her hands.
She tossed them high in the air, closing her eyes as they arced down onto the screaming crowd of bridesmaids. The girl, now a woman, stood next to her, grinning as she tossed another bouquet to her own bridesmaids. She smiled shyly at the woman, eyes glinting as brightly as their new wedding bands. They held hands all the way until the first dance, graceful white gowns fitted to each of their forms perfectly. Her dress was slim, the fabric gently outlining her form and cascading in petal-like folds into the short train. The woman’s dress was similar but embroidered with delicate lace. They smiled mournfully, remembering childhoods of ill-fitting clothing and hateful parentage. Her expression darkened. Even on such a day like this, there was a hole in their hearts. Irreparable darkness. There had been no fathers to give them away, no mothers to cry in the pews.
They didn’t come. Not even late.
Did you expect them to? I haven’t seen my parents since I was ten. You haven’t seen yours since you turned eighteen, either.
The woman noticed her silent pain and carefully took her other hand, reminding her of their vows.
Hey, look. Who needs them anyway? We have each other.
They would never separate, never leave each other. They would never cause such heartache as a parent’s cold disappointment.
Aw, c'mon Rose, stop being so gloomy. It’s our wedding day!
Running to the dance floor, the pair watched each other with small smiles, swaying to the music. She would love the woman forever, and be with her until death did they part.
I love you.
I love you too.
The flowers’ stems broke as they fell from her hands.
They didn’t drop faster than her tears, however, which rolled off her cheeks in fat droplets. She sat down hard on the soil, coming to her knees in front of the black rectangular box. Through snot and sobbing, she said goodbye to the woman. The woman, who was now her love. The only comfort, the only warm feeling, came from the rows and rows of black coats and hats, umbrellas shading their guests from the blaring sun. Her love was adored by many. It would’ve brought her peace to know how many came, she thought. The friends attending looked on with great weariness. It wasn’t her love’s time, not by any stretch of the cruel imagination. The screech of the brake and the click of a seatbelt hadn’t been enough to save her. You never expect these things to happen until they do, really. Not until the hospital phone call.
Is this Rose Greer-Holden?
Yes, I’m Rose.
Mrs. Greer-Holden, we regret to inform you that your wife is in critical condition.
Not until the casket sits in front of you. Not until you miss the warmth of their arms or the sound of their voice. Mourning pierced her like daggers, every emotion filling her like black rainbows of color. The moist dirt soaked into her suit as she watched the clock tick, clouds moving to cover the sun. Murmured words of encouragement and condolences weren’t enough to move her.
Hey, Rose, we have to go now, okay?
You can always come back.
Camellia wouldn’t want you to wait here for her.
In the end, they had to drag her away, a numb girl who’d lost her love.
The flowers’ stems didn’t break when she dropped them.
They landed with a soft splash in the vase, beautiful colors on the verge of blooming. A stray elbow knocked aside the small wooden frame, and she straightened it with a nostalgic smile. With years, the deep peacock blues and dark cobalt blacks of loss had turned to shades of harbor grey. Sometimes, in moments like these, the greys sprouted banana yellow, pieces of remorseful happiness. This, she thought, looking at the frame, was one of those times. Chubby hands reached over the counter, grabbing for the picture. Under the polished glass lay her ink-and-paper love, who was now known simply as Mom. With a loving smile as bright as the moon, she picked up the babbling bundle known as her daughter and showed her the photo.
This is your Mom, okay sweetheart? She passed long before you were born.
There was still irreparable darkness in her heart, one which had doubled in size with loss. But, with the help of her new daughter, she might yet be able to patch it. She tucked the soft white papers in a delicate cabinet, papers printed with the red seal of approval. Although her daughter was not her own flesh and blood, she was as much her own as any child could ever be. Her daughter gurgled, spitting onto a red tulip. Her namesake. She laughed like tinkling bells, holding her daughter close.
We’ll be okay, won’t we? Yes, I think we will.