"Flowers"

"Sophie, you have to come see this. Get up, and come see this. She's doing it again. She is, she's doing it again, Sophie!" Mother was in her own bedroom. Sophie arrived, still unable to open her eyes, wearing her gold satin bottoms and the blue flannel top with the tan dogs on it.
You see, she lived for mix-and-match.
"You take it," Mother told Sophie. "Do it with her. Go on, do it." Mother was teaching Veronica to fetch. "She'll chase it, watch."
Sophie limply tossed the toy a ways down the hallway. Veronica bounded after it, caught it, and carried it back to Sophie. "Great," Sophie commented, and headed for the bathroom.
"Do it again. You must teach her this behavior, or she won't learn."
"You do it."
"I'm about to leave for work."
"I have to get dressed."
"Play for a while. It's so amazing. She's just an amazing little thing."
Sophie tossed again. Veronica retrieved.
Veronica was just like a dog: sweet, loyal, obedient, and she drooled. After chasing the mouse four or five more times, Veronica began to purr loudly, and soon she was drooling on the bottoms of Sophie's satin pajamas.

Veronica and James were both peeing in the laundry when Sophie left the house. There was nothing she could do about them. They would pee no matter how many times she clapped at them, how many times she said no, how many times she swatted at their little feline whiskers. James had once flinched, but that had been years ago, and even through his flinching, he'd kept on peeing. So it clearly couldn't be helped; they would always pee in the laundry. At least it was already dirty.

"Since when has that bush been in bloom?" Sophie asked as soon as she walked inside. Mother was sitting at the bar.
"Which one?" she asked, not looking up from her Jumble.
"The azalea by the road."
"Oh, I don't know."
Derek walked in. Sophie disliked everything about her brother, except for the almost becoming freckle in the dip of his collarbone.
"Did you notice the azalea?" Sophie asked him.
"No, what's wrong with it?"
"It's in bloom."
"How long has it been in bloom?"
"I don't know, I thought you'd maybe seen it."
"I haven't been outside since last Sunday when I got the paper."
"Go take a look. It's so pretty."
"Tomorrow, when I get the paper."
Derek was far too lazy for Sophie, and he surprised her later when he told her about the baby ducks he had saved the week before.

*

That night, Sophie had to work with Blanche, whose nametag identified her alternately as Grace and Blanche, but who made everyone call her Blanché most days. She insisted that it was French--a family name--but everyone knew she was delusional. Even down in the bank, they could hear as the medivac arrived in the parking lot, and Blanché chirped away in her corner about the noise, like Sophie's friend's rather unremarkable pet cockatiel.
"Oooouee, get those choppers away! They make me nervous. Airport's the other way--they don't need to fly over the park."
Once she was through with her cheeping, she matured her voice and said, "Really, they're not supposed to fly over the park."
"It's not like a no-fly zone," Sophie said.
"Well actually it is, because of all the towers. They're worried they'll run into them."
That was crap. The tallest of the towers stood three hundred feet tall. Sophie wanted to say, That's crap! but she knew better than to contradict Blanché, and all she said was, "Oh."

When Sophie entered her doctor's office, she noticed an attractive man leaving. They passed one another so closely that their shirts almost touched, and neither could help but smile at one another. And when she got into Dr. Boxer's room, she was glad that there were still traces of the man's warm cologne on the sofa, where she sat and drowned in the smell and in the idea of his smile as Boxer puttered around behind her at his desk.

"Since when has that bush been in bloom?" Sophie asked as soon as she was inside. Only Derek was in the room, and all he did was look at her. He had been rearranging magnets on the refrigerator, and was not the person Sophie had meant to address.
"I don't know what bush you mean," he said at last.
"That bush out there." She had really hoped someone else would be in the kitchen. "That one by the steps. Since when does that have flowers on it?"
"The front steps?"
"Of course."
"I hadn't noticed."
"Do you ever go outside?"
"Last Sunday I picked up the paper."
"That was a week ago." She shoved him out of the way to open the refrigerator door. She needed grapefruit juice, even though her medication cautioned her against it.
"I didn't see it blooming then."
"Last week, remember, the azalea went."
"I never saw it. I didn't know this one had gone."
"No, I didn't either. Today's the first day I've noticed." Who cares about warning labels?
"So it's bloomed now?"
"Bright fuchsia. You should really see it."
"Tomorrow, when I get the paper."
But she knew that in a week, she'd come inside and ask when the dogwood had bloomed, and it would probably be Derek to whom she spoke, and he wouldn't know, and he wouldn't have seen today's bush, or have remembered to remember it.

*

"Fetch is getting out of hand," Sophie told Dr. Boxer as soon as she saw him in the hallway. He ushered her to his office. She was horrified and almost didn't want to go in. There was the same alluring smell as the previous week, but this time, it came very distinctly from Boxer himself, from underneath his pale yellow shirt, and Sophie, in a state of repulsion, almost left.

At the party after the show, one of the cast members shuffled by Sophie on his way to the door, mumbling, "I get all my sugar from alcohol." And Sophie knew from his performance that this had to be true.
People kept introducing themselves to her. One woman came up, found out which of the actors Sophie knew, and began apologizing for the pink sweater one of them had to wear. Perhaps he'd complained about it, but Sophie wouldn't have known; until tonight, she'd not seen him in months, and he had not been the one to invite her to the party. If he didn't like the pink, no one except for everyone else would have known.
Another someone called Sophie a pretty wallflower. It was true--she clung to the back wall like ivy or a runaway strand of wisteria, and though she wasn't altogether pretty, she might have been a flower.
The actors she knew came over at the end and finally claimed her as theirs. She had parked on Chanticleer, and they walked her as far as the alley behind the theater. They parted ways, and Sophie walked the four blocks to her car, hoping not to get mugged or raped. But she made it safely, and the actors peeped their horn at her as they passed. She noticed they had taken the Mazda.

Meanwhile, the dogwood bloomed.