BY MARY CHAPMAN
Copyright is held by the author.
AFTER THE worst fight to ever take place between a man and a woman, Allie woke up to realize that she had transformed into a flower.
Yes, it’s true.
Without opening her eyes, Allie was flooded with the recollection of the tears and shouts (on her side) and angry, clipped words (on his side) the night before. The burden of yet another fight weighs her down. She decides to roll over and doze for another 10 minutes when she realizes she cannot turn.
Startled, she looks down at herself. She is not lying on her back on the right side of the bed as she had been hours ago. No, instead of a white, airy duvet and 400-thread count flat sheet, she sees a thick, green, fuzzy stem where her body should have been. Blinking in bewilderment she looks around. She is not in the bed at all. She can clearly see the bed two feet to her left and she is not in it!
Allie does not know what to feel. She has never had an experience even approaching in similarity to this one and she feels completely baffled. She looks around, hoping for some kind of explanation. She sees that she is leaning against a crystal vase that is placed in the middle of her night table. An empty mug, a red hair elastic with a few strands of hair still attached, her reading lamp and her current book (a murder-mystery set in a Beach town) lies facedown on the smooth surface. She is unmistakably a plant. She sees her stem, feels the cool water at her feet and, hey, this is kind of cool! She can suck up the water through her stem. The sensation is so marvelous that she does it again. It feels like sucking water through a straw, only better. Imagine a bigger straw and better water than you’ve ever tasted, that’s what it was like for Allie. She casts her eyes around and surveys the rest of the room.
Suddenly, she hears footsteps approaching and pulls herself straight, lengthening her stalk to full height. He pauses at the door, listening. A tentative rap on the door.
“I’m coming in, I need to shower or I’ll be late for work,” he says. His voice is slightly muffled by the closed door. She tries to answer. In her mind she forms the words and commands her lips to form them, but no sound comes out. She tries again, more forcefully this time. Again, no sound comes out. This can’t be happening, she thinks to herself, I am not a flower. I am asleep and this is a very strange, very realistic dream. I need to wake up, I need to wake up right now. The man gingerly swings the door open and enters the room. He looks at her side of the bed and his forehead creases. He walks to the ensuite bathroom and peaks inside. “Allie?” he calls out into the empty room. He checks the closet and pulls the shades up to look out into the backyard. Sighing heavily he sits down at the foot of the bed — head in his hands.
Allie frantically tries to speak, scream, to make any noise or movement whatsoever but all her mental capacity pushed to the limits produces no results.
This doesn’t make any sense. If she can see, why can’t she speak? Obviously flowers can’t speak but they can’t see either, yet here she is staring around her bedroom from a crystal vase. Allie’s thoughts come to a halt. Wait a minute; I am not seeing the room after all.’ She looks down at her stalk and notices faint, yellow, dotted lines, kind of like elongated tiny fireflies moving up and down her stalk. These little ripples form the shape and colour of her stalk. She glances at the book on the nightstand. Those little lines do not glow. They are darker and fuzzier. The edges of the book are hard to differentiate from the nightstand. It’s sort of like looking at one of those static channels on TV with the million black and white dots except the movements around her are calmer and the lines flow smoother, especially in her stalk. She looks at the man seated on the bed. He is glowing too, but not green and yellow like she is. He is red and his lines flow in a dizzying pattern. Together those lines form the outlines of the man. Allie gapes in wonder. He is the most beautiful sight she has ever seen. Allie surveys the room again with a new understanding: She is seeing the life, the energy in the room.
Besides the man and Allie, there is not a lot of activity in the room. She can make out the distance and size of the objects in the room. Bed, walls, door, wardrobe but they are dull and dark. The man sitting on the bed pulls her attention; Allie is unable to look away for long. After a while, he gets up and goes into the washroom. He comes out sometime later, dripping wet. Allie remembers, more than sees, how handsome he is with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. A deep longing washes over her and she wishes that she could reach out to him, take him in her arms, apologize for the words she said last night and promise to change. But she can’t. She remains still and silent in a vase. As the man pulls a pair of pants off a side chair, his watch, which was in one of the pockets, flies out and lands on the floor near her nightstand. He pulls the pants on and walks to scoop up the watch. He pauses midway up, watch in hand. He has seen her! Allie’s heart leaps with joy. ‘It’s me! Babe, it’s me!’ she thinks as forcefully as she can. She screams the words in her head, hoping somehow the thought will reach him and he will understand.
