Another Wordle Prompt from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.
The geraniums wilted, the bruised white petals slumping in the summer heat. Terre’s mother didn’t possess a green thumb, but she was trying this summer. Terre didn’t know why, but each day her mother bent over the flower boxes and beds working to coax the growing things back to life. Not that she minded the work; picking out snails or pulling crab grass, but even with Terre’s help the flowers fell to some unknown malady.
Terre brushed the mud from her knees and picked up the little spade, returning to her seat next to the flower bed. She dug little hollows around the plants and filled them with a trickle from the hose.
It wouldn’t help and she held a grudge against the ever dying flowers. As much as her mom poured effort and money into the little garden nothing recovered. Each little death tightened the corners of her mother’s eyes.
The house’s sliding door rolled open and Terre’s mother leaned out calling her in. Her grandmother was here. Terre was suddenly very aware of the grime covering her skinny legs and the dirt under her fingernails. Her mother’s face was drawn and she wore only a small smile when she closed the door behind Terre.
Terre looked at the woman sitting at the dinner table. Before this summer she’d seen her mother’s mother on holidays. This was just a regular Tuesday. But Terre knew this was because of Danny. He was dying, same as mom’s flowers.
Terre went to hug the old woman, she was supposed to. Grandmother smelled of copper and the spices her mother used in spaghetti. The smells weren’t unpleasant, nor was the underlying aroma of earth that clung to her grandmother’s baggy sundress. That could have just been Terre’s muddy knees though.
Her mother set turkey sandwiches and little carrots on the table. The two adults talked in soft tense tones for a long time, leaving out names and times while Terre ate her sandwich. The doctors still didn’t know anything, and grandmother finally wondered aloud why they bothered with them. Her mother’s voice became high pitched as she defended the clean smelling men in pressed linen shirts, until she hugged herself and started to cry in low ragged sounds.
Terre’s grandmother shook her head at her daughter and stood, bending to pluck Terre from her seat. “Come Teresa, your mother needs some alone time.” Terre’s grandmother was strong for a old woman and Terre found herself helplessly whisked out of the kitchen and down the hall.
They stopped at the end of it, right in from of her parent’s bedroom. Danny slept here, away from their brothers and Terre. The doctors didn’t know what happened to the healthy teenager, freshly graduated and ready for his scholarship to some distant school. But something had, and Terre’s parents were worried whatever it was would pass to his siblings.
He grandmother pushed the door open. “I’m not supposed to.” Terre informed her, suddenly very uncomfortable with the sweet cloying smell emanating from the bedroom. The person in the bed, a skinny sallow boy who looked like Danny shifted but did not wake up.
Grandmother ignored her, stepped in and locked the door. “Your mother is not thinking strait, do you know what is happening Teresa?” She asked and set Terre down on the carpet.
Terre didn’t answer. She had an idea, but she didn’t want to be wrong. Instead she wandered closer to her brother’s bedside. His breathing was shallow and loud, like he was having a nightmare.
“Someone did this.” Her grandmother said softly.
“Who?” Terre asked, watching her brothers chest barely move. The back of her throat tightened and her eyes stung. Her mother was sad, her father was distant and her brothers were angry. This had been a horrible summer full of dead flowers and worse.
“I dont know. That is a question for others to ask.” Her grandmother gave her an odd significant look, and Terre felt much like she did when given a great deal of homework. “Daniel doesn’t have time, I wanted to act sooner but your mother wouldn’t hear of it. She loves her expensive doctors and specialists.”
The doctors were always nice and her mother smiled around them, Terre didn’t say that though. Instead she watched her grandmother remove small plastic wrapped parcels from her pockets. Reddish grains and spices, the smell of them made her nose itch and her eyes water. Her grandmother set pinches of the stuff on the bed cover and pillows, until they formed an arc around Danny. Her brother was very still with quiet breathing, even when grandmother spread dark grey ash across his forehead and palms.
Terre held her breath when her grandmother lit a candle and then frowned when nothing happened. The wick twisted as if burnt, but there was no flame, no light.
“Look around Teresa.” The command was soft, murmured from her grandmothers worn lips. But Terre did so. First under the bed, then behind the closet door. Terre saw it after. A soft aura of yellow flicker peaking from under her brother’s pillow. She pointed as her breath caught and her grandmother nodded permission.
Terre slipped her hand under the pillow and felt delicate warm metal. She pulled it out and examined the tiny chain and the locket dangling from her fingers, its metal encased in a numinous glow. Danny stirred angrily, mumbling.
Grandmother smiled and pinched the unlit candle wick in her hands. The glow went out of the silver in Terre’s palm and she jumped. More so when the bedroom doorknob shook and her mother called, angry from behind the locked door.
“Hide it sweetheart, you’ll need it later for those questions.” Her grandmother said and moved to unlock the door.
Terre’s mother was furious, especially when she saw the ash and herbs laid around her son. Grandmother was calm, explaining little and promising that Daniel would recover. After much yelling Grandmother took her leave but not without hugging Terre and whispering a promise to see her soon. Apparently they had a lot to discuss.
Terre watched her mother clean the bed and Danny’s hands, her brother breathed deep and peaceful in sleep. Terre was careful not to get to close though, the locket was still heavy in the pocket of her muddy shorts.