It's time for another WEP Challenge with Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey! This month's theme is: Gardens.
The story that came to mind with this prompt is a bit strange and disturbing, but hey, that's all right. I hope you enjoy it!
Flora and Fauna
Flora tugged at the skirt of her pink dress. The garment was patterned with yellow daffodils, tiny bluebonnets, and lovely little violets. The pink shoes and pink bow that adorned her blonde hair matched perfectly.
She listened to the tinkle of children laughing as they darted between the rows of peonies and tulips. She imagined running like the wind, the reds, purples, yellows, and greens blurring around her like the colorful whirlwind of a painting.
Two hands clamped down vicelike on her arms, pinning them to her sides. “Stop fidgeting. You’ll tear your dress.” Her mother’s alto voice ignited a surge of bitterness.
What if I want to tear the dress? She ached to ask the question, but she knew the consequences would be severe.
Her mother let go of her arms, her hands going instead to adjust the tangerine sundress she was wearing. “Stay here like a good little girl. I’m going to talk to the Greenwalds.” Her mother scuttled toward a tall, dark-haired man with a rich baritone voice and his petite wife with the bright red hair.
Flora sighed, keeping her arms obediently at her sides. Mom didn’t want a kid. She wanted a doll to look at.
She’d been to a lot of these garden parties over her ten years of life, and they were all the same. Other kids got to run around and have fun. Mom got to drink wine and socialize. Dad got to stay inside the house. Flora got to stand off to the side and look pretty.
Her mother glowed whenever friends praised her for raising such a “well-behaved daughter.”
“She’s so quiet,” they said.
“We hardly realize she’s there.”
“She looks like a doll.”
I may as well be a doll, Flora thought. That’s what Mom wants me to be.
Rage simmered as she watched her mother and guests move freely about the garden. Bees buzzed between the flowers, and a sparrow washed itself in the black marble bird bath. The plants and the food each emitted their own distinct odors, and all she could do was take a deep breath and savor those smells, tormented by the temptation.
Everything else was filled with life. Everything but her.
I may as well be a statue. I’m a decoration, anyway. Maybe if I stay still for long enough, Mom will forget that I’m a person.
The more such thoughts ran through her head, the angrier she became.
If I could become a statue, I would. I’d hold so still that I turn to stone, and maybe she’d eventually miss me. Maybe she’d feel bad she never let me play. She might even cry.
Flora tensed her muscles, determined to turn to stone.
I am a statue. I will not move.
She willed her bones to turn to the same kind of decorative rock that composed the walkway. She prayed that her muscles would solidify, and that her blood would stop flowing.
She deserves this. She needs to see why she should have been happy with the daughter she has.
The party went on around her, everyone oblivious to Flora’s dark thoughts. The sun tracked steadily across the sky, the reddening light shining through the pungent branches of the mammoth lilac bush.
Then the guests began to leave, making their apologies for having to go so soon and thanking Flora’s mother for such a splendid party. They left by twos or threes through the white trellis, which was covered by a sprawling trumpet vine. They laughed and chatted on their way out, the sounds of their voices soon swallowed by the falling of night.
Flora’s mother started clearing the dishes and wiping down tables. Though she was expected to fly into action to assist with the cleanup, Flora had a new goal that couldn’t be tossed aside.
I am a statue. If this is the way she thinks she wants me, then let her have me like this. Let me turn to stone.
The sounds of tiny scuttling feet told Flora that the creatures of the night were coming out to play. The brush of fur across her foot startled her, but she surprised herself by remaining rigid.
This is easier than I thought it would be. Even the animals think I’m a statue.
“Flora! I need you to help me!” her mother shouted angrily.
She’d gotten under her mother’s skin. Flora would have smiled about that, even tried to smile, but the smile never came. Her face had lost most of its feeling, and the muscles didn’t respond.
A few moments passed, and her mother stalked over to where she stood, nostrils flaring. “Flora! Why aren’t you listening to me? Honestly, I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but . . .” Her mother’s voice trailed off, her eyes going wide as she looked down at the hand she’d just placed on her daughter’s arm.
“Flora?” she said softly as she squeezed the flesh, only to find it unyielding.
Mommy! Flora tried to call out, but nothing responded. Her heart should’ve been hammering, but it was beating abnormally slowly. Mommy, help me!
“Flora! Answer me!” Then the panicked woman turned and screamed to anyone that might hear. “Someone help! Please help me!”
Her father came, but his efforts to rouse her were also unsuccessful.
By the next morning, Flora’s once peach skin had turned gray, and her blood no longer flowed through her veins. Her parents sat at her feet for hours on end, pleading with her to do something that she simply couldn’t do.
Flora saw the police come, saw the incredulous looks on their faces as her mother and father explained what had happened. A few days later, they were escorted away in handcuffs, and she never saw them again.
Months passed and the garden was swallowed by weeds. Birds perched on Flora’s shoulders each morning as they sang to the world.
There were no more garden parties. There was only Flora and fauna.
Word Count: 993