But it's melting. And it's sunny. And it's going to snow again. But let's not think about that. Let's focus on SUMMER!
Because just like Mondays, and tax season and dentist appointments (I had one of those today), SUMMER also comes with alarming regularity. And so does my story of the week. (I'm so much better at this than I was at recipes of the week! Probably because it's already written!)
Find a cozy spot in the sun (inside) and sit down for a read of part 6 of the short story Loved.
Everyday, Charlie walked through the rose gardens where he had met Rebekah, hoping she would run through again. Occasionally he saw someone who seemed to resemble her, but there was a harshness to her appearance that he did not remember in Rebekah. Her face seemed tighter, her eyes less vivid, her personality more contained.
The flowers waved in the wind and caught his attention. They swayed back and forth, mesmerizing him with their movements. Charlie walked toward them, trying to understand what they were saying. He stood in the midst of the red sea and whispered to them.
“How do you do it?” he questioned them. “How do you stand out here and dance everyday? The world is so harsh and unfair. It’s unpredictable and unnavigable. How do you stay here and dance?”
The flowers continued to move around him. He was surrounded by their swirling colors. The reds began to mix with the greens. Everything was swirling; Charlie’s head was spinning. Suddenly, he was on the ground.
Charlie blinked his eyes. He reached back to feel his head, which was pounding painfully. Why was he on the ground?
“Uhh,” he groaned as he got up. He stood and looked around. As far as his eyes could see, all around him, was a sea of roses. The park was gone, as was the bench where he had met Rebekah. Nothing but rose bushes.
“What…? Where am I?” he spun around.
“You’re in my garden,” said a voice behind him. Charlie turned around, but he saw nothing but bushes.
“Hello…?” he called out uncertainly.
“Hello!” said the voice, from the other direction this time.
Charlie spun around and around, trying to locate the voice.
“Boy, boy, stop spinning. You’ll knock yourself out again.” A little gremlin materialized in front of him. Just as any self-respecting grown man would do, Charlie jumped back and screamed. He tripped over his feet and landed on the ground.
“My, my, you are a jumpy one,” the gremlin giggled. He pranced over to where the man lay dazed on the ground. Leaning into his face so Charlie could smell his rotten breath, he asked, “What is it you dream of, my boy?”
“What?” Charlie was still confused as he lay on the ground.
“Ugh! Humans!” the gremlin shook his head. “They are so slow to understand.” He offered Charlie a hand up.
“Is it a girl? It’s probably a girl,” the gremlin stated. “It usually is a girl.”
“Um…yeah, I guess it is.” Charlie responded.
“Oohoohoohoo!” the gremlin squealed delightedly and clapped his hands. “Perfect. I have a deal to offer you, human.”
“Sweetheart, where have you been? Why didn’t you tell me you were going out?”
Rebekah walked into her mother’s house with her head low. She did not want her mother to see her face.
“I called the office, but Pastor Rick had to answer the phone himself, poor man. He said you didn’t come in today. Where did you go?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Rebekah spoke to the floor, trying to push past her mother to the safety of her room.
“Sweetheart, you have a job! It is considered proper in this society to show up for it.”
“Well maybe I don’t want to be a part of this society!” Suddenly she was facing her mother, as she whipped up her head to scream at her.
“I am so sick of this ‘society’ as you call it. Who are they to tell me what to do? I didn’t choose them. I didn’t choose any of this!”
Her mother was a bit taken aback by this sudden outburst from her typically demure daughter. She almost didn’t recognize her at the moment; it was as if a stranger were speaking to her.
“In case you haven’t noticed sweetheart, you live in a world full of people. And when you live with people, you have to do the things they expect of you. It’s the only way to survive.”
“No, it’s what you think is the only way to survive. But it’s not! I don’t have to be controlled by them! I can be my own person, I can be stronger than them! I don’t need them!”
She pushed past her mother and ran to her room, slamming the door shut as tightly as possible. Her mother stood in the hallway, confused, and began itching at the plastic skin on her face.
“You see boy,” the gremlin giggled, “a girl is like a flower.” He plucked the bud off of a nearby plant and held it out for Charlie to see. “Beautiful, soft…fragile. She can’t grow on her own, she needs water and sunlight. Take this flower boy, and put it in a safe place. Take care of it, and see if it grows.” He handed Charlie the bud.
“So if I water the flower, Rebekah will fall in love with me?” Charlie asked.
The gremlin chuckled. “Ohhohoho no boy,” he shook his head. “I said the girl is like a flower. The girl needs to grow. Not the flower. The flower is nothing more than a symbol.”
Charlie took the bud from him. “Ok,” he said. “So how am I supposed to help her grow?”
“Why, you have to figure that out for yourself, boy! You take that flower, and you keep it safe. The flower symbolizes her life. When you help her grow, the flower will grow. But, if the flower dies under your care, well, then you have to come work for me.” He gleamed ghoulishly.
“Work for you? Who are you?”
“I am ‘Love’,” he replied. “Or what some people would call love. But that is not my real name, only the name by which people call me.”
“But what is your real name?”
“Perhaps you shall find out!” He jumped excitedly and began to dance around and around. He moved in circles around Charlie, whose head was still a bit fuzzy from his fall. Suddenly the world started spinning again. Everything became a blur around him. Then his world turned black.
“Charlie, are you ok?” He blinked in the bright light that shone in his eyes. Charlie looked up to find three little faces staring into his. Lucas had his flashlight pointed into Charlie’s eyes. He moaned and sat up.
“Ughh,” he reached for the back of his head.
“You were lying all on the ground in the park all by yourself for no reason at all!” Collin carefully explained.
“We were worried you might have died!” Polly looked concerned.
Charlie squinted. “No, no I just got a little dizzy,” he said.
“Oh good! Come on, Charlie, let’s go play!” All three grabbed his two arms and began pulling him up. Something fell out of his pocket and landed on the ground.
“What’s that?” Lucas asked.
Charlie reached down and picked it up. He carefully replaced it in his pocket.
“It’s a flower,” he said.
Rebekah spent that night lying awake in her room. Her mind was too angry to sleep. Thoughts rolled around in her head, thoughts of society and what the world expected of her. She didn’t like her mother anymore, didn’t want to be with her. She was afraid to know what her mother thought of her. Tears wanted to slip out, but the layers of masks held them inside.
“You don’t love me anymore,” she thought of her mother. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t judge me for who I am. This whole world is just a cage of judgers.”
She pinched at her eyes, trying to make the tears come out, because crying would make her feel more human. But it didn’t work.
She had to escape this prison. Go some place where she would not have to pretend to be something she wasn’t. Some place where she would feel human. She must go to him.
The next morning, before the sun was up, Rebekah took the two bags she had packed, and left her mother’s house. She took all of her precious possessions, and brought them to the painted man’s door.