(A Flash Fiction)
By Lorna Ye
On a street lined up with shops and cafés, countless couples were strolling along, wrapping arms around each other, giggling and whispering, dropping a kiss on each other’s cheek now and then. The windows of stores on both sides were decorated with heart-shaped lights and sparkling pink stickers. Romantic music drifted in the background.
They were walking among these people, except they were just walking side by side, without touching, whispering, or giggling.
She tried to squeeze a smile and searched for something to say, but words choked in her throat. She noticed he was trying to do the same, without success. They remained silent.
“Happy Valentine’s Day! Buy a rose for the pretty lady, sir.” A skinny girl scurried to them from the crowd, holding a red rose toward him, an oversized basket packed with fresh roses hanging on her left arm.
They slowed their pace, but did not stop. They didn’t need a rose — they both knew that.
“Only five Yuan. Look how pretty it is, just like the lady next to you!” The girl continued her pitch. Her little hand was red from chill — like the color of the rose she was holding.
She stopped and tugged at his sleeve. “Buy one for me,” she said.
He turned to her, blank eyes registering confusion. “But you’re…” he blurted out a few words.
“Buy a rose for me,” she said in a firmer voice.
His lips trembled, no more words. He fumbled out his wallet and pulled out one five-Yuan bill. The girl thanked him and said “Happy Valentine’s Day” one more time.
He passed her the rose, its lush color glowing in the beam of streetlights. The girl rushed away to another couple, repeating the words she had said to them.
Why it happened to be Valentine’s Day? They both realized how awkward it felt now.
“You should go home. I will do more shopping, probably,” she said. “Here’s the leather jacket we bought just now. You looked great in it.” She handed him a paper shopping bag with a huge logo on it.
“OK…I will be OK.” He cleared his throat and looked at her in the eye. Then he turned and walked against the crowd.
“I know you’ll be OK,” she murmured, staring at her brother’s back. She hoped it was not her, but his wife, who died of cancer last month, who was holding this rose.
© 2019, Lorna Ye. All Rights Reserved