"Orchid" - Emily Stone
Jenny got up in the middle of the night. She had nowhere in particular to go, but she pulled back the covers and stood in the dark.
It was cold out there, in just her undies and a tank top, without the body heat of someone close to her. Someone used to sleep in that empty spot next to her on the bed.
She didn’t want to think about that right now, didn’t want to think about how her parents had been right about him. It was still hard to accept.
She looked back at the empty bed- well, it wasn’t completely empty. There was the box sitting on top of the flowery bedspread, and it was staring her down. Begging her, Open me, please. You know you want to see what I’m holding. Don’t deny it. She couldn’t, but she still didn’t want to.
Her feet took her around the room, making her pace as if she had no control over them. She bit at her fingers subconsciously. This box was eating at her.
It had shown up on her bed the night before. No warning, no note. She just woke up around four in the morning, and it was sitting next to her. She had no idea how it had gotten there, who had put it there. And it was making her fear what was inside it.
Jenny couldn’t just let it sit there forever. She couldn’t get rid of it either, not without knowing what it held.
She went over to her desk in the corner of her room and pulled open the top drawer. With a pair of scissors, she sliced through the packing tape and pulled back the cardboard flaps on the top of the box.
Its contents were way too small for the packaging. There were no packing peanuts or bubble wrap, or any other type of filler to wrap the thing in and prevent it from sliding around in there.
She took the thing in her hand and turned it over. She’d seen such a contraption before, but she couldn’t place it. She couldn’t imagine what it would be doing here.
A harmonica? Jenny looked at it again, tried putting it to her lips.
No noise came out, but it was definitely a harmonica. Weren’t they supposed to make pretty music? It was dark, but she knew her eyes weren’t deceiving her.
She sat back down on the bed, holding the cold metal and turning it over in her hands. The sun was slowly beginning to rise, turning the room into a dusty blue. Jenny stared at it until the sun was all the way up.
She couldn’t understand who would leave this for her, and why. She put it down on the windowsill and got dressed for work. Before leaving, she looked at it once more, really glared at it. Why would she want a harmonica that didn’t even work?
The first thing Jenny did when she got home was to go back to the window and touch the cool metal of it. There was no brand name on it, no distinguishing marks, no clues to tell her where it came from.
There was something stuck in the- what were they called? Jenny didn’t know, so she would just call them the sound-holes. Anyway, there was something stuck in them. She turned on the lights in her bedroom, as well as a lamp, to properly inspect it. It looked like some sort of plant was stuck in there.
She tried to pull it, pry it out, but it wouldn’t budge. At one point, her fingers latched onto a part of it, and she tugged, but it didn’t move. Although she couldn’t get it out, at least she had an explanation as to why it wouldn’t play.
She put it back on the sill. In the morning, she looked over at the harmonica with astonishment. Out of the sound-holes grew a stunning orchid, sprouted overnight.
Jenny couldn’t explain the growth of the flower out of the harmonica, but she knew she had to take care of it.
For four days, she watered it, kept it on the sill for plenty of light. On the fifth day, she came back from work to find the orchid dead.
It killed her inside; she didn’t know what to do. For the past four days, this thing had been her life. It had been everything she’d looked forward to, the only thing that got her through the workday. And now it was withered and shriveled.
Jenny picked it up and inspected it. She didn’t understand how it could have died so suddenly. It had been just fine when she left for work in the morning.
She touched the wilted purple petals, and they crumpled to the floor. The stem fell out and blew away like dust.
She stared at the dead flower on the floor for a long time before finally turning her attention back to the harmonica. She put it to her lips again. Out of the dust and decay of the dead orchid, the most beautiful music floated along the air.