They gave packets of wildflower seeds as favours at the wedding. Ginny always had excellent taste in that sort of thing. They came in charming art deco inspired packets, custom-designed for the occasion – “Gatsby style,” it was called at the time. As though there wasn’t any irony in choosing to festoon your nuptials with the trappings of a doomed love from a decadent age where even the heroes couldn’t be justified by the narrator. But that was harsh of her, Sarah knew. The packets were certainly very pretty.
The whole wedding had been pretty. Little twinkly lights shimmering everywhere, and spherical lanterns throwing their soft glow over the lace and crepe of gowns, the flushed cheeks of the newlyweds. Sarah had slipped away when the dancing began, and wandered deeper into the gardens. The huge sob that had been swelling in her chest began to dissipate as she gained distance from the festivities. The golden lights and strains of music faded away, and the chatter of voices faded to a murmur. She sat down on a large stone in a grove of magnolia trees. Their huge white blossoms hung grey-blue in the darkness. Every so often a petal fell silently to the ground in a slow, feather-like descent.
Lost in thought, she hardly noticed when Alan sat down beside her and reached an awkward arm around her. She allowed it to rest there, but didn’t speak or look at him. When the elegant die-cut invitation had arrived in her mailbox addressed to Sarah Lawrence and Guest, she had known she couldn’t possibly go alone. Alan had been the obvious choice. He would clean up all right, be friendly to everyone, and not think to ask questions if he noticed her gazing too long at the groom. So now she sat in the cool darkness, Alan’s nervous fingers sweating through the waist of her dress while she fought the urge to burst into petulant tears.
A year later, the fog in Sarah’s head was starting to release its grip. She felt calmer, resigned to the future. She had lost touch with Ginny and Mark since their wedding. As she sipped her coffee, Alan entered their kitchen and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
“I have a surprise for you,” he whispered in her ear. He led her to the kitchen window. The sloping lawn below it was now covered in wildflowers. Blooms burst from the grass in a riot of colour.
“I remembered to plant them,” he said softly, beaming with boyish pride. “The seeds from the wedding. Happy anniversary!”
Sarah felt as though the bottom had dropped from her heart. She could not speak. Outside, a field of reminders of all that could have been rippled cheerily in the light breeze. She let Alan hold her to his chest, her tears seeping into his flannel shirt.
That night she crept from the house in darkness. She crossed the dewy lawn to the newly installed meadow, and lay down among the damp blossoms, pressing the shape of her body into the earth. The perfume of the crushed flowers hung cloyingly in the air.