The Eye of the Beholder
Darius knelt near a little pond and touched the white petal of a flower. The flower had six white petals with a yellow funnel in the center, its stem tilting the blossom to face the damp soil. Warm winds ruffled Darius’s blonde hair as he sniffed in the sweet aroma of the flower. He had never seen such a beautiful creation. He touched the soft petal and slid his fingers to the stem. Ready to pluck the exquisite flower from the earth, he placed his thumb and index finger on its stem.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” an old scratchy voice whispered behind him. Darius stood and spun around to face the owner of the voice. A woman with graying hair and a kind face stood behind him, her hand on a supporting cane and her back bent from old age ailments.
“Who are you?” Darius asked.
“I would ask you the same except that I know your name, Darius,” the old woman replied. “Hasn’t your mother taught you manners? Close your mouth.” Darius stared at this woman, his mouth open. He closed his mouth at her words and took a step backwards. “Don’t step on the flower!” The old woman lurched forward and tripped over her booted feet. Darius rushed forward to catch her.
“Are you ok?” he asked as he helped her regain her balance. “I’m sorry if I caused any trouble.”
“I’m alright. And my name is Belinda.” She clutched her cane with whitened knuckles and knelt near the flower. Dark mud stained her white pants at her knees. She gazed at the flower and motioned behind her for Darius to kneel beside her. “Do you know what flower this is?”
“No,” Darius replied.
“Narcissus. It is called Narcissus. Such a beautiful flower.” Belinda gripped her cane again and struggled to stand. Darius offered her his hand, took her soft hand in his, and lifted her to her feet. “Thank you, dear. Would you like a job?”
Darius was taken aback. His mother had actually sent him from the house to search for a job. His mother was under the impression he should learn the value of a dollar and stop asking her for money. He couldn’t help it if he wanted new clothes or spending money to go out with girls. Darius nodded his head to Belinda.
“Well, I need someone to tend the flowers. Over that hill is my home and a nice garden with roses and hyacinths and rhododendrons. I’m getting too old to take care of them, so I’d like you to tend to them. What do you think?”
“Sure, I could do that,” he replied, “Thank you.”
“This pond is also a part of my property. That is the only Narcissus flower that has ever grown there. I have only one condition for you to get the job. Do not, under any circumstances, pick that flower from its soil. You would not want to face the consequences.”
Darius agreed, and they walked together over the hill to her house. The old Victorian home stood on the other side of the hill, and behind it a forest. When they reached the house, the front door opened and a young woman stepped out. She had curly blonde hair that flowed around her small waist. Her long lashes framed her big blue eyes. She smiled and showed perfect white teeth. Darius fell in love with her beauty.
“Mother! Where have you been? Annabelle won’t make lunch, and I’m hungry!” The young woman placed her hands on her hips and waited for Belinda’s reply.
“If you’re hungry, then why don’t you make lunch?” Belinda replied to her daughter, who returned a glare.
“Oh, where are my manners? Darius, this is my older daughter Rachel. You’ll meet my younger daughter Annabelle in a minute.” Belinda walked by Rachel into the house. Darius stopped in front of Rachel, lifted her hand, and placed a kiss on her soft white knuckles.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, my beautiful lady,” Darius said.
“Yeah, the pleasure is all yours,” she replied, removing her hand quickly, and walked back into the house. Darius followed closely behind, watching her hips sway, wanting to twirl his finger around one of her long blonde curls. He passed through the house in a blur, his eyes never leaving the beauty before him.
They reached the back door and walked into the backyard. Darius had never seen such a beautiful yard. Flowers dotted the expansive land as far as the woods a quarter mile away. The garden looked like a colorful quilt enveloping the land. No way can I tend to all those flowers!
“Don’t worry,” Belinda said as she appeared at his side, “My other daughter Annabelle will show you how to care for the flowers. She’ll be helping too.” Just then a hideous creature in the form of a woman stepped by Belinda. “This is Annabelle. Annabelle, this is Darius.”
Darius stared at a mole on Annabelle’s chin. Little dark hair stuck from its black mass. Pockmarks covered her face. Her nose jutted forth and hooked at the end. Her eyes, though, were kind as she offered her small rough hand. “How do you do?” she asked.
“Fine,” he murmured. He shook her hand quickly and let go.
“Where’s my lunch? I’m hungry!” Rachel interrupted. Darius turned to look at his beautiful lady. How could she have a hideous sister? Belinda gathered everyone into the house and made them lunch; Annabelle assisted her in the kitchen.
April gave forth to May, May into June. Darius tended the garden every day with Annabelle at his side. He became comfortable with her presence, even talked to her. He found her very nice. But his eyes were for Rachel. He’d do anything for her. She’d appear in the garden and ask for some food or help braiding her hair. She asked Darius for little presents, such as a new bonnet. She asked him for flowers and butterflies. He always got her what she wanted. One time he fell in the pond trying to catch a frog for her.
On a warm and sunny day in June, Darius watered the hyacinths and chatted with Annabelle about an upcoming picnic in his neighborhood, a few miles down the road. Rachel interrupted yet again.
“Darius! Can you come here for a second?” Rachel called from the back porch. Darius excused himself and jogged towards Rachel. Annabelle hung her head, shaking it as Darius left.
“Yes, my lady?” Darius asked.
“You like me right?” She waited for his nod and continued, “Well, if you want to be with me then you have to do one thing for me.”
“Anything,” he replied.
“Follow me.” Rachel led him through the house, outside, overt the hill, to the little pond. She pointed to the white flower and said, “Pick that for me.”
“The Narcissus flower? But your mother said not to.” Darius stared at Rachel’s unrelenting eyes, her chin set.
“If you don’t give me that flower, I will not be yours.”
Darius knelt in the soil and stared at the little white petals, so delicate and pure. He stared at the warm yellow center. Then he looked up at Rachel, at her beautiful white skin, soft pink mouth, gorgeous blonde hair, and fell in love with her beauty once more. He plucked the flower from the ground. Clouds blocked the sun. He tensed, but nothing happened. Darius stood and handed the flower to Rachel.
“See, I knew nothing would happen,” Rachel said as she held out her hand for the flower. She took the stem in her hand and leaned to smell the flower. Before Darius’s eyes, he watched as she plucked each little white petal from its stem. “Mom always loved this flower more than me.” As each petal fell, a tendril of Rachel’s hair fell to the ground unnoticed by Rachel. Darius watched as the she plucked the last petal and the last beautiful lock of hair fell from Rachel’s head. He stared open-mouthed.
“What?” Rachel asked, “What are you staring at?” She crushed the yellow part of the flower in her fist, and Rachel fell to the ground onto a bed of her golden locks. Darius leaned over her.
“Rachel? Rachel?” He shook her shoulder. He leaned over her face and felt the last breath leave her body. Her fist relaxed and the dead flower fell from her hand.