Flowers, a short story

11th March, 2023

Darcy was out. He had gone out into the storm to fetch me something. He didn’t tell me what it was.

It had been a dark, dank day. This wasn’t helped by the fact that our new place had cast us off well out into the suburbs. When I stared longingly at the stillness of the pool, I wished my restlessness could dissolve into it as easily as the chlorine.

We lived in a beautiful and leafy neighborhood. From the wrought iron balcony, I could see a macaron shop peeking out from behind the acacia tree. An Italian place with good porcini, then the ubiquitous Vietnamese coffee shops. There were three almost in a row. A pre-school, a zebra crossing, and then my vision faded out into a wobbly, nauseating blur.

Darcy would never tell me, but he had hated my glasses. He thought them unfeminine. He was a progressive man, but he concealed a lot of unusual attitudes. Like his insistence that you should never step out onto the street, but rather shuffle over, so that your heels touch only the pavement. He told me it was because he had seen a person cut in half in Thailand.

I made a smoothie, drank it, then made another. I could feel the seeds brushing against my teeth. I lay down on the bed, looked up at the ceiling fan. Spinning.

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When he told me we were going to travel around Asia, I quit my job as a sales assistant. I gave my Pomsky to my sister, who had always been jealous of the dog anyway, and left my house keys to a couple that couldn’t afford to buy in the area. They were alright with the promise of me coming back, somehow, at some point, because I charged them thirty percent shy of the rate. Darcy was bankrolling everything.

He had a flat in the centre of London, passed down to him from an obscure church sect that his great-grandmother had been part of. Acquired in 1853, it retained all its period features. Darcy fit right in there. Sometimes I could hardly believe he lived and breathed in the twenty-first century, as if the lighter touch of the smog and bright lights should suffocate him. But he did. And yet he seemed to float above the practicalities and constraints of the normal and quotidian world with the very aristocracy and grandeur that his mildly embarrassing name carried.

I couldn’t ask him for anything more. Well, except a dog. He would disappear off for hours, with vague and useless excuses. Half of the time when he came back, sticking a foot out the door had instantly bestowed him with completely different plans, so that an errand for milk brought us back monkey meat, dropping off the scooter resulted in us buying a new car, and going out to sign the lease made us homeless.

I had a bird instead. I wanted to let it live in the house, but we quickly realised that with white carpets, that was a terrible idea. It glimmered with emerald green and cyan. I bought a nice cage for it, in rose pink. I let it sit gleefully on the wooden balcony railing when I had my morning coffee.

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My plans were supposed to me mine. I was not coming here for him. God no; I would rather break up with him than do that. And I suspect if I had done so he would not have left the UK either. I had spent years on shop floors, checking people weren’t stealing things from the dressing rooms, putting in twelve hour shifts just so I could sit in a cold flat and eat some dull concoction of dahl and rice, punctuated by the saddest chili peppers I had ever seen (thank you, Aldi).

But from my university days I had kept writing. Little reviews of cult films. The occasional journal article on some aspect of my specialism. My thesis had carried me through to a master’s that now sat limply on my CV. Czechoslovakian literature. What the fuck? When I applied for it, I didn’t realise Kafka wrote in German.

But I had written something about Asia, about Cambodia, and it blew up. I knew nothing about economics, but I started talking about urban development. I used Wikipedia, snippets I had scrolled through on Instagram. If I had counted all the references there would probably be something from Tik Tok on there. But people loved it. It got picked up by a big name, and they asked me to write another version of it for them. I got paid something – more than two weeks’ salary. All for a few hours sitting in front of a keyboard with an O.R.S on a Sunday morning.

One day in December, when the roofs were white; the roads slick and slippery; I punched my boss. She was channeling her inner bitch, asking me to stay for overtime, knowing that my rates meant that I would actually get paid less if I did so. But Evola knew that I was the amenable one. I was too scared to say no. I needed this job, desperately. My parents were going through a messy divorce and I couldn’t bear to move back with them anymore. Darcy was always away, working until midnight on some project or another. In three years I hadn’t seen him once on a Tuesday night.

