Down By Garden
Sylvie trotted down the cobblestone path, balancing the basket on his arm. The night breeze grew stronger and he pulled the large blanket closer to him. He turned to Arlene, who followed beside him, and smiled.
“Never too cold for a picnic,” he said, turning his chin up high. Arlene matched his grin and jabbed her thumb towards her chest.
“Never for the two of us!” Sylvie laughed and readjusted his grip on the heavy blanket. “Are you sure you don’t want me to carry something?” She held out a gloved hand.
“No, no, I got it. Besides, we’re nearly there.” He nodded his head towards the bridge at the end of the path. It was an old wooden thing, with splotches of red and purple from when Arlene had suggested the two of them paint it. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they hadn’t brought enough paint, so they added color at random.
When they reached the bridge, Arlene stopped at the edge, staring towards the stream. Sylvie had already begun crossing, taking a few steps before he noticed. He turned and followed her gaze. “Oh, no, it’s okay. The stream has frozen over. See?” He pointed down as best he could towards the layer of shining ice beneath the bridge. “No need to worry.”
“Alright, if you say so.” Arlene took a careful step onto the bridge, her lips stiff. After a moment, her smile return and she and Sylvie made their way across.
The bridge lead down to the garden. Arlene’s mother was the one had nurtured it, since she was a little girl. But in the past few years she hadn’t had the strength to come down. Sylvie decided he’d take it upon himself to maintain it, once he took the time to learn anything about gardening.
Luckily, despite Ms. Greene’s lack of work and Sylvie’s lack of knowledge, one group of flowers were blooming to greet the two when they arrived: the avalanche lilies. Their yellow petals curled above the thin layer of snow, reaching towards the starry night sky. Sylvie set the basket down and began stretching out the blanket.
“I always did like these flowers,” Arlene said, crouching down to brush her fingers across the tops of them. Snowflakes trickled off, sparkling slightly in the moonlight.
“That’s why it’s the best spot.” He finished securing the blanket and sat down in the center. He patted the spot beside him, and Arlene took it. Sylvie reached for the basket. “Do you want your food?”
“I think I’m okay for now.”
“Suit yourself.” Sylvie took his peanut butter and jelly out from its wrapping and took a bite. He looked at Arlene. Her copper hair stood out against the purple and white. It reminded Sylvie of fire; he was always warm around her. He hoped she was warm enough around him.
They sat their quietly. Looking out for the field of white, and over the hill to the twinkling lights of the rest of the town below. Sylvie finished his sandwich and scooted closer to Arlene, so their knees were touching. “Are you warm enough?” he asked, a tickle in his throat. She nodded. “I’m sorry.” He looked down at the flowers. Arlene stared ahead.
Ms. Green pulled her coat around her tight, tucking her chin down as she walked from the porch steps onto the stone. The snow was light, but enough for her to follow the one set of foot-prints towards the garden. She hadn’t been down this way in years, but Sylvie’s mother couldn’t think of any other place he could be.
When she reached the bridge, she had to take a second. The sloppy brush strokes and random splatters created a tightness in her chest. She hugged her waist and rushed across.
It didn’t take long for her to spot him, sitting on a blanket in front of the lilies. She stopped, far away enough for him not to notice. He turned to his left and spoke into the air. His head turned back to the flowers and she began to cry.
Leo is a sophomore majoring in English with plans to teach at the high school level. Assuming, his writing career doesn’t take off, that is.