Summary: A young widower, a small child, and a wonderful gift.
Word Count: 840
Big brown eyes, open wide and nearly greenish in the bright light of the early afternoon sun; the child’s face seemed to consist only of them: of them and the soft pink lips forming a perfect little “o.”
“Wats-wats?” This time it was a little more urging. And at the end of his outstretched arm, the toddler’s tiny, far too skinny index finger was waved with emphasis.
Ben tore his eyes from the child’s knitted eyebrows, so very familiar to how hers had contracted when she had been impatient, and let his gaze follow to where the finger pointed: a plant, about two feet high with big luminous orange flowers with a distinctive brown central cone.
“That’s a flower, Adam,” he said. It was a black-eyed Susan, if Ben remembered right, but he wasn’t completely sure, and so he repeated, “A flower.”
He could see how Adam’s mind worked. His little lips tried to form the word, soundlessly; he looked at the plant, then back to his father, creased his face in a funny grimace of concentration, and then sighed and asked again, “Wats-wats?”
Wats-wats. That had been Adam’s favourite word for the past three weeks. It had taken Ben some time to figure out that wats-wats actually meant three words: What is that?
Adam was a late speaker. At first Ben had joked that his son was too busy with looking and watching, so that there was no time to speak; but when Adam hadn’t said a word besides papa and no at the age of eighteen months, he had been terrified that maybe his child wasn’t right. Until the day he confided his fears to a reverend’s wife in a small town near Huntington, and the mother of seven children had looked deep into his eyes and said, “Mr. Cartwright, believe me, there’s nothing wrong with this child. They are all different, some are quick in learning to walk, some in learning to talk. And considering that your son has little to no company, it’s not a mystery that he doesn’t speak yet.” She had taken his hand, squeezed it tight, and added, “You are doing a fine job here, Mr. Cartwright. It will all turn out well.”
Ben had been relieved but also felt guilty for depriving Adam of playmates he could learn from, and consequently started to talk to him at every waking hour. It had shown results very quickly: Adam had taken up words like horse and milk and hot and tree, and delivered them happily when Ben pointed on things and asked for the name. Then one glorious day, he had spoken his first wats-wats.
From the day Adam had realized that wats-wats provided him with new expressions, he had been collecting words. His days were an endless sequence of pointed fingers, wats-wats and new words he’d digest on his tongue until he was ready to say them out loud.
“Yes, a river. Very good!”
“A snake. Don’t touch those, you hear me?”
“What? No. Well, yes, don’t touch them. Their name is snake, though.”
It was a wonderful game, and Ben considered himself richly blessed by being a part of it.
A small hand tugged at his sleeve. “Wats-wats?” Adam asked again, his finger waving expressly at the plant, and Ben remembered that he still owed him an answer.
“A flower. Flow-er.”
Again, Adam rolled the word on his tongue, looked at Ben, moved his lips. Then he grinned, pointed his little finger at his father, and said firmly, “Wait.” He turned, made the two, three steps to the black-eyed Susan, grabbed the stem and pulled until he held the flower in his small hand. He inspected the radiant petals, touched the brown cone with a cautious finger, and then came back to Ben, carrying the flower like an athlete would carry the Olympic torch, proud and solemnly.
He took one last look at the blossom, then presented it to his father, and proclaimed gravely, “Flour.”
Ben smiled, “Yes;” but apparently that wasn’t what Adam wanted: he waggled the flower, nodded emphatically and repeated, “Flour. Papa, flour.”
“Oh.” Now Ben understood, and he accepted the flower. “It’s a gift. Thank you, Adam.”
Adam’s face darkened, and once more, his frown reminded Ben of Elizabeth’s. “No,” the boy said decisively. “No gift. Flour!“
Ben didn’t argue. But he kept the pressed flower in his Bible and never called it anything but a gift. The first of many to come, yet forever something special.
A rose can say “I love you”,
orchids can enthrall,
but a weed bouquet in a chubby fist,
yes, that says it all.
A/N: With many thanks to Sklamb for the beta.