Short Story: Lavender River

Anna Piper-Thompson 17 May 2021
Image credit: Creative Commons

Paradise is whatever you want it to be. My mum told me that. My mum, who smells like lemon cake and lavender.

Leaving reality far behind me, I swap concrete for wood, and traffic lights for bird call, from birds I cannot see.

Masses of emerald green overlap each other, a breathing accumulation of untampered nature. A world gleaned through the furled branches of overarching canopies, boughs bending around their brothers to create a tunnelled path. My eyes reach towards the sky, and I try to create a tapestry from the patchwork.

A few clouds, wispy, pulled and stretched to thin lines that reach from one end of the blue to the other, like limbs unfolding in the morning, or a mother’s arms wrapped around a child. Streams of sunlight peal through the dense leaves above, softly. I imagine, out there, the lights breathing through these hints of cloud, dispersing across the early morning.

I could reach out and grab that kingdom, untouched and unexplored. I could own a piece of it, hold it within me. I suppose I do, in a way. In the same way you reminiscence about playgrounds, or freshly baked cookies, or a time when it didn’t fall on you to do the ironing.

A rabbit bounds across the dirt path, its small body a blur of copper. Its hind legs push against the earth, splaying damp mud behind, as it leaps into the bush on the opposite side. I had a rabbit like that once – Pepper. She would curl on my lap, dappled brown fur, and floppy ears soft as down pillows between my finger and thumb.

My small feet used to run barefoot down that path in summer, booted in winter. Either way there was mud. Always mud. It was cooling in summer, the only area the sun could not reach to bake. Cold in winter, but I loved it non-the-less. Mud caked shins and all. My favourite days where when I got to catch the glow of the falling sun, with its violet and plum soul. Grasping at the light with my chubby, little hands, wanting to hold onto it forever. It filled my little world. I got lost in it.

Legend told that the earth was born there. And when I say legend, I mean generations of local families wanting to put children to sleep at night.

Lithalumbra they called her. The mother. Barnumea, we named the child. I can picture her, crowning in the field. The voice of my mother, echoed as a memory, speaks her into existence.
Orchid coloured skin, thighs of great oaks. Her legs reach across the field, feet pushing, straining against hedge rows and farmer’s fences till they splinter and crack. She glistens, I cannot tell if its from the sweat of exhaustion and straining, or whether she holds the sun and stars beneath her skin. Her head is lost to the clouds, but I imagine her face twisted in pain, her cries stirring the breeze.

With each tense push, each tight gripping of the earth in her hands, buds spring up, bloom. Furling petals of gold, ochre and azure, each embracing the next, slipping from the prior’s grasp, a continuous spiral of unrequited love. Mutual infatuation with the stigma producing a down spiral of desire. An organism built on longing, infatuation, beauty, craving. Used to express the same.
Tender life rocked by the wind she cries into existence. Green stems reaching towards the sky, straining their necks towards the golden kiss of the sun as it bakes our backs.

Small flowers dotted among the green grass, bright yellow, the colour of mustard, apricots or cheese. Barely visible when glancing, or glowing when the sky burns at nightfall. For now, they jump, distanced by other congregations of meadow flowers bending in prayer.

While they prey, my apricots dance. They sway, they sing, so small that the wind does not bend them, only aids their jubilation. Their longing is of a different kind, a kind born of isolation, isolation born from love, from a division of self to aid one’s child.

They caress her, twine about her legs. She loosens her tense muscles, preparing for one final push, and with that final drive the flowers snap. Pulled too far, their stems strain to keep them rooted to the ground, but in vain. They turn to confetti.

A stream gushes, flows, runs from her parted legs. It carves a path through the field, jubilation in movement. Petals and stems fall into the stream, swept along in the gargling rush, turning it to a carnival of colour. It has no one set direction, turning and jumping, relishing the freedom.

Are children a part of self? A loss of self? An extension?

He continues to flow from her womb, even as his face breaches the horizon line. She falls with a soft thump, spraying petals around her, our hill parts in two to embrace her shoulders. I see her face for the first time. It’s beautiful. Breathtakingly. Formed from ivy, and dandelions, her hair peach trees. Her eyes fall closed. She breathes out, as if she’s held this breath, deep, for too long.

There is a calmness in her. Content with his euphoria.

The colour drains from her, like a palette under the stream of the tap. Slowly at first, almost unnoticeable, but I know he is the cause. It is he that turns her from purple to muted green. Washing her life from her, slowly.

She slips away. Slowly. Grains of her ooze into the soil, too slow to be truly noticeable. I could watch her for days, and not see her crumbling, only seeing a new reality of her figure each morning, a product of last nights decay. I wait. I cannot bare to leave her. I want to unclasp her hands from the earth, still strained from gripping, but I know they would resist.

“I made you, do you know that?” Her eyes and mouth remain closed.

I nod. She smells like my mother.

“Why do you hate my creation? Why do you try to destroy yourself? Please do not break the heart I crafted for you. You are born from clay, and the salt spray of the sea. Little one, you can break too easily.” The ghost of her warm hand cups my face.

A let a tear fall. Salty. It carves a river on my cheek.