I Never Heard a Man Called Winsome

redflower

For today’s Daily Prompt, “Winsome,” I wanted to write something with a man who might be called winsome and a young woman who is definitely not. Wallie was bored with it. Wallie is not a winsome imp.

***

‘Are you given to imagination?’

‘Why, yes.’ I puff my chest out with pride.

Eddy snorts. ‘Indeed. I suppose you regard yourself as quite the romantic.’

This is too fine an opportunity, and I cannot resist batting my lashes with all the excess of perfect femininity. I know I am being absurd, but there is something in the batting of eyes that has always worked with men, and it has become a habit with me. ‘Oh, yes, if you like.’

He turns from me abruptly. His eyes are dark glass, reflecting the world in them and turning drear to heaven, and as I watch he reaches out one long, slim, elegant hand, deftly plucking a rose from the nearby bush. His thumb and forefinger are delicate against the tender blossom, applying only the gentlest pressure. I am a little startled to see so reserved and analytical a man as he pause to lift the flower to his face, his lids shivering in a moment’s pleasure. When he meets my gaze again, the piercing criticism is gone, leaving in place a glazed, drunken interest.

‘I know little of you, Miss Jones,’ he says calmly, ‘save what I observe. And I observe that you are no dreamer at all—that there is imagination in you, leveled by crassness—and that you aim to please only with the intention of eventually pleasing yourself. No, Miss Jones’—he raises his free hand in response to my furiously blushing face, silencing my attempts to interrupt this unexpected and stinging volley—‘you are not what you say you are. Here.’

He stretches the blossom towards me. I want to swat it away, but I take it from him with a grimace, twirling the flower in my grasp.

‘What?’ I say. ‘How can you possibly say all that when—by your own admission—you hardly know me?’

He smiles a little. There is an oddly predatory gleam in his eyes. ‘It is a beautiful rose, is it not?’

‘It is—er—a rose—ouch!’ I’ve pricked my finger on the stem, and I drop the flower, plunging my thumb into my mouth. ‘Oh, d—m!’

All the softness has left his tone. ‘How awkward, Miss Jones.’

‘And what do you expect?’ I snap defensively. Bloody thorns.

Eddy kneels, cupping the flower in his hands. His face is a mask of dispassion, and yet I have the most peculiar feeling that he is, in his own deliberate way, contemplating more than bruised petals. ‘Beauty is a rare luxury in the imperfection of existence, Miss Jones. When we find it, it is as if we have discovered a sharp ray of light in the tempest—a beacon of hope—a promise, if you will, that we are not the players in a twisted tale in which there is but one, final end for all of us. I pray that, when you find it, you will take it gently and not with the enthusiasm of a calf and his clover.’

I doubt if I have ever felt as insulted. ‘Pardon me, sir,’ I say.

‘Here.’ He reaches out and touches my wrist. ‘I want to show you something.’

‘No thank you.’ Common, vulgar creature that I am, I’ll remaining standing.

He looks up at me. ‘You were willing before.’

‘Yes—’

‘I’ve offended you. I know my tongue can run away with me—I say more than I should. Will you forgive me?’

I feel little obligation to, but I am mildly interested in his intentions. I crouch beside him with my natural promptitude, giving up ladylike dignity for a boyish squat. It amuses me to note that, were someone to see us, we would prove a striking contrast—Eddy elegant and graceful, kneeling carefully on the lawn, and I with my head hunched over my knees like a curious child as I watch him. Again he offers the flower. I do not take it, and he guides my fingers around the sadly battered blossom. I am fascinated by the look of absorption on his face.

‘Tell me what you feel,’ he says.

‘A flower,’ I volunteer.

‘Ah.’ He raises his eyes briefly to my face. ‘Yes, it is a flower. But it is something more.’

‘Are you going to recite me a poem?’ I tease.

The grey in his gaze deepens. ‘When I feel a flower,’ he says, ‘I—but no, this is foolish. One cannot explain such things—it is—it is foolish to try.’

He is embarrassed, and I feel a little sorry for him. I am not making this easy.

‘It is nice,’ I say. ‘The flower.’

His embarrassment worsens. ‘Yes,’ he says. ‘Yes—ah, where are the others?’

‘The other girls?’ I am a little startled by the abrupt closing of our interview, and I place a hand on his shoulder, staying him as he attempts to rise. ‘Wait a moment. What were you trying to show me?’

‘I wanted to—to show you—’ He hesitates, taking in a quick, strengthening breath of air. ‘I cannot say, and there isn’t time. Let’s go, Miss Jones, before we are missed. I will not be the cause of trouble for your lateness.’

‘No, no, explain it to me.’ I take up the flower from where he has dropped it.

His eyes meet mine. ‘There is more to love and beauty,’ he says, softly, ‘than desire. That is what I wished to say, Miss Jones.’

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