Authors: Hallie Swanson
“Summer!” I yell in response, and then there’s nothing.
No blink to her eyes, no expression on her little face, as if her body has lost its fight. Like a porcelain doll she hangs in the water, perfectly still, and then I lose sight of her completely as she sinks deeper and deeper into the darkness. I scramble towards the broken ice to find the opening and lunge forwards, throwing myself into the freezing water. Resurfacing, I gasp, trying to catch my breath. My legs move erratically as I tread water and look down into the nothingness.
My body jerks as I feel my shoulder being grabbed, and I do the best I can to push the hand away.
“Snow, it’s Nana. Give me your hand.”
y mind is back in my office and I realise I’m sitting on the floor next to the filing cabinet, clutching Summer’s tiny red glove against my chest. I hadn’t even realised that I’m crying. The memory in my head continues. I remember Nana’s kind black face, her wide eyes, the way she looked at me as she lay flat on the ice, trying to pull me out of the water. Between her cries were Mum’s high-pitched screams and Benji’s constant barking. It was as if I looked past them all, seeing only that old weathered bench and that one solitary red glove, all that we had left of my little sister.
After that day Mum was never the same towards me, never looked at me with love in her eyes and never spoke to me like she cared. Up until then she had always been obsessed with the seasons, hence our names. In her eyes I was to blame that she now hated the seasons, and she would often make snide remarks; but I knew what her words truly meant.
I push myself up from the carpeted floor and lift the tiny knitted glove to my cheek, allowing it to wipe away my tears. I throw it the courtesy of one final glance, then toss it back from where it came and slam the metal door on all the hurt it’s caused. I stand with my elbow on the top of the filing cabinet, shaking my head.
Fuck this, fuck today; I leave my memories behind as I leave my office. I haven’t even got the energy to undress, so I slip into bed as I am. Pulling the quilt over my head sends me into darkness; all I can hope is that my conscience allows me to sleep.
’ve slept my jet lag away, and have no idea what time it is. It isn’t Summer that pricks at my conscience as I wake, but the funeral, Darcy and the awful way I treated her. I pick up my phone; it’s dead.
“Bollocks,” I hiss and plug it into my charger.
I search the Internet for local florists in Dawlish, near to where she lives. I find Roses and Posies, and type in the area code for the UK. I wait with it pressed against my ear as it rings.
I hear a lady’s chirpy voice at the other end.
“Hello, Roses and Posies,” she announces.
“Whatever your most expensive bouquet is, I want one, and I want one sent to her each day this week. I’ll ring back each evening to check they’ve been received.” I reel off her name and address, and then pay by bank card.
“The note, sir, what would you like written on the note?”
“Address it to Darcy,” I tell her.
“And the message, sir?”
“Snow?” she repeats.
“You got it.”
“No,” I reply, and pressing the red button I cut her off.
I stroll into my en suite and turn on the shower. I will leave Darcy for a couple of weeks, and then, on the off chance, I will be back in England and will pay her a visit. I scratch the top of my arm. I don’t have feelings for her as such, but there’s something about her; she’s different to all the other women I’ve known and there’s something inside prodding me, telling me I need to know more, and when I get an itch, I have to scratch it.
I glance into the oval mirror above the wash basin; mine is not the only face I see. I imagine Darcy standing beside me, picturing her long dark hair, her pretty eyes that dance their way into mine. I glance down, feeling myself getting aroused with only these brief thoughts.
I hit out at the wall tiles, thinking back to what I did, what I said. I told her she was like every other woman I’d had and that I felt absolutely nothing. What was the big deal anyway? She was right, we were never related, she was never my sister, but when you want something as badly as I did, sometimes your mind plays funny tricks; well, it did with me, and for a while I saw her as Summer, my kid sister. It was as if I blinked, and then one day she was all grown up. No, she was never Summer; she was Darcy. I lower my head.
What have I done?
breathe in the warm fragrant air before placing the lemon-coloured kneeling pad down in front of Mum’s oval flower bed. Resting on my knees, I pick up the secateurs and gaze at the dead heads on the roses as they sway in the breeze awaiting their fate. My gaze wanders further down the garden past the vegetable patches and the tall green leylandii, then back to the flower bed, and I can’t help noticing that the flowers don’t look as vibrant as they did this time last year. If it were possible for flowers to look melancholy, I’d say that these ones do, and I can’t help wondering if they miss Mum and Dad too.
Something brushes past me; I flinch and look down.
“Hooper!” I grin. “Not yet.”
My little West Highland terrier looks up at me with his large brown eyes, wagging his tail; I can almost feel his excitement as his grey leather lead hangs from between his teeth. I cut through the first green stem and jump as he paws at my bare leg, leaving four white marks.
Giggling, I get to my feet. Dropping the secateurs, as they land they stab themselves into the overgrown grass. I reach down to grab Hooper’s lead, but he holds onto it and runs off; it is a game we play daily, a tug of war that I always win. I chase him back towards the patio, getting tangled up in my bed sheets that hang from the washing line. I screw up my face; it was either wash them or throw them away, but Mum bought them, so I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, yet I know in my mind they’ll never be clean, no matter how many times I wash them. He’ll always be there, lost in the fibres. What was I thinking? He wasn’t my boyfriend, just a one-night stand, and it certainly wasn’t how I’d pictured losing my virginity.
