For as long as I can remember, I have made things grow. Even in my old existence – brief and blurry by comparison – I helped every creature I met, beggar or baron. Charity softened my heart, freeing my fingertips for their intended purpose: to heal.
Mother taught me well.
Sometimes I sit in the garden and try to recall my life. Its roses smell sweet, even under moonlight, but I fear that my memory is beginning to fade.
Laced-up boots. Mother’s fresh verbena perfume. A veil cast over the sun. Ladled broth for hungry mouths. School children on an autumn afternoon, marveling at a blackbird trapped indoors. That first brush of lip on porcelain teacup. A bent crone who lost her hat to the wind.
Try to remember.
Errant fragments float into view. A new gown of the coldest blue. My body, whalebone-bound, stuffed into the world’s bodice and boundary. Mother calling my name: Vera! Waltzing in Father’s study through wisps of cigar smoke. The opera. The protests of horses’ hooves on cobblestone.
There is my voice: No, Sam, no carriage tonight. I can manage.
I used to know those streets. They had given me no reason to be afraid, and the lively music had left my face flushed. The evening air was fresh and cool – precisely what I had needed.
Had I? Or had I been attempting to escape yet another of Father’s suitors? Poor relentless creatures. Which ambitious gentleman had tried his hand at courting me that night? The bumbling, near-sighted Dr. Humphrey? Or perhaps Lord Tall, with that pitiable stutter? No matter now; whoever he was, he certainly is no longer.
At last I was safe and alone.
A stooped figure crept from the dark, begging, begging. Hungry, miss…so very hungry…
Then jarring pain.
Though 94 years have passed since that night, its phantom lingers within me, making me shudder even here, in the garden. Flashes of steel-tipped ivory tearing at every artery. Warmth. A ghoulish smile from an immaculate face. Rust. Lying in a sticky baptismal pool, my eyes closed for the last time.
Then nothing. For a very long time, nothing.
Then a soft, violet light, pulsing, drew me back to the universe.
Sparks of lavender sprang from my eyes. That first breath: rejuvenation. That first bite: juicy sweet. Shameful gluttony. With my first ravenous indulgence, I entered a world of shades and sacrifice that others can hardly fathom in a mere lifetime.
But even now, they call me. Even now, I heal. My inclination towards charity is what cost me my life, but my luck – would you call it luck? – is what heaved me into the garden of eternal sunset.
Copyright Alexandra Lucas 2015