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Morning Glory

Won 10th place in the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition, 2018

        Daffodils forced their way up through the cracks in the pavement behind her as each fleeting footstep brushed the earth. While the fragile flowers unfurled their petals, people watched in awe and gathered around her brightness. She drew them in with laughter and bestowed upon them roses plucked from the crown atop her head. As each was pulled from the rest another bloomed in its place. The people marveled at her kindness, entranced by her abilities and her extravagant displays. She was fire, she was light, she was warmth.

        Spider web cracks spread across the sidewalk after each hesitant footfall as he went, carrying a wreath of thunderclouds around his neck. He lingered on the corner, a widening puddle of rainwater at his feet. He gazed at the sky, briefly wondering if his loneliness would ever fade. The people clutched their roses tightly, skirting uneasily away from him. He paid them no mind, knowing they could not change and neither could he. He was ice, he was cold, he was guarded.

        As days came and went, he grew weary, tired of the thunder roaring in his ears and the lightning striking at him without relent. He traced the patches of vibrant flowers through intersections and alleyways of the silent city to her. Upon seeing her, he froze. She turned and he hesitantly lifted his gaze to meet her dark eyes. She smiled. He offered to her a chilled hand, damp with rain. She laid a violet in his palm and she closed his fingers around it. He was captivated by her every move, transfixed by her grace and elegance. He was held in her grip. She adjusted her crown of roses and walked away, her long, wispy hair trailing behind her. A smile eased onto his face as he opened his hand and gazed at the violet. He trusted her.

        Each day when the golden sun climbed into the sky, she awoke and meandered down the sidewalk as plants sprung to life behind her. He followed soon after, sending water streaming into the cracks to the parched roots of the flowers. She danced through gaps between dull, grey skyscrapers and drew patterns of clover with her footsteps. He patrolled the streets for hours on end, gently guiding wayward sunflowers toward the light. When dusk descended, sending glinting beams of light through windows of empty shops, she laid a violet in his hand and strolled down the street and around the corner. He grinned and waved farewell. Keeping the cherished violets close to his chest, nestled beneath his hands and safe from the water, he plodded in the opposite direction past the flowers he proudly cared for. Despite his dedication and care, each night the plants withered to dust.

        As limp petals and brittle leaves began to clutter the streets, a seed of doubt slowly crept into his mind. He brushed it from his thoughts at first and diligently continued his work, coaxing rosebuds out of the neglected flower boxes, raising them into magnificent blossoms by day and watching them shrivel by night. His heart filled with apprehension over the needless deaths of the flowers. He did not understand why his efforts to care for the plants were futile. He approached her with his growing concerns, but, in annoyance, she dropped a violet in his hand and turned away. His worry only multiplied.

        She grew distant and aloof. The trail of flowers she left behind became erratic and unhealthy. He knelt beside drooping stems and crumbling leaves and struggled to bring life back to them, only to watch as they curled inward, grey and stiff. He wondered what he had done to drive her away. His rain clouds poured day and night and he sloshed and trudged wherever he went, water streaming behind him. His mood grew melancholy and dismal. He could not lift the weight of the deluge from him and frequently found himself neglecting the flowers. Each day dragged past like the one before, somber and silent. Other people gave him a perpetually widening berth and his loneliness began to consume him.

        A morning arrived as harsh, white sunlight clambered over the horizon into a sky strewn with clouds. He rose to tend to the flowers he knew would be waiting for him. It was misty and bleak outside, and the city was silent. Anxious, he crept along the curb, following a trail of feeble violets. The clouds around him dripped warily. He knelt to lift the frail petals of a flower in a clammy hand and they fell sadly away from his fingers. With downcast eyes, he stood and continued. He turned a corner and hands snatched at him. A gasp escaped his throat. He was running, slipping on wet pavement and falling, scrambling away. The clouds rumbled and he panicked, not daring to cast a glance behind him. They were coming. He could barely hear them over the roaring thunder, could barely see them through the battering rain. He darted through a doorway and saw her. He called to her for help and she walked toward him, smiling. He backed into a wall and she advanced, still smiling. The others poured into the room, surrounding him. They were closing in. He fell to his knees and begged her, pleading for help, pleading for mercy. He felt chilled water trickling down his spine as she pulled a daisy from her pocket and casually tore the petals from its center one by one. He felt the clouds gather at his forehead and streams flowed from his eyes. Each petal drifted to the ground, alighting on the puddle beneath his feet, sending gentle circles rippling through it. The last petal fell to the wet ground and jagged cracks splintered the surface of the water as it turned to ice. He knew, then, that it was all a ruse. He had trusted her, and she had betrayed him.

        She was ice, she was cold, she was cruel. He was fire, he was fury, he was willpower.

        He lashed out as the people drew closer still, his clouds writhing and swirling into a tempest of rage and terror. The people held him down as he thrashed about, lightning shattering the silence, the clouds around him roiling and darkening. She knelt before him and, with a sickly sweet smile, she reached into his stormy chest and plucked from it his heart. His eyes fell on the blurred image of her face for a lingering moment. With the last dribbling streams of rain his body melted away. His heart remained, beating faintly in her soft hand. Inside hid a single violet, wilting ever so gently, silent in its sorrow. Then it was gone. She glanced at the heart for a moment before tossing it away with a shrug. Her smile grew brighter as the memory slid from her mind. She tugged a rose from her crown and placed it in the hands of a nearby child, who skipped joyfully from the room. The others filtered casually out onto the street to continue their lives in contentment. She turned and strode from the scene, leaving behind her a trail of flowers that shivered and died as she went.

©Kaylee Schuler

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