Wildflowers: part 2
But first. a note from James:
To the four or five people who read this blog, I just want to let you know I changed the name of the male lead in this story from Jacob to John. I just didn’t like the name Jacob.
I’ve also done away with the chapter numbers. I hated the way they cluttered the titles of the stories.
This blog is constantly evolving, so I don’t know what changes will be next, but thank you for reading.
The Clearing and The Cottage
The black convertible rumbled deeper into the night, slipping unnoticed out of the city. Marla held onto her veil as she looked back at the fading silhouette of a darkened Paris. It was painted like velvet across the starry sky. Marla had never seen so many stars.
She watched her city get smaller and smaller, before it sunk below the tree tops. Then everything felt bigger. Headed toward a rumored oasis somewhere north, Marla grew increasingly uncomfortable with the dark.
The houses became scarcer as the road got weaker. The trees got uglier, but the air felt thinner, cleaner. For the first time in their lives they were somewhere else.
Are we lost?
If I’m following these directions properly, no.
How much further then?
I’d guess we have an hour, maybe two.
Have you ever been there?
Your mother said it was beautiful there, but I think she was lying to make me feel better.
You’re right. I don’t think she’s ever been there. But maybe she was judging by the pictures she’s seen.
Maybe she was. It feels like this road will never end. I hate it.
Just relax, we’ll get there.
Marla slumped down in her seat, and pulled her veil over her eyes. She relaxed and allowed the crooked road to rattle her body to sleep.
She woke up when the car left the road and got onto a narrow cut through the woods. She kept her eyes closed and listened to the curious sound of grass brushing the underbelly of the car, and branches reaching out to scrape the doors.
Leaning her head back, she opened her eyes to see the tree tops crowding the stars.
We should be there soon. The directions say it’s only a few kilometers off the road.
The dark felt like it would swallow them if not for the headlights.
Finally, a clearing opened up before them. Its tall grass gently sloped upwards north. At the top of the slope, spotlighted by the car’s headlights was the cottage, leaning slightly against the edge of the unknown forest behind it. Its windows felt like hollow eyes, long past the point of caring who or what stared back at them.
It feels haunted.
They found a place to hide the car under a low hanging tree. When the engine stopped they were immediately greeted with the gentle gasp of wind passing through the trees and over the grass.
John crept closer to the old structure, and peered into a broken window. Dead curtains waved pathetically in the breeze. He looked back at Marla, leaning against the car in the blue moonlight, glowing in her white wedding dress.
I can’t see anything. Do you have a match?
Marla lights a cigarette and hands him the match book.
Why don’t we just go in?
I’m not going in there now. It could be overrun with animals. We’ll go in in the morning. For now, I just want to look inside.
The animals will be there tomorrow too. (to herself)
John lit the entire matchbook and carefully eased the flame through the broken window. He narrowed his eyes to focus, but before he could make sense of the darkened shapes in the cottage the dry rotted curtains caught fire.
He panicked and let out an involuntary yelp, as he slapped and blew at the rapidly growing flame. Then with one quick move, he yanked the curtain through the window and stomped them out.
Marla did her best to hide her laughter as John, shaking his stinging hand, slowly walked back to her. He was grateful for the dark to hide the red of his embarrassment.
This might be more difficult than we thought.
Did the curtains tell you that?
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his forehead.
I may never get used to this silence.
She looked out over the moonlit field. It was foreign, and uninviting to her.
We could go back if you want.
Your parents would be upset if we went back.
We should have stayed with them.
Don’t worry about them. They have each other the same way we do. They’ll be okay.
He smelled her neck, and her veil tickled his cheek.
Why are you still wearing this?
It’s my wedding night.
You could have at least taken off the dress.
His lips pressed gently against her ear with eyes closed.
Her eyes stayed focused on the decaying cottage.
