Who Dreams of Cut Flowers?

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

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Contemporary Fantasy Fiction

“Who dreams of cut flowers?”

It felt like an idiot question that deserved an idiot answer. And at a time where the moon was especially bright, where its glow turned the usually dark diner into a paper lantern, Rainbow and I appeared particularly idiotic. Alone in a diner, charred fries, two greasy, untouched burgers and warm, denim-clad bodies who blabbered about dreams of cut flowers. 

“I dream about different ones on different nights.” I started, like the engines of cars that zoomed past. 

“Like last night, I dreamt of a rose, thorns cut and it was cut in half too.”

The light played on Rainbow’s face as it showed her knit brows and mild distrust. Not that I could blame the skepticism. Dreams of flowers and then cut ones at that? Only from a certifiable weirdo. 

She crunched one of the extra-crispy French fries and waved the other half around like a wand. 

“It feels a little unbelievable. Not that it isn’t feasible but hmm.”

And then she paused. 

The pause lasted as long as it took the waitress to clean her apron, smoke the rest of the lipstick-stained cigarette outside, stomp it out, and wander back inside. It confirmed how foolish I sounded, how ridiculous the scene was; the scene of us and a menthol-scented waitress leaned against our booth as an uninitiated ear for a conversation of dreams. Dreams about flowers. Guess that made Rainbow a certifiable weirdo too. 

“You two need anything else? Milkshake, tea, coffee, pie?” She half-smiled and bent forward, probably hoped to catch a few words and give some input. But we nodded in silence and stared until she felt uncomfortable enough to slip behind the counter. 

“Phoebe, this waitress is gonna eavesdrop.” 

“Or try. Maybe we should move this conversation anywhere else.” 

I called for the check and at first, she didn’t move an inch. Could have been revenge for being excluded from the conversation. Smug, hunched over the counter, eyes rolled as she thumbed through or pretended to thumb through a magazine but when I closed the distance between us, she perked up a bit. Stood upright, wide smile prepared for some piece of us. 

I slid my credit card through the reader and wished her goodnight on the way out. The food sat there unfinished and could have wondered where our conversation was headed next. 

“It’s a little unbelievable, huh?” 

“In the sense that it is strange and not that it’s something you have to prove or disprove. And didn’t your mom like roses?” She declared and skipped across each of the crosswalk’s white lines. 

On our aimless walk, the moon made us sparkle, cast a spotlight on us, on our conversation because that memory Rainbow triggered became vivid. The scent of roses filled my nose and then I could respond at the crosswalk. Where we admired the massive, glass buildings for being massive and easy to pass without being terrified of them and could speak at full volume, full transparency without concern that they would share our words. 

“Yeah. She passed rose gardens on the way to school as a kid. Passed the same ones as an adult rushing for the train to various photoshoots. Didn’t see her often because of work.”  

I fell silent down the crosswalk and on the other side, I nearly forgot my place. Inhale, exhale. Recovered it. But my voice trembled regardless. 

“One day, she held a bouquet of roses that matched her dress the day a loose circular saw flung off a truck and chopped her in half. She posed for a photoshoot on the sidewalk. I was seven when I watched it on the news. Maybe that’s what the dream is about.” 

Rainbow cleared her face of oncoming tears but more bundled up and poured out anyway. She clutched my shaky hands in hers and squeezed, shut her eyes and squeezed as if reciting a solemn prayer for me. For my mother. And when she opened them, the tears didn’t cease and neither did the shaking but the empty sidewalk was ours to occupy however with whatever. 

“What other flowers did you dream about?” 

“There was a tulip and some of the petals were snipped with pruning scissors,” I bellowed and caught myself for the first time in a while in the reflection of an egg-shaped building. 

One eye was the color of rose petals and the other was the color of tulip petals and I appeared more athletic than I remembered. I could have done track in a past life and the denim didn’t hide that. Matter of fact, save for her eyes the color of the burnt fries we neglected almost entirely, Rainbow and I were identical. I wondered if she secretly had the dreams as well but of something else. 

“Which person in your life is like the tulip, Pheebs?” She asked with a bounce and glanced at our reflections with me. 

“My dad and the day he met my mom, it was an accidental run-in at a coffee shop. He had a meeting there and she waited for some of her model friends. Didn’t see him much either.” I pivoted on my left foot and dragged along. 

“From there, they ditched their respective meet-ups and dated each other until she died. Then, overtaken by grief, he switched on a miter saw and severed both arms until he bled out.” 

Rainbow halted and scuffed her sneakers. Any sneakerhead would have burst into a fit of rage or ripped clumps of their hair out over that but she swelled up with tears. That redness that spread to her ears and the snot that trickled down her nose could have been regret. The flower dreams grew more visceral, more draining but vacuumed any emotions within range and finally, it could have been too much. She lurched forward and vomited what little food she gobbled up at the diner. 

“At least that was the story from one of their mutual friends. He could have passed from cancer for all I know.” 