I back-hand the flannelette sheet out of my way and run back towards the house, where Hooper sits waiting in the open doorway. He pants, his partially open mouth making him look like he has a smile for me.
“You’re one little old man who’ll never let me down,” I say as he again tugs at one end of his lead while I tug at the other.
After a few minutes he gives in, and I’m quick to attach the lead to his collar. Hooper pulls me into the kitchen, and passing the breakfast table I grab my phone. Glancing down at the screen I see that I have three missed calls and one text. I open the message; it’s from Jenny, my adopted sister:
Hi Darc, tried to call, have a house viewing at three o’clock, let me know how it goes, jen x
I have to stop and hold onto the table with shaking hands while rereading the message. Then, breathing deeply, I sink down onto one of the high-backed chairs.
Couldn’t you have waited a few more weeks?
I text back, go to send, but delete it. No, that isn’t fair, my brother in-law has just lost his job at the factory, they have two young kids and a baby on the way. I sigh and type
; my finger hovers over the button, I sigh again and press send.
I glance across the kitchen towards the tiled window sill and smile at the row of chef ornaments that stare back at me. Mum loved finding them wherever she could, at a car boot sale or bidding for them online. Most months a new one would appear, and Dad would always moan there was no space for them, but as if by magic a new shelf would appear; somehow Mum always managed to find them a home.
“When I finally get my flat I’ll have to remember the order she placed you in,” I say, like a child talking to her toys, as I am pulled by Hooper towards the front door.
As we walk out onto the porch, I turn back and give the door a push, checking it’s locked. I gaze into the garden and frown. Not again; does this woman not get the message? The same small white van is making its way up the driveway towards me.
“Hooper, sit,” I tell him as his lead tightens.
I stand with my hand on my hip and tap my foot as I wait. The warm breeze lifts strands of my hair, which I push back as they fall into my eyes. The van pulls up and I read the lettering on its side: Roses and Posies. The door opens, and the same dark-haired lady that came yesterday steps out.
The woman turns, walks towards the back of the van and opens the doors. The cellophane wrapping around the bouquet rustles between her fingers as she lowers it so that I can see the flowers. Roses, crimson red, most tightly in bud and interwoven with beautiful white jip. Lemon yesterday, peach the day before.
Doesn’t he get it?
I don’t want his apologies; he can keep his olive branch.
“He’s got it bad for you.” The lady chuckles. “Need your signature, just going to grab my pad.”
I drop Hooper’s lead to the floor and am quick to place my foot over it. She passes me the flowers and I clench the beautiful arrangement in the bend of my arm. The corner of a small white envelope peeks out, and with my free hand I reach between the dark green stems. Disturbing the petals, a rich fragrance dances its way into my nostrils. Slipping my little finger under the seal of the envelope, I rip it open and pull out a note.
“Snow,” I read out loud, the same one-worded message.
Just like him
, I think; conceited, no emotion. The woman stares at me as I stand there, shaking my head.
“You know what I’m going to tell you to do with your flowers?” I utter.
The lady lowers her eyes back to the cellophane.
“I do,” she replies. “The village church, plot forty-nine.”
I nod as she hands me a pad and pen. I take the pen from her and quickly sign my name.
“Hopefully,” I add, “you won’t have another wasted journey tomorrow.”
I pass her back the flowers.
“He can’t be that bad,” she says. “I’d love my partner to buy me flowers every day, and at the cost of these he can’t be short of a bob or two.”
“He’s not my partner,” I’m quick to reply, and I raise my brows. “Yeah he’s got money alright, he’s a millionaire.”
I see a sudden interest in her eyes.
“But he thinks he can buy anyone or anything he wants. He treats people like possessions; he takes what he wants and then throws them away.”
“Oh…” the woman says.
“No matter how many flowers he buys, I can never get back the one thing he’s taken from me.”
She shakes her head. “I wasn’t lucky enough to find a millionaire, but the bloke I did find was a bastard too.”
“Amen.” I chuckle.
She nods in reply. “Well, there’s plenty of them out there, it’s just our luck to find them, eh?”
She searches through the budded roses and chooses an open flower, snapping it from its stem.
“Here,” she says, giving me a half smile.
She leans towards me, reaching up with her hand, and I automatically crouch. She lifts my hair from the side of my face and weaves the stem through the thick strands towards my ear, where she leaves the pretty petals sitting at the side of my face.
“Thank you,” I utter as she clasps the bouquet against her chest and turns away from me.
I call out as she reaches the van, and her head shoots round.
“Did you ever find Mr Right?”
“Afraid not,” she chuckles, “they were all assholes.” She pauses. “Well, the ones I ended up with were. I found my
Right, though,” she added, pulling herself up into the driver’s seat.
“Guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow,” I add with a knowing smirk.
I hear the rev of the engine, then I pick up Hooper’s lead and walk down the driveway.
How fortunate I am to live in the countryside, surrounded by all this beauty. I glimpse up, and watch the sun dance its golden patterns in front of my eyes as I saunter from one tree-lined country lane to the next.
I can’t get Snow out of my mind. It’s so annoying, because I know I mean nothing to him; I literally feel my heart drop in my chest. He sends me flowers, but why? I made a right fool of myself, practically throwing myself into his arms. Services rendered, he left me feeling like no more than a hooker.