11:00 am – continued
Valentine slid on her shoes and then followed her sister down the hall, her long skirt swirling around her ankles and dragging along behind her as they walked down the stairs. She thought she would have been tired of walking after that morning’s walk with Cooper, but she enjoyed walking. Besides, the block wasn’t that big and they would probably be back in a half hour.
She couldn’t wait to see Cooper that night. He had been surprisingly great company on the train ride and the walk home. She actually found herself missing him and anxious to see him again, even though it meant she would be a few hours closer to death. She couldn’t help but feel torn. Life on one hand and death on the other. It was a terrible dilemma, she decided as she and Sabrina left the house.
Their mother’s gardens in the front yard were in full bloom and they were assaulted by all of the sweet scents as they walked down the brick walkway towards the sidewalk. Two large shade trees, one on either side of the three story house, shaded the lawn, but allowed enough light for their mother’s sun loving flowers to thrive and multiply. On one side of the meandering walkway were separate rose and wildflower gardens while the herb garden and bed of colorful perennials decorated the other side. With everything in full bloom, the plants turned the yard into a circus of colors with reds, blues, yellows, purples, pinks, and snowy whites.
“Where are you girls going?”
Valentine jumped a foot in the air before wildly looking around the overflowing gardens for their mother. Some of the plants were so high it was hard to see if anything or anyone were crouched behind them. Sabrina was also peering around, turning in a slow circle as she did so, her eyes narrowed and her hands on her hips.
“Mom,” Sabrina called. “We can’t see you.”
“Oops. Sorry.” And, with that, Marlene’s head popped up, covered by a wide brimmed hat decorated with blue and pink roses. She waved a gloved hand, the other carrying shears. “Here I am. I just wanted to spend some time in my gardens.” She looked down mournfully. “Just making them beautiful so they’re destroyed tonight.”
Sabrina made her way over to their mother, picking her way through the flowering shrubs to get to the rose garden, and wrapped her arms around her mother. “It’s okay, Mom. Whatever makes you happy. Everyone should do what makes them happy today. It’s our last day.”
Marlene hugged her daughter tightly. “So wise. So young. I wish you’d had more time on this Earth.”
“I’ve had a great life, Mom. And I’m making the most of my day.” Sabrina gently eased herself out of her mother’s arms. “Valentine and I are going to go for a walk around the block. We’ll be back soon, okay?”
“Sure, honey. Enjoy yourselves.”
Sabrina flashed her mother a smile and then rejoined her older sister on the walkway. Both girls waved to Marlene before continuing on their way. Marlene waved back until the girls disappeared down the sidewalk before ducking back down to resume working with her beloved plants.
“Remember when we used to do this when we were younger?” Valentine asked her favorite sister. “The first time, I had to beg Mom to let you come with me and promise that nothing would happen to you.”
Sabrina giggled. “Flaky as she is, Mom’s always been way over-protective. The past couple of weeks have been a really big change for her. It was kind of weird at first, but then we really started getting into this complete freedom thing. It’s pretty cool. Natalia’s really been enjoying it. She loves doing whatever she wants. And eating whatever she wants. Mom made chocolate chip cookies a few days ago and she ate almost the entire batch by herself. For breakfast.” She shrugged. “There’s no worrying about cavities anymore.”
Valentine laughed. “Well, no one has to worry about their health anymore.” She shook her head. “I wonder about all the people who are already sick, though. The people who have thought for the past couple of years that they had to really take care of themselves, otherwise they would face dying young. The sad thing is that they didn’t really have to limit themselves so much. Whether we all like it or not, we’re all going to die, and sooner than we thought we were going to. I just hope those people are enjoying themselves and indulging in what they couldn’t before now.”
“Geez, Valentine, you’re kind of morbid,” Sabrina said with her usual roll of the eyes.
“I prefer to think that I’m thoughtful and philosophical.”
Sabrina shrugged and crossed her arms. “Whatever. Anyways, what I really want to know is who that guy you were with this morning was. He looked kind of dirty, but I bet he’s really cute.”