This month for the first WEP prompt of 2022, I decided to refurbish an old tale that I had written last year. I hope you enjoy it. If you wish to join WEP for lovely pieces of flash fiction every alternate month, visit here. Thanks to @DeniseCCovey @YolandaRenee, @LGKeltner @jemifraser, for the February challenge.
I’ve gone a little overboard with the word count (1102). Do bear with me. The theme for the month is, All You Need is Love
WILD FLOWERS IN THE WOODS
More than four decades ago, in an army cantonment far away from the city, a young Captain and his new bride sat watching ‘The Little Tramp’ in action. As the Captain rolled over laughing, his wife looked at the wall clock. Half past eleven.
‘Another thirty minutes,’ she mused. She couldn’t wait to watch him spring out of bed and pull out a bunch of roses from under the couch or a bar or two of her favourite chocolate from beneath the pillow. She slid her hand under the satin covers to see if there was anything, but then withdrew it immediately because she did not wish to spoil the fun.
The credits rolled on the screen. She looked at the clock once more. Ten minutes to go. She couldn’t stop marveling at her husband’s perfect plan. Sitting late on pretext of a movie, he was leading them to a midnight birthday bash. She was lost in her thoughts when he leaned forward and gave her a peck on the cheek. ‘Good night darling,’ he said and then turning over to his side of the bed, switched off the lamp. It took a moment or two for reality to sink in. But she instantly waved it off.
She loved surprises but wasn’t a fan of horror. She hoped he wasn’t planning a ghostly celebration. Glittery red roses flying towards her in the dark! Or, did he have romance on his mind? How she wished those ten minutes away. But the night had come to a grinding halt and her husband continued to lie on bed, still, oblivious of his anticipating wife…and…snoring. Had he forgotten her birthday after barely a few months of their wedding? No! It couldn’t be. He’d mentioned it just the day before. She lay thinking, before sleep stole her.
Next morning, as rays of the sun tiptoed through the silk drapes, she opened her eyes to see the dashing Captain in a green camouflage, standing next to her bed holding a cup of tea.
‘Good morning darling,’ he said, placing the cup on the nightstand. She smiled, waiting for him to pull out a surprise from his pocket or from behind his back. Instead, he bent forward and placing his moist lips on hers, whispered into her ear, ‘Happy Birthday, my love!’
‘Thankyou!’ she replied. The Captain then stood up, giving his lady-love a distinguished military salute and marched out. She sat there, wondering if the whole thing was a contrived effort to shield something bigger that had perhaps been stashed away for the latter part of the day.
She spent the morning cooking some birthday-worthy cuisines, and getting the house ready for a celebration. She pulled out a lovely floral dress from her trousseau and pearls to go with it. A gentle touch of rouge on the cheeks gave her the perfect shade fit for a bashful birthday girl. Flowers from her mini garden found their way into a China vase and batter for a tiny cake (to watch calories), went into the oven.
As birds began to fly home and the evening sun cast its long shadow into the living room, her eyes rested on the gate, waiting for her lover to walk in, sanguine that a most glorious evening awaited her. He did, rushing in at the speed of light and melting her away in a titanic hug.
‘I love you!’ he said. ‘Ah! The birthday girl looks beautiful. What a lucky man I am!’ She fluttered her eyes and smiled in response.
Releasing her, the Captain walked into the house, empty-handed, welcomed by the ambrosial scent of the cake wafting from the oven. On the other hand, she stood at the door, her mouth agape and her eyes a pool of water.
‘Aaahhhh… I’m famished,’ he said, drawing into his nostrils the fragrant smell and turning around to look at his wife. But what was it that he saw? His little birdie whom he loved most dearly was standing with tears flowing down her orbs, smearing the mascara on her long eyelashes. Her cheeks were blotchy and redder than before.
He took a moment and then with lines of worry cast on his forehead, walked back to her. ‘What is it, my love?’ he asked, holding her hands and pulling her gently towards him. She pushed him back, rushing to her room and burying her head in the pillow. He ran right behind her, shocked by the sudden turn of events.
‘Please speak to me darling. What is it that makes you weep?’
She sat up, looking at him with her bloodshot eyes. She wasn’t sure if she should spell it out but he was supposed to know, wasn’t he?
‘My love, I can’t bear to see you like this. Please speak up,’ he implored.
‘When I was with mamma-papa, what splendid celebrations we had on my birthday each year. It’s just…that… I’m missing them.’ She wanted to say more, but something held her back.
He stood there, frozen. He hadn’t thought of it at all. He loved her but that’s how it had always been at the military school. Birthdays meant wishes. That’s all.
He bit his lower lip and then said, ‘Give me a moment.’ The next minute he was out of the room and all she heard was the sound of the engine revving up. She ran out, only to see him speed away in his scooter. Where had he gone? The city was more than an hour away. She sat down on the stairs outside the door, her chin cupped in her hands. She was parched but wouldn’t go inside, not until he returned.
As night descended, she secretly cursed herself for sending him away. It must have been around nine when she caught sight of a bunch of balloons at a distance. The rumbling Bajaj Chetak then appeared outside the gate and the Captain alighted from it. In his hands he carried boxes and roses, balloons and party hats.
No prizes for guessing what transpired in the young couple’s home that evening. But what’s of more significance is how birthdays panned out for them in the next four decades. Well, the husband didn’t quite learn his lesson and years only added to his forgetfulness. As for the wife, the glimpse of their forthcoming life on that eventful day taught her precisely how she was to have her way with the man.
And that is how love blossomed for years, in the midst of unharmonious music and brush strokes gone wrong. For isn’t it the wild flowers that make the woods beautiful?