Here we are with the letter “E.” I thought going with the flower, scientific name, Erica was the way to go until I started trying to figure out what to write about. Put that on top of the fact that I started writing this evening when I was already tired and, well, I don’t know. Anyway, it is what it is as we always say when we really don’t know what to say. 😉
All of these stories are linked. While the stories are linked, each is a standalone. However, if you’ve missed any and want to read them, you can catch up here.
Turn Back Time
The woman who comes striding toward me dressed in khakis and a bright fuchsia tunic carries herself like someone used to getting her way. But her brown eyes are heavy, and I feel that heavy sadness welling deep within them. It’s oppressive, all-consuming.
“Are you Josie?” she asks. Her voice is slightly accented. Scottish?
“Yes, I am,” I say as I rise to my feet, feeling my back twinge ever so slightly.
“Your sister, Angie, sent me.”
“I was looking for heathers. She said she just sold out and that if I needed one immediately that you should be able to help me,” she says.
A heather emergency? Well, that’s a new one. But, again, I focus on that storm in her eyes. This is more than just about an evergreen Erica plant.
“I can. I actually have several varieties—”
“I’m looking for a white one. I think it’s called ‘alba.’”
I nod. “Yes. It’s a winter heath—”
“And it’s white?”
“And it blooms through the winter?”
I nod again.
She bites her lip and lowers her chin against her chest while closing her eyes. A single tear falls from her left eye and for a moment I watch it, mesmerized while I feel like an emotional voyeur.
“I have just one. Would you like to see it?”
She nods. “Please.”
Frankly, I’m in love with this plant. I’ve been considering having a garden of heaths and heathers on the south side of my house where it slopes. They love bad soil and I’ve got plenty of it. And they bloom all the time. I think they may be my secret (or not so secret) passion.
As I show the woman the plant, she nods vigorously. “That’s it. It’s like home.”
She stares so intently at the plant that I feel strangely awkward.
“My daughter is—was—named Erica. My husband’s from Aberdeen. They were in a car accident three months ago on the way home from her musical, ‘Guys and Dolls.’ She was so good. Such a voice. I wasn’t there. I needed to work,” she says, huffs a dry, brittle laugh. “Work. I thought there would be other shows. Other days.”
She reaches into her purse for a tissue and dabs under her eyes as she looks skyward. She fastens her gaze on me. “We humans are just so stupid. We think there will always be another day. Until there isn’t. There wasn’t. I lost her. My husband’s in a coma.”
“I’m so sorry,” I murmur, know it’s not enough. What is ever enough in this circumstance?
“I thought my work was so important,” she says. “If I had it all to do again, I’d have been there. With them. I’d rather have been in that car . . .”
She breathes deeply, gazes up at the panes of the greenhouse and then directs her gaze toward me. “Am I equally stupid to think that a single plant is a memorial to my daughter?”
I swallow. I don’t know whether to admit that I don’t know, that I don’t know anything really, that life has never put me in a place where I could even begin to comprehend her situation. At thirty, I’m a novice at life, even if I pretend otherwise.
She reaches out, grasps and squeezes my wrist. “Forgive me. I will buy this beautiful heath.”
As I ring up the sale, glance at her, I wish I had some words, something. I have never felt so impotent in my entire life. I walk her out of the greenhouse to the parking lot, wish I knew what to say. Something comforting, something profound, something, anything. At the end I find my voice.
“I know you don’t know me, but if you need someone to talk to, someone who’ll just listen—”
She smiles. “Aren’t you a dear. No, I’m fine, really. I’m going to go home. Plant this flower. Visit my husband. And then sip scotch, lots of scotch . . . and then try to figure out how to turn back time.”