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Pink Tulips

“You’re quiet.”
“I’m pensive.”
“That’s the same thing.”
Theo cuts an eye towards her. His dark figure is a contrast to the brightness around them.
“Leda,” he says. “You’re being contrary on purpose.”
She bites back a huff and a smile—the two at once, warring with each other. “I have reasons
to be contrary, don’t I?” she asks and tosses the bundle of grass she’s been shredding between
her fingers into the meadow.
Oh, the meadow. It’s silent, in this late afternoon-early evening phase, where the world is
steeped in bright gold and soft purple. Bright, vibrant green from the grass which cushions the
two of them, the trees stretching up around them in every direction, like a giant hand cradling
them in its palm.
She watches the pink tulips wave in the wind. Like little hellos. The color is seeped away,
tinged with sickly vermillion.
Hello. Hello.
“You have plenty of reasons to be contrary,” Theo says now, and his voice is quiet. There is
a furrow in his brow.
Leda twists to look at Theo. She doesn’t know how long they’ve been here, but she finds her
eyes fixed on the corner of his mouth with surprising urgency. It doesn’t feel like there should be
urgency in this peaceful meadow, but there it is. Urgency. Pressing its spindly fingers between
her ribs, pressing on her pulse point until she hears the echo of her heartbeat in her ears.
She doesn’t realize she’s leaning in until she hears Theo inhale, feels her shoulder brush
against his.
It feels only natural to speak to him like this, soft and close. “Are you going to go?” she asks
him quietly.
There’s almost a twist of a smile at his lips, the faint ghost of humor. “Of course.”
“Of course,” she whispers. And she gives in, lets her cheek fall and press against his. Their
breath mingles, mouths so close to touching, but it is the warmth of his skin against hers that
makes her heart pound, until the world is off-kilter, foreign and unfamiliar. Strange.
Theo is warm. She didn’t expect that. He is a man that is a study in slow-moving darkness; it
seems at odds with nature that he should have warm skin.
And…he doesn’t move, barely even seems to breathe. Like the touch of her—warmth,
because of course she is warm, being who and what she is—is enough to make his entire being
go quiet.
The soft-fingered touch of sunset reaches down to grip the trees. Orange and vermillion
meet dusky purple, lavender, marigold.
The grass is tickling her legs.
She wishes to say to him, I want our story to be one of fields of flowers and quiet sunsets. I
do not wish for violence.

Theo shifts suddenly, and she is hit by a surge of uncertainty, that maybe she’s
His touch on her palm is violent in its softness, and she is arrested by longing so deep it cuts
into vital arteries, leaves her grappling in a spill of fresh red blood.
Leda barely breathes as Theo traces patterns on her skin, and above her, a full-blooming
cherry tree shakes, sheds its flowers. The petals drift down over them, a shower of pale white
and pink foam. They settle softly on her eyelashes, slip down her cold cheeks. They are an
explosion of pale colour on the green grass.
Theo trails his fingers over her wrist, across the silent expanse of skin.
Leda catches his hand, pulls him back to her grasp. She turns his palm over, studies the
lines of his skin. Strokes the dip between his thumb and forefinger. “You’re tense,” she
He huffs a laugh, almost self-conscious. “No, I’m not.”
“Liar.” She pinches his hand lightly, for effect, then laughs. The sound echoes through the
meadow like a bell pealing, a ripple that extends out to going, going, gone.
She looks at him, still smiling, then raises a brow.
Theo’s mouth opens, pauses, and she sees that she’s cut into him, somehow, with just a
look. That she’s undone some thread, plucked at a note that’s still ringing.
It pleases her, somehow, that people can undo other people. That there are pink tulips and
beautiful sunsets, and someone to sit with you when it all ends.
The purple in the world around them grows, deepening the light of the meadow. Leda
swallows, heart starting to hurt.
She hasn’t noticed the weather before, but she shivers.
Theo’s face shutters, and he drops her hand.
Night has fallen.
Leda inhales, deep, as if she can imprint his touch into her lungs. “Well,” she says, empty.
“It’s time, I suppose.”
His eyes are shadowed, the humor gone. “It is.”
“Which of us will be leaving first?”
His mouth moves, just slightly. “Will you leave with me?”
It’s not a real offer, of course, but she can see him imagining, for a moment, that it is. That
she can run her fingers along his palm, grip his fingers, and they will cross into the forest
together, emerge on the other side hand-in-hand.
Leda smiles, empty, and stands. She brushes off the petals, but…they do not cling to her. They lay on the ground, a springtime snowfall. “I have no choice, do I?” she says, and steps
lightly forward. The grass passes through her legs, tickling, there, there, gone. Shadows and
The pink tulips gleam, bobbing and bright. She reaches out for them, wanting to gather them
in her hands once more—
“Leda.” His voice is quiet.
She sighs and straightens, hand falling away without grasping them. Her empty palm is cold.
Theo stands too, slowly. He takes the time to brush off the petals—they cling to his trousers,
and he turns them over in his hand, almost wistfully, before letting them float to the ground.
Leda’s gut lurches, a pulse of vivid sadness strangling her words in her throat. She watches
the petals on the ground, feels the cold creeping in.
“Walk with me,” Theo says, and off they go, towards the forest.

The stars have begun to bloom, the sparkle of distant brightness awash in the rich velvet
fabric of the sky. “Will I dance among them?” she asks Theo as they walk.
He is looking ahead, but she sees his fingers flex, tense. “I don’t know.”
It’s a lie—of course he knows. He knows all that happens here, all that happens after. He
knows if she will be nothing or everything.
The trees loom, dark and green and blue and black. She inhales, trying to take in the smell
of the earth and the water, the roots and bark—
She catches the faintest hint of it, like the stale end of cigarette smoke.
Leda digs her nails into her palm. It’s cold, and mist intertwines with the trees as they grow
taller, as the meadow fades from view. The night is still gleaming above them, but suddenly she
can’t feel the ground beneath her feet—it was prickly, cold, damp—or the air on the skin, the
world is becoming hollow—
Leda turns, sharp and violent, hand darting out—
Theo catches her hand, squeezes. His skin is warm, a stain of ink on his forefinger as if he
spends the days—when he doesn’t ferry the souls of the dead, dead like her—writing at a desk.
Like a person.
Leda lets her hand linger there, in the feeling of being alive. Of being held, before violence
cuts to the quick.
Maybe violence is not the right word. This is not violent, this dusk-to-night. It tells her that,
maybe, something will remain.
“Theo,” she says. It is parched, almost silent. Human panic has flooded her, ripping away
the feeling of the grass beneath her, the sky stained purple-orange-yellow, all the colors of a
painter’s palette.
The pink tulips dart through her mind. Waving softly in the grass. Hello, hello.
Theo smiles at her. It’s sad, hollow. The whisper of green grass in its echo. “I will make you
a star,” he says.
She has words on her lips, words, words—
In the meadow, the pink tulips shiver, curl up to sleep. The world is made of stardust, bright
and quiet.
There is man amongst the trees, dark shoulders sloping downwards like gravity has caught
up with him. The heaviness of it sinks even to the core of the earth.
A star twinkles in the sky, lonely and bright. Then cast amongst the dark velvet, a fold in the
rippling ribbon of the sky, borne on waves of glittering pinpricks.
Theo flexes his fingers, like he feels a phantom ache, the linger of some warmth.
There is a Not Man alone amongst the watchful trees, a being of silence and endless
sleep, and then there is no one at all, except the endless sprawl of sleeping pink tulips, cradled
in the embrace of the dew until the morning.

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