by Lauren Bell
I pass them every day on my way to work and they always make me late. Always. So I set my alarm clock ten minutes earlier in the vain hope that I’d get in on time. But an extra ten minutes gives me a little more time with them. I don’t receive any thanks, although I do feel immense warmth inside, like a familiar hand placing itself in the cup of my chest cavity.
I calculate the humble dimensions of the garden: six foot by four foot perhaps, nothing to marvel at, except those richly feathered heads spilling scent into the breeze. I stand quite still, fixed to the spot. My eyes refuse to blink as I drink in the multicoloured spectacle.
And then a sudden pang of guilt inside tricks my feet into turning around and crossing over to the other side, away from temptation.
My bulldog boss Owen, or is it Iain, dismisses the reason for my lateness, and warns that another late show will see me up the road at the Jobcentre Plus.
But he doesn’t see the magic that I do.
At night I am soothed by their benign thrum, knowing that they are only a few streets away. I could easily tiptoe outside and pay them a clandestine visit.
Is it becoming an obsession? Is it?
I think it is.
My heart beats to the steady thrumming, the steady pulsing of sunflower heads and the menagerie of plant life in garden beds. Carnations like silk ruffles fill my sleepy eyes and a lilac rose becomes my mouth. I taste honey and musk, peace and tranquillity.
And now I’m standing in the street again, a three foot brick wall separating us and reminding me that you are someone else’s. My watch bleeps. I hear it scream: you’re late, you’re late. The clasp opens easily enough, and I watch as it soars through the air riding its own wave, finally coming to rest in the overgrown flowerbeds.
I reach into my bag and grasp the hidden trowel.
In the garden I dig away at the roses, lilies and carnations, digging furiously at the soil, unearthing blossoming treasures and placing them in a plastic carrier. I work through the strain, the burn, the horror of what I’m actually doing, and console myself with the knowledge that I’m wearing odd shoes; neither of which are mine.
The owners aren’t up yet, their curtains are still drawn, their windows sealed to. When they wake, they will kid themselves that they’re still dreaming.
Until the terrible truth sinks in.
But I’ll be long gone by then, my plastic carrier bag bulging with pilfered goods, while my head and heart pray that these uprooted lovelies take root in my own garden.
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration. Her work has been published by Bare Fiction, Firewords Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and Storgy Magazine, where she is a contributing writer.