Wildflowers: part 3

by jamesmerolla

Three Months Later…

By the middle of the summer, Marla and John felt they had exceeded expectations. They were getting used to this new life, keeping the fears of winter buried in the garden.

They were looking gaunt in the face, and grey around the eyes, but they were still healthy.  Marla’s garden was a success. It was keeping them alive, despite their cravings for protein. They yearned for a meal more satiating than potatoes and the little fish from the creek. It was an unsatisfactory hunger that lingered between growling stomachs.

It had been 22 days since they last heard the gun in the distance. Its silence allowed them to sleep again. It’s not that the gun was loud; it’s that it was just loud enough to sound like the distant footfalls of giants.

They were evolving with their misery, adapting to its nature, and every day it got a little tamer.

On this particular day they almost felt safe, taking a scavenger’s walk through the woods, resembling carefree lovers.

Marla enjoyed picking mushrooms, and quizzing John as to whether or not they were poisonous.  She’d always pretend to eat one to test his judgment.

She felt at home in this place, and she did her best to swat away doubts, but she was getting weaker. It’s not that she hated John’s face, it’s that she hated how it was the only face she saw. Her own reflection was distorted, either in water, or a cracked mirror above the wash basin. They needed more than the bored murmurs of survival, and she knew winter would be worse.

Marla spotted a rabbit darting across the path.

     Jonathon, give me the gun.

     No.

     I can get it, give me the gun.

     I’ll get it.

The rabbit froze between two trees.

John lifted his rifle to his eye.

     It’s right there, get it.

     Shh…

John had the animal in his rusty sights. He knew there was a good chance if he pulled the trigger he’d kill it. But, he hesitated, and waited for it to run off.

     Ah…I lost it.

A look of worry was permanently fixed on his face. It aged his bristled face.

He worried about how his hand trembled whenever he held a gun, but he just couldn’t stand the sounds of war anymore. And even if he could, what would a half-blind with a rusty rifle hit anyway?  Most days he’d just go into the woods and sit under a tree.  He spent his time waiting for anything to happen that might change their circumstances.

Marla knew he couldn’t hunt, her love for him kept her quiet though. It was all they had left, a blind promise made in happier times. And wouldn’t they love to play out a scene across their bed in golden strands of sunshine and forgetful passion, just a moment to drown out the toll of the hours. But the sparks of those moments were doused by dirty hands and knotted stomachs. Their love was now proven by the smiles they worked for, and a familiar presence they’d go mad without.

At night they sat by the fire, and yawned through the last moments of the day. Very little was said.

She often liked to break the stillness with:

     Well, we’re not dead.

To which he would reply:

     Not, yet anyway.

Moments would pass before either spoke again.

     We’re almost out of peanuts.

     But we brought so many.

     We knew they weren’t going to last forever.

     I wish I could grow some

only with the pops of the fire, and the squeaky shifts in their chairs.

     A lot of people are dying right now.

He said.

     Yes, I know.

They turn their attention back to the fire, and won’t speak another word until they say goodnight.

continued in part 4…

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