Our Lady of the Loft
Greeted, like every morning, by the smells of calla lilies and squeezed oranges, she found it hard to let go. She ran her finger over the kitchen counter, smudging the oil from the peels into little words, invisible unless she rested her face against the marble surface and squinted: there the small blemishes would reveal themselves. The violet light scattering in tasted of the thin air that had filtered it. When she peeked through the window the city was still dark and peaceful, only half-awake. She was so high up that she existed in a separate time zone. When she rode the elevator down it always left her light-headed.
Before she poured the coffee she painted ever so slightly her lips, her eyes, her eyebrows. She put on eye cream that would make her a girl again. Before she put bread in the toaster she fixed her hair, then changed her mind and ruffled it just a little, tugging a strand down over her ear. She brushed her teeth and put on a bra and misted her cheeks, still red from the wrinkled pillow. She assumed her place at the table and stared at the lilies. So beautiful, so obscene. They reminded her of that one time she was brave enough to take a hand mirror to the bathroom. Wet lilies, that was what men seemed to like.
Amazing what lilies could go through, when she thought about it. A sturdy plant, hard to bruise, long to die, nothing like the gossamer-thin wildflowers growing around her childhood home. Lilies were assured, grand, and as monochromatic and concrete as the art hanging from her walls.
The bathroom door opened and closed. There was the clang of the toilet seat and then the sound of the tap running. She straightened the plates and the knives, and teased one more strand of hair out of her ponytail. She knitted her fingers around the scalding cup of coffee and waited, poised, discreetly immaculate, tilting her head and looking away, imagining a plastic red heart radiating from the center of her chest.
He was already dressed when he pressed her mouth against hers, flipped the tie over his shoulder, and began to cut chunks of the French butter, piling it on the toast. Sometimes she would warn him against that, but now she just watched, unmoving, mesmerized by the grating of the knife. Her fingers were hurting. As they burned they released the scent of orange oil. He put cream in his coffee and when he kissed her again she held her breath to avoid the smell.
Putting his coat on, he paused by the lilies. She smiled.
“Aren't they beautiful?”
He nodded. “You have great taste, baby.”
His finger traced the gentle curve of the white spathe, then grabbed the gleaming yellow stamen and snapped it off.
“This bit was downright offensive. Doesn't it look better now? Cleaner?”
She stared at the empty, violated flower. He threw the crushed stamen on his dirty plate and wiped the pollen off his fingers. She reached for it. Tiny sun-colored crumbs dissolved at her touch.
The elevator chimed, opening into the sitting room. He rushed to it.
“Don’t wait up!” he called as the doors were closing.
She got up and changed the flowers’ water, then arranged them so that the empty lily would be at the center. It looked feeble, mute. She shifted the others around to make sure they were supporting their injured mate.
“I never do,” she replied.
About the author:
Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece, and tends to walk into furniture a lot when she's reading on her feet. Her work has appeared in several journals including Maudlin House and 50-Word Stories, and is forthcoming in Whiskey Paper and Hermeneutic Chaos. Find her at @clio_v.