She had given it to him the last time they’d seen each other, a little red poppy, her favourite. They had just made love under the big oak tree on the hill, surrounded by a sea of swaying, sun-touched corn fields, when she saw it and suddenly leapt up in innocent naked splendour to fetch it for him.
He left for the Great War the next day, cherishing the little flower next to his beloved’s picture in the leather bill fold his old father had given him. The trenches were all they said they would be: dark, wet and terrifying, but the little flower kept his spirits up, reminding him of happier times, the woman he loved, and giving him hope where there was none.
But now the flower had served its purpose as it fluttered in the icy wind, held listlessly by the lifeless young, hand that had served so well in the name of some ignoble political agenda.
One might be forgiven for thinking the room was a tawdry boudoir, so lurid were its dark pink walls. However the large black poster on the wall gave it away: “Come into my lair” threatened a smirking cartoon monster with twinkling eyes, “We have cookies!” The room was tiny, with scarcely any room to swing a fish, never mind a cat. A practical, white single bed filled one side, its compact built-in drawers overflowing with clothing, while opposite a small cupboard formed an alcove for a minute desk which was bedecked with homework books, scraps of paper covered with colourful doodles, a broken MP3 player and a half eaten biscuit. The tiny paper bin beneath the desk spilled its contents onto the unseen green carpet: a paper rubbish trail that morphed seamlessly into heaps of shed clothing. A large white, wooden-framed window completed the scene, opening generously onto a view of the Kent Weald valley below, lush with green, hedge-rowed fields, occasional trees and dopey-eyed sheep.
The pink duvet stirred and a little tousled head emerged sleepily from an orderly dream world.
The old rocking chair creaked with comfortable familiarity – he loved this spot on the porch, watching the world settle from its haste for the night, the sun sinking amidst a glorious haze of streaky oranges and yellows, gradually fading into pink. Mary came out with a dish cloth in her hands and stood by his side, not speaking, and laid her hand gently on his shoulder while together they watched the day’s glory wane.
He looked up at her and spoke, “Hello beautiful, fancy hitting the town tonight? We could rustle up a storm. Waddyathink?”
She looked down at her husband with kind, twinkling eyes, and replied, “How about I get you some Vodka for your drip, and come and sit on your lap awhile?”
He smiled, “That’d be nice. Just like the old days, eh?”
She nodded: “Just like the old days, my love.”