An intense scent of rose caught Blakely by surprise when he rushed through the theater’s backdoor exit. A brief coughing fit further slowed his pursuit.

He had expected fresh air. He’d also expected to spend a nice Saturday afternoon at the movies with his current girlfriend, not for them to get into an argument in the middle of an unfunny romcom.

Yazmin had stormed out of the theater, undoubtedly stomping on a few toes in her path. After some hesitation, and with more care for his footsteps, he followed—though he remained unsure what he’d say to her.

He’d have more time to think about it. There was no sign of her on the red brick sidewalk on his side or across the street. No signs of anyone else either.

The late spring breeze, however, was blowing from his left, carrying Yazmin’s floral perfume.

Blakely called her name as he turned into the wind, making an extra effort to breathe as he proceeded alongside a cobblestone roadway—one apparently closed to traffic.

He hadn’t been on this side of the theater before, had never seen this street—but the eighteenth century Georgian and nineteenth century Victorian style buildings were reminiscent of the historic district of a town he knew well. The home of his alma mater.

Presently he passed the same types of establishments he’d frequented or strolled past in his college days, with a different girl on his arm each time. An antique store, a candy shop, a bookstore, a flower shop, coffeehouse . . .

None were open for business. Odd for a Saturday afternoon.

As odd as the disappearing act the sun had pulled while he and Yazmin had been in the theater. The forecast had said nothing of rain. But the overcast sky appeared as if it has been in place for a while.

Every so often a random drop hit upon his forehead or arms. He hadn’t an umbrella and saw no place to purchase one. If the clouds suddenly opened . . .

The plants would be happy at least. A box stuffed with flowers and greenery adorned every other window he passed. To be admired by other passersby, perhaps. To Blakely, they were diversions.

Each time he picked up another hint of rose, he glanced about, searching for any sign of Yazmin while ultimately scanning the flowers, looking for any actual roses that might be misleading him.

The window boxes were as free of roses as the street and sidewalks were of people. No vehicles. No stray bicycles. The breezes carried no human chatter, no sounds of motors, not even a bird’s chirrup.

The only signs of life were the flowers, all of them out of his reach, waving and bobbing in the air’s currents.

Blakely wound himself through a labyrinth of narrow and narrower streets and alleys, calling Yazmin’s name, calling for a response from anyone, hoping to outpace the impending rain as he passed buildings that all looked alike—until he found himself on a street lined with squat, brightly colored buildings.

He walked slowly, an uneasy smile spreading under his nose as he observed the baby blues, the yellows, the pinks—so contrary to the brown, tan, and red-brick sameness he’d just left.

Lavender, peach, mauve . . . This was no part of the city where he now lived. This was the historic downtown area of the town in which he’d been born and raised.

An area now empty. Deserted.

Except for the violets.

In hanging baskets, in pots lining the sidewalks—nothing but violets. Yellow, white, and lavender flowers bobbing in the breeze, some seeming to wink from sight each time a cold drop of rain burst on Blakely’s skin.

But they didn’t disappear completely. The heart-shaped leaves were abundant here.

Here—the place he’d abandoned for a more mature life.

Springing up uninvited in lawns, wild violets were mere weeds to landscapers dedicated to uniform greenness. But to one dedicated to wonder—to one like a child—the wild ones were random instances of beauty. Or so he had felt.

Playing in yards back then, he’d run with delight and reckless abandon to each buttercup, to each daffodil, and to whatever else that was out of sorts, incongruous yet beautiful on its own. Running, running, running to each. To each flash of beauty. Violets had been his favorite. Plucking, plucking, plucking—till his fingers were tired.

It had all caught up to him.

The rain. The hurt. The haunting of streets, searching for a spontaneous love he really didn’t want and that certainly didn’t want him. The living his adult life as a child, passing from one wild fling to another, plucking and discarding without a care.

In the downpour, he trudged down the middle of the street, musing on ghosts of lost loves. And loves lost.

He paid no mind to any direction. Yet the surrounding sheets of rains seemed to part here and there, steering him to a covered stoop, where he sat, and rested.

Roses have led . . .

He smelled Yazmin’s fragrance once more. It was followed by hints of clove, lemons and other fruits, jasmine—and culminated with violets.

The strong revenants overwhelmed his nose, his throat—choking, choking, choking . . .

Leaving . . .

A discarded body, as random as the rain.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harambee K. Grey-Sun lives in Northern Virginia and is the author of several works of fiction and poetry, including Hero Zero, Colder Than Ice, and Trinity & Its Twin. The curious can find more information about him and his writings at www.harambeegreysun.com.

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