Tea Leaves and Green Jade

Maple

Match Two: Maple:

Alfred knocked on his girls' door in the middle of winter. He clutched a small jar of hot peppers in his hand. The man looked up with the door opened a crack.

"Yes?" Lydia asked, peeking out. Alfred cleared his throat.

"How's Florence doing?" he asked. Lydia glanced down at her feet.

"She's tired," she answered. The younger girl moved aside to let her sister's friend inside. Alfred followed her down to Florence's bedroom. Lydia knocked on the door.

"Yes?" Florence asked inside.

"You have a visitor," Lydia whispered.

"Okay," Florence said in a small voice. Her younger sister pushed open the door. Alfred quietly walked inside.

"Yo," he said with a wave. Florence gave him a tired smile. She nodded at him.

"I'll leave you two alone," Lydia said in a whisper. She quietly slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her. Alfred waved her off. He turned his attention back to Florence. She looked paler than death itself. Her face looked so sullen from where he stood. Her arms looked thinner than twigs in her bed. Even her hair looked so dry on her head. Alfred didn't even know how to deal with this.

"Uh… hi," he spoke up.

"Hello," Florence said in soft, raspy voice. Alfred's eyes darted around the room.

"Uh… I saw that you have Christmas tree in your living room," he said. "It's kind funny considering… you know." The American man chuckled in the empty silence. Okay, that didn't work. Alfred tried to dig into his brain for something to kill dullness around them.

"Hey!" he said aloud. "We you like to hear about the Lewis and Clark expedition?" Florence gave him a tired smile.

"Alright," she said. Alfred sat down on the floor next to her bed.

"Okay," he said. "My boss wanted some space for my place, so he went these two dudes, Lewis and Clark to help out…" This is all that he can do for now. Lydia would have to deal with this for now.

"Every year that she survives this is another year that I can say thanks to letting her live a little bit longer," she told Alfred on the swing set in the snow days earlier. "However, it also means that she has less chances of being so lucky." She turned to Alfred. "You know why we go to the hospital every year, right?" she asked.

"To keep her from dying?" he asked.

"That's right," Lydia said. She sat down on the swing.

"Can I ask you something?" Alfred asked.

"Sure," the girl answered.

"How long have Florence lived like this?" he asked.

"Twenty-eight years," Lydia replied. Alfred looked at her with big eyes.

"Twenty-eight years?!" he yelped. "But that would mean…" The young girl gave him a stern nod.

"Yes," she answered. "My parents took care of her before I was born."

"Damn," Alfred muttered as he looked at his lap. Lydia froze in place.

"But, I don't know how much longer this will last for her," she said. "Each year could be her last one." Alfred stared at her.

"Lydia…" he said. The young girl shook her head. Alfred looked out on the falling snow in the park. He kept all of that mind as he told Florence stories of his glory days until she fell asleep.

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