She Loves Him Not
He felt ridiculous.
There he was, plucking at flower petals like a lovesick Disney princess, and she was off to God-knows-where doing God-knows-what with God-knows-whom.
Or at least that's how it felt. With a sigh, John tossed the remnants of the flower that he had thoroughly dismantled beside him, looking down with slight disdain at the pile of light purple petals by his feet. "Stupid old wives' tale," he muttered.
"So does she love you?"
John's head shot up and he stared at the girl who had materialized in front of him. "What?"
She nodded towards the flower petals on the ground. "The person you were picking the petals for. Does she love you?"
He looked down at the petals and made to answer when she interrupted him.
"Or, I mean, does he love you? Sorry, I shouldn't have presumed. Gotta remember to keep an open mind these days, right?"
For the first time in a while, John chuckled and looked up at her. "It's okay. And, ah, no. Apparently, she doesn't love me." He rubbed at the back of his neck. "But I think a part of me had already known that."
The girl rocked back on her heels. "Maybe you miscounted?"
John huffed in laughter again and shook his head. "That's nice of you to say, but no, I don't think I did." He patted his lap and stood. "Even if I hadn't plucked these petals the answer would still be the same. But I'd just be sitting alone and miserable at home instead of out here in the park."
"Oh," she replied, the edges of a frown curling her mouth. "I'm sorry."
He shrugged it off, as he did most things. "No worries. I'll get over it." He shot her a wry smile. "I invariably do."
A small line appeared between her eyebrows as she looked down at the discarded flower petals. "That's sad."
He shrugged again, unsure how to respond to that. "That's life, isn't it?"
She shrugged this time, her discontent written in her face. "Perhaps, but that's not all life is."
John felt his eyebrows rise high at that one. Vaguely he wondered how he managed to get wrapped up in a conversation like this with a total stranger. "Of course not. But it's still a big part. Everybody's sad at some point."
"Maybe," the girl said, before lifting her gaze to meet his. "But that doesn't mean we should be used to it."
He frowned. "I don't understand."
"Everyone gets sad, yes. But that doesn't automatically equate to being sad so often that it doesn't even feel like sadness anymore, that it just feels like second-nature. That's not how life should be," she pushed.
John tilted his head, conceding to her point. "No, that's not how life should be." He shrugged this time, and caught her gaze again. "But that's how it is, and I don't know that there's much we can do to change it."
She smiled at that, a lovely, indulgent smile that made him feel a bit as though he was missing out on some kind of joke; and indeed, her next words only confused him even more. "Hmm. I'd forgotten how pessimistic you all can be."
"Excuse me?" He shook his head for a second. "What, what on earth?"
The girl chuckled. "And how unimaginative, too."
"Unimaginative?" John was incredulous. "What are you talking about?"
The girl shook her head, that same secretive smile back on her face. Instead of answering his question, she merely nodded her head towards the bench behind him. "Don't forget your flower," she reminded.
John turned back to glance at the bench instinctively, even though he knew the flower he'd been picking at was gone--dismantled completely. What he saw, however, was not the remains of a broken stem and a bare bud, but a single, orange blossom--full and thick and smelling of sweet spices. He picked it up, amazed at its sudden appearance. Still looking at the flower, John turned back to address the girl, to ask her where it had come from. But when he looked up, there was no one there, and the only trace left of the girl was the flower in his hand and a faint smell of roses in the air.