3rd Place – December 2019

Unspoken Promises

By Talmage Williams

Marissa Corey. This name used to bring joy and happiness to my heart and soul. Now it only brings despair. My heart skips a beat or two even thinking about her. And not in that wonderful, I’m-in-love way either. Those days are gone now.
For five months I lived a double life. I was decent at it, too. I would go on dates with Marissa during the day, and on weekend nights I could be found at the bar with my friends. I knew she didn’t approve of my drinking, but I told myself everything would be fine as long as she didn’t find out.
Finally, the inevitable arrived. I knew something was off with her attitude, but I paid it no mind. That is, until Marissa mentioned how one of her friends had seen me at the bar. Our first fight lasted for an hour.
She delivered one more jab before she drove off. “Talk to me when you’re done wasting your life!”
Again, she was right, and I was wrong. That same evening I found myself in the bar. A short time later and I was completely and utterly wasted.
That was last week.
Today I approach my first-floor apartment. The grocery trip from my car to the apartment is easy. However, with two gallons of milk in one hand, and a bag of apples in the other, retrieving the key suddenly becomes more of a challenge.
Casually I set the milk on the doormat, and that’s when I notice it. A little blue vase holds a single, pink flower with white accents. I study the flower, wondering where it came from. None of my neighbors are this nice. I unlock the door and deposit my groceries inside, then return for the flower.
It’s only after picking it up that I notice the index card underneath. Upon my examination, I notice a delicately designed ‘M’ on the back. Sighing, I take the flower inside and place it on the small laminate island.
Why would she give me a flower? I sit on my couch and stare at her gift. Even across the room, the pink ruffles of the petals stand out. Shaking my head, I pull my phone out from my pocket and walk to the island. If there’s anyone who’ll know what type of flower this is, it’ll be Antonio.
I snap a picture of the bloom, then I’m out the door, walking briskly to the flower shop down the street.
Amigo!” Antonio calls when I enter the house. “So good to see you!” Antonio does his best with English, but his Spanish accent is still predominant.
I wave at my friend from college and smile. “Hey, Antonio! What’s happening?”
“You know, you know—business and money.” He flashes a grin and continues. “What can I help you with?”
I walk around the tiered displays of flowers and other exquisite plants, the fresh smell brings memories of picnics in the grass—with her. My smile melts off my face for a second as I remember why I’m here.
“I need help identifying a flower,” I begin.
Sí! Sí! What’s it look like?”
I open my phone to the photo and pass it across the counter to his eager hands. “Here.”
“Ah, I see, I see. Para tu novia?” he questions with a sly grin.
“No, not for my girlfriend.” I snap at him, then pull my emotions back inside. “I’m sorry, Antonio.”
He gives me a questioning look but decides not to press anymore. Antonio focuses on the image until he lights up in recognition. “Carnation! It’s a pink carnation.”
I look at him, surprised that flowers excite him so much.
Before I can say anything, however, Antonio continues. “Let me tell you something about carnations.” He walks around to a stand of the same flowers, but with different hues. “The pink carnation is an unspoken promise from the sender to the receiver. It says, ‘I’ll never forget you.’ That’s a big promise, no?”
I mumble a response, my thoughts on that one phrase.
 I’ll never forget you.
That evening I sit at the nearby bar, lost in thought. In my hands I hold the bane of my past, that liquid gold drink of destruction.
I glance left, then right, attempting to reason with myself. Nobody here would judge me for having a couple shots. Or even getting drunk. They don’t care. Nobody else cares about my life. After all, it’s mine. Nobody else’s.
I raise the cool glass to my lips, ready to partake of that blissful substance. I yearn to wash away my emotions and hide them in the alcohol. Just leave them in the past. But the memory of her won’t leave. The smell of the alcohol stings my nose.
I recall instead the smell of the carnation—the memories of Marissa and me on the grass with a picnic at our feet. The smell of flowers in the air. The fresh sense of Spring and love that comes from such a green world.
I stare into the depths of the glass. I know if I have one, I’ll have another. And if I have another, I’ll never get out.
I slowly set the drink down as peace-filled memories of Marissa swim through my head. Our first date. Picnics in the grass. Movies where she’d grab my arm from terror. Our first kiss. That’s when it hits me. I’ll always have the memory of her. But if I don’t do what I need to so I can have her till I die, then those memories will turn to guilt and I’ll become a wreck of a man.
I push the glass away from me and stand up. Without her, I am incomplete.
I stride to the exit and push both doors open, letting in a blast of warm evening air. I release them to block out the calls from angry drinkers, then I inhale deeply. I smile as the fresh smells of life spread through my body.
Ten minutes later and I’m back at Antonio’s shop with a note in my pocket and a fire in my eyes. “Antonio,” I say, looking him in the eye. “I need your most exquisite flower. Something that says, I’m ready.”
Antonio smiles his cheeky little smile. “, Daren. Please, follow me.”
He leads me to the back wall and stops next to a shelf with the most exquisite white roses I’ve ever seen.
“Here,” he says, grinning broadly now. “Here, see?” He deftly lifts a rose from the shelf and hands it to me.
“Whoa.” I’m awestruck. The rose is like velvet, soft and delicate to the touch, yet each petal is firm and unmoving. “How much do I owe you?”
Antonio laughs heartily, his small frame shaking. “Nothing! Here, give me that.” He gently takes the rose from my grasp and runs to the front counter. I follow him, ready to pay no matter what Antonio may think.
I stare at the flower, curving upwards from a thin glass vase, with an inch of green and blue pebbles at the bottom, and water two thirds of the way up. “Take, and go!”
I stare at the flower, dumbfounded at its beauty.
I start to protest, but Antonio interrupts. “Go get her, amigo.” He smiles that cheeky smile of his again, as if he’s wishing me luck. I nod and grab the flower, then run out the door.
Marissa stands up when the doorbell rings. She walks to the door, remembering to check the peephole, one of the things her dad had drilled into her as a kid. ‘Always look through the peephole after dark.’
When Marissa sees nobody at the door, she cautiously opens it. Scanning the front yard and seeing nothing, she finally glances down. She spots the rose and gasps.
The white petals reflect the moonlight. She picks up the vase and flower, then reaches down for the card. Once inside, she sets the vase on a nearby table and examines the card.
I’m ready, if you’ll have me.
Stunned and surprised, Marissa’s heart warms. Slowly, a smile creeps upon her lips. She pulls out her phone and quickly sends a text message, before slipping the precious note back into her pocket.
Daren’s heart pounds as he opens his phone and stares at the text. The words are so simple, yet so impossible.
Let’s talk. 🙂
Dropping the phone on the table, he flops back on the couch, happier than ever before as the magic of her words register.

Writers’ workshop and writing group