(c) 2015, Adan Ramie
For as long as she could remember, Aster had planned her garden like she planned her days: minute-by-minute. Everything in its place, she floated through the seasons, serene as a songbird on a branch. When she flipped up another page on her wall calendar, she felt like she was clipping another perfect month to the thick sheaf of her life’s story. Forty-six years, and nothing was out of place.
Then, in the chaotic swirl of a lemur sneezing on the other side of the world, all the pages of her life blew off the peg on her wall and scattered out of order on her polished kitchen floor. Aster struggled to keep on her smile as she picked up the pages, straightening them as best she could.
The click of the front door closing caught her attention, and her shaking hands stopped. She didn’t breathe, didn’t even dare blink, until a feminine clearing of the throat from the vicinity of the front hall forced the air back into her lungs. Her feet carried her, almost as if of their own volition, to meet the stranger.
“I’m sorry to barge in, Miss Landon, but your door was open.”
The girl who stood in the front hall, on immaculate carpet smudged only by her dusty footprints, could not have been a day over twenty. Aster fought the urge to shoo her out of the hallway with a broomstick like she would a stray cat. Instead, a smile spread across her face.
“Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that you aren’t some kind of criminal.”
Aster didn’t know the girl wasn’t a criminal. She couldn’t. But her uniform held the familiar colors and bore the imprint of the postal service Aster had long come to appreciate for its expedience and safe delivery of everything from carved crystal vases to imported bulbs of the most exotic blooms.
The girl blushed and looked at her boots. She realized, then, that she had trailed the outside in onto a carpet that had never seen the bottoms of anything but house slippers, and she let slip a groan.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to track dirt onto your floor.”
She made to step back outside, but Aster rushed forward and caught her.
“No, it’s nothing. But you can make it up to me by sitting down for a glass of tea. I would love the company.”
Aster almost felt the weight of the unfamiliar words as they fell from her lips. Never one to fall into the trap of being a hostess, she was as surprised as the post girl at her offer. She hadn’t recognized her own loneliness until the words were spoken.
“I couldn’t impose.”
“It wouldn’t be an imposition,” Aster insisted. She gestured to the post girl’s shoes. “You can leave those there. Come into the kitchen. You must be parched from working out in the heat. I have fresh iced tea.”
The words drifted out on a breeze of lightheartedness that felt simultaneously foreign and delightful, and a flutter started in Aster’s chest that she didn’t recognize.
The post girl glanced up at her again, licked her dry lips, then shook her head and started taking off her boots. “I can’t stay long,” she said in way of acceptance.
Aster couldn’t contain the bounce in her step as she flitted to the kitchen. Her hands fluttered over delicate glassware and tinkling ice cubes; she was as a hummingbird in flight, gathering nectar. She brought the glasses over to where the post girl stood, one arm crossed to touch inside the elbow of the other, uncertainty painted on her face.
“Sit down,” she said, and brushed the pages of her scattered calendar aside.
The post girl gave the pages a glance, then wrapped her fingers around the glass and smiled up at Aster. “This really wasn’t necessary.”
Aster shook her head, tossing her neatly pinned hair and sending a few tendrils spilling down her back. She didn’t reach up to tuck them away, but leaned forward, her chin on her hand, and grinned like a fool at the strange girl in her kitchen.
The girl smiled back, then raised the glass to her lips and drank. Aster watched her drink, and as a single drop of condensation ran down the glass and onto that foreign hand, she felt herself lean across the table. The girl barely had time to put down her iced tea before Aster’s lips planted on hers.
For something she had never done before, Aster felt as at home sliding her tongue into the mouth of the post girl as she had the first time she stuck a spade into soil. She was vaguely aware that the two glasses had tipped onto their sides, but the Aster who cared was shut up somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind.
As the post girl reached a hand up to run through her hair, she knew she had finally found something she enjoyed as much as planting lemon queens, chiantis, and strawberry blonds: dark ponytails, blue uniforms, and the taste of iced tea on soft, supple lips.
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