This piece is part of a shared prompt idea with @Dannigrrl5 and @JasonDWarden based on the picture shown here courtesy of @icypop

Read Danni’s story, Fade to Black here.

Read Jason’s story, Transparent Love  here.

And enjoy mine below!

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For the third Saturday in a row since I started tending bar at The Cellar Door, I found I couldn’t handle the stuffiness of the club, or that the customers seemed to get particularly handsy just before close, so I went out the back for some fresh, autumn air.  That’s when I saw the lady; a small, dark-skinned woman, standing by the little bench at the park’s edge across the street.

As it started spitting rain, I watched her lay a single flower down on the bench.  Being as it was a quarter to three in the morning, and now raining, I thought I’d run over and see if she was okay.

The first thing I noticed as I approached was that she wasn’t dressed at all properly for the chilly night; just a long dark dress and a simple wrap around her shoulders.  I could see her bare skin through the loose knit of her shawl.  A nearby streetlight shrouded her face in small shadows, making it hard for me to read her emotional state.

“Are you okay?”

She didn’t respond right away.  When she did, it seemed to be to the bench, not to me.

“Fine.” She almost whispered, “Fine.”

“Okay, well, it’s just that it’s raining and you look cold.  Can I –“

She turned to me then.  She was much older looking than I initially thought.  Her eyes were sad.  Beautiful, but sad.  She turned back toward the flower that she’d placed.

“Look, I didn’t mean to upset you.  I’ll just go back to work.”

I started to leave when she spoke again.

“This is what it comes down to, you know.”

“What is?”

She pointed to the flower.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“This moment, with this precise sunflower and this precise bench, is happening across a thousand, thousand Earths.  Sometimes out of reverence for something lost.  Other times, regret for a deed done; but the blossom is always placed with a purpose beyond just being a sunflower on a bench.”

I could only stand quietly, wondering if she was sick.  And who to call when you’ve got someone who is that kind of sick.  She seemed to read my mind.

“I’m not unwell, girl.  Though, I suppose that’s not true.  I’m just not sick in the way you think.”

It started to rain harder.

“Can I call someone for you?” I asked, trying to distinguish the storm clouds somewhere in the night sky, “Some family, maybe?”

“I’ve no kin here.”  She slowly looked over the bench, into the park. “Tell me, have you ever heard of Shakespeare, girl?”

“No.  Is that a street name or –”

“No.  Not a street name.”  She gave a sad, small grin but continued to look into the park.  “A man.  A man who lived in a different time and place, it seems; and the reason for my placing the sunflower on this bench.  An appeal to my Queen, to let me come home.  It seems to have fallen on deaf ears, however.  Or, perhaps your magic here is too different from my own.  Regardless.”

She turned, tightening her shawl around her shoulders, indifferent toward the cold rain drenching both of us.  She picked up the sunflower from the bench and handed it to me.

“For your kindness.”

“But, no, I don’t want to disturb –” I tried to place the flower back on the bench but she wrapped her hand around mine, stopping me.

“It’s done me no good here, girl.  Don’t worry; I’ll try again on another night in another world and continue trying until I find my world.  You keep this one.  It’s a gift.  No strings attached.”

I watched from the bench at the park’s edge as she walked away down the road; watched until she was out of sight, lost in the cold autumn rain.  It was Henry yelling at me to come back inside that broke the spell; otherwise I may have stood there forever.

I’m not sure what I was waiting for standing out there like that, what I thought would happen, but I couldn’t shake the image of a sunflower on a bench, placed there by various hands for a myriad of reasons across countless worlds just like mine.

I guess I was wondering then, as I do now, if any of those other pictures in my mind’s eye were her, too.  Whether another sunflower on another bench worked the magic she was talking about.

Whether she got home.

I like to think that she did.

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