He gave her a daisy
, because, he said, roses were a cliché
. He presented it with an old fashioned flourish and a bow.
He took her for midnight picnics, and kissed her fingertips, and told her that she roamed his dreams and haunted his waking hours
He wrote songs for her, and sang them, in a beautiful tenor
, down the telephone when he called to wish her goodnight.
He stroked her hair, and told her it reminded him of maples in autumn
, and that she smelled of coffee and warm bread and pines.
He never introduced her to his friends, or family, saying that he wanted to keep her to himself, that his time with her was too short and precious
to share her attention
with anyone else.
They were married on a beach in Fiji
, as the sun was setting over the sea and the sky was marbled with orange and red and purple and midnight blue, a vivid tapestry
of flame and darkness.
And, in their room, that night, he held her fiercely, and said she belonged to him forever
now, that he would never let her go, and he would make her happier than she had ever imagined she could be.
They were ardent
, and passionate, lost in each other, just as two people who have committed to spend their lives together should be. They made love till the sun rose again, sometimes urgent, sometimes languorous, sometimes gentle, sometimes wild. But always it was lovemaking, as he told her, in a thousand different ways of the depth, breadth, and infinite
power of his feelings.
She loved him, to the point of madness
. How could she help it?
She moved from her home-town, where everyone greeted her in the morning, to be with him in his home in the city, where there were people all around her that she didn't know, but she smiled and nodded at them, and her glowing joy
captured them, and they smiled back.
The first time he hit her, he cried. As she held a hand to the side of her face, dizzy and nauseous
, he wept. He rained kisses on the bruise that stained her cheek and darkened her eye and said that he had been insane.
He told her if she left him he would die. She kissed him, fervently, and told him she never, ever would. She said she was his forever, just like he'd told her on their wedding night. She said she loved him, always.
Eventually, after a year or two, the tears stopped, and the accusations
A smile shared with a stranger was proof of a flirtation, a casual word exchanged with a neighbour, a betrayal. If she was tired, it was, he was sure, because she had spent the afternoon in another man's arms. Denial
just enraged him, so she learned to apologise.
He told her if she left him he would kill himself. She hugged him, and said, "Yes," when he said she was his, and nobody else's. When he asked if she loved him, she said, "Of course."
He disconnected the telephone, and sold the car. He stopped giving her money, and started buying the food and her clothes instead. He dressed her like a nun, covered from neck to ankle. She stayed home, locked away from everyone. She grew thin, and pale, and her hair grew dull. He screamed at her that she never took any trouble over herself any more, that she treated him with disdain
He told her if she left him he would kill her. He would never let her go. She nodded, silent, and stared at the ceiling
when he dragged her to bed. When he said he'd always love her, she said, "I know."
She found that fresh air gave her more colour, and that he seemed less angry when her pallor
didn't reproach him. So she walked. Head down, unspeaking, unsmiling, she would leave the apartment, shut the door and walk, till her heart beat faster and she could feel the blood pumping rosiness to her cheeks. Then came home, and cleaned and cooked, and took the blows that came from dust on a shelf or a runny sauce in silence. Every day she walked a little longer, a little further.
Then, one day, she didn't stop. She walked out of the neighbourhood
, and kept walking. She walked out of the district, and didn't stop. It wasn't a conscious decision, she intended to go back, but... her feet wouldn't let her.
She walked and walked until her legs wouldn't carry her any further, and then she walked into a police station and said "Help me, please."
Five years later, in a new town, with a new name, a new friend asked her "Why did you stay so long?".
"Because of the daisy," she replied, and laughed, too free to be bitter.