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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)

TITLE: An African Bouquet
By Jenny Whitaker


I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck. Emma Goldman

Patricia slammed the car door shut and glared around her. Leafless trees and baked earth reflected back a dry heat that seemed to echo the brittleness she felt inside.
Why had they come? This was the song in her mind that she could not shake off. Why had they left their beautiful suburban home for this?

A little voice penetrated the cloud of discontent.

“Mummy, can we go for a walk?”

Patricia sighed and wiped the trail of sweat from her three year olds face. “Maybe later Ryan, when it’s a bit cooler,” she said, and managed a smile.

She lugged the shopping bags to the back door of the whitewashed farmhouse. The coolness of the solid, old building was welcome but a puddle of water at the foot of the refrigerator meant that the power had gone off - again. Her heart sank. She’d just stocked up on meat, now where was she to put it? And she had people coming over tonight, her first attempt to make friends with the neighbouring farmers. She felt tears of defeat pricking the back of her eyes.

Forcing cheerfulness she laid out a simple lunch. She settled Ryan on her lap and read, the simple words flowing, while her thoughts and feelings churned. Rob had been so sure this move would be a good thing. Patricia had tried to accept it; was trying to do the submissive wife thing. But each day brought new problems, new triggers for resentment and hurt. The song played again. Why had they come?

When Rob arrived, hot and hungry from the fields, Patricia dissolved into tears.
“What’s wrong?’ he said, frowning in concern and hugging her.
“I’m just frustrated,” Patricia sobbed. “I couldn’t get flowers, I tried everywhere but nowhere in this damned town sells them.” Even through her tears she could tell he was puzzled.
“It just says so much about this unlovely place,” she tried to explain. “That there are no flowers, no library, no coffee shops, no restaurants. None of the things I enjoy.” She stood back and blotted her face with tissue.
“I guess I’m pretty spoilt,” she said. “But the power went off as well and I don’t know how I’m going to cook for tonight.”
“I’ll cook on the braai outside,” Rob offered.
Patricia looked at the dustbowl that was her garden and shook her head.
“We’ll have a bush picnic – under the old, mahogany tree,” he persisted. It was the only tree in the garden that hadn’t lost its leaves in the winter.
“Okay,” Patricia said.
“It’ll be fine,” Rob said. “And I know they’ll love you.”
Patricia’s eyes filled again. “I don’t feel I belong here.”
“Give it time,” Rob said.
He looked at her so hopefully that she nodded and smiled a watery smile. They loved each other and were together, what more could she want?

In the lengthening shadows of evening Patricia surveyed the tables outside. She’d decorated them with pods and pebbles and drift wood that she’d collected on her walk by the dam with Ryan and was pleased with the effect.
“What a heavenly smell,” she said.
Rob turned from the fire he was coaxing to life and raised his nose to catch the heavy, sweet scent.
“Must be a tree,” he said.
They looked up at the mahogany and noticed for the first time the sprays of tiny, cream blossom, sprinkled like stars among dark, shiny leaves.
“Looks like you got your flowers,” he said and she smiled.
“I’m going to grow some too,” she told him, “lots of them - when the rains come. Lots to keep, and lots to give away.”

She watched her first guests arrive and felt a swelling of joy and hope in her chest. God would help her create her garden of flowers. Her garden of friends who might, like her, prefer roses on their table to diamonds round their necks.

(670 words)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Anita Neuman10/10/05
Great story! Your character is so real and relatable. For ease of readability, add an extra space between all your paragraphs - including the conversations. I LOVE your description of the flowers on the mahogany tree - beautiful! And using "braai" instead of "barbecue" is a great example of how important it is to use the proper terminology and cultural references for your setting. Great job!
Garnet Miller 10/10/05
I can understand the frustration. As wives, we have to make silk purses out of sow's ears. Thank God for His strength! Good article. Leave spaces between dialogue exchanges for easier reading.
Debbie Sickler10/10/05
Your story was well done and I enjoyed it. However, being a Christian site and creating a character who was trying to "do the submissive wife thing", I think having her say damn wasn't needed or character appropriate. I know a lot of people find nothing wrong with that type of language, but I chose not to speak that way and feel there is enough of it to hear in secular circles, that we as Christians don't need to throw it into the Christian realm as well. Just my two cents, but overall just a small complaint. The rest was great!
Brandi Roberts10/12/05
I agree with Debbie on the "damn" thing. That kind of unsettling.
Other than that, it's a very good story and I can relate all-too-well with your m.c. as I just moved to a town I really don't like hehe. Thanks for sharing!
Suzanne R10/13/05
I didn't even notice the 'damn' thing because in my country, it hardly carries any weight. I had to take it out of my vocab once I started interacting with North American friends though. (After shocking the socks of a couple of them!) I'm 100% sure it is just a cultural thing, although when I think about the meaning, I can see why my North American friends see it as being so strong.

I loved your piece - could picture it beautifully - love travelling through literature to other places, and this certainly didn't disappoint me. Well done indeed!