Natasha had kept flowers on the windowsill in the front room for as long as I’d known her. She’d move the flowers around the house to suit her mood, but it was always the ones on the front room sill that gave the clues – yellow carnation for disappointment, or begonias for dark thoughts.
She knew the plants needed specific environments in which to grow so she’d always move them back to their original spots after visitors had left. Those in the front room were her code, her secret way of telling us how she was.
Her husband didn’t understand it, and he’d openly talk about replacing them with trash he’d bought on eBay. No matter how much he insisted, Natasha refused to give up on her flowers. Mike wouldn’t give her a baby, so the way she saw it, he had to give her the flowers instead. It was her way of keeping a little control, but we all suspected he gave her more than the flowers, particularly the delicate purple or yellow blooms we sometimes saw on her arms. Eva asked about it once, but Natasha would always insist that she’d just fallen.
I went over one Tuesday, and the house felt different, quieter. There was less furniture and clutter, and none of Mike’s knick-knacks that skated the fine line between kitsch and obscene. Interior design magazines lay on the coffee table instead of FHM and Maxim. I checked the windowsill, and saw a pair of plants I’d never seen before. They looked like bigger versions of Venus fly traps, only they were black, and swayed in a non-existent breeze. Something had stained the carpet under the sill.
Natasha and I exchanged idle chit-chat for ten minutes, until I couldn’t stand the curiosity any longer.
“Natasha, where’s Mike?”
“Gone.” Natasha glanced at the new plants before staring at the floor.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“He was here, and now he’s not.” Another glance at the swaying black flowers.
“Did you have a fight?”
“Would you like some more tea?” Natasha stood up and disappeared off to the kitchen.
She came back a few minutes later with a fresh pot of tea, and changed the subject to discuss a documentary we’d both watched the day before. I didn’t like to ask about Mike any more so I mentally vowed to mention it to the girls when we next met up, and I talked to Natasha about Anne Boleyn instead.
There was a renewed fire in the way that she spoke, a determination to give her opinions instead of agreeing with me on all I said. We had a lively debate, full of laughs and thoughts we’d never thought to express before, and we eventually said our goodbyes about a lengthy assurance that she would be fine.
It was only when I got home and thought about it again that I realised the dark spots underneath the windowsill looked an awful lot like blood.
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