I rubbed Rainbow’s back and tied her hair up into a messy bun. She wrapped a stiff arm around my waist and I hoisted her up. We shuffled ahead as if we returned from a funeral, a funeral for people from my life she didn’t and would never meet. 

“No one should have to endure that, Pheebs. No one.” She whimpered and my lifeless face watched her tears glisten in the moonlight. 

“Up for more dreams about cut flowers, Rainbow or are you done getting eviscerated?” I joked but couldn’t form a grin much as I formed a groan with every other step up the sterile street. 

She sniffed and chuckled then loosened her grip and stretched skyward. A little more snot couldn't hurt, right? I joked in my head. A little more heavy sobs and retching. But then she craned her neck as if she heard my thoughts and stated, “I promise I won't vomit this time if that's on your mind.” 

I nodded and we strolled along as the buildings and moon stared at us like inescapable surveillance cameras. I rifled through my brain to find a pleasant dream. And then I paused because one clicked. 

“There’s one with wisterias that are cut by the stem but that’s it.” 

Rainbow beamed and nudged me. It was a nudge that could have knocked me into an incoming car or a dream where I was one of those flowers. Could have been a sunflower chopped into tiny pieces. But she caught me and reeled me back on the sidewalk with a firm hand. 

“Now you have to tell me the story behind that flower.” 

We journeyed past the same glass buildings down the same empty block except cut roses and tulips wrapped around stop signs, telephone poles, light-posts, and the buildings themselves. She didn’t notice anything but me taken back by the change of scenery. And soon enough, wisterias slithered their way around. 

“The time I got to spend with my parents was surrounded by wisterias from houses my dad brought me to sell in upscale neighborhoods to the scent of ice cream the three of us shared after a photoshoot.

“I had a cone, my mom had a cup, and my dad had an ice cream bar. Wisteria vanilla ice cream. Who comes up with something that ingenious?” 

Then Rainbow clutched my shoulder and gasped. 

“Where did these flowers come from all of a sudden? Is this another one of your dreams?” 

It couldn't be. The diner, the waitress, the buildings, the clothes; everything has been real, right? I had to test this and I pinched myself several times. 

“What are you doing?” Rainbow asked and swung around a rose, tulip, and wisteria-covered stop sign. 

“I pinched myself and felt nothing.” 

“But the diner, the waitress, the buildings, our clothes; everything has been real, right?” 

My eyes widened. How did she know my thoughts? They could have tumbled out of my mouth without realizing it. I felt nauseous, dizzy, as if gravity pinned me to the asphalt and when I collapsed, it did. 

When I came to, I was on the floor of the diner and Rainbow stared at me expectantly as the waitress hummed and served a plate of… rose petals? 

“Phoebe, you look hungry. You should eat something,” the waitress declared and crammed the rose petals down my throat. 

Rainbow pinned me down to ease the rose petal swallowing process and I couldn’t help shrieking. I couldn’t help the tears that choked out at the sight of this grinning waitress. She was identical to me in every way from the fox-like face to the athletic body but she wore an apron. And that’s when I knew who she was and what this was. 

“Mom, please don’t do this to me!” 

A miter saw materialized out of nowhere and severed her into perfect halves as she burst into rose petals. Even with this dream, I cried out for her and Rainbow who, along with me and the diner, was becoming engulfed by a sinkhole of cut tulips. And my armless dad, grey and fidgety, was at the bottom with tulips spiraling out of his sockets in a faceless glare. 

“Why is this happening to me? Let me out of this nightmare! Rainbow, Mom, Dad! Rainbow, help me!” 

My screams were muffled by tulips that swayed and strangled until I lost consciousness again. Then I leaped awake in a field of stemless wisterias. I leaped awake without panic, without fear, without stress. 

“Rainbow, we made it. Rainbow? Rainbow?” 

Without Rainbow. 

The field stretched for miles and regardless of what direction I wandered in, it continued. It curved, sloped, plateaued, and continued. There was no mom, no dad, no diner, no moon, no street, no Rainbow. Endless stemless wisterias and me and nothing else. 

I pinched myself and nothing happened. I pinched harder and nothing happened. I thought the wisterias were a sign of something positive, something pleasant after the horrors of roses and tulips but this vast emptiness was worse. 

I crouched into a patch of wisterias and wept. I wept into the ones around me and wished into the sunset for Rainbow to return. To share charred fries and burgers we would neglect. To share dreams about flowers that I felt trapped in with my parents. 

That was when a silhouette patted my back and when I glanced up, it was a cluster of wisterias in the shape of Rainbow. Then I leaped awake again but at the diner. 

“You okay, Pheebs? You slipped and bumped your head against the table getting up for the bathroom. Should have placed a wet floor sign there.” 

I stretched the skin on Rainbow’s arms and face a bit to be positive this was her and not a dream. She chuckled and stretched the skin on my arms and face a bit before nibbling on a plain French fry. No flowers, no problems. Until I glanced at my plate of rose petals. The waitress winked at me but when I tried to get Rainbow's attention, she danced two fries into her mouth. 

March 25, 2021 22:35

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