“Laura?” I called out, half in hope, half in terror, peering into the deep shadows just beyond the garden. Nothing. Trembling a little, I turned back to the task at hand, cutting three perfect camellia blooms for the table. Amalie was coming to tea. A branch snapped, just at the edge of the darkness. “Laura?” I cursed myself for a fool and headed back to the house.

I put the kettle on, lost in the memory of another year, another bowl of camellias, another teatime. “Lovely!” Laura had exclaimed, leaning forward for a closer look, her soft pink dress matching the blooms. The kettle started whistling, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of the scene. My dearest wife, the flowers, the gathering dusk outside in the garden. Amalie came in, laughing. “Dad! Mom! The kettle!” Amalie took down three cups and saucers; Laura set out the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. “Oh dear! We’re out of sugar. I’ll just pop out and get some.” She put on a crimson sweater and headed out toward the neighborhood store just around the corner. She paused in the doorway for a second, impossibly beautiful and almost translucent in the rays of the setting sun. She blew me a kiss. That was the last time I ever saw her.

I’ve gone over and over that scene in my mind. Laura was happy. I could swear to it. Not depressed, not confused, not restless. Those fool detectives, with their ridiculous theories, should all be fired.

“Dad! The kettle!” Amalie shook me out of my reverie. “Sorry, I was just remembering …” She matter-of-factly took down two cups and saucers, avoiding my eyes. I pulled out the milk pitcher and sugar bowl, filled to the brim. As we were sipping tea and eating sandwiches, I glanced out the window. There was a flash of pink in the shadows, a blur of crimson. “Laura,” I whispered. Amalie looked at me with pity, but then followed my line of sight and gasped, her eyes widening. “Mom?” She called out, half in hope, half in terror.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary (@carrie-oleary)
1 month ago

This is so atmospheric, Fuji. You demonstrate well the loneliness and loss of the ones left behind you. Your story leaves you wondering exactly what happened to Laura.

Emily O'Leary
Emily O'Leary (@emily-oleary)
1 month ago

I agree with Carrie, this was very atmospheric! You have a wonderful way of drawing us right into the scene and the feelings of the characters.

I too want to know what happened to Laura, and if she really was there?!

Emily O'Leary
Emily O'Leary (@emily-oleary)
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuji

Oh that’s lovely to hear- it’s definitely something I have to think about a great deal too!

You’re so right, we can all learn from one another and that’s a wonderful thing!

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock (@linda-rock)
1 month ago

Beautifully written Fuji. I love the line at the beginning and the end of your story… ‘half in hope, half in terror’. It describes exactly how we would feel in your character’s circumstances. I could feel their emotion and it had me really wishing it was Laura they saw. I too am left wondering just what happened to her during those lost years.

Juma
Juma (@juma)
1 month ago

I loved this story, Fuji. Truly a tale for late fall, when the camellias are in bloom and shadows fill the twilight garden. Like the others, I wonder what happened to Laura and what her husband and daughter actually see at the end. I guess we’ll never know…

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof (@christer-norrlof)
1 month ago

Yes, “Lovely!”, Fuji! Now it is me who is “mesmerized by the beauty of the scene” that you are painting up. I can vividly see it all in front of me, with Laura in the doorway, “impossibly beautiful”(!) and then first three and then only two cups on the table, decorated with camellias. And now she is dancing in the deep shadows of the camellias. With first her husband and then with her daughter, we get to notice her there “half in hope, half in terror.” A wonderful work of art, Fuji!

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Susan Dawson
Susan Dawson (@susan-dawson)
29 days ago

Beautifully crafted and grounded in two camellia seasons. I think that the repetition makes the story.

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe (@eric-radcliffe)
28 days ago

Fuji, how caring and understanding you must be in putting into words the agony suffered by those who are left with no understanding as to why? I’d be in my twenties when one of my friends told me that he came home to find that his Mother had just left, gone, without so much as a goodbye. He never ever saw her again. I can’t help thinking that it would have upset you writing about this. Wonderfully written and expressed Fuji – this really moved me.

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Andrew Carter
Andrew Carter (@andrew-carter)
16 days ago

What a mysterious tale, Fuji. Vivid imagery and it hit emotional triggers. Every sentence kept me in suspense. Whether as a piece on its own or if it grows to be part of a larger work, this is a great story.

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