Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bloom (11/22/12)
TITLE: A Fragrant Offering
By Holly Westefeld
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"Hi, Grace, this is Evelyn."
"Evelyn! I was just thinking about you. Are you evacuating?"
"Well, ... um ... that's what I'm calling about... I never have before, through all the noreasters, Gloria back in the '80's, or even Irene last year, but I am really concerned about the effect of the full moon on this storm surge for Sandy. We've had water to our doorstep before, and I don't think I have the courage to stay without Victor..."
"Come right over, and of course bring Marshmallow. Do you need help removing important papers, valuables, etc.?"
"No thanks. The fire safe is waterproof, and I have put the most important things up high."
"Then I'll see you shortly." Grace headed for the guest room to make up the bed, and set out candles, lighter, and flashlight.
When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, Grace opened the door to a damp, anxious-looking Evelyn, and a yowling Marshmallow. "Come in. The guest room is all ready."
"I hope he won't upset Nutmeg terribly," Evelyn fretted, looking down at the fluffy white cat in the carrier as she followed Grace down the hall.
"Nutmeg can just get over it," Grace chuckled.
"Looks like that's it for the power," Grace mused as she lit the fireplace. "I'm so glad I have this, and a gas range. I hope you like eggs, because that's what I figure aught to be used first from the fridge."
"You know I'm not picky. I'm just so thankful that I didn't have to take Marshmallow to the shelter."
"I'm glad to be able to help."
There was little information, other than the progress of the storm, as they checked hourly reports on the radio. "Looks like we won't know much until morning. Is there anything you need before I head for bed," Grace inquired, putting another log on the fire.
"I don't think so, though I'm not sure I'll be getting much sleep."
Evelyn stopped at the police checkpoint and presented her driver's license. "Do you want someone to accompany you ladies?" the officer queried."
"No, thank you," Evelyn replied.
"Ma'am, it could be very bad... Be careful of the debris in the roads."
"We will." Evelyn drove cautiously down South Green Street and turned in to her cul de sac. It was strewn with rubble. Her face grew pale. She hit the brakes before reaching her driveway. They both stared ... at an empty foundation.
Grace reached for Evelyn's hand, but couldn't form any words. On an unspoken signal, Evelyn switched off the motor and they stepped from the car, trudging cautiously up the front sidewalk, slick with wet sand. As they examined the devastation, Evelyn lifted her hand and pointed at a familiar mauve flutter from a window of a house, mostly submerged in the lagoon. Grace slipped an arm around her, not sure if Evelyn's shudders were from emotion or the frigid air. "I'm so glad you called me..."
Evelyn nodded mutely. "Let me drive back," Grace prompted. "There's nothing we can do here today."
Slipping behind the wheel, Grace turned around carefully. As they drove, the torrent of sobs finally erupted from Evelyn. "If I'd stayed ... M-Marshmallow ... should have brought ... all gone ... 40 years of memories..."
Grace filled the teakettle and put it on the stove. "I think we need something to warm up with." She set dainty cups on the table, adorned with delicate jasmine blossoms, and placed a clear teapot between them. "Have you ever seen tea like this?" She held a tightly closed bud toward Evelyn. "It is from a set of gourmet teas my granddaughter gave me for my birthday."
"No, I haven't."
Grace placed the bud in the teapot, and poured the steaming water over it. As the watched, the bud slowly unfurled, until a fragrant bloom of jasmine infused its rich essence in to the water.
"This really hits the spot," Evelyn sighed. "Watching it open is how I've felt as I've gone through the grief support group at your church. It looks like I'm going to be doing a lot more grieving..."
"My home is yours as long as you need it," Grace assured.
Evelyn's eyes pooled. "Thank you. I can't begin to tell you how much that means! ... It is a gift as sweet as the fragrance of this jasmine bloom."
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