Tea Leaves and Sapphire Earrings

Deciduous

Match Twenty-Nine: Deciduous:

Florence didn’t have long to live. It was a miracle that she had lasted this long. Alfred leaned against the side of her bed. He reached forward and took her hand. In the last few days, more memories started to come together in his head. Alfred had known Florence from another life. That had to be it. It had to be.

“Alfred?” Florence asked in a faint voice. Alfred lifted his head.

“I’m right here,” he said. She could barely see anymore. Her eyesight had been going for weeks. She didn’t get out of bed anymore. The doctors couldn’t do anything about it.

“The best you can do is to make sure that she’s comfortable,” the last one told him and Lydia. She took it as if she had to swallow the most bitter pill in the world. Her jaw fixed closed as she lowered her eyes.

“And how do we do that?” Alfred asked with tears in his eyes. He had always hated that phrase. Why did they say that? Did they even know how to do that? The doctor patted him on the shoulder.

“Just do the best you can,” he said in a low voice. “She needs you right now. She needs both of you.” Each word felt like a slap in the face. It took Alfred’s all not to scream in his face.

“Thank you, doctor,” Lydia said. The doctor packed up his things.

“I will see myself out,” he said. Alfred trembled in rage as the doctor and walked away. Lydia did little to put him at ease.

“I know it sucks, but we knew this was coming for quite some time,” she said. Alfred just glared at her. He hated her for being right.

This morning, she went out shopping for the week.

“Did you want something?” Alfred asked. Florence didn’t speak. Sometimes, he couldn’t tell if she was asleep or not. Still, the American man didn’t feel it would right to leave her. Meanwhile, there were more memories clicking together in his head.

“Do you want to hear something strange?” he asked. Alfred couldn’t tell if she was looking at him or not. Well, might as well say it now before she kicks the bucket.

“I think we might have met before,” he said. “In another life.” Alfred didn’t wait for a response.

“I remember being in a bad place,” he said. “You tried to help me. But I turned you down when I needed you most.” Alfred paused.

“I don’t know what I am saying here,” he confessed. Every memory started to play in his head. He could never remember the girl’s name. She had always been there for him. She never gave up on him.

Alfred pressed his lips together.

“I guess what I am trying to say is that, I am sorry,” he said. “I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me or not. But I just want you to know that I am sorry I hurt you.” Alfred leaned down and kissed her on the lips. This had happened before.

-1997-

They almost died last night. But it wasn’t together.

His starvation caught up to him. His heart became too weak. A neighbor called 911 and rode with him to the hospital. The boy’s parents might have been on vacation at the time. Alfred didn’t fully remember. He just remembered waking up in the hospital. All of the white walls felt suffocating. The bright lights hurt his eyes. Felt too familiar. Was he going to die this time?

Footsteps walked into the room.

Here came another nurse. She took out her chart and began writing on it. Despite not hearing what she was saying too well, he answered anyway. He’s done this before. Only the neighbor came by to visit. But it was a pity visit. He didn’t really care that much. The only person that did was gone.

He would be gone soon.

Wait… Did they say her name? Was she here to visit him after all?

No.

She and her boyfriend got into a really bad car accident following a fight. She confessed that she had cheated on him with the starving boy that she tried to save. Her boyfriend didn’t take it so well. An argument ensued and he hit her. She fought back. Things got ugly and he crashed the car. Boyfriend died on impact. She was rushed to the hospital. The same hospital that that starving boy was. Her chances didn’t look good. She hadn’t woken up from her coma. The doctors feared that she wouldn’t make it.

She was here because of him.

He asked for her room number the best that he could do many times. The nurses and doctors wouldn’t tell him. His body was too weak this point. Too much movement would kill him. But he had to see her before she slipped away for good. He had to say that he was sorry. Sorry for turning her away. Sorry for hurting her. One nurse finally relented.

Room 292.

He had to get there no matter what it took. But right now, he was under consent watch. If this kept up, he would never get the chance again. The night before they were supposed to graduate was when he made his move.

Around midnight, he was alone in his room. Getting out of bed was a struggle. His body became too weak. Everything ached all over. But that did little to detour him. He would have to suck it up and walk to her room.

Each step felt so heavy. He thought that he was going to collapse. When did this hallway get so long? None of that mattered to him. He only had one thought in mind.

I have to see her again. I have to see her again.

He made it to the elevator and pressed the down button. She was one floor down from him. When the cab opened, he stumbled inside. He used his dwelling strength to press two before dropping his arm to the floor. The short ride down gave him a chance to rest.

When the doors opened, he had to start his walk again. More painful steps. He felt like his heart was going to burst. His vision became blurred but he wouldn’t stop. Not even this long hall to the ICU.

At last, he made it. Room 292. He didn’t know whether to last or cry. He didn’t have the time. He pushed open the door and collapsed onto the hard floor. That would be the last time he would ever walk again. He crawled over to her bed.

There she was. If it wasn’t for the machine, mask, and tubes in body, he would’ve thought that she was just asleep. It tore him up inside to see her like this. This was all his fault. He did this.

Tears started to well up in his eyes. He crawled up to her bedside. He leaned in close to her sleeping face. Saying all of this to her felt like a hard pill to swallow.

“****,” he said. “I don’t know if you will live long or not. But I just want to say…” The tears wouldn’t stop falling.

“You were trying to help me but I ended up hurting you,” he said. “I really do love you and I don’t deserve you. I was just in a bad place.” The more tears poured the more it hurt to say it.

“I don’t deserve anything good you give me,” he said. “But I want to at least say this.” He reached for her hand the best that he could.

“I don’t know if you will forgive me or not,” he said. “But I am so sorry that I ever hurt you.” He finally broke down crying. When the nurses found him the next morning, he could barely stand. They had to walk him back to his room.

She never woke up. She passed away the next night. Two days later, he followed behind.

-Present Day-

Lydia found Alfred sound asleep by Florence’s side. She sighed and shook her head.

“Oh well,” the young woman said. She just let him be. Might as well. He’s been good to them both through all of this.


Florence died quietly three days later. Alfred didn’t get until morning over the phone.

“She’s gone!” Lydia wailed on the other line. Those words felt like an ice pick to the eye.

“No…” he said a soft voice. “No. No. No! No!” Lydia cried over the phone. Alfred sank to his knees, clutching the phone. Tears welled up behind his glasses. They never did establish what they were. He still loved her. Did she feel the same way? He would never know.

Lydia took care of all the funeral arrangements. Florence’s funeral was on a Saturday. Only Alfred, Lydia, Mrs. Gomez, and one doctor showed up. Each one came up with something to say. The American man went last. He didn’t know what to say at first. But he figured that he would try anyway.

“I have grown close to Florence over these short years,” he said. “And I’ve fallen in love with her. I don’t know how she felt about me. Now, I will never know. I love you, Florence. I love you so much.” He took his seat.

“That was beautiful,” the doctor whispered to him. The American man didn’t say a word. He felt at peace now. Did his past self feel the same as he did before he died? Maybe Florence did love him in her own way. A way that he’d probably never understand. He would never know.

Or would he?

Florence would be laid to rest under a lush green willow tree in a private cemetery.


That evening, Lydia went home. She wiped away her tears. The young woman expected to come home to an empty house. Lydia sighed as she opened the door.

This is my life now. She didn’t know what to do.

When Lydia opened the door, her eyes widened in shock. She covered her mouth as surprise washed over her face.

“Oh my…” Lydia said. She pulled out her cell phone and called up Alfred.

“You aren’t going to believe this!” Lydia said.

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