~ Boots in a Flowerbed ~ by Quatorze ~
1 - The Park
Bees buzzing around his head barely distract him. His entire attention is focused on the bed of flowers ahead. Gloved hands pick off weeds, turn leaves around to spot bugs, remove dried twigs and withered blossoms. It's warm, the sun is shining hotly already this early in the day. A drop of sweat rolls down from his forehead and reaches the tip of his nose, glistens there for a moment before falling. It tickles, he rubs his nose with the back of a hand, and a smudge of soil appears on one cheek.
Around the little park, outside its elaborate iron fence, the city is buzzing too. It used to bother him, the incessant noise of thousands of people, but he's got so used to it that he hardly notices it any more. Now it reminds him of the never-ending wind of his home country, the wind that blows from the sea and over the mountains, the wind that shapes stone into hollows like flutes through which it can howl and whistle. It's there, the noise, always there, but he doesn't hear it.
He pushes the trash bucket forward and sighs, smiles a little. Such pretty flowers. They need watering, but he still has to clear the last few feet of the flowerbed before he can go to fetch water. Only a few more feet left of kneeling, crouching, crawling forward on all fours, hauling the bucket along. And then there are extra feet, feet that don't belong there, in the flowerbed.
He stops, sits back on his haunches, black eyebrows frowning. The feet are covered by boots, expensive shiny dark gray leather boots, boots reaching up to the knee, pretending to be riding boots. His suspicious gaze climbs up along them to reach trousers, expensive light fishbone-patterned flannel, the flap of a matching jacket resting on one thigh. The man wearing them is sprawled on his back on the ornate wood-and-iron bench, one arm hanging over the side, the other bent, hand cupping the back of his head. Long legs stretch across the narrow stripe of grass surrounding the bench, heels digging into a tuft of marigolds. His eyes are closed, partly covered by pale ash-blonde hair. The jacket is open, revealing a white shirt. Underneath it, his chest is steadily rising and falling. And his feet are in the flower bed.
The dark boy purses his mouth. He stares at the sleeper but it has no effect, not for far too many minutes. The day is ticking past, his stomach is growling and he has to finish this flower bed before lunch. He works around those shining boots as long as he can, but finally he must do it.
He taps cautiously on one boot, then again, then a third time, a little harder each time. Only then the man stirs, grunts, nearly falls off the bench. Pulls himself up, rubs his eyes, yawns. The boy's patience is wearing thin.
"Excuse me, sir."
The man turns to look, blinks. His eyes are strange, the boy thinks, then ignores them.
"I need to weed this flower bed, and you feet are in the way."
They are brown. Rich, lustrous brown, incongruously dark for someone so blonde. His hair is cut short around the ears and nape but it's longer on top, heavy bangs hanging down over dark eyebrows. His mouth is large and smooth, and it pulls into a slow smile.
The boy tears his gaze away and bends down once more to attend to the last plants. He doesn't like this feeling, as if he were kneeling in front of the man who's still sitting there and watching him. He doesn't look up while he finishes weeding, scrambles on his feet, picks up the bucket from the ground.
He can still feel the man's eyes on his back as he walks away, resisting the urge to stop and flex his slightly aching back. Only when he's safely behind tall bushes, several twists and turns of the park walk between him and the blonde man, does he stop and stretch luxuriously, wincing a little as he does so.
Author's notes:This story was written in response to a challenge: write and upload something daily for 25 days. I've now uploaded the first few chapters and corrected some typos that were there, otherwise the story is unedited and exactly as it first appeared in February 2004. Ande at this I'm not telling anything more about the characters, the setting, nothing. It will all come clearer, little by little. Enjoy!