She Sips The Sun

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Love is not always roses and moonlight; sometimes, it is tending a poisonous plant which prefers the sunlight to others of its kind.
This story was contributed by
Madison Trupp 

I consider my wife a poisonous plant. I found her nestled in a quiet spot, out of the way and inconspicuous, where any stray wanderer too curious for their own good may prick their finger on her. She sprouts from the dirt in all haphazard configurations, her arms twist and her leaves splay but she is content to keep entirely to herself; all else fears to touch her. She is patient, and she is still, watching the world from her guard post. I cannot get too close to her. I lay under her leaves but cannot rub my fingers on their velvet; if I should even brush past her, she leaves microscopic needles in my skin. Still I love her greatly, and I have no doubt that she loves me back, however reservedly she demonstrates this. She is my poisonous plant, my fatal Mary.

It was a crisp day, when the thin layer of snow from a recent storm made melting pools on the trodden curb, that I first took notice of her. Sun gleamed on the white siding of her building, a paleness that made her almost glow, the way she was roosted on her balcony. She sat poised in a green plastic chair, her hands folded neatly on her lap, her eyes skyward. She wasn't particularly beautiful or arousing; she wasn't doing much more than just existing at that point.

I couldn't see much of her from where I stood: beside the storefront window, watering the collection of vibrant perennials in their overflowing planters. Her balcony was a floor above the ground, and we were separated by a bustling pedestrian corridor, cobblestone and antiquated black lamps and milling tourists. The garden and herb shoppe where I worked for years was ever unchanging; we stocked the same lilies and chrysanthemums and roses that we always did, we sold kitchen basil that I could grow from seeds with my eyes closed, and people always asked the same questions when they came in like whether our flowers were local or if they could take them on a flight home. My life was predictable and straightforward, and I had resigned myself to the mundanity of it, but that day—she was the first new thing I had seen in a long time.

For all I knew, she could have lived there all the while, but I had never noticed her until then. Never really seen her, the way you truly see a person, until then.

That vision lasted only a minute—of her resting peacefully in the sunlight—before I had realized my unruly gaze and went back to my work. She didn't notice me. I was glad she didn't; I was not so ready to be seen. I returned to the shoppe and continued with the rest of my day, but every time I grazed the window, I searched for her on the balcony. She must have retreated back into her apartment within the five minutes it took for me to steal another glimpse of where I'd seen her last.

It was just a look. I never expected a minute's glance could provoke so much wonder, yet I found myself relishing that brief vision all the same, returning to it every time I had a spare moment; the sight of that fair-skinned, pale-haired ghost of sunlight.

The second time I saw her it was three days later, and I saw her by virtue of the stakeout I had initiated ever since she made herself at home among my thoughts. I could never seem to catch her until that third day, when I stood at the till ringing through the last customer in the line and snuck a glance out the window beside me, and I saw her there. My heart jumped. I thought, surely, I had been blessed by some sparsely generous deity; some all-powerful maestro had elevated the maudlin strings of my heart's orchestra into a raucous din. As that last customer thanked me and disappeared out the door, I leaned over the counter and observed at an angle that revealed no more than my glimpse before, but this time kept me hidden from view. The notion of spying on a woman from afar could leave a grimy aftertaste if one chewed on it a certain way, but this didn't feel like a perversion, perhaps because I didn't make it so. She was a marble statue modestly placed in a far-off corner. A piece of artwork beneath a dimly fluttering spotlight. A feast for connoisseurs of small delicacies. I was merely regarding her, and I did until another curious passerby turned to the door. I looked away, and then looked back, but she was gone again.

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