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  1. #1
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    (Short Story) The Bride Carried Yellow Tulips - Part Two

    ****
    The photograph on the shelf did not do Sheila justice, I decided. She looked exactly as I imagined Peggy had looked at her age. Long raven hair and skin like porcelain, its paleness broken only by the rosiness of her lips and the startling blue of her eyes; her lashes, long and exotic, the negative of her mother’s white ones.

    When Peggy went to the loo, Sheila asked me how I thought she was doing.

    “The medication seems to be working? She seems calmer?” She spoke in that strange way some Australians and Americans do, or young kids these days – uptalking I think they call it. Every sentence sounded like a question. I shrugged.

    “She’s often confused, I think; fails to acknowledge that he’s gone…”

    I never met George. Peggy lost him long before I started to come to the house to care for her. She had good days and bad days, but her spirit rarely changed. On her good days she believed the “George situation”, as she called it, to be only temporary, and on her bad days she believed it not at all.

    “Beautiful flowers,” I nodded towards the vase. Sheila smiled weakly, her eyes moist.

    “Her favourites, and dad’s. She carried yellow tulips on her wedding day.”

    ***
    The grief of loss is terrible and all-consuming. Not that I know from first hand experience – not yet, thank God – but Peggy told me, and I believe her. This was on a rare lucid day, when losing George seemed to her, for a moment, not only possible but a certainty. I could see the grief in her eyes, and etched on her face in perfect, horrible terror. It was like she suddenly realised that not only did she have to live with the deterioration of her senses, but also with the knowledge that he was not here to help her through it.

    On her denial days, he was always just out – at the market, with friends at the pub, in the potting shed and “not to be disturbed” – anywhere, it seemed, except where I could see him.

    I didn’t mind her lies. They were barely lies at all really, simply her coping strategy.

    ***
    Sheila came again, a few times. Mostly when I was not there, but sometimes when I was. She removed the muddy boots from the back porch and threw the newspaper covered in dust into the bin. She righted the wheelbarrow and moved it to the potting shed, shutting it inside with a kind of relieved finality.

    She put books on locomotives, and cricket, and the care of flowerbeds, neatly into boxes. She moved spectacles from the table between the wing chairs and clothes and shoes from the wardrobes, and put them in large black bin bags.

    She gathered a large coin and stamp collection, bound in embossed leather, into packing crates and lined them up in the front hallway.

    It took her a week to do this, and some of the nights between her visits, I stayed with Peggy, aware that this was too much, too fast, even after half a year.

    ***
    The night before Sheila’s last visit, I found Peggy at midnight, sitting in her wing chair. In her lap were the remains of the tulips that Sheila had brought, absently wrung into green and yellow pieces that she sifted through her fingers over and over.

    I didn’t think she had seen me, but she said: “It’s almost done, I suppose.”

    I sat in George’s wing chair and reached over to take her hand, forcing her to stop worrying the leaves and petals that gathered dead in her lap. Her skin was deathly cold.

    “You’ll feel better when it’s over,” I said, knowing that it probably wasn’t true. But she could not feel any worse, and that was almost the same.

    “I never thought he would go,” she said, and her eyes blazed with something I couldn’t fathom. It was maybe just the reflection of the orange bars of the gas fire dancing in the tears, or maybe something more. “Having someone torn from you is the worst thing you can imagine.”

    I held her hand until dawn, watching the agony on her face as pallid light crept across the room.

    ***
    The next day, Sheila came and hugged Peggy, cried softly into her shoulder, promised she would come back soon.

    A van driver arrived and she gave him instructions, and he took away all of George’s things. I watched Peggy watch them go, and the desolation on her face tore something in me.

    ***
    Sheila returned to Australia two days later. Some of George’s belongings she took on board the plane with her, and some of them travelled in the hold.

    ***
    Early autumn in Perth saw George tending his flowerbeds, where Queen Elizabeth and Iceberg roses painted the garden pink and white. He was slower these days, and his back always troubled him. Sometimes he stopped, straightened up, and thought of Peggy.

    ***
    Back in England, the tulips raised their heads once more from their bed and Peggy watched them through the window, from her wing chair. Beautiful they were, all of them; pink, orange, red…

    But her favourites were the yellow ones, the ones she had carried in her bridal bouquet. She’d pick some later and put them in a vase between the wing chairs.

    George would love them.





    THE END



  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    It seemed much more that George died rather than just left, so it was quite a mind play reading about George tending his flowerbeds. You need to fix that, in my opinion. Peggy "losing" George and his being "gone" are easily misconstrued as euphemisms. If you intended that, well, you were successful, but it struck me as an annoying, "cutesy" kind of thing to do. And why does it take George more than six months to get his stuff? Seems like he would've taken most of it with him when he left.

    The writing itself is pretty good. Pretty clear and clean, so kudos there.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your comments, John. The surprise was intentional. The reader is supposed to think that George died. I don't think "lost" and "gone" are euphemisms. In this case they are literal. George was gone and she lost him. It doesn't always have to mean death.

    Thanks for your kind words about the writing in general. That you took the time to read is appreciated.

    Have a great weekend.

    DW

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Of course they're euphemisms, and you know it, else how is the surprise intentional and the reader supposed to think that George died? They think that because "lost" and "gone" are euphemisms for death. I think this could be a much more powerful piece without the surprise by simply contrasting how the husband and wife think of the separation. I think the surprise nullifies what would otherwise be a poignant piece. That surprise is just a cutesy gimick. I'd jettison it.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 08-11-2014 at 03:50 AM.

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