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Flowers For Valencia
Not long after she had woken up, Pheona had decided to open the front and back doors so as to let the summer air refresh the house. She placed her tea and toast on her small dining room table and began to hum. You see, today was the day she was to visit her aunts on the seashore and hear the final story from the collection of stories about her long lost mother.
Pheona didn't know much about her, just the exciting and elaborated tales her aunts conjured up. She left had shortly after Pheona was done breast feeding. Her father too was a complete mystery, vanishing the moment he heard that sweet, innocent, seventeen year old Rachel was pregnant while he himself was acquiring the third year in his thirties. Her aunts can only recall his strange birthmark on his left shoulder looking like a teapot the Rachel had told them about, and that he had the same dark green eyes and sleek black hair as Pheona, who had received no more than a bust from her mother and a soft, heart-stopping voice.
It was still early enough that she had time to bake raspberry scones to bring to her aunts' house, and to listen to the new symphony tape they had bought her just last week as a birthday present. Pheona was newly twenty two, and already had three fair suitors who were all determined to win her over.
Once the scones were in the oven, Pheona began to get dressed, putting on the vintage flowery summer dress her aunts had bought her last year for her acceptance to a small hospital. As she did the last button along the front, she heard the sound of someone running down the hall of her small groundlevel apartmemtn. Pheona stuck her head out of her doorway just in time to see an old homeless lady run towards her, screaming 'dead, they're all dead! Every one's dead!' and then she passed the kitchen where the scones were cooking and went out the back door.
Then Pheona heard the screaming down the street just barely audible over the symphony music. She ran out her front door and onto the street. At the bottom of the hill, she saw what the old lady must have been talking about; a car accident of some proportion was blocking the small intersection that was Valencia and 21st street. Pheona ran down the scene as a teenage boy came out of the corner store with something from the store obviously under his jacket, the clerk not noticing as he was drawn to the accident. While a man shouted at the clerk to call 911, the boy ran away, smiling. Pheona smiled tooas he ran away with his stolen merchandice Pheona ran to the man trying to get out of his expensive Mercedes and caught him before he tripped and landed face down on the scorching pavement. He seamed to have no injuries from the crash.
"Thank you young lady," the man said in a faint English accent.
"You're welcome sir." As she said so, she noticed that his shirt had become slightly unbuttoned about his neck, revealing his left shoulder. Present on the pale skin was a teapot. Then the eyes, and the dark hair, now greying with his fifty years, give or take a few.
Pheona watched as his eyes widened. Anyone who had known her mother, according to her aunts, knew who Pheona was immediately just by her voice, and she imagined her hair and eyes being identical to his was a hint well taken.
"You must be....." the eyes so much like hers began to roll back, and he fell limp in her arms. Just then, the ambulance pulled up, and took him away. She didn't know his name, and her aunts were too old to remember it from so long ago. Rachel had been seeing him in secret and her sisters had not found out until she left to live in her friend's apartment in Boston. She had admitted only to them she was pregnant, and told them the story in short on the taxi ride to the bus station.
When Pheona reached the house next to her own, she smelt the scones, burning. She ran through her house to the kitchen, and, pulling them out, continued to the backyard where she had a selection of plants and fruit trees growing around a small patio. She threw the trays down onto, burning her fingers through the pot holder. She sat down in her hand-woven lawn chair and contemplated the likelihood of running into her father for no more than a minute, then having to hand him over to the hospital like he had almost never been there at all. Then Pheona thought about the chance that maybe he had never been there, and she had dreamt it all.
Pheona went back inside, and saw that it was time to catch the trolley up to the shore and to her aunts' house. She counted out the exact amount of change from a jar in her kitchen, taking a total amount enough to get her to the beach and back. Pheona locked both the back and the front doors, leaving the burnt scones out on the patio for the birds to enjoy, and headed up the street to catch the number 33 which would take her all the way up the Geary Boulevard, where she would switch onto the 138L, only to ride this trolley for a short stretch of traffic lights, then switch to the 28. Pheona would get off at the end of the route, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and walk down the shoreline until she reached Old Mason Street. This was all routine for her, and she liked being able to walk on the beach in the summertime, especially when she needed to think about whether or not she just saw the man who was never her father, but who would've been if he hadn't run away.
When Pheona reached the large duplex that was her aunts' house, she smiled. Once her mother had brought Pheona back to California after she decided she couldn't live with the burden, Pheona was already near fourteen months old. According to her aunts, her mother was very attached to Pheona, but knew she couldn't make room in her life for her daughter anymore. After a day of pleading with Pheona's aunts to take her, then saying she couldn't let go, Rachel finally handed her over, got on a bus back to Boston, and took a large dose of sleeping pills so she wouldn't wake up for many miles and wouldn't have the option to turn back.
Pheona still felt bad about not bringing anything for her aunts, so she ran across the street to the majestic duplex with the sizable front terrace and garden. She picked a few flowers, mostly wild, and headed back
toward the green building standing alone as the one place she would ever feel at home. Running up the steps made her feel like she was eight again, especially because she was wearing yet another dress her aunts had bought her. Pheona laughed at the memory and thought how she felt she had never quite thanked her aunts for their favors.
She knocked and instantly heard the increased commotion inside as the two tottering ladies adjusted their dresses and their glasses which had fallen crooked on their faces after they had dozed off in the sitting room. Pheona knew them too well, and realized as they both opened the door, that that was her way of showing apperciation for the older woman. No one had ever made the effort to include the two retired ladies in anything anymore. They were out of the social scene, possibly not as dashing as they were. Their beauty was remarkable, the two of them so alike they would've passed as twins if it weren't for the five year gap between them. Pheona wondered if just for a moment whether or not her mother looked anything like them now. Rachel was much younger, nearly ten years between her and her sisters.
