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by Frances Gapper

My husband likes potted houseplants, whereas I much prefer outdoor garden plants. Because I’m no good with houseplants, as I’ve said to him, they always die on me. He’s not talking to me at present, he’s gone silent. I know why, a silly dispute, I said the wrong thing because I was tired, unintentionally hurting him by my lack of tact.

If this row proceeds as usual he won’t talk to me for days, at least one or two. Then he’ll say bitter things and I’ll apologise (again). Then hopefully he’ll stop writing nasty things about me in his diary, which I know he’s doing, not because I read his diary (I don’t) but because he writes it sitting on the sofa while I’m doing my exercises. And obviously he writes about me, it’s inevitable. What else is on his mind but me and vice versa?

Feeling jittery — my nerves affected by the hostile atmosphere — and a bit lonely, because when you’re not being talked to it is lonely, I went upstairs. In our bedroom on my chest of drawers stands a houseplant, a particularly fine specimen, although I don’t know what of, recently repotted. Pausing by it, I removed a few specks of earth from its leaves. I’m on good terms with this one houseplant. It’s grateful to me for keeping its earth damp — since my husband, despite his love of houseplants (they put oxygen in the air, he says) never waters them, all that’s left up to me.

The plant is also glad that weeks ago I noticed the ends of its leaves were turning brown and mentioned to my husband it probably needed a bigger pot. Whereupon he, lovingly responsive at that point to my suggestions, made a special trip to the garden centre and bought one.

Addressing the plant as it sat roots aspread in its new large ceramic pot, healthy and happy yet somehow understanding I wasn’t and radiating a sympathetic concern for me, I said I should have married you. The plant didn’t laugh in scornful dismissal of my thoughts and feelings. Instead it gently reminded me of my husband’s trip to the garden centre and the money he’d freely spent to please us both. As it spoke, the plant’s leaves brushed the rounded edges of its pot in graceful emphasis. The pot is green, a colour I love, whereas my husband prefers neutral shades.

As the plant attempted to soothe and reconcile, I fell every second more deeply in love — with plant, not husband. How did this happen, I’ve given my heart to a piece of vegetation! Well although people don’t tend to talk about such affairs, they’re probably not unheard of.

One day he’ll awake to find the pot shattered and us both gone. We’ll have escaped into the garden or else eloped to some distant place where we can take root together and joyfully entwine.

Frances Gapper’s two story collections are The Tiny Key (Sylph Editions, 2009) and Absent Kisses (Diva Books, 2002). Other stories have found homes in two issues of Short Fiction journal, The London Magazine online, Reader’s Digest and The Moth. Her third collection, In the Wild Wood, will be published in 2017 by Cultured Llama.