He stands up slowly, clasps the watch to his wrist and leans over the vase to inspect the flower. She tries to lean toward him; to caress his hand but her new body refused to cooperate. He straightens up and moves away quickly. Allie’s petals droop. He does not recognize her. How could he?
As time passes Allie feels increasingly lethargic. The water in her vase becomes murky and stagnant and she drinks it only when she absolutely must. The feel of the cool, refreshing water is replaced with a thick, acrid taste that makes her shudder. Her head feels heavy and droops down at an uncomfortable angle. She knows many days have passed. She can tell the passage of time only by the disappearance and reappearance of a thin sliver of light that peeks out from under the bathroom door as well as the subtle lightening of the bedroom walls through the heavy, dark-out curtains that remain closed on the far side of the room. The man does not return and there is nothing to break up her long vigil. Grieving for a life and love she let die. I didn’t just let it die, she thinks to herself, ‘I willfully killed it. My pride and selfishness seemed so important then.’ Allie realizes that she cannot recall the emotions that so often filled her. Anger, resentment, entitlement. They are meaningless words now. Even the memories of the events that triggered those emotions are slipping away from her.
She is startled when the door suddenly flies open. It’s him! He is holding a small object to his ear and speaking loudly. Cell phone. The word comes to the surface slowly, grudgingly. Allie clings to the word, keeping it firmly in her mind as she hears one side of a conversation.
“Look, just tell me the truth. Has she called you? Stopped by? Anything? Be honest, man.”
A long pause.
“So you didn’t know when or where but she’d talked about it? She told you she was leaving me?”
A shorter pause.
“Nah, bro, people usually mean things when they’re angry. That’s when they’re honest.”
A deep sigh.
“No note, man. Just a vase of flowers.”
The man walks into the bathroom and runs the water. She cannot hear the rest of the conversation but hears the man’s raised voice and several expletives.
Allie can’t remember the argument now. She just feels the guilt. And she knows. She knows that she caused their fights; she wouldn’t — couldn’t — let them be happy. Like picking a scab to see if it would bleed, she recalls pushing his buttons just to get a reaction out of him. She could see it happening. She could see that her temper and verbal lashings were disintegrating him at his core. She could see on his face that he felt like a failure. That he wasn’t, and couldn’t, be good enough for her impossible standards. She remembers feeling a thrill of joy at that. Maybe she hoped he would become some superhuman, devoted lover who planned exotic getaways just because and always knew when she felt like making love and when she just wanted to watch TV. Or maybe what she really wanted was a slave? Maybe she had wanted to break him so that he would depend on her ability to know what was best, to listen to her plans and go along with them. Maybe she just wanted to be obeyed so that she could feel . . . what? Happy? It certainly hadn’t worked. And by the time that they were fighting more often than not, she was in so deep she didn’t know how to stop the game and turn back into who she really was. Or had that been who she really was? How could she not have seen that he loved her, that he was trying everything humanly possible? She had let him believe that he never said the right thing or did the right thing. She had kept her lips pursed when he was late for a date even though he held out a box of chocolates from that tiny shop that was an hour away. She had seen his efforts and pretended it wasn’t enough. Why? Why had she done that? She can’t think of a reason that makes sense. And now, going weeks without fresh water or sunlight and with the weight of her choices bearing down on her, Allie does the last thing she can. She drops her petals onto the nightstand and tries to spell out the word sorry.
Eventually, the man comes back. He puts some things in boxes and does one final look around the room to make sure he’s gotten everything. He sees the vase on Allie’s nightstand and crosses the room toward it. He picks it up and throws it hard against the wall sending crystal pebbles skittering across the floor. He leaves the broken shards and the pool of water as they are. He takes his wedding band off and puts it down on Allie’s nightstand. He notices some petals there. How odd, the petals are arranged into a perfect letter S. He walks out of the room and closes the door.