The blades of grass ask the fuchsia plant about her heart.
Wait. Go back.
No one asks the fuchsia plant about her heart and still she thrives in the suburban backyard, fenced in and often overmowed, where the dog plays but knows not to eat her, and in the late autumn she dies, but that would’ve happened anyway, whether or not anyone had asked about her heart.
No one asks after the fuchsia plant and still she opens her vermillion sepals to unfurl a parachute of soft, violet petals; still she drops down eight or ten stamen, and at their tips the cream-colored anthers, like little soldiers at the end of a parachute line.
It can be hard to tell when a fuchsia plant has died, initially. Even when they are alive, the flowers droop out of the pot in dramatic arcs, facing downward in a way suggestive of inconsolable sadness.
The blades of grass reach up toward the fuchsia plant, whose many purple faces gaze lovingly down at them. From their angle, the fuchsia does not look sad.
The woman in the house has always loved fuchsias. They are what she loves most about this house, which is far from the city and all her friends there, but next to a creek, which floods every year before it has a chance to freeze, pouring water thick with disintegrated leaves into the unfinished basement. Still, the woman believes that if a fuchsia grows there, the place can’t be so bad.
The man brings a bouquet of flowers home from the market. They are not fuchsias, because those don’t make good bouquets, but they are a similar color scheme: peonies, lilacs, and carnations. He remembers his wife loves fuchsias. They’re beautiful, of course—what’s not to love? Nature’s soundless bells.
He thinks his wife loves fuchsias because they remind her of the bells at the church where they were married: larger, grander brass cousins of the tinny aluminum bells stretched across the bumper of their getaway car.
Or maybe it goes back to their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, where the flowers draped languorously over the white clay wall of their B and B, the three of them—man, wife, fuchsias—bathing together in the sun.
But no, the woman loved fuchsias long before then.
The woman stands at the end of her son’s twin bed holding two corners of a bedsheet. She flings the sheet up and watches the center billow for a moment before floating down to cover the mattress. She thinks for a moment she has seen the invisible. She feels like she is tracking prints, like she is a hunter of air.
She has four more beds to go, but the woman is in no hurry. Her job in the city feels like a whisper in a past life. After they were married, the man said, “There’s really no need,” like it was a kindness. Her most distinct memory from the wedding is that he insisted on buying rather than renting a tux.
Since then, the man has erected a basketball hoop in the driveway and had an above-ground pool installed out back. There is talk of a trampoline, but the woman knows he knows better than to touch the fuchsias. You can take almost everything away.
The woman is in no hurry, so she flings the bedsheet up over and over again, trying to catch the elusive air underneath, over and over, until her arms ache from the effort.
Later, the boys pull the sheets off their beds and tie them around their necks, three superheroes in cotton-blend capes. The fabric drags through the mud of the yard where the dog plays. The dog trots behind the boys, nipping helpfully at one of the capes like a bridesmaid holding dutifully onto the end of a veil.
The boys play swords away from the fuchsia plant, like always. Two of them think their mother loves fuchsias because the flowers look like fancy teardrop earrings, the kind their father bought for her birthday last year. The other boy thinks his mother loves fuchsias because of the way hummingbirds come up to kiss them, but he doesn’t say this out loud to his brothers. Even if he did, it would be two against one.
The blades of grass flatten under the boys’ matching sneakers. The blades of grass love the fuchsia because she is beautiful and hardy—look at the way she survives the boys—and because she, among all the flowers in the yard, is most agnostic, refusing to look upward and be blinded in worship of the sun.
No one has ever asked the woman directly why she loves fuchsias, but everyone has their ideas.
The woman must love her life in the suburbs. The peace, the quiet, the multiple cars and ample spaces in which to park them, the stars dully visible overhead after dark, the big family smiling in pressed shirts in pictures. By all appearances, flourishing. What’s not to love?
The people in her life ask the woman about her heart.
Wait. Go back.
Sometimes a thing can look alive a long while after it’s died.
Kristina Ten is a Russian-American writer of short stories and poetry. Her work can be found in The Masters Review, Pithead Chapel, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She has been shortlisted for The Masters Review Anthology Prize, longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. See more at kristinaten.com.