Summary: Five women, five flowers, each of them holding a special meaning. The eighth story in the “Art” Universe.
Word Count: 1000
The first flowers were for Inger. Tiny blue prairie flowers, that probably only blossomed in Kentucky. Adam had spent hours plucking them, and when he presented the bunch of what seemed more stems than flowers he had clutched in his small sweaty fist to his beloved new mother, the flowers had already gone limp. But Inger had been delighted, she had smelled at them and said these were the prettiest flowers she had ever seen. Of course, in the rumbling wagon she couldn’t keep them in a vase, so she wound a blue ribbon round the stems and hung the flowers on one of the hoops holding the wagon cover to dry.
The dried flowers stayed there even after Inger had died. As if they were part of the family they watched over the boys and their struggling father on their way to the west. They found a place in the first small cabin they built on the Ponderosa, and moved with them to the bigger ranch house.
Eventually time took its toll on them, and Adam still remembered his little brother Hoss’ bewildered face when he found his big ten year old hero Adam crying over some crumbled greyish green and blue remnants.
The second flowers, he picked for Marie. It was her birthday, and he had finally found out that maybe he could love her. So he went outside and chose the most beautiful flowers he could find. They weren’t too far away, just behind the house. Marie’s face had been a study of joy and grievance when the rebellious thirteen year old gave her a glorious bouquet of the finest New Orleans roses you could find in, as people said, the whole Nevada territory. She had brought the plants from home, implanted them in the back garden, watered and groomed them for years, and then the boy who seemed to have pledged to himself he would never let another woman in his heart had come and cut them all to the roots to morph them into a token of love and respect for his new mother.
The plants had never recovered from the mistreatment, but to both Adam and Marie it somehow seemed worth it. Only when Marie wasn’t there anymore, Adam wished the rose tree would carry flowers again. But it never did.
The third flowers were for Rosalee. Rosalee, beautiful sixteen and the love of his young life. A bottle of whiskey, nicked from Ross’s father’s secret cabinet and shared at a secluded spot near Lake Tahoe, had (with a little assistance from Ross) prompted Adam into a raid into Miss Eulalia’s back yard.
Opulent gardenias, sumptuous hydrangeas, roses, marigolds, and imperious lupines had made a magnificent bouquet. Rosalee’s cheeks had burnt red, and she had sniggered and looked down, and her thick golden curls had covered her cheeks but exposed her white, delicious neck, and Adam had felt hot and cold, and very grown up and too small for his body, and completely confused. And then Rosalee’s father had chased him away, and Pa had been waiting for him at home with an empty bottle of whiskey and a very angry Miss Eulalia.
Adam had been doing barn chores for everyone until the day he left for Boston. Rosalee’s kiss had been more than he hoped for, but after a few weeks she had turned her attention to Clive Benson. Today she was a 200 pound mother of six badly behaved brats, with a husband who preferred to spend his nights at the saloon rather than home.
The fourth flowers he actually bought. Lilies, white lilies.
On his way to the cemetery he had seen an old woman offering bunches of roses, snapdragons, and lilies for sale in front of the Old Corner Book Store in School Street; and somehow he found it appropriate to buy flowers for his mother near a bookstore. The old lady had smiled at him toothlessly and asked if he wouldn’t rather want roses for his sweetheart.
“No,” Adam had answered. “Those lilies are just perfect.”
And they were: white as angel’s wings, beautiful and proud, and with those funny wiggling orange-red stamens.
He knew his mother only from the daguerreotype Pa had given him and the tales about an elegant but mischievous lady Grandpa told when they sat together after dinner. The Elizabeth his mind had created from that was like these lilies: graceful and sophisticated but with a hint of frivolity.
As he laid the flowers onto his mother’s grave he felt as if he really were giving them to her; and he took the July sun caressing his cheeks for a silent thank you. Mother and son hadn’t been so close since that fateful day she first and last had held him.
Today’s flower would last forever. Today’s flower was a beginning. A symbol for something that was meant to grow, to bloom, and to live. A promise. A token given instead of a thousand words. A thousand words? No, three little words. He was sure she would understand.
It was fine English silverware, imported from Sheffield. A deliciously crafted rose, each petal bossed into perfect shape, surrounded by equally finely wrought leaves. The flower adorned a special hair comb, designed for someone special, just like the store clerk had said. Adam smiled as he pictured this English rose in the sumptuous golden waves of his English rose. Someone special, indeed. A special lady. Mylady.
Yes, today’s flower would last forever.
If I had a flower for every time I thought of you,
I could walk in my garden forever.
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson