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Her addicting, botanic obsession lent her life- if a man can bring himself to call it life. She was a parasite, living off everything green and lush, keeping herself alive yet ironically withered. She knew hunger very well and was friends with it, obeying every command. It would give her a desire to glean something green and rob it of its beauty, and then she would satisfy hunger. She absorbed her energy by talking to plants. She would kneel beside it, as if bowing to it, and in a slow and nervous whisper, request its life. She would talk to any plant, and the plant would whither the next morning. She would stay away from other people’s plants, though, such as gardens or hanging plants on the porch and would respect their property.
Though it doesn’t seem fitting to call it by “she” and “her,” we do because she was not always in this desiccated state. She was an irregular, yet normal-looking human being in the past. Some remember when she was young. Her parents left her under a shrub behind the house of a baker and his wife who were named Rose and Jack Brinin, hoping they would find her. The baker found her, but four days later. How did she stay alive all that time? The bush she was set underneath was a blackberry bush, so they figured she ate the berries or the leaves. Jack decided to name her Sherry, a mix between Sheherezade and berry- berry because of the blackberries, and Sheherezade because he had recently read A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, in which the king had decided to kill his wife at dawn and marry a different woman every day, but Sheherezade told such fascinating stories, that he decided to let her live. Jack though it was similar to Sherry’s case because Fate let her live to see many more dawns.
They say she was strange from the beginning, being mysteriously indehiscent and refusing to participate in social activities or events. Many became especially concerned when she was about thirteen years of age and started using her peers for her irrepressible desires for fruits, vegetables, and any sort of craft made of greens. The day after her eighteenth birthday, Jack and Rose died in a car accident, and since they had no living relatives, she inherited the house. The only visitor she ever had was the pastor, who wanted to see how she was getting along. He and his wife would sometimes bring her a pie or a batch of cookies, which she ate and was grateful for, but that’s not how she stayed alive. She was very pale, despite all her hours spent outside and in the sunlight, surrounding herself with plants and thanking them for the energy they provided for her. No one understood how she could do it, so they all feared her. Some decided she was a witch; others just assumed she was a harmless, secluded vegetarian trying to find her purpose in life.
One thing was certain; she was depressed. When she turned nineteen, she met a young man who seemed just as lost, but not as strange as her. He thought he could straighten her out and get her to be sociable and amiable. He became quite attracted to her, and her, to him, so they started dating. He was her only friend in the world at the time. His name was Harrison Phillips- a handsome young man with long, wavy, dirty-blonde hair and was neither gangly nor stout. He was a tree-hugger, if you will, so he didn’t mind her botanic attitude. They would take walks in the forest and talk for hours about life. Harrison noticed the color coming back to her face and her hair slowly reflecting the sun a bit more each day, so he decided to start bringing her to church. She was hesitant, but agreed to join him. When they entered the holy building, the congregation stopped and stared, some horrified, some skeptical, some ready for action. However, when they saw how congenial and polite she proved herself to be, they welcomed her with smiles. Three years later, Harrison proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. They became an adorable young couple and lived in the baker’s house. They would visit their neighbors and participate in community events such as the Biennial Boat Racing. They both found jobs; he sold works of art and repaired residential plumbing, and she offered housecleaning and sold baked goods. Unfortunately, that life was snatched away in a split second on a seemingly usual Wednesday night. Harrison went for a bike ride in the woods while Sherry babysat for a friend. When the phone rang, she said, “Hello, Jones residence, who’s calling please?” These were the last words she ever said in a cheerful tone, for the news she received over that phone determined the end of her ordinary life. Her husband had been attacked by a pack of wolves.
I remember seeing her for the first time. Though the sun shone and the flowers blossomed brightly, the very sight of her made the whole world gray. She had a very pitiful style, with her old, floral-print dress all wrinkled and her silver hair unkempt. Her countenance was one of exhaustion, sorrow, and age. I was eleven years old, and after discovering her name and favorite flower, I found that she was of sixty-two years.
“I love lilies- white lilies. They are the flower of Easter and the symbol of rebirth. I envy them. I wish I could be reborn. Then I could forget this life, make a new one, and start over.”
She was quite pale, with maybe even a hint of green, and she stared into an unseen distance with her mouth halfway open, as if in disbelief.
“You don’t like your life?”
She didn’t make eye contact with me. “What is the purpose of life?”
I could only guess. “I suppose we’re here to serve others.”
“That would make sense.” Her deep, ponderous state partially separated her from reality. After a long silence, she sighed and patted my back. “You’re a sweet girl.” It seemed as though she longed to say more, but couldn’t find the right words.
“Why are you so sad?”
“My only friend died and I’ll never have children.”
Trying to offer all I could, I said in a high-pitched tone, “I could be your friend… and I’m a child.”
Suddenly, she looked at me straight in the eye, finally in reality, with a look of complete surprise. At first I thought I had said something wrong, and she took my offer offensively, but then she looked around with even more disbelief than before, then back at me. I gave her a weak but hopeful smile, as an imaginary light bulb turned on inside her.
“Of course.” I broadened my grin.
It was getting late, so we said our goodbyes, and I went home, planning on visiting her the next day.
On my way to her house the next morning, I saw a small, stout tree, unusually shaped. I stopped and looked closer at it and became quite puzzled when my eyes told me it was shaped like Sherry. To my unpleasant terror, it was Sherry. When I brought my parents to the spot, they weren’t surprised and explained to me her verdant existence. As we stared at her, I found a few words carved into her bark:
Look to the lily and be reborn.
Let me warn you of a life unlived.
A succulent cactus.