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Daria Vashkevich, 24 Sep '12

ORANGE PETALS

When I came home late at night, I could smell his cologne. I decided not to turn on the lights and went straight to the porch to lit up a cigarette. After a smoke I went back into the flat. I didn’t close the balcony door. The summer was abnormally hot, it hasn’t rained for weeks. I was sticky with sweat, but too lazy to take a shower.
I crept into our bedroom and lay on my side of the bed very carefully. A small square of moonlight rested on the ceiling. The smell of Olly’s cologne was even more intense in the room. I liked the fragrance, it was soothing and reminded me of the flowers my granny used to grow in front of her country house. The flowers had tiny orange petals and black centres, but I often found some “albinos” that had light-yellow centres instead of black ones. I felt special sympathy towards them, probably because of my “in-born attraction to abnormality”, as my mother used to say. It’s a shame I never asked Granny for the seeds. I also never wondered what the flower’s name was.
When I woke up the next day at eleven o’clock, Olly had already left. I tried to remember what I’d dreamt about last night. It was something about a lake. The lake was large and spotted with yellow water lilies. I paddled about near the shore; I had an urge to swim further and dive, but there was something threatening about the water: it was green and muddy, I couldn’t see through it. They say that dreaming about water is an omen of forthcoming changes. I’m not sure if I want any.
I thought for a minute and curled up on Olly’s side of the bed. I pulled his pillow closer to me and drew his smell in. The clock on the bureau ticked hypnotically; I closed my eyes.
All of a sudden the door opened and Olly appeared in the bedroom. He approached the bed and lay by my side. I noticed a small orange petal stuck in the corner of his mouth. I moved closer to him and licked it off. The petal was sweet but my man’s mouth tasted of nothing. That was strange, his lips always had a special taste before. Olly rolled on his left side, got up from the bed and left the room. I wanted to say something to stop him, but couldn’t, I ran out of sounds.
I woke up with a pumping headache. I slipped down the bed, moved to the kitchen and drank a glass of water. I wanted to rinse the glass, but at the last moment reconsidered and put it into the sink together with the other dirty dishes.
Then I went to the living room and turned TV on. Having watched a couple of programmes, I yawned and reached for a new “Elle” issue lying on the coffee table. I was thumbing through the magazine gazing at happily empty pictures when two tickets fell out of it. I picked those up. It was written “La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. Thursday, August 16th, 7 pm. The Grand Opera and Ballet Theatre” on each of them. How on earth could I forget? It was twenty to six. I flung open the closet doors and reached for the black evening dress.
On my way in the taxi, I texted Olly: “Meeting near the theatre entrance at 6.40.” Almost as soon as I sent the text, my mobile vibrated. I read the new message: “Havent heard from you for ages.Stop ignoring me1Get over it and start again,call me1” I wonder if my Mom will ever learn how to deal with punctuation in her texts. I deleted her message and dialled Olly’s number. His phone was switched off.
I was there at fifteen to seven, but couldn’t see him anywhere. I waited for him for about twenty minutes and then went inside. The opera had already started. An usherette accompanied me to my seat, cutting the darkness with her pocket flashlight. People grudged crossly when I was squeezing past them to get to my place. If Olly was with me, I could have hidden behind him; he’s big and solid.
One night the two of us were watching Adan’s ballet “Giselle”. I was bored and kept shifting in my seat. Olly put his hand on my knee. It was pleasantly heavy. I wanted him to move it higher, up my thigh, but he didn’t. His fingers just lay there, on my knee, drumming in time with “Giselle” melodies. I moved my leg slightly. Olly started circling my knee with his index finger. I shuddered, leaned towards him and bit his ear slightly. I’ve never wanted him more than that evening, and I still remember that heaviness on my knee.
Now I was alone among all those people, wearing stupid coral lipstick.
When I came home after the performance, it was dark again. Good. I was too tired and exasperated to talk to him. I headed to the bathroom, filled the tub with hot water, put some neroli bath foam into it and started taking off my black evening dress. The zip got stuck. I tried to open it gently, but it didn’t work. I yanked it with all my force and heard the “krrrrk!” sound of the dress tearing apart. I shook it off and dived into the foam. Water embraced my body gently, I closed my eyes.
Then, all of a sudden, I understood. I jumped out of the bathtub, wiped myself hurriedly, slipped into a shirt and shorts I’d found in the dirty clothes bucket, grabbed the keys and ran outside. It had become much colder and was raining heavily. I could barely see my stretched-out hand. Only when I caught a bus on the corner of my street, I realized that I was barefoot.
I looked through the bus window. Water was everywhere. It was creeping up to the ground floor windows in the apartment buildings, swallowing the trees in the street and blurring the contours of the shopping centre. The bus passed by a church lying on its side like a fallen tree torn out of the earth by a storm. There was no pond anymore; the whole park had become one big water reservoir with treetops sticking out of it.
The bus reached an interchange and drove onto the bridge. When we were in the middle of it, the bridge broke into two parts like a cracker. The bus started falling down, into the green muddy water. I felt emptiness and lightness in my stomach. The bus hit the tight surface and began to sink. Water started filling the inside of the bus, then it threaded its way into my lungs. It tasted of neroli. I began to choke.
Before the water invaded every cell of mine, I could see several orange petals spinning around me. I didn’t have to breathe to know that they smelled of his cologne.

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