That night they slept in the middle of the grassy field on a blanket. Marla laid awake long after John had fallen asleep. She watched the stars slowly turn from her, and listened to the ominous night sounds while her fingers unconsciously traced the woven pattern on her dress.
She woke up to the yellow glow of dawn. She could smell the fragrant life around her. The air was clean, and pleasurable to take in. It smelled like clean soil, and sweet grass. It reminded her of her grandmother’s garden.
Like a spooked deer, she poked her head up over the tall grass. The field ahead of her was hung with a misty fog as the sun lit up the dew. She locked on to a proud tree at the end of the clearing, and thought it looked like the perfect place to be buried. Just like in all those movies she’d seen, a restful shade, teary eyes, and the setting sun in the west. She laughed at herself, and looked back down at John, still snoring.
At the end of the gentle slope was a string of trees cutting through the middle of the clearing. As Marla headed towards them, she found the remnants of a path leading from the cottage. She knew it must be water.
The creek sounded the same as the one that cut through her village. It was a low chatter that sounded almost like laughter. But this creek felt cleaner to her. She drank from it, frightened its tiny fish, and watched her reflection dance in the clear water.
She enjoyed the sound of the grass brushing against her dress as she walked toward the cottage. John was there, shielding his eyes as he stood tip-toed assessing the roof.
He heard her coming before she was there. He watched his wife, cutting through the grass without worry, and in her bare feet. All the beauty and strength of that little clearing revolved around her.
Were you looking for me?
I knew you were okay.
Her eyes fixed on the cottage, tilting her head slightly to the right to compensate for the slight lean in the structure.
You should go inside.
I was going too, but then I decided to wait for you.
It’s because you’re afraid to go in alone.
Of course I’m not afraid. I simply wanted the two of us to enter our new home together, as much as one could call it a home.
How thoughtful of you.
She tucked her arm under his, and warmly leaned against him as they looked over the warped wooden cottage.
It’s going to need some work for sure.
I could see a hole in the roof. I hope that’s the only one.
Let’s hope not, because I haven’t even looked at the other side yet.
We’ll do that after. I want to go inside.
Okay, you lead the way.
I knew you were scared.
I’m not scared.
The two of them forced the warped door open to a burst of dust and feathers from escaping birds. They waited for the last one to leave before they walked in further. Everything was covered in dust and bird shit, but it was remarkably livable. It had sturdy furniture, a strong wood floor, and a wood stove clear of rust.
On the far end of the cottage were two bedrooms separated by a thin wall and a hallway. Marla said they would use the room facing the field, so she could watch the sunrise every morning.
John spotted an old hunting rifle in the kitchen. He quickly snatched it up and began working on the rusted weapon.
Do you know how to use that?
Yes, of course.
This place needs a good cleaning. I could get water from the creek I found earlier. Did I tell you I found a creek just down the way, under those trees? It’s very pretty down there.
She stared out the window towards the creek with the sounds of John working on the gun behind her.
Are you listening?
Would you like to come with me to get some water?
I’ll be right with you, as soon as I get this hammer unjammed.
Have you ever hunted before?
Do you think you could do it?
Marla watched her husband with the gun in his hands. He looked unnatural, somehow weaker.
I have no choice. The food we brought won’t last forever.
I’m going to plant a garden. That should help.
It will, but we’ll need a lot more than that to survive.
When she thought of survival it made her feel like someone else. This wasn’t her life. This wasn’t anything at all. Everything she would do from now on would be for her survival, and none of it would be recognizable to her.
I found some cans of food on the shelf by the stove. The labels are too faded to read, but it doesn’t matter, we can use them.
That might not be a good idea. Those cans look pretty old.
John finally pried loose the rusted hammer.
We could still eat them, they’re canned. We need all the food we can get.
Then I’ll do my best to see to it you won’t have to eat them.
He pointed the cocked rifle at an imaginary target, carefully squeezed the trigger, letting the hammer slap loudly shut.
Continued in part 3…