WILTED BLOSSOMS • by Diane D. Gillette

Iris and Lily, still the favorite blossoms in their Mama’s garden, were suddenly eight years old again, after nearly forty years since the first time around. Though somewhat wilted in appearance, as the color and luster had started to fade from their blooms, the sisters were still confident in their beauty and charms. But husbands had only briefly interested each of them anyway. Each found her sister’s company preferable over that of any man.

Their childish delight arrived with a truck full of boxes. Mama and Papa had decided to retire to a community of old folks. The twins did not approve of their childhood home going into the greedy hands of Cousin Agnes (not a flower at all) but they did not want to move and give up working in the children’s section of the library. Mama and Papa’s decision did mean that the sisters prematurely inherited the entire contents of the attic, so they could almost forgive Cousin Agnes for taking their house as they delved into one box after another.

They marveled that their once dress-up clothes now actually fit and the mirror reflected Mama’s face instead of their own. They wondered at the old birdcage, if it would still house a bird or maybe two. Twins. Lovebirds would be nice. They impatiently flipped through yellowed pages of black-and-white photos in search of someone of interest. Specifically Lily or Iris.

The treasure surfaced in the pocket of an old blue dressing gown that Iris (or was it Lily?) wore. Her hand slipped casually into the pocket and curled around a long strand of glass beads. She pulled it out in wonderment.

Her sister, spotting the prize, shrieked, “Oh, where did you find it? I thought I’d lost it.”

“Lost it? But it’s mine.”

The sisters eyed each other and then the necklace. The golden-brown beads felt warm in one sister’s hands as the other coveted the little glass birdies that were strung between every third bead.

“Don’t you remember? When Mama had us clean the attic, we could each pick one thing to keep. This was mine.”

One wilted blossom put the string of beads around her neck and delighted that it hung down to her bellybutton. It must have hung down to her knees back then. Her reflection suddenly looked younger.

“No, I chose the beads. You wanted some moth-eaten handbag.”

One sister lunged while the other clutched, and it only took the slightest pressure to snap the ancient string. The golden-brown beads and the little glass birdies scattered to the far reaches of the living room. The sisters watched their treasure tap-dance across the hard wood floor. Iris and Lily suddenly remembered why they weren’t ever asked to clean the attic again.

“How silly. Now we’ll have to re-string it,” one flower said to the other.

“I never noticed how many beads there are. Let’s make two necklaces. They’ll match.”

“Yes, they’ll match,” her sister beamed as they crawled on hands and knees around boxes, delighting in being eight years old and not so wilted again.

Two towns over at the Twilight Home for Vibrant Seniors, Mama Rose, her petals long since dried and browned, ready to disintegrate with the softest touch, sat with her hand in Papa’s and watched the nice men move their furniture and boxes into their new apartment. She squeezed his hand and wondered who would tend her blossoms, once she was really gone, once her roots too had withered. But Papa just gently stroked her thigh and told her she worried too much. They were grown women, after all.

Diane D. Gillette lives in Chicago with an assortment of fuzzy critters, most of whom she claims as her own. She procrastinates on her first novel a lot and dreams of the day when she will no longer need a day job. She has an MFA from Emerson College and her work has previously appeared in Hobart, ESC! Magazine, and Long Story Short.

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Every Day Fiction