Art: She Walks in Beauty by Riley Ann
Story: Flowers by Chelsea Twiss
I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house the first ten years of my life. My parents moved to Washington state when I was still a baby and my grandparents made the journey across the country from upstate New York to live near us shortly after. My parents opened a tiny tea shop in a tiny town where we lived for the next fifteen years of our lives.
My grandmother was a florist and I remember her as always busy in the kitchen, flowers strewn across the countertop where food ought to be; filling bowls and plates full of beautiful, vibrant color. She would dance around the room, on the balls of her feet, sweeping up lilies and roses in her arms, cradling them like a sleeping babe.
I thought my grandmother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had long, silver hair that she tucked up in a messy bun atop her head. Pieces of hair were always falling down around her shoulders as she worked on her arrangements. When she was finished, the arrangements would be taken to my parents’ tea shop, where they became infamous for catching the eyes of passersby. My parents often credited her with the success of their business.
I can’t say much about my grandfather. While I was in the kitchen talking with Gran and watching her work, he was outside in the garage. He always grumbled that he was working on something, but unlike Gran, no one ever witnessed or seemed to benefit from the product of his work. Grandpa kept to himself. When he did speak to you, it was almost impossible to understand the words slipping through his mumbling lips.
He was always frowning and walked with a limp due to his prosthetic leg. You could always hear him coming into the house from the garage. As close as I became to Gran, I felt equally distant from him. He seemed to have no interest in getting close to me and I had no interest in getting close with him. I often wondered what brought him and Gran together. Once I asked her, “Gran, why is grandpa so grumpy all the time?”
“Grandpa’s been through a lot in his life, Jonah. He wasn’t always this way. Especially not before the car accident that caused him to lose his leg.”
“Do you still love him?”
Gran put down the Stargazer lily she was about to place in a blue and white porcelain vase and looked earnestly at me, “I still do I’m afraid.” She gave me a small, sad smile and went back to her work.
I was twelve years old when Gran died. The cancer came on so quickly one summer, and by fall she was gone. A part of me left with her. I felt that something within me was dimmed, tarnished by her loss. Like Grandpa, I too became withdrawn and stopped talking to other people except when asked a question directly. I stopped playing with my friends after school. I stopped going over to my grandparents house completely. My parents urged me to speak to a counselor but I felt I had nothing to say.
Three years later, a week before my fifteenth birthday, my father got a call from the hospital. Grandpa had had a stroke in his garage. Fortunately one of his neighbors had seen him fall through the open garage door and had called an ambulance. My mother, father and I left for the hospital immediately.
We sat in the shared hospital room for hours at the side of Grandpa’s bed, waiting to see if and when he would regain consciousness. I curled up in one of the larger chairs, with a scratchy, blue hospital blanket draped over my lap. I felt as though I might doze off at any moment. Grandpa’s doctor and nurses came in every so often and checked grandpa’s vitals.
I was roused from near slumber when I heard the mumbling. Grandpa’s mumbling was unmistakable to me. I opened my eyes and looked around the room frantically; my parents were nowhere in sight. I looked over to Grandpa, still mumbling, his eyes were mere slits and I could not understand the words coming from his mouth.
“Grandpa, what is it?” I went over to the side of his bed and took his hand. He turned his head toward me ever-so-slightly and mumbled, “She’sstrappedinthebox.”
“What? Grandpa, I don’t understand…”
“She’sinthebox. Underthebed.” I looked at him, unblinking as he groaned, “Get ‘er for me?” His eyes closed and he became still once more, it looked as though he was barely breathing. I stood next to him, shocked. My mind was blank. I whispered to myself, “She’s in the box, under the bed?”
I heard footsteps approaching. It was my father.
“Jonah, I took your mother home so she can get some rest, I was just coming back to take you home too.”
“Dad! Grandpa woke up for a second!”
“That’s great news, Jonah! What happened?”
“I don’t know, he told me something, it didn’t really make sense. And then he fell back asleep.”
“Let me go tell his doctor and then I’ll take you home, okay Son?”
The next morning, my mother took me to my grandparents’ house to gather a few of grandpa’s things to bring with us to the hospital. We walked up to their room and Mom went into the closet to find Grandpa’s favorite sweater and other clean clothing. I sat on their bed and smoothed the sheets with the palm of my hand. I bent down and smelled Gran’s pillow. I was probably imagining things but I thought it still smelled like her; the smell of fresh flowers. Just then I remembered what Grandpa had said, “She’s trapped under the bed, in a box. Get her for me?”
Slowly, I lowered myself down onto the floor, and reached under the bed. I felt around but found nothing. I lifted the old, lace dust ruffle and squinted to try and see if anything was under there. On the other side of the bed, Grandpa’s side, I could just make out a small square-shaped box. I ran around to the other side of the bed and grabbed it just as Mom was coming out of the closet with Grandpa’s things. It was a crudely carved wooden box, with a small latch.
“What’s that, Jonah?”
“Mom, I think Grandpa wants me to bring him this box.”
Half an hour later, we arrived at the hospital. I sat cradling the box gently in my lap the whole car ride there. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. It felt like an invasion of Grandpa’s privacy. Mom and I walked into Grandpa’s hospital room to see him awake and talking to my father.
“Look guys! Grandpa’s awake!” Dad said as we walked in.
My mother kissed my father on the cheek and handed him the suitcase of clothing she had brought for Grandpa. I walked over to the side of Grandpa’s bed and held out the box.
Grandpa turned his head to look at me and, when he saw that I was holding the box, a large grin spread across his face like I had never seen before.
“You found it.” He said quietly.
“I did, Grandpa. What’s in it?”
Grandpa looked down at the box and sighed. He lifted the latch and slowly opened the lid of the box.
I looked down to see dozens of lovely dried flowers of all kinds inside the box. Lilies, roses, daisies, and lavender.
“It’s her.” he whispered, his eyes full of tears.
I felt tears stinging the corners of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks as I reached over and took his hand.