Chapter 1 — A fly


An edited and improved version of this story is now available for purchase as part of the ‘Prophecies of the Drowned Oracle’ collection.

The door opened before Shane could reach for the bell. A woman with wavy chestnut coloured hair stood in the door opening, a bright smile on her face. “I saw you walk over,” Danielle said. Shane smiled back, always happy to see his friend.

Danielle let him in, and Shane breathed in the cooler air in relief. The summer was exceptionally warm this year, and today especially.

A cloud of water sprayed out of a humidifier standing on top of the wooden plant shelf in the hallway. Shane stopped for a moment and relished in the cool droplets falling on his face. Danielle looked back at him and laughed. “Stop that, I’ll give you something cool to drink.”

He rushed after her, through the plant-filled living room and into the kitchen. Danielle’s entire house was like an oasis, plants included. Any space that wasn’t filled with furniture was covered in plants. Long vines with round bright green leaves hung down from the top kitchen cupboards. The counter was filled with herbs and flowers in all kinds of colours.

Despite the sunlight streaming in through the big windows, the house wasn’t nearly as hot as Shane’s was at the moment. Danielle didn’t have any air conditioning, but the frequent watering of her plants and the humidifiers spread throughout her house made for a delightfully refreshing temperature.

Danielle dodged his attempt to grab one of the glasses out of her hand and moved into the living room. Shane followed.

She set the glasses on the stone table and flopped back onto the worn leather sofa. Shane sat down in his own favourite spot, the armchair directly across from her, and pulled his glass towards him. Iced tea, he closed his eyes. Amazing.

When he opened his eyes and put the empty glass back on the table, he saw Danielle was holding something. He looked at her questioningly.

She held the item up. It was a plant. He should have known. Danielle nearly always had a new plant to show him. “What is it?” It was quite different from her normal plants. The leaves were dark green and sharp. There were thorns on the stems.

“A black rose!” she said excitedly. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” It was then that Shane noticed the flowers, half-hidden between the dark leaves. The petals were not actually black of course, but without the sunlight, he wouldn’t have been able to see the purple sheen.

The flowers were small, proportional to the tiny plant. The pot it was in was about the size of a teacup, and was a sleek dark purple. Danielle looked at him expectingly. “It’s beautiful,” he said honestly.

She grinned widely. “I got it from the hardware store.” She had been raving about the new hardware store for the entirety of the last week, it apparently had rare plants she couldn’t find anywhere else.

Danielle set the plant in the middle of the big table. It should have looked ridiculous, such a tiny thing on that big slab of rock, but it didn’t. There was an elegance to it that you wouldn’t usually find in Danielle’s house. Not that her house wasn’t elegant of course, Shane would never even think that. But hers was a different sort of elegance. The effortless kind that was best exemplified in his friend’s hair, which she never styled but which always looked perfect anyway.

As Danielle continued to talk, Shane squinted at the little plant. There, he hadn’t been imagining it. Something moved on the soil.

“There’s a fly in it,” he said. Danielle waved him off.

“I noticed. A bit irritating, but the spiders will take care of it.”

Shane nodded. He looked at one of the corners of the living room where a fat spider languished in its web. Danielle was probably the only person in the world who could make spiders and webs in her house actually look good instead of unkempt.

“So, you really like the rose?”

Shane nodded, a bit unsure. “Yeah, like I said, I like it. Why?”

“No reason,” she said quickly, “I was just curious.”

“Well, I love the colours. It’s very elegant, especially in that pot.” He smiled. “It looks perfect there on the table, you should keep it there.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon there languishing in the sun. By the end, Shane knew exactly which plants she was planning to buy when her next paycheck came in.

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