Orchids by Victoria Stewart

‘What’s he saying?’

‘He’s telling us to take care where we walk. There are wild orchids in the lawn. See.’

She raised an ironic eyebrow and pointed with the toe of her shoe, letting the smooth, cream triangle of leather hover close to the head of the flower, like an arrowhead pointing at its target.

The voice floated over from the terrace again.

‘I say – do take care.’

She put her foot back down. He noticed that the heels of her shoes had sunk into the mossy grass and were slightly grubby. He angled his back towards the house, where the other guests, spilling out of the French windows, were being served cocktails from a trolley on wheels by a white-jacketed waiter, and bent as though to examine the startling looking thing, its petals curling like hungry tongues. Then he gestured with his hand. If anyone noticed, they’d think he was asking her about the plant.

‘You wore that dress deliberately, didn’t you?’ he said. ‘If I can’t be alone with you later, I won’t be responsible for my actions.’

‘Now, now,’ she said. ‘Behave yourself.’

‘I’ll tread on it if you don’t agree,’ he said.

He saw her eyes widen, just a little, as she glanced down towards his boots, which he’d buffed to a conker-like gloss. It was the fashion for officers on leave to wear uniform; he’d done it because in one of her letters she’d told him she found it attractive. 

‘Look out,’ she said, levelly. ‘They disguise themselves. I think a bee has landed on that one. You could end up with a sting.’

As they eyed it – were those petals, or wings? – they heard her husband’s voice again.

‘Do be careful, won’t you? They’re very delicate.’

Biography: Victoria Stewart lives near Liverpool. She’s had flash fiction published in Restore to Factory Settings: Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 5 (2020), Life Safari: Ellipsis Zine 9 (2021), Everything Has a Price: Ellipsis Zine 10 (2021) and by Reflex, LISP, and Flashflood. @verbivorial

Image: unsplash.com