"Darling! Come in, come in! We've made peanut butter cookies," Jemima exhaled.
"And covered strawberries with chocolate!" Lily chimed in.
"Thanks. I brought some flowers," Pheona said and handed them forward.
"Ah, flowers from Valencia. My favorite," Jemima breathed.
"Not quite. They're not from Valencia, but more for Valencia. Did you turn on the radio at all today?"
"No. That ghastly thing just makes too much noise on such a beautiful day. The birds are all we need to hear," Lily whispered. She was less out going than Jemima.
"Why would they be flowers for Valencia?"
"A car accident. Two cars collided at the bottom of 21st street and Valencia. I think the older man might have been my father,"
"That's impossible. He's been gone for years. He left the states after your mother told him about you. No offense, dear."
"None taken. But I saw his shoulder. It had a teapot. His left shoulder, right? And he recognized me. He almost said my name..." she trailed off.
"He doesn't know your name dear. I'm sorry, but even if that was him, he most likely thought he was dreaming as an effect of the crash. How bad was it anyway, dear?"
"Bad enough that he stumbled and fell in my arms. I don't know how bad it was for the other car,"
"Well dear, we could turn on the radio if you'd like and see if they have any news on the accident. Would you like that?" Jemima asked.
"Yes. Thank you." They all moved into the living room and sat on the couch, Pheona in the middle. Lily flipped the switch on the radio, and tuned it to the local news station. The announcer began with the opening sentence expected with an accident:
"Earlier this morning on the corner of 21st and Valencia, a collision of two cars severely injured one driver, and apparently not causing any injury to the elder driver, who was also taken to the hospital for examination after fainting-"
"That's him! He fainted and they took him away!"
"Shh. Don't interrupt just yet. We need to hear the rest." Jemima said.
"I'm sorry, news just came in that the older gentleman has just passed away, the accident seemed to have caused a heart attack. Too much for him to take. They're saying his name was William Ospri, a retired banker from London. We will have more on the story later on in the program-" Lily turned off the radio.
"That's him. I remember his name now. William... that's him," Jemima whispered. She pulled Pheona into a hug-physically awkward, but reassuring to say the least.
"I think I'll go to the funeral. I won't mention who I am, just say I am a employee of the bank. Would that be alright?" Pheona said as she was released from Jemima's hug.
"Yes, dear," Lily smiled, "that would be fine,"
"I know it was a short visit, but I'm going to head home, I have some paperwork to catch up for the hospital," Pheona pushed herself off the couch and slung her purse over her shoulder.
"Yes, dear, go ahead. we'll be seeing you next week then?" Lily rang her hands ever so slightly.
"Of course. I'll phone to confirm everything. Thank you both, again," she headed for the door with Jemima and Lily close behind. She turned and hugged them both, reassuring them she would be fine. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. It doesn't really feel like a loss, I never knew him, and he's only been in my life for the last hour. It feels like he was never here, as normal. Just a dream, I'll be fine. Don't worry, relax your poor faces," as she said this, she pressed her hands to their foreheads to ease the worry lines. Then
she turned and headed out the door.
Rachel awoke with a start, not sure if what she just dreamt was real. She got into the shower, still thinking about her dream. When she got out, she reached for her towel, dried off, rubbed some cheap smelling face cream on, and looked in the mirror. She knew she looked just like her sisters, just younger. She knew she looked just like her daughter Pheona had in the dream, just older.
Rachel slipped into the simple black dress she wore to work, and stepped into the kitchen to open the box of scones she had baked the other day, just as Pheona had done in the dream. Raspberry was her favorite. She wondered if her daughter was really like her, or if she had just dreamt the similarities. She hadn't talked to her sisters in almost ten years, when Pheona was twelve, and once Rachel was assured over and over again by her sisters Pheona was going to be fine, they agreed never to speak again, for Pheona's sake. At that time, she had made quite a grown-up decision for a twelve year-old to never talk to or meet her mother. Her father was completely out of the question until last night in Rachel's dream. She was curious enough to open her battered computer and research resent deaths in San Fransisco. She typed in William Ospri, his name causing an awful pain in her chest. Memories she had tried so hard to forget and suppress rising up into her throat till she was choking back tears.
There he was, a recent picture of him posted above his obituary. She skimmed through it, looking for something to show that she or her daughter were present in his life, or not. She wasn't sure which one she wanted. The obituary did mention that if any known relatives of Mr. Ospri were alive, they should come forward. This all confirmed that Rachel's dream last night was true. William had died of a heart attack most likely put into motion by the car accident the obituary said, but Rachel knew better, so did Jemima, Lily, and Pheona. He had a heart attack because he had just met the daughter he abandoned twenty-two years ago, and all his memories of Rachel poured into his head, and probably stopped his heart. Maybe it couldn't take the pain. He probably had a heart attack because he knew that he was selfish to run away from the one woman he ever truly loved and the child he dreamed of having. He had a heart attack because he knew what he did back then was wrong, and knew he had ruined Rachel's chance of having a normal, respectful life. He knew he should have stood by and married her. They were in love, and that is all that mattered. But he was afraid of loosing his reputation.
Rachel closed her computer and finished getting ready. As she did so, she thought about all the things she had gone through in the larger half of her lifetime. She thought about William, and her sisters to whom she owed the world. But most of all, she thought about the daughter, her sweet Pheona, that she had left in San Francisco.