#39 The Flower: Part 2
Hello to you all! Welcome back for part 2 of The Flower, where the consequences of the mysterious flower start to change the lives of Marie-Anne and Lizzie irreversibly. If you missed the first part, go catch up before coming back here. Please check out some of my recent stories:
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#39 The Flower: Part 2
Next morning, the flower is still there but hidden in the darkness. I get into my wheelchair and go and open the curtains and examine the flower closely. Its petals look so alive, with microscopic veins running along them. It makes me smile and it’s almost as though some of its energy is transferred to me. I feel awake and ready to do something.
About 40 minutes later, I get a phone call.
‘I can’t come today, Marie-Anne.’
‘Oh, Lizzie, why not? Is everything okay?’
‘I think I’ve come down with something. I barely slept last night, such a grip did the fever have over me. I was shivering all night long.’
‘Oh dear, well that does sound awful. You better take it easy.’
‘Thanks, if you want I can have the agency send over another carer?’
‘That won’t be necessary. I can look after myself for one day.’
‘Ok. You ring if you need me and I hope I’ll be well enough to come tomorrow.’
‘I do hope so too. Get some rest.’
I hang up the phone and look over at the flower. While I obviously feel for Lizzie, I feel a little happy that I’ll be able to spend some uninterrupted time with my new friend.
That afternoon, I put on The Last Hero Of Our Time. About 10 minutes in, I find myself describing out loud, to the flower, who the characters are and where we are up to in the story, so that she can watch along too. After all, I know how dreadfully boring it is starting a new television show two-thirds of the way through. We watch it together, laugh together, cry together. It is a good way to spend an afternoon.
After the show finishes, I switch the television off. There’s nothing else on I’d like to watch. I look at the clock on my dresser, which ticks a very audible, old-clockwork tick. I look at the birds in the sycamore out the window, and the rain that starts which soon slaps the window.
All of a sudden, I look down at the flower, and the flower says: ‘Do it, Marie-Anne, do it.’
Next thing I know, I’m lifting the sheets off me and stepping down to the floor. I feel my feet touch the floor more comfortably this time. I feel the strain reach up my calves and my thighs and the weight of my upper body falling into place on my hips. I put one foot in front of the other and find, with the wildest grin on my face, that I’m actually able to walk around the room!
I walk up to the clock, and stare at its tiny hands moving. I walk up to the window and look at the rain in the darkness. I look at the flower, its little happy face glowing up at me. I walk up to the doorway and step out into the corridor, go into the kitchen and reach for a glass. I fill the glass with water, bring it back to my bedroom, and instead of drinking from it like I originally intended, I take it to my new companion, and pour it into its soiled bed.
I feel as though the flower gives me a pat on the back. I put the cup down on the table, go to my bed, get in and switch the light off.
I’m awoken from my sleep by a rapturous banging at the door. I get out of bed and, ignoring my wheelchair, go and answer it.
‘Post!’ the postman says. ‘Won’t fit through your box.’
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‘Oh, thank you,’ I respond. I take the letters from the postman and go and sit in the kitchen, make a coffee, and examine them. They’re all pretty boring, boilerplate, bills, updates, changes to terms of conditions for this and that I didn’t know I subscribed to.
I call Lizzie.
‘How are you feeling?’
‘Not good. I don’t think I can come today. My husband has gone to get some medicine, but if anything it’s getting worse. I just feel so weak.’
‘Oh dear, Lizzie, I’m really sorry to hear that. Listen, I’m doing well on my own, don’t worry about me. You get yourself better and I’ll see you tomorrow or in a few days. However long it takes.’
‘Thanks, Marie-Anne. Listen, I’ll call the agency and get them to send someone else. You need to be cared for and I can’t do it right now.’
‘No, Lizzie, don’t. Please. You won’t believe it, but I’ve started to feel so much better recently. I could do with just looking after myself for a day or two. Let me do this. I’ll call if I need you or anyone else.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. I’m sure.’
‘Okay then. See you.’
For the first time in nine months, I get the ingredients out of my cupboard and fridge to make my own Pad Thai. It’s been so long since I’ve cooked the food I love. The smells are so rich, and the flavours so full. And I don’t lose any energy in making it. I feel alive. Ready for whatever the world throws at me.
The next day, my sister visits with her daughters, one of which has her own daughter. It shows how old I’m getting. I put food on and cater for them, and they say I look my best in months. They say I look like my old self. This gives me a great smile. I show them my flower and they are very jealous of it. They try to find out what type it is online, too, but with no luck. I am very proud of it and, even in a few days, I can see how it has grown, its petals reaching further out and its colours becoming more vibrant.
A week passes like this, with the flower in full form, and my recovery moving ahead at its fastest pace. By the seventh day, I’ve folded away my wheelchair and am not using it at all. The sun comes out and I do some gardening. I’m out there on my hands and knees, pulling weeds and planting new flowers. I feel like a new person.
I call up Lizzie, but she doesn’t answer. She hasn’t answered her phone in several days now and it’s starting to make me worry about her. I know she has her husband, but I still feel tied to her.
I decide, given I have nothing better to do, I’ll go over and pay her a visit. I’ve never been to her house before, but she’s told me many times where it is. Luckily for me, it’s a short train journey away, and I get there in about 35 minutes.
When I ring the doorbell, her husband answers. He shows me into Lizzie’s room.
‘Lizzie… It’s me, Marie-Anne.’
Her eyebrows crease as she looks at me, and looks at my legs.
‘Marie-Anne. You’re walking! You’re… you’re walking?’
‘Yes! Isn’t it a miracle? I’ve been walking for about a week now. I even did some gardening this morning.’
‘Some gardening? Why did you do that?’
‘I don’t know. I’ve never done it before.’
‘Do you still have that flower?’
‘I do. She’s still as beautiful as she was a week ago.’
‘How are you?’
‘I’m not in a good way, Marie-Anne.’ Of course, I know that. During this whole conversation I’ve been trying to put on a brave face, but Lizzie looks like she hasn’t slept in months. Her eyes are dark. Her hair is gross, unwashed, wild. She smells like an unemptied bin.
‘What’s the matter with you? What did the doctor say?’
‘They said I might never walk again. Apparently some viral infection I’ve had has triggered some motor issues with my legs.’
‘What? Like mine?’
‘Yes, like yours…’
We look each other in the eyes. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
‘Can you pass me my drink please?’
I reach to her table and pick up the glass of water, and hand it to her. Her hands are shaking as though she’s carrying a sack of bricks.
‘Ugh,’ she groans. She rests her head back on the pillow and looks at the ceiling. She pants heavily.
Her husband comes in and says, ‘I think she needs her rest now. Thank you for coming to visit, I know she values your company. You can come back tomorrow if you like.’
‘Yes, okay. I think I will. I do hope you get better soon, Lizzie.’
We look at each other and there’s some mutual understanding between us. We both see the flower in the face of the other. The husband shows me out.
When I get home, I sink into a chair in my living room and think about Lizzie. Did I cause that? Has my recovery caused her health to deteriorate? Are we two opposites of the same coin? Does that even happen?
I sit that way for a long time, and then I go to the kitchen and pour a glass of water. I take it to my bedroom, to the window where the flower sits. But when I get there, to my astonishment, the flower has completely disappeared. It’s not there at all.
I walk around the table, look under the bed, and check every room in the house. But it’s definitely gone. I check all the locks on all the doors. I do not know how it vanished, but it has.
I close the door to my bedroom and take the glass through to the living room. I sit down on the sofa, take a sip of water, and switch the TV on to watch The Last Hero Of Our Time.