Friday, 17 September 2010
A Vase of Alliums
She sat down heavily in the armchair and sipped her tea. It had been three years since Jeffrey had gone. Now she had managed to rebuild herself as she thought it. It seemed strange to thing of being rebuilt, as if she were a derelict house that had been renovated room by room. She had felt a bit like that at the time too. Her mind had been full of terrible aching thoughts that had torn at her own sense of self. Jeffrey had not been a physically beautiful man and in the last few days he had not been a verbally beautiful man either.
The cat, a bright orange and white short-haired animal with green impenetrable eyes mewed at her feet and she leaned back in the armchair to let it leap up onto her lap. The cat sniffed her fingers and the tea, licking it's nose and turning about before sitting on her lap. She stroked the animal absent-mindedly and sighed. She did not miss Jeffrey at all, but somewhere deep within she seemed to wonder if she ought to. It was, rather like him, fleeting and like him she let it go. Keep only what you need, her mother had once told her and, as if it had suddenly occurred to her she had added,
"And that includes men."
Friends laughed when she told them, but her mother had not laughed and neither had she. It was meant in all seriousness. She had not needed Jeffrey after a while and when he went she felt herself bruised and exhausted from the relationship. He had been less a relationship and more just hard work. Like gardening or housework, necessary but not always pleasant. At least until she realised that he did not have to be necessary either. She began to understand that she did not need to be in a relationship of the 'romantic' kind when her friends rallied to her cause.
She looked to the little cabinet in the corner of the room. On it she had placed a red vase that ...well, that had a tale. It had looked bright and vivid against the whiteness of the room in front of the little key box and she smiled to think about it.
A little after Jeffrey had gone, summer had come and her alliums had grown. Their thick mist-grey green stems had seemed laughably phallic and yet there was something about them that was powerfully alive. She had put sunflowers in the garden too but pests had got to them. Instead of the sunflowers the alliums pushed upwards and unfurled their tiny purple flowers on wiry stems. They formed delicate and intricate balls of flower that seemed despite their fragility, strong and vital. As she herself slowly began to feel over the summer.
She too went from feeling bruised and emotionally buried to being reborn and full of life. She got a job in a small antiques shop and revelled in researching objects. After a little while, she began to buy and sell on her own account online. People were surprised that she should do that at her age, she was 55, as if it was the sort of thing that only the young would do. They were even more surprised when her own business, like the alliums in the garden, thrived and grew. She heard occasionally about Jeffrey but did not pay attention. She was no longer interested in him, even if she once had been.
She realised during that summer that she loved the alliums and the poppies. They put on a good show of flower, leaf and stem. When their flowers had gone they took on sculptural form as if they were not simply about flower but had diversified into sculpture beyond their floral art. When the alliums had finished their flowers, she cut them and put them into a pale green vase at the corner of the room on the cabinet. They had dried and yellowed, their seed pods seemed like satellites, tripartite at front with the spikes behind them to pick up messages from some distant plant home.
That was when she had seen the young man. At least he was young to her, about his mid-thirties in fact. He had come to pick up a piece she had sold to him. He was tall and slim hipped. His face reminded her a little of Michelangelo's David and his beauty so entranced her that she felt her walls being strengthened in her heart. She would not be hurt twice and so she kept a polite distance. He was however, kind and gentle with her, even respectful. She found herself warm to him in spite of herself and when he continued to buy from her and to even recommend pieces that she might like for herself, they found themselves meeting more often. She did not know then that he engineered it like that.
He had found in her someone who he could talk about art and furniture with. He loved her garden and, she smiled to think of it, she had thought him near perfect when he commented on the beauty of the alliums and how he loved her cat. Indeed, the cat had taken to him, rubbing itself against his legs and pushing it's nose against his hand when he stroked the animal. It went from a meeting to dinner to somehow more. But he did not rush her into anything. He enjoyed her company and wanted more of it, but seemed to sense through her coolness that she had been hurt and was wary of being hurt again.
Still he persisted and yet gently and with kindness. After the winter had passed and spring burst out in her garden, he had brought her crocuses and primulas bright against the dark rich soil in the pots. He had even offered to plant them out in the garden. He did not just bring her flowers, but plants. A white jasmine, a pink camellia, clematis and tea roses. The summer had followed and once more the alliums had pushed through, rising up almost overtly sexual at first until they burst into their flowers. He had never once tried to seduce her and somehow she had felt that she was too old for seduction - or at least the popular type of seduction shown in advertising. Yet she felt herself rising up and living again, glorying again in the sunlight of her life.
It was undoubtedly the presence of the young man and she remembered how finally she had kissed him and felt his arm about her waist, his hand flat in the middle of her back. His warmth and the firmness of him that made her shiver inside and long for him. That was when she knew that Love had returned in the spring and waited His chance to conquer them both.
The young man had brought the red vase and she had put the cut and dried alliums in them. The green vase she had saved for a snapped branch of the dark red acer instead. It looked right on the windowsill and the red vase with the alliums seemed to have made the corner of the living room more like it's centre. She suddenly tipped back her head and laughed softly; a tumbling bubbling sound in the quiet of the living room. The cat's ears turned back to her, but he did not shift.
From the kitchen she heard the young man making supper and busying himself with the table. She felt very suddenly as vital and strong as the summer alliums as if the vase of them symbolised her intense red heart full of a new strength.