I stand in the garden – her garden – surrounded by her flowers and their thick, sweet scent. It’s everywhere. I can feel it in my hair, on my skin, in my eyes, burning. It fills my nostrils.
I wrap my hands around my shoulders, clutching at them, willing myself to walk away. It’s too bright, too beautiful. When I tilt my head towards the sky, the startling blue is an assault on my eyes. The sun casts its careless golden light over everything, pooling in the places where the shadows should be. I shouldn’t be here. I feel like a weed in the grass, the black of my dress throwing off the balance of colour. There’s so much of her here.
I test my willingness, drawing the scissors out of my pocket slowly. As soon as I feel the cold metal against my palm, I know I won’t turn back. I want to make everything ugly.
I approach the most beautiful flower first. The biggest rose of the deepest crimson. I stare down at it for a moment, attempting to conjure some sense of regret. But there’s nothing there. I am an empty vessel, a hollow shell. The only shred of emotion left in me is rage. I cling onto it, nurturing the flame, praying it won’t burn out. It’s all I have now.
I cut through the stem. The flower falls at my feet, soundlessly. The flame flickers slightly, but not enough. I want to set my mind on fire.
I snip through the next rose. And the next. I keep going until every blood-red blossom is detached from its stalk. It’s not enough.
I move on to the hydrangeas, and then to the tulips. With each flower I decapitate, I realise more and more that it’s not working. The flame of rage is flickering out. It won’t be long before I am gone too. The warmth that is still left in me is dissipating. And it’s his fault.
His face flashes across my mind. Unexpected, unwanted. The memory of him makes the flame expand a little. It doesn’t make sense that I would be angry at him. But as his image settles, I know that I am.
I hate him. I love him so much that I hate him.
The scissors falls from my hands, hits the grass with a dull, earthy thud. The moment it falls, I let go of all control.
My bare hands snatch at the tulips. I rip them apart, petal by petal, limb from limb. I split the stalks and step on their lifeless forms when they fall. Then I start on the dahlias. I want to destroy everything his eyes ever touched. The flame turns to fire. My rage turns blind.
I turn to the next patch of flowers and stop dead in my tracks. Marigolds. The sight of them makes my knees buckle and I drop to the ground. My mind flashes again, and it’s him in the park telling me they remind him of me because they’re bright and forgiving. It’s him with his blond hair, pulling me in behind a tree to kiss me, making me forget all my doubts. It’s him, come to take me dancing and telling me that my yellow dress makes me look like the sun itself. It’s him, coming to my back door so the neighbours won’t see him with a bunch of marigolds.
The tears come then, fast and hot, hotter than fire. And suddenly, the flame is quenched, replaced with a river. It rages louder than the flame, but not as bright. It rushes through me, infinite, sweeping everything up in its current. Every memory is tossed about underneath the surface, the edges changing, the colours fading. And somewhere along its banks I am swept up too.
Still on my hands and knees in the soil, I take the marigolds in my fist and heave them up from the dirt, taking their roots with me. It makes my muscles ache, but I keep going, manic yet methodical in my movements. I won’t sleep until every last piece of them is gone from the ground.
They can be replanted. When Susie comes home from the funeral to find that her precious flowers have been uprooted, she won’t know it was her dead husband’s mistress who did so. She’ll cry, but after a while she’ll replant them. Rearrange the memories whatever way she likes. She won’t remember waiting up to meet him coming home late, smelling of perfume. She won’t remember the shouting matches over the dinner table that always ended in him storming off and her in tears. She won’t remember watching through the curtains as he pulled some of her favourite marigolds from the garden to give to another woman.
She’ll remember going to the pictures with him and kissing him in the dark. She’ll remember dancing with him in the kitchen to no music at all. She’ll remember the honourable man who died fighting for his country. And what will I remember?
Maybe I’ll remember the hope I felt when he told me he would leave her to be with me. Maybe I’ll remember crying when he told me he had been conscripted. Maybe I’ll remember him coming home one last time, telling me he would marry me when the war was over. Maybe I’ll remember writing to him every day and being terrified, but still, somehow, hopeful. Maybe I’ll remember hearing from someone else that Susie Evans’ husband had died and having to pretend I didn’t know a thing about him. All I know is I can’t forget. I won’t let his child forget.
There’s one plant left. I get to my feet and stare at the tiny pink blossoms strung up against the green. Bleeding Hearts is what my Grandmother used to call them. I feel the river in my soul run dry.
Then I turn around and walk away.
In case you want some context;
The working title of this novel is "Every Word You Said". It follows nineteen-year-old Annabelle Jones as she falls in love with newlywed twenty-year-old Jack Evans. They meet after a dance when Annabelle loses track of her friends and Jack offers to walk her home. She knows him only as Susie Evan's new husband and tries to repress her feelings, before eventually coming to find that those feelings are reciprocated. After that, Annabelle's life is full of whirlwind romance and empty promises.
In 1940, Jack is conscripted to fight in World War II. There are tearful goodbyes, and Annabelle writes to him every day while he's away. When he comes home on leave, Annabelle falls pregnant. Unfortunately, she never has the chance to tell him - when she goes to post the letter, she learns that he is dead.
We see Annabelle's struggle as she learns to deal with her grief and face the challenges that come with being an unmarried mother in the 40s. When they bump into each other at Jack's grave one day, Annabelle ends up finding an unlikely friend in Susie Evans, a woman whom she once villainised. They have a lot more in common than either of them expected.
The novel does not follow a linear timeframe. It's a mixture of flashbacks and present tense, with all the pieces only falling into place at the end.
I'm new to Write The World, and I really enjoyed writing this piece and reading other people's stories. Think I'll be sticking around.
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