Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Spring (the season) (07/23/09)
TITLE: Willow's Spring Menu
By Dorothy Adamek
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When she resigned as head chef, those who knew her were not surprised that something had finally snapped. Agreeing it must have been the new spring menu which had tipped her over, they nodded sagely, remembering how Willow had buried herself under an insane workload this time last year, and hadn’t really emerged since.
But how long does a girl stay buried in a hole when she is dumped a week before her wedding day? Bridal magazines never told you that, did they? Willow had never read
Left at the Altar? How to Cancel your Spring Wedding, and not die of Humiliation!
“Crying’s good,” soothed her mother kindly. “Don’t ignore the winter of grief,” But after a year of sympathy from every living soul Willow knew, she had had enough of brittle tears. If she had to overhear melancholy whispers one more time she just might snap like a frozen twig.
When baskets of new potatoes appeared at market, a small ringing in her heart echoed spring’s arrival. Soon, the wedding season would be upon them, and she would be catering for showers and parties again.
It had taken a few days of slow simmering, but a swell was rising, pushing Willow over her anger, past depression and beyond acceptance. A long forgotten kernel of life had split and somewhere in her darkness, a tendril fought to break free. Suddenly the desire to push away from her hibernation felt so real. She wanted bare feet on wet grass; the smell of fruit tress in fragrant splendor, and sunshine. She didn’t care if the wind blew a little. Willow desired a part in the season’s drama now. She wanted to play.
Pulling into the country driveway lined with ancient quince trees, she looked for the familiar display of buds and blossoms. She didn’t expect to see the yard full of cars under a bright yellow banner announcing, Spring Plant Swap.
“Darling girl, I can’t believe you’re here! What a delicious surprise.” Missy wrapped her niece in a warm hug, rubbing her cold cheek against Willow’s.
“You look good honey. Really good.”
“Thanks Missy,” Willow smiled. “You smell like dirt.”
“Been playing in it all day so far,” she chuckled. “I would’ve warned you about the plant swap if you’d told me you were coming. No matter. You’re here now. Why don’t you explore? We’ve new varieties here today!”
Missy winked mischievously, as she led Willow across the yard and into every gardener’s paradise, where pots and plants of every size imaginable abounded. Lobelia and pansy seedlings sat up in trays, hanging baskets spilled with fuschias, while pots of agapanthus and hydrangeas stood proudly alongside something called Bridal Veil. Willow quickly looked the other way. Herbs and rose cuttings were being exchanged for melon and heirloom tomato seedlings. There were daffodils, and raspberry canes and even new season asparagus was on offer. And all for free it seemed, if you had something to swap.
Willow caught the heady fragrance of hyacinths. She wasn’t sure she wanted to look, but a baby curl of courage escaped her like a runner and she drifted to a display table where only one white hyacinth remained. It was enough. It’s aroma stunned her, evoking the agonies of yesteryear’s spring. Closing her eyes Willow drew in its scent, lost in a sliver of time.
Bridesmaids had agreed. “Hyacinths make the perfect bridal bouquet. White signifies loveliness.” But Willow had simply fallen in love with the smell.
“Open your eyes Sweetpea. Look at this.”
Willow looked up to see a strikingly handsome man, eyes delft blue like the hyacinth he was offering. Was he winking at her?
“In the language of blooms, blue is for constancy,” he smiled “but it’s the fragrance that wins. Interested? It’s the lucky last one.”
His smile was something else, that’s for sure, but flirting hadn’t been on Willow’s menu for a few seasons.
“If, you’ve got something to swap that is,” he dared her, leaning luxuriously against the trestle, arms folded.
“I might.” She finally answered. “How about a pot of rhubarb and raspberry creme brulee?”
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