Ben’s Bouquet: Flash Fiction

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Actually, I had given up hope that I’d come back to it at all. Life just got crazy, and then there was the whole neck, shoulder, and arm pain thing that plagued me for over a year. Oh yeah, and my computer decided to give up the ghost. But against all odds, I’ve come up with a little ditty of a story, and I posted it spurred by the naive hope that there are still readers out there who still dig my little stories, or that maybe I’ll meet some new ones. I say ‘against all odds’, because up until a few hours ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d write again. Why? I just couldn’t find the drive, the ideas, or the energy to focus. But, somehow, I caught hold of a feeling and decided to run with it. And so, here is my diamond in the rough…

 

Ben’s Bouquet

The bouquet rests in my hands. Its disgustingly beautiful, a brilliant mass of lilies and roses interspersed with feathery greenery. Even then, while holding my heart in my hands, the smell is intoxicating. I can barely think.

I remember now why I hate flowers. Sickeningly sweet, their aroma makes your head swim, and yet, like a drug, their beauty still manages to arouse your heart. And just when you fall in love with their colours and complexity, they die.

“Why’d you bring me flowers, of all things?”

Ben leans against a pillar, watching the buses come in and out of the station. They run on time, each one faithfully carrying its passengers away to parts unknown. The riders look happy; expectation lights up their faces. Men, women, children, singles, and families, clutching satchels and suitcases; backpacks stuffed with snacks for inter-city rides. The constant rumble of voices and the squeals of excited children hover over the platform. They should be holding these flowers, not me.

“I dunno. I thought you liked flowers. Tonight’s a happy occasion, right?”

“Is it?”

We shouldn’t be arguing, not now.

How much time do we have left?

The station’s giant clock looms behind him, but his silhouette obscures its face. I shuffle through my purse for my phone, but he takes my hands in his and sits on the bench beside me.

“You look like we’re at a funeral. We talked about this. You said you were thrilled.”

sad girl

I look at the bouquet resting in space between us. He was right. We had talked about it, but at the time the news was fresh and we were riding high on excitement and the possibility of what could be. But now…

The doors of a nearby bus snap shut. With a roar, it pulls away from the station, the red tail lights flashing as it pauses at the intersection before leaving the lot. Then it drives away into the night. Another bus pulls into its freshly vacated spot.

“I didn’t pick this internship, you know,” Ben says. “They chose me.”

“I know. It’s a great opportunity. You’d be crazy to pass on it.”

He tips my chin upwards so I could look into his eyes. Chocolate brown and earnest, it’s impossible to look away. “It’ll be fine. I’ll get settled in, and once things are in order, you’ll join me just like we talked about.”

The second bus finishes loading. Once the last passenger is seated, the door shuts with a snap and the bus drives away, it too, fading into the night.

For Ben’s sake, I decide to be brave. He was doing this for us, after all. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. It’s just…so far.”

He pulls me in close for a hug. “Good thing I’ve got all those books on bio-engineering to keep me busy.”

His bus finally pulls up. Ben stands and throws his backpack over a shoulder. “It’s a big change for us, but it’ll be good. Trust me.”

He kisses me goodbye and boards the bus after storing his luggage. In a moment, he’ll leave for a new city, a new home. A new life. And until we met again, I will live on memories that would, over time, wither like a fistful of flowers.

I lean on the pillar as he had done, watching his bus pause at the intersection as if for one last look back. Then the engine revs and it drives into the night, red taillights glowering.

Once Ben’s news had sunk in and the whole picture had become clear to me, I’d told him over breakfast one day that nothing lasts forever, not even love.

“The sun comes up every day, doesn’t it?” he answered. “And even if we don’t always see it, the moon moves along its cycle today just as it’s done since the beginning. Some things might not last, but other things, the important things, do.”

I’d stopped arguing with him after that. He believed it, and that had been enough.

I press the flowers to my chest. They were beautiful. And he’d given them to me. Whether as a parting gift or a promise, I didn’t know. But tonight, before laying down for bed, I would dry one or two in a book. Just in case.

Rose

Dyane Forde July 2017

717 words

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Nor’easter by Dyane Forde

It’s here! My story, Nor’easter, short-listed for the Storgy writing contest is published!

NOR’EASTER

by

Dyane Forde

typewriter love

North

“Wake up.”

I opened my eyes against the morning glare but immediately shrunk back from a headache. White and black stars pulsed before my eyes; those two words, “Wake up”, a hammer pulverising the side of my face. Wind blew in from the open window, admitting a mean downdraft which pressed me into the bed. I knew, from the smell of rot trailing in on the draft, how this scene was going to end: a storm was coming, and that storm was me.

The voice. It was Dale’s. Uncle Dale, my blood. My savior. I shook my head to let the information slide into place, but my brain rebelled. It crackled with pain, interference. Tenderly, I put a hand to my forehead, as if that would steady the tumult inside, and felt relief. My face, my skin, my head were whole. Only, I wasn’t. Skin…

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Sunshine and Lemonade: A Valentine’s Day Short Story

It’s Valentine’s Day! I wasn’t going to write anything for the occasion, as I find it hard to write romance stories; I prefer a good, solid love story. However, this story came to me two days ago only I didn’t have the time or the energy to write it. Honestly, I’d given up on getting it done until something clicked and Poof! I got it out. The inspiration? A few weeks ago, I told my friend, Adrianna Joleigh, that I wanted to write something inspired by one of her paintings. I love trees and nature visuals so I chose this one (which, BTW, she is giving away! Contact her at the link above if you are interested):

Painting by Adrianna Joleigh

Painting by Adrianna Joleigh

 Only, I didn’t have a story to go with it. Then, two days ago, on my way to work a story hit me. Only, the story turned out vastly different to what I had originally planned, which is fine since I like this much better. So, I’m happy to present my quickie Valentine’s Day story, Sunshine and Lemonade. I include the next picture with it because, though it’s a little different that the story, it sums it up quite well. And the couple is just so darned adorable.  🙂

Sunshine and Lemons

Photo from old-photos.blogspot.com

Photo from old-photos.blogspot.com

Arlo watched the children as they spilled out of the cornfield. Their hurried steps were light as spectres’ upon the grass, and, in unison, they hummed children’s songs as they skipped across the lawn towards the oak tree. Bathed in the canopy’s shadow at the base of the tree, the lively spirits sang as they circled the massive trunk. From the porch, Arlo watched them through a thick cloud of pipe smoke, enjoying the magical sights and sounds as much as he loathed them. Until the sun burst through the clouds and dashed the vision to pieces.

Isn’t that how things go in this life? he thought as he reached over to squeeze his wife’s wrinkled hand. Here today and gone tomorrow? He’d always believed that cherishing the people and things he loved, and keeping them close, was the most important thing a man could do. The vision confirmed it.

May glanced up from her magazine, Knitting Today, and smiled at him. Her face was as lined as her hands, but every crease and fold had been carved over the years from being a farmer’s wife as well as a mother of ten. In them, Arlo saw devotion and heart. Love. He lanced over at the old oak tree. Like it, May had stayed rooted by his side, bending and swaying under the press of life’s storms as they came, steadily, one after the other. He squeezed her hand again.

‘What are you thinking about so hard?’ she asked. ‘You know it’ll only hurt your head.’

He smiled at the old, old joke. ‘At least I still have enough sense left in there to think with. How many eighty-five-year-olds do you know who can say that?’

May laughed and went back to her magazine. Then, seeming to notice the growing heat as the day wore on, she made as if to get up. ‘You want some lemonade? I know you like it on a hot day.’

‘Yes, but I’ll get it. You…you just stay here in the sunlight. It always made your hair luminous, like…well, like the sun itself.’

May shook a fistful of hair at him. ‘You mean this straggly, grey stuff? You must need glasses.’

‘I have glasses!’

‘Thicker ones, then. I’m old and dried up, just like the bag of prunes in the cupboard.’

‘Nah,’ he answered from the screen door. You’re as beautiful today as you were when we met.’

She batted her eyes at him. Even after nearly seventy years, those blue eyes still made his heart flutter. ‘And what about these wrinkles?’

Swallowing back the lump rising in his throat, Arlo slowly swept his eyes back over to the tree. ‘They just make you more beautiful.’

A commotion sounded from the house, and startled, Arlo stepped back from the door to let out a stream of spectre-children. Laughing and singing, they pushed past him to traipse along the worn porch slats. Arlo’s gaze followed them as they danced across the grass towards the oak. Its boughs swayed lightly in the wind, in time with their song.

You are my sunshine, My only sunshine–

‘How about that lemonade, hon?’

Sweating, Arlo nodded, wiped his brow and ducked into the house. Inside the kitchen, he pressed his hands together to make them stop shaking, then shook them to get the blood going. Trapped heat made the room almost stifling hot–the windows were still closed, but he refused to open them. Even so, he could still hear the children’s voices loud and clear.

You make me happy when skies are grey–

From the porch, May’s rocking chair creaked in a steady rhythm, like a heartbeat.

What had he come inside for again? Arlo glanced around the kitchen for help. He ignored the piles of dirty dishes and the clotted milk gone sour and still sitting on the counter. Last night’s TV dinner remained half-eaten on the kitchen table, beside a half-empty bottle of whiskey and an empty glass.

‘Lemonade!’ he almost shouted, as he came back to himself. He crossed the black and white tiled floor in two quick steps, picking his way around the dust bunnies and pieces of garbage which always fell to the floor from the over-stuffed wastebasket, and opened the fridge.

The light was burned. A wave of reek from the darkness inside hit him full force in the face.

How could he have forgotten? There were no more lemons.

He ran back to the porch. ‘May! I’m so sorry. I-I can’t make you lemonade.’

She waved a hand at him and smiled, causing every one of her creases and wrinkles to smile as well. ‘Silly man. I’m fine. What do I need lemonade for, anyway?’

Pressure built in his chest. Around the tree, the ghost-children still sang. Their voices piped through the air, accompanying Arlo as he went to his wife and knelt beside her chair.

‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You never know, dear, how much I love you—‘ He couldn’t finish the song.

May took his hand in hers and gently squeezed. The children’s voices rose above the rush of the wind and the rustling of the leaves. And releasing his hand, she opened her mouth to do what he could not.

Copyright@ 2014 by Dyane Forde