She threatened to sue me and I put my middle finger up at her and walked out of the door. I took their uniform too, waiting for them to ask for me to give it back. But they didn’t. Instead I got a polite email about a 30-day notice period and continued to work there, in effective silence. Some of my coworkers smiled at me.

I took all my money and dumped it in a savings account. The interest was nothing, hardly enough to purchase a bowl of dumplings. But I was sick of playing it safe. I couldn’t be a good girl anymore.

-{0 -{0 -{0

My parents hated Darcy. They thought he was up his own arse. In truth, I think he was more oblivious than anything. When he started talking about the latest take on Carmen, or how the £100 plate of sushi at Nobu needed a better glaze like at Hakkasan, he forgot that his parlance and his world were not everybody else’s. His version of a deal was when he managed to talk the salesman down to an interest-free rate on his Porsche. He bragged about it for three days. Meanwhile I continued to eat my dahl.

I think they were worried for me, too. They didn’t want me to get swept up in it. What if I was disposable? And I got used to some life that I could not maintain? His colleagues went to strip clubs on weekends. Once they even hired masseuses to come into work. A client wanted them to have a good time, apparently. He told me he didn’t participate. But if anything, he was more concerned about his own fidelity than me. I was free. Even during my shitty twelve hour shifts, I was freer than him. He couldn’t see beyond the progression of events that everybody else around him saw. Holy Matrimony, kids, a nice house out in the country. Two cars and a manicured lawn. It was all so quaint to me – and there was something faintly vile about it. But we hadn’t got to that point yet.

And so when he asked me to take off with him, I thought I could live that inner freedom. I would hustle more. Write more. And make a name for myself. I had it in me, I knew it. It was just a matter of time, patience, effort. My friends still thought I was crazy. But they always thought that.

I think Darcy wanted from me something that I couldn’t give. A sense of stability, maybe. A person he could always come back to. I knew he was faithful, honest, good, kind. But he was just as crazy as me. He needed somebody to ground him. He was still a little boy at heart, and he needed a mother to come home to to tell him Well Done! when he’d created a drawing, or come up with a new project.

The longer I spent in domestic bliss, the darker my sexual inclinations became. I wanted him to tie me up and leave me there, screaming, in the apartment for hours. I wanted him to hit me and leave bruises all over my body. I bought myself a leash and asked him to walk me around for a day. He would comply with them privately, but remained inert in public. In public we were still the good, polite couple. Perhaps it was his British mildness coming through.

One day, in the heat of an argument, I told him that I would break up with him unless we brought a unicorn into the relationship. No, not the one with the horn. The polyamorous kind. And surprisingly, he said yes. I found a Spanish guy, equal parts straight and gay, to entertain us. Darcy always had more energy than me, he could never stay still, so when he left periodically to pursue some new adventure, I started meeting up with the Spanish guy, alone. With him things were easy. There were no feelings involved. And whatever I did I was protected, because I still had someone to love and care for me outside of him. We became friends. And after a while, we even stopped having sex. We pretended when Darcy was there.

We left him in Laos, but I did not leave my memories. After three intense months, my recollection of him and Darcy were intertwined. Sometimes when I remember things I cannot tell if it was my boyfriend or him that said it. I think Darcy changed, too. He became a little freer. Paulo taught him to dance. I cracked up with laughter at seeing them waltz around the living room.

-{0 -{0 -{0

I was so wrapped up in the mist of thoughts which had befallen me that by myself, I could not scramble out.

And finally, when the smile of the clock had turned into a frown, I heard the -click- of a key in the lock. He came in sheepishly. “Happy Women’s Day!” he said. In a cheery, mock-shouting voice. I kissed him. And it was a weighted, fleeing kiss. I thanked him. Put them in a vase on the countertop. He pulled me onto the kitchen island; kissed me again. I was happy, but I hated flowers.

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