Disclaimer: Not mine.
Written for Emery Wright's Descriptive Challenge found on the HPFC Forum.
The challenge was merely to tell a story with no dialog, using a prompt. Mine…sage. I opted for the herb, rather than a person. Hope you enjoy.
Andromeda Tonks pulled her jumper tighter around her shoulders as she inspected the stalk of the Salvia plant against the back wall of the garden. Disappointed not to see the fully developed sage leaves that she coveted, but only the first blush of buds, she began to pinch off the tender offerings and nestle them carefully in her hand. After she had acquired not quite a palm-full, she lowered her head as she cupped her hands around her precious treasure, breathing deeply, only able to imagine the pungent smell of the ancient herb.
Ted used to laugh at her trust in the old herbology text's assertions that certain plants could do more than be used for medicinal purposes. She had rubbed oils on the threshold of their new home, carried rosemary in her bridal bouquet and refused to attend a funeral that did not have marjoram scattered on the floor, despite his insistence that she was wasting her time and energy. She smiled at the memory of his chiding, and wondered what he would say if he knew she had planted parsley on his grave, and once a year, on the anniversary of his death, ate the bitter herb.
Returning to her kitchen, she put the treasured buds into a marble mortar and crushed them until all that remained was enough pulp to coat the sides of the bowl. Carefully, least any of the sacred paste be lost, she scraped it out with the blade of a silver knife, laid the blade on a crystal plate, and set it on the counter. Letting her eyes wander to the window she looked out to the garden that lay just awakening from its winter's death. This late in May, it should have been showing the first of signs of robust growth. However, this year the garden, like the earth its self, seemed to hold onto the cold, as if the very loss of so many lives had sadden it as well. She sighed, shrugged off her jumper and washed her hands, still sandy from her time outside working in the dirt, and turned to the nursery.
Her grandson's door, Teddy's door, had sprigs of dry herbs, mostly different varieties of sage, hanging in clusters around the frame. Andromeda didn't like using the dried bouquets and was glad that in a few short weeks she would have fresh fragrant boughs to replace the crisp crumbling travesties of hope and life. Opening the door, she peeked into the semi-dark room and for a moment was taken back in time, to when she had done the same for her daughter.
In another lifetime, in the time of Ted and rosemary, lavender scented sheets and dill-cured soap…there had been her Nymphadora. Nymphadora who would fall asleep so quickly and peacefully on her father's shoulder that Andromeda had often seen him tickle her feet and pat her behind to keep her awake. Nymphadora that could quell her parent's rows by blowing spit bubbles or charm old man Moody by climbing on his lap and making him understand that the dust floating in the light were really fairies dancing on beams of liquid sun.
Silently entering the room, she bent over the crib and rubbed the infant's back, bringing him to a wakeful state before lifting him up and holding him close. Kissing his forehead, she began to sing the same melody she had sung to his mother, oh so long ago. Her's was a melody with no set words, only those that changed with each signing. Continuing her non-sensible lullaby, she laid him down on the same changing table she had used for Nymphadora, changed his nappy and again hugged him to her as she carried him to the kitchen.
It was hard to imagine that just a month ago her son-in-law had made the same walk in the middle of the night. She had found him with Teddy in one arm, the formula in his free hand, reading the directions for measuring and mixing. He had explained that Nymphadora was in tears, not being able to feed the babe herself. Andromeda had left him to fend for himself as she had comforted her daughter, telling her the milk would come, that perhaps it was too soon, that perhaps she was under too much stress, too anxious and fearful of the impending war.
She warmed Teddy's bottle and set it on the table before collecting the crystal plate and the small scraping of crushed sage. Glancing at a plaque that hung over the cooker, she saw the words 'He that would live forever, must eat sage in May'. Sage in May, she thought, looking to the calendar, already knowing that in a few short hours it would be June and too late to offer this simple protection.
Teddy nestled in the crook of Andromeda's arm, his eyes already seeking the bottle as his left fist accidently managed to find his mouth. Sucking on his hand greedily, and getting no satisfaction, he opened his mouth and wailed out his frustration and impatience. Seeing her chance, Andromeda smeared the sage paste on the index finger of her right hand, shoved it in his mouth, plopping it on his tongue and then quickly replaced her finger with the nipple, gratified to see him suck down both formula and sage.
She held the bottle, smiled down at Teddy, and wondered if he would resemble his mother or his father. She would tell him stories as he grew. She would show him pictures and tell him how much he was loved, and hoped it would be enough. However, she also knew that she would never share the memory of the last time her Nymphadora had walked out of the house. She could still see his mother, her breasts finally heavy with milk, her wedding band shinning on her still swollen finger and the way she refused to look at her own son as if afraid that his beautiful face would keep her home. She could still hear her daughter's voice insisting that she was needed more in battle than at home, changing nappies. That for just this one day her husband needed her more than did her son.
Andromeda sighed, and set down the bottle, lifting her grandson to her shoulder and patting his back. And so it starts again, she thought, and wondered if she could do it alone, without Ted here to help her. Patting Teddy's back until he gave up the air he had swallowed, she laid him back to her arm for more of the bottle. She would feed Teddy sage each May and always plant it in the garden, ensuring that she had enough to sprinkle in the graveyard to chase away the grief. .
She would remember her wedding with rosemary, and bathe in lavender. She would dance on marjoram and make cakes of dill- spiked soap for the new bride. However, for her grandson, she would remember sage each May, and would sprinkle it in the graveyard to chase away his sorrow as he had chased away hers.