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Sophie's face faded into the grey winter light of the sitting
room. She dozed off in the armchair that Joe had bought for
her on their fortieth anniversary. The room was warm and quiet.
Outside it was snowing lightly.
At a quarter past one the mailman turned into the corner
onto Allen Street. He was behind on his route, not because
of the snow, but because it was Valentine's Day and there
was more mail than usual. He passed Sophie's house without
looking up. Twenty minutes later he climbed back into his
truck and drove off.
Sophie stirred when she heard the mail truck pull away,
then took off her glasses and wipe her mouth and eyes with
the handkerchief she always carried in her sleeve. She pushed
herself up using the arm of the chair for support, straightened
slowly and smoothed the lap of her dark green housedress.
Her slippers made a soft, shuffling sound on the bare floor
as she walked to the kitchen. She stopped at the sink to
wash the two dishes she had left on the counter after lunch.
Then she filled a plastic cup halfway with water and took
her pills. It was one forty-five.
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There was a rocker in the sitting room by the front window.
Sophie eased herself into it. In a half-hour the children
would be passing by on their way home from school. Sophie
waited, rocking and watching the snow.
The boys came first, as always, runnng and calling out
things Sophie could not hear. Today they were making snowballs
as they went, throwing them at one another. One snowball
missed and smacked hard onto Sophie's window. She jerked
backwards, and the rocker slipped off the edge of her oval
The girls dilly-dallied after the boys, in twos and threes,
cupping their mittened hands over their mouths and giggling.
Sophie wonder if they were telling each other about the
valentine's gifts they had received at school. One pretty
girl with long brown hair stopped and pointed to her face
behind the drapes, suddenly self-consious. When she looked
out again, the boys and girls were gone. It was cold by
the window, but she stayed there watching the snow cover
the children's footprints
A florist's truck turned onto Allen Street. Sophie followed
it with her eyes. It was moving slowly. Twice it stopped
and started again. Then the driver pulled up in front of
Mrs. Mason's house next door and parked. Who would be sending
Mrs. Mason flowers? Sophie wondered. Her daughter in Wisconsin?
Or her brother? No, her brother was very ill. It was probably
her daughter. How nice of her.
Flowers made Sophie think of Joe and, for a moment, she
let the aching memory fill her. Tomorrow was the fifteenth.
Eight months since his death.
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The flower man was knocking at Mrs. Mason's front door.
He carried a long white and green box and a clipboard. No
one seemed to be answering. Of course! It was Friday - Mrs.
Mason quilted at the church on Friday afternoons. the delivery
man looked around, then started toward Sophie's house.
Sophie shoved herself out of the rocker and stood close
to the drapes. The man knocked. Her hands trembled as she
straightened her hair. She reached her front hall on the
"Yes?" she said, peering around a slightly opened
"Good afternoon, ma'am," the man said loudly.
"Would you take a delivery for your neighbor?"
"Yes," Sophie answered, pulling the door wide
"Where would you like me to put them?" the man
asked politely as he strode in.
"In the kitchen, please. On the table." The man
looked big to Sophie. She could hardly see his face between
his green cap and full beard. Sophie was glad he left quickly,
and she locked the door after him.
The box was as long as the kitchen table. Sophie drew near
to it and bent over to read the lettering:
"NATALIE'S Flowers for Every Occasion."
The rich smell of roses engulfed her. She closed her eyes
and took slower breaths, imagining yellow roses. Joe had
always chosen yellow.
"To my sunshine," he would say, presenting the
extravagant bouquet. He would laugh delightedly, kiss her
on the forehead, then take her hands in his and sing to
her "You Are My Sunshine."
It's was five o'clock when Mrs. Mason knocked at Sophie's
front door. Sophie was still at the kitchen table. The flower
box was now open though, and she held the roses on her lap,
swaying slightly and stroking the delicate yellow petals.
Mrs. Mason knocked again, but Sophie did not hear her, and
after several minutes the neighbour left.
Sophie rose a little while later, laying the flowers on
the kitchen table. Her cheeks were flushed. She dragged
a stepstool across the kitchen floor and lifted a white
porcelain vase from the top corner cabinet. Using a drinking
glass, she filled the vase with water, then tenderly arranged
the roses and greens, and carried them into the sitting
She was smiling as she reached the middle of the room.
She turned slightly and began to dip and twirl in small
slow circles. She stepped lightly, gracefully, around the
sitting room, into the kitchen, down the hall, back again.
She danced till her knees grew weak, and then she dropped
into the armchair and slept.
At a quarter past six, Sophie awoke with a start. Someone
was knocking on the back door this time. It was Mrs. Mason.
"Hello, Sophie," Mrs. Mason said. "How are
you? I knocked at five and was a little worried when you
didn't come. Were you napping?" She chattered as she
wiped her snowy boots on the welcome mat and stepped inside.
"I just hate snow, don't you? The radio says we might
have six inches by midnight, but you can never trust them,
you know. Do you remember last winter when they predicted
four inches, and we had twenty-one? Twenty-one! And they
said we'd have a mild winter this year. Ha! I don't think
it's been over zero in weeks. Do you know my oil bill was
$263 last month? For my little house!"
Sophie was only half-listening. She had remembered the
roses suddenly and was turning hot with shame. The empty
flower box was behind her on the kitchen table. What would
she say to Mrs. Mason?
"I don't know how much longer I can keep paying the
bills. If only Alfred, God bless him, had been as careful
with money as your Joseph. Joseph! Oh, good heavens! I almost
forgot about the roses."
Sophie's cheeks burned. She began to stammer an apology,
stepping aside to reveal the empty box.
"Oh, good," Mrs. Mason interrupted. "You
put the roses in water. Then you saw the card. I hope it
didn't startle you to see Joseph's handwriting. Joseph had
asked me to bring you the roses the first year, so I could
explain for him. He didn't want to alarm you. His 'Rose
Trust,' I think he called it. He arranged it with the florist
last April. Such a good man, your Joseph..."
But Sophie had stopped listening. Her heart was pounding
as she picked up the small white envelope she had missed
earlier. It had been lying beside the flower box all this
time. With trembling hands, she removed the card.
"To my sunshine," it said. "I love you with
all my heart. Try to be happy when you think of me. Love,
By Alicia von Stamwitz
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