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Tessa opened the door to her backyard to find her brother in the garden again.
“Paul, what are you staring at?”
“Tessa! Come here. Look at the marigolds.”
“Since when do we have marigolds?”
“I planted them last Spring... come here, please,” Paul beckoned.
Tessa approached her brother as he stepped away to reveal a single cluster of yellow-red flowers clinging to each other among the weeds. Tall and upright, reaching for the sun in a cloudy sky.
“You're amused by the tiniest things,” said Tessa.
Paul breathed in deep and sighed.
“You don't understand things. Look at how beautiful they stand. Look at how erect and strong they hold themselves. Look at their color. Can't you see the red bleeding onto the yellow edges, aching to push through that border to make the whole flower red? It's a selfish flower. It's a passionate flower. Look at how their stigmas are bulging out, desperate to see the sun. They stay faithful to the sun even when they can't see it. I think that's beautiful, Tessa. Can't you see it?”
“No. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Nevermind. Marigolds are your birth flower, did you know that? Your birthday is coming up soon. I planted them for you. They remind me of you.”
“Oh.” Tessa looked down, ashamed. “What's your birth flower?”
“The ones that have stalks that look like gladiator swords?”
“The Sword Lilies.”
“They are nothing like you. They look fragile like roses but are strong and resilient like weeds. Gladiators fight all the time. They love the battle and the bloodshed. What do you do? Sit around all day reading books and planting flowers that never grow?”
“I never said I associated myself with them. Your marigolds grew, didn't they?”
“I feel bad for you. All you do all day is mingle in this garden. You're too faithful to flowers that will never give anything back to you. What has gardening ever taught you? Ever given you? Have you given any thought to anything important in your life other than these stupid flowers?”
“Go away Tessa. I feel bad for you too. You never understand anything of consequence.”
Tessa retreated back to the house.
The next day Tessa went for a walk along the main road. She saw a colorful patch of flowers loom ahead. Purple. Drooping. Dying. Tessa stopped in front of the patch to inspect it. She reached down to feel the texture of the petals and pulled one off. A shriveled up sliver of purple lay in her palm. The edges of the petal curled up, hard from dehydration. Lines spread out from its base like veins. It was like skin upon skin, vein touching vein as Tessa held the petal. She turned around and began to walk home.