Petra remembered another time, a time long ago in another place, before this time or this place. In fact, she had many such memories, but this one was especially vivid and poignant.
Josephine was working in the greenhouse her husband had built for her – he with his passion for orchids and she with her longing for green companions and dirt under her fingernails. This at a time when greenhouses hadn’t yet been invented. Lucky for Josephine, her husband Felix had memories too, memories from the distant past as well as memories from lives not yet lived. This was her explanation, not his. He simply claimed to be creative. Ok, but … a greenhouse? REALLY?
Either way, it was her favorite place to be, even if she did have to sweat into her high-necked, long-sleeved dresses and breath-defying corsets while she worked the soil and sang to her seedlings. There was the day Felix came home early from the docks he administered, and surprised her in the greenhouse – – then she surprised him right back as they swept mini-plant pots from the tabletop and made noisy, excited, passionate, gravity-defying love amidst the orchid stems.
It wasn’t but a couple of months later that his carriage lost a wheel one afternoon, tipping over in the middle of the cobblestone and mud roadway, crushing out his life when it landed on top of him. Even in the throes of inconsolable grief, Josephine could hear his voice, across time and the laws of physics. “Wherever you are, I will find you,” he said. “Have our child. Find her a father and raise her well. Be glad for all that life, beauty, and the fortune I have left you can bring. Keep talking to the orchids and I will hear. Listen for me in the smiles of the buds as they open.”
Now she was here, in this time, in this place, in a rose garden with two hundred other people, standing by with a bouquet as her best friend Anne Marie married Octavio, her gorgeous Italian and the love of her life. Petra could not hold back the tears as the ceremony ended and she retraced her steps, back under the cupola and over to the reception area. Her heart felt full yet empty at the same time. She felt the person standing behind her before she turned to see him. And when she did turn, he was looking away from her face, so it couldn’t have been his features that stirred the sparkles she felt deep in her bones. Then he turned to face her. He was holding a flower. He spoke. “Roses are lovely, but I prefer orchids, don’t you?”
Cover photo by John Wiesenfeld on Unsplash