Outside the window

Outside the window sits a small tree, its branches twisted and bare, as if the young sapling had succumbed to old age. Spring was in full bloom and the neighbouring trees wore thick cloaks of ripe green vegetation. Despite its barren appearance, the small tree refused to die. Its root system was strong and deep, having tapped into an abundance of nutrients deep below the surface.

The interesting thing about this tree is the single flower blooming at the end of the longest branch, with bright orange petals in stark contrast with the sullen shade of brown bark. The flower glowed with more colour than the most vivid sunset or the brightest firework, and its scent—a tantalizing blend of fresh citrus with hints of vanilla—was so unlike any flower seen in the neighbouring yards, and was always a curious sight to those passing by.

But the peculiarity of the tree stretched further than the lonesome flower. The grass below suffered the same defect—a perfect circle of crisp, dead grass surrounded the tree in an even uglier shade of brown than the crumbling bark peeling from its trunk. Every now and then, no more than once in a blue moon, a fresh tuft of green would emerge at the base of the tree, only to be devoured by the surrounding brown stain.

But like all good things should, this tree serves a purpose, and only one person knows the truth about its ghastly appearance. But he’d never tell you, no matter how many cups of chai tea you made him. He was a solemn and honest man, and had made a promise to his wife many decades ago to watch over her and keep her safe. Even in her death, he remained true to his word. Below the roots of that tree rests the remains of his beloved, buried in her Sunday best and favourite orange hat.

Now, the lonely orange flower doesn’t seem so odd, does it? But why, you may ask, is the tree so sterile and wilted? And to answer such a question, we must rely on public opinion and neighbourhood gossip. The woman was an infection upon humanity. Her very presence a stain, an abomination that made even the animals shy away and send the neighbourhood kids scattering down the street.

There were many reasons why people withdrew from her presence. It may have been the necklace made of bones that bounced across her chest or the scarf made entirely of human hair that she wrapped around her head in winter. But the most frightening reason was the way the she walked. Or more precisely, the way she shuffled down the sidewalk—sometimes hand-in-hand with her devoted husband—with her feet facing backwards. It was a sight that could churn the contents of your stomach and send you running for the toilet bowl.

One drizzly winters day, her husband found her in the bathroom, blood leaching across the tiles and a discarded carving knife beside her dismembered feet. She had died in a pool of her own blood, desperately trying to hack away her imperfections. Her sewing kit was laid out beside her, complete with a large needle, its eye already threaded with thick nylon thread.

If you were asked which was more saddening, would it be that the woman had felt like such an outcast that she was decided to cut off her own feet or that she never had the chance to sew them back on, right way around? But, perhaps that’s a question better left for campfire ghost stories and nightmares.

Her husband was the only attendee at the funeral—along with some local kids who wanted to see for themselves that the woman was truly gone, but they sat on the furthest hill, unwilling to come any closer.

Now the husband just sits by the window, watching over the tree. He dreams about the day he will be reunited with his wife, forever clutching a carving knife in his hand.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

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One Hundred Roses

 

She opened the door to an ocean of long stemmed roses. She knew they were from him; he had found her. They were wrapped in silky white paper, tied with brown twine. Bundles and bundles of crimson bouquets showered the small patio with an intoxicating aroma; sweet and moist, with a hint of something that she couldn’t quite place her finger on. It lingered on her lips as she breathed it in, her chest rising and falling with the tempo of her drumming pulse.

She stepped out of the warmth of the house, eyeing the empty road—nobody. She loosed a sigh, hungry for his arrival. It had to be soon. They did this every year and it never took more than a couple of hours for him to decipher her clues. But where was he? Surely he was the one who had delivered the flowers . . .

Crouching by the roses, she pulled each bundle close until she found a small, heart-shaped card stashed among the petals. She plucked it from its crimson bed, her heart hammering as she flicked it open. Her fingers trembled in the winter breeze, soothed only by her warm breath as she tried to steady her nerves. The message had been written in glittery pink ink, by the kind of gel-pen teenage girls use to write sob stories into diaries that lock with small silver keys.

It read:   Did you count them all? 

She collected as many of the bouquets as she could in a single armful, carting them inside. After multiple trips between the kitchen and the patio, they were all laid out on the table. With perfectly manicured fingers she counted them, and indulged in a low laugh. Her flowing mahogany hair bounced with humour—he had sent only 99. What was he was playing at? Puzzles and riddles—it was just like him, and she hated it.

She glided to the refrigerator, extracting a glistening bottle of Pol Roger. The cork flew past the light bulb as she unleashed the bubbles, filling her crystal flute. The crisp liquid never got the chance to reach her ruby lips before the doorbell rang. Loud and sharp, like an anticipated phone call. With an arched brow, she answered the beckoning cry.

There he was in his best-tailored tuxedo and a single long-stemmed rose clutched in his hands, like a bride’s bouquet. The one hundredth rose.

“Took you long enough.” The words rolled off her tongue like silk while the aroma of his cologne filled the space between them, intoxicating her. He said nothing as they gazed at each other with a longing far deeper than that of Romeo and Juliet; an infatuation that boiled their blood and tickled their veins. Their eyes devoured each other, consumed with animalistic intent.

“Good game,” he breathed, “it’s never taken me this long before.” He undressed her with his sharp green eyes. The lines of his jaw and the glint of his eyes made her knees tremble and her lips fumbled to find the glass of champagne. A long sip ensued before she said, “You know I don’t like to lose.” She backed inside the house, inviting him in with a wicked grin and heaving bosom.

“Oh, I know,” he snarled, following his wife inside.

“So, what did you do to the owners, this time?” he asked, watching her delicate hands pour a second glass of champagne. She pushed her body against his, feeding him a mouthful of wine. He took it kindly, draining whatever she offered him, and with her lips inches from his, a smile consumed her face.

“The bathtub was the perfect size for both of them. They’re happily bathing in their own blood. I suggest we use the ensuite if needed.”

They laughed in unison, downing their glasses in a single gulp.

“Happy Valentines Day,” she laughed, pulling him upstairs into the bedroom and slamming the door behind them.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

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 Image via Pinterest.