Short story: Happy birthday
Peter sat in the garden, surrounded by roses. He closed his eyes and inhaled the fresh scent of the recently flourished flowers. It felt great. Suddenly a voice interrupted him.
“Happy birthday, old man. 90 years isn’t a small feat!”
He looked up and saw nurse Pearl next to him with a small cupcake in her hand.
“I know what doctor Sanders said about sugar, but what is a birthday without cake. Even though it is a little one.”
His smile moved all the wrinkles in his face.
“Thanks, Pearl. You make an old man very happy.”
She put the little cupcake on the side table and grabbed her lighter to light the candle.
“Well, you can make this young nurse very happy by blowing out this candle and make a great wish.”
“I can’t wish for anything”
The nurse looked surprised.
“Nothing you really want?”
“I am not a selfish man”
“Oh come on. Isn’t there anything you would have wanted. No regrets?”
His smile slowly faded and the wrinkles started to form a frown.
“Regrets? Hmm, only one. But I won’t tell you that old story.”
Pearl grabbed one of the garden chairs and sat next to the old man.
“Ah come on. You know I love your stories.”
“I don’t want to keep you from your work, young lady.”
Pearl gave the old man her famous puppy eyes.
“Haha, alright Pearl. Just for you. Where to start? I must have been around twenty years old. It is strange how much I forget nowadays, but this is still something I remember vividly. After the war I wanted to dedicate my life to something that would make people happy. Wanted to show how beautiful the world really was. Maybe I was convincing myself, after all I have seen. So I started my own shop.”
“What did you sell?”
“Flowers. The most colourful flowers you could imagine. Everyday people would come in and buy them. Some for their loved ones. Some for the ones they lost. And some bought them for themselves. Just to add some colour to their lives. She was one of them who was looking for colours. I still remember the first time she came into my store. I greeted her with my casual smile and looked into her eyes. Her eyes…“
Peter took a moment and closed his own eyes.
“She had sadness in her eyes. But that is not what I saw at first. No, her eyes made my heart skip a beat and made up for it by almost jumping out of my chest.”
“What did they look like?”
He laughed and laid his hand on his chest.
“Thinking about it makes my old heart jumpy again. By God, she was gorgeous. Her long hair tied up in a knot. Don’t look at me that way, Pearl. That was fashion in those days.”
Nurse Pearl shook her fluffy afro and gave the old man a big smile.
“She bought flowers and we talked a little. Just about the weather and the latest news. Nothing special. And then she left.”
“Did you see her again?”
“Oh yes, she came in every Wednesday. Right before closing time. And she started to ask me questions about the flowers. How to take care of them and what was the best combination to display in a vase. I loved the questions. She had an accent. Never could pinpoint it. It was after the war. There were a lot of foreigners that made the city their new home. And then it happened.”
Pearl’s eyes were wide open.
“What? What happened?”
“She came in on that Wednesday at the usual time. She looked sad. I walked up to her and greeted her. Her eyes met mine and it was as if a sparkle ignited in her golden eyes. She smiled and we discussed flowers again. I grabbed all the courage I had and asked her if she wanted to stay for a cup of coffee. She nodded and said she would love to. I closed the store and sat with her.”
“How romantic, between all the flowers.”
“Haha, you could say that. We talked. To be honest I let her talk mostly and I sat there admiring her beautiful face. Her lips. Her little nose. It is strange because she wasn’t even my type, looking back at it. No, she was like a happy butterfly dashing through my flowers. And me, I was just a badger minding its own business. But that’s life. That is what all the people say.”
Pearl moved a bit closer.
“What happened next?
“Nothing. She left the store after our talk and I never saw her again. Every Wednesday before closing time I waited. But she never came back. So there is my only regret. I regret that I never told her my feelings. Never told her what was happening behind my blue cloudy eyes. What my lips really wanted to tell her. How she made me feel every time I saw her.”
A tear left a moist trail over Peter’s cheek. Pearl flicked her lighter and lighted the candle.
“Make your wish, Pete. And make it count.”
He smiled, blew out the candle, and closed his eyes.
“I will be back in a minute. I have some others to attend to.”
The old man nodded and the nurse left.
It was quiet for a few minutes. Peter smiled and filled his nose with the smell of the roses.
“They are beautiful.”
Peter opened his eyes and saw a woman sitting next to him. He did not recognise her. Must be one of the new people that arrived at the home.
“They are. Planted them myself. I help the gardeners now and then.”
The woman smiled and turned her head towards Peter.
“You know, I just love flowers.”
He smiled at her little accent and looked her in the eyes. They were golden.