The King Proteas

The black sedan was cruising along the mostly empty roads of Hampshire. It was early summer and the sun was just out, bathing the English countryside in a graceful yellow. The golden tinge and the slight morning haze added to the beauty of the lush green fields and the occasional panoply of trees. Adam was behind the wheel, concentrating on the road ahead. Rachel, his wife, sat beside him on the front, busy with her phone. The only noise inside the car came from the back, where their daughter Iris was having an animated discussion with her grandfather.

Arthur was slouched on the back seat, looking tired and solemn. His physique was that of a typical old man, wizened and weakened by age. But compared to his peers, he had aged gracefully. He was well into the late eighties now. Long journeys were tiring, but this was one trip he would never forgo. Iris kept him engaged with her usual joyful banter, and it did a lot to keep his spirits up.

“Grandpa! Look! “, shouted Iris with glee, her little fingers pointing outside.

Arthur looked up to see what she was pointing to, and a beautiful sight greeted his eyes.

“Those are Lavenders, darling. Beautiful, aren’t they?” asked Arthur.

“Yes,” replied Iris, he eyes still fixed on the fabulous lavender fields they were passing by.

“Almost there!” called out Adam from the front.

The car slowed to a stop near a big oak tree. Adam got out and helped Arthur get down from the back seat. As he got out, Arthur turned and picked up the package which was on the side of his seat.

“What is that grandpa?” asked Iris, curiosity writ large in her eyes.

“Flowers.”

“Can I have them?” Iris asked, tilting her head to the side.

Arthur’s face broke into a slight smile. “These are for your grandma, dear. I’ll get you those Lavenders when we return.” he said.

The mention of Lavenders seem to have pacified the curiosity in her. She was beaming with excitement now.

“We’ll be back soon princess,” said Adam as he gave a little peck on her cheek. “Don’t trouble Mama,” he said in a condescending tone.

“Can I come too?”, said Iris, the expectant look back on her face.

Adam was at a loss of words and looked at Rachel. She had to rescue this situation now.

“Iris, darling, come here, Mama’ll show you something”, said Rachel, reading Adam’s mind.

Adam and Arthur turned and walked across the road. The sun was shining bright but the weather was still cool. Arthur was leading the way, and Adam was following, with a foldable chair and a blanket in his hand, just in case. After about a couple of minutes of laborious walking, Arthur stopped. Adam placed the chair and gave him the blanket.

“Are you not staying?” asked Arthur.
“No dad, I’ll be over there,” said Adam, pointing towards a small hillock not too far away. “I’ll be back by the time you people are done.”, he said and walked away.

“He has not changed much has he? Your son?”, said Arthur, a light laughter lighting up his otherwise solemn face.

“He works too hard Kathy; you know how it is. Poor chap worked late night yesterday. But he is a gentleman, oh yes, I tell you. Never said a word of disdain today morning. He knows what his old man likes” he paused. “He is so much like you Kathy.” he said with a smile.

Adam had trudged along to the hillock. It provided a splendid view. He was still feeling a bit drowsy and knew he was up too early today. But he didn’t complain – he knew how important this day was for his parents. It was only once in a month that Arthur comes to visit Katherine. It is just so much that he could do for his parents. Adam turned and saw Arthur chatting away. He looked so much better now. Turning the other side he could see Rachel and Iris, engrossed in something. Adam wondered if he could ever love Rachel the way Arthur loved Katherine. Of course he loved his family – no question about that. But would the love stand the test of time ? Arthur’s and Katherine’s love was one of a kind, he mused.

With a shake of his head he dispelled the thoughts and turned back. He could see Arthur was standing up now. Looks like he is done talking, he thought.

“You see Kathy, Iris is real dollop of love. She has got your eyes, you know, the same shade of blue” Arthur said, his face flushing with colour now.

“And, what’s more, she loves flowers, just like you do. We saw a wonderful field of Lavenders while coming here. You should have seen her face then. Cherubic. I have promised to get some Lavenders for her. She’ll love those. You’ll love them too, Kathy.”

The air was still cool, and all the talking was making Arthur’s voice more hoarse. He was wheezing a little now.

“Is it getting cold in here, dear? Don’t you feel cold? What an irony, with the sun still shining bright.”, said Arthur, adjusting his blanket around his neck, and suppressing a cough.
“Oh, don’t you worry, this cough is nothing. It’s probably the pollens. I am still allergic.” he continued.

“Oh, I almost forgot this!” said Arthur, as he took out the package he was carrying. “Now, now, don’t go on rebuking me. You know I was always forgetful.” he managed amidst his coughs.

Arthur opened the package and took out a beautiful bouquet of two big King Protea flowers, surrounded by numerous little Baby’s breaths. The flowers looked stunningly beautiful. Adam had reached his side by then. He just stood there, watching Arthur.

“Look what I brought for you,” Arthur said, holding the flowers, ” your favourite flowers, just the way you like them. I still remember this from our wedding day, dear. Do you?”
He paused. The look on his face became dull. The smile and laughter gradually settled down to the previous solemn look.
“Of course you do.”, he said, and placed the flowers on Katherine’s grave.

“Dad, we should get going.” said Adam. He had noticed the roughness in Arthur’s voice.
Arthur looked at Adam and back at the grave.”I’ll be back soon Kathy,” he said.

He turned and started walking back. Adam stood by his mother’s grave for a moment and then picked up the chair and followed Arthur, keeping two steps behind him. From the distance, Iris’s joyous laughter could be heard. Arthur was mumbling something under his breath.

“Dad!” said Adam, “did you say something now?” He asked.

“Lavenders.” said Arthur, his voice almost choking, “I should get Lavenders for her.” and he walked on.

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One thought on “The King Proteas

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  1. Some short stories make you feel that they should have a been a part of a larger story.
    But this one is perfect in size, content and length. Complete

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