Daily #96: Flash fiction #3

Another competition entry! This time, I placed second in the competition, which I’m really happy about. I enjoyed writing this piece as I could personally identify with it, to an extent. The prompt this week was “write a story about a seed growing in an unlikely place”. Hope you like it! Any feedback is welcome.

Growth

Careful hands cleared a sheaf of dog-eared paper from the corner of the desk, and placed a small pot on the newly-exposed surface. They opened the curtains to let a shaft of light into the room, then left, leaving the plant and the girl alone together. 

The plant was but a seedling surrounded by terracotta walls. The girl lay in her bed, tangled in dishevelled duvets and dirty clothes. She picked her way across the uneven floor, its carpet barely visible. A cloud of dust and fabric replaced the sunlight as she yanked the curtains shut before leaving the bedroom.

She slid sideways through the half-open door, blocked by mounds of clothes, when she returned hours later. Schoolgirl blouse unironed and dishevelled, she crossed the room’s uneven terrain before falling unceremoniously onto her bed. The plant basked in the last of the filtered afternoon sun.

Days went on, each much like the last. The careful hands knocked periodically, but the girl didn’t care to respond. Days arrived when she did not need to leave her bed, so she stayed there. The plant reached toward the thin sheaf of sunlight as it moved across the window, drawing a tiny arc that reached just over the lip of its pot; the girl remained entombed in musty sheets. Though the plant was clearly thirsty, she kept the water to herself, letting it draw salty lines down her cheeks.

But while time stood as still as the floating dust, the plant took hold of slender fingers of sunlight and continued its journey ceilingward. It produced small leaves and spilled over the border of its clay prison. One such growth – shrivelled, and dryer than the rest – clung rotten to the plant’s stem.

One morning, the girl’s pale arms flung the curtains open, and true sunlight flooded the room once more. The window followed suit, and the girl sighed as she pulled in deep breaths of crisp air. The stubborn leaf remained in place, siphoning needless energy.

She turned and knelt on her bedroom floor. Her nose wrinkled at the old odour that sprang from the piles of clothing as she disturbed them for the first time in weeks. They were forced into an overflowing wicker bin, which elicited a crackling groan under the strain. Not heeding its cries, the girl dragged it through the door, only to return to her once-soft refuge shortly after. While the plant flourished on its sunlit stage, the girl couldn’t help but wallow in her own mind.

***

The seedling had developed into a sprawling vine that worked its way across her crowded desk, weaving between forgotten crisp packets and exercise books from the year before. Finally aware of its growth, the girl wrenched herself from the well-worn divot in her mattress and left the room.

Her return was signalled by the sensation of cool water striking its parched soil. The plant relished the hydration, drawing in gulp after gulp as she doused the small pot’s inhabitant. Finally quenched, its saviour returned to her bed, and watched as its strengthened stem began to lift itself from its prone position. Her eyes took in the rest of the neglected room.

She first removed the piled objects from the desk on which the plant sat. The girl paid the dust no heed as she cleared the surface, revealing the wood below. The plant found itself moved to a chilly windowsill as the girl pulled a cloth the colour of sunflowers over the desk. The matte surface made way for polished mahogany before she began shuffling through the library of paper that now littered the carpet.

She continued. The plant, now thriving, paid no heed to the girl as she burrowed through the built-up clutter. Its decaying hanger-on made no move to leave its unwilling host, though as the light breeze flowed through the open window, it ruffled on its perch.

It was sunset on the second day by the time the girl finished, and watercolour hues painted the sky. She marveled at her room’s condition; it looked stripped-back, almost bare, in the wake of the cloying junk and grime. Her feet moved unfettered across the clear carpet before she settled on a flipped mattress beneath crisp white sheets, breathing in the cool air. She smiled.

The plant stood tall, towering above its terracotta pot. A single dead leaf released itself and fell, floating, to take its place at the base of the stem.

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