Flora
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She could grow flowers from the ground and fruit from the trees by glancing at a barren place.
Everywhere she went, and everything she touched, was beautiful and alive.
She burned like a star and was cool to the touch.
Her name was Flora.

I laid with a huff in the grass next to her, backpack next to me, so near to the cliff I could see the world stretch beneath us for miles through the mist.
"You're so lucky. I can't get a single thing to grow in my window box, and I mean it. Not a single thing!"
She flopped down next to me, throwing me an apple, one in hand for herself.
"Did you fertilize?"
"Yes! Yes, of course I fertilized."
She laughed.
"Nothing much we can do about bad soil."
I looked up to the clouds, like a child. A lone hiker from a nearby college and a woman from the soil.
"You should just come and do my gardening for me."
I knew the answer to that. 'I can't leave here. I can never leave.'
She never told me why, and I never once wanted to know.

I finished college with a masters in aerodynamics, and worked in a local engineering firm, close to the National Park. Every weekend I went to see my Flora, although my whole adult life I wanted to see her every day. It never rained where she was, never stormed. The sun always shone and the light was always bright. We never dated per se- it was not in my place, and not in hers, to ask- but she was my best friend, my everything. Even though the age gap was significant.

Her garden was amazing. It couldn't even be classified as a garden past a certain point- just a design of rings and rings of bushes and beautiful trees and fruit, and her house was an amalgamation of vines and gnarled tree branches so tight not a single drop of dew could be found.

And every month, she lit her world into flame.

I never told a soul.

We got older.

And older.

And I left.

Well, I had to leave. My family lived in another state, running a family business, and there came a time after my mother's death where my father insisted I come home, if not just for a month, to help.
So I told her.

"I'll be back in a month."
The sun shone through her white hair like it was glinting off the rapids of a river.
"Do you promise?" Flora, the amazing Flora, said.
"I promise." I said. The hiker in the woods.

I did not come back for many years.

Perhaps I forgot, if it is possible to forget such a beautiful thing.

Perhaps it was my train of thought as the moon rose, thirty years later, when I was old and wary.

Perhaps it was my pining for her, in my subconscious. The fact that I was alone.

But I became, again, the hiker.

There was barbed wire around her home, and it pricked suspicion in my heart. When I called to her, I heard nothing but the sway of the trees. Along the wire, signs warned "KEEP OUT" and "RESTRICTED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT". How had they found their way here? So far upwards, so close to heaven, so close to the sky?

I hopped the fence, into my Flora's perfect garden. Nothing had changed. Still the same patterns. Still the same.

I clutched the flowers I brought for her.

My Flora. She was still here!

Hopefully she had not forgotten. I ran to her home, grass squishing under the lift of my boots (always well-watered and well-cut), bugs buzzing lazily around flowers in the bushes (they never bit anyone), calling to her, calling "Flora! Flora, I'm here!"

And indeed she was.

Her skeleton lay on the floor, hardly disturbed. Table still set. Flowers still blooming.

I thought about the signs on the wire outside.

"PROPERTY OF THE US GOVERNMENT".

I welled with rage.

Flora WILL NOT be yours.

I burst into the clearing, eyes welling with tears, panic in my chest, her body against mine like when we were young, in the grassy clearing.

Fog drifted at the base of the cliff below, the world spanning around us in a flurry of green.

I held my Flora tight in my arms and asked for one more beautiful thing.

She could grow flowers from the ground and fruit from the trees by glancing at a barren place.
Everywhere she went, and everything she touched, was beautiful and alive.
She burned like a star and was cool to the touch.
Her name was Flora.

When she left, it rained in Eden.

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