By Anne Carly Abad
Every cell in the bud’s body vibrated to the girl’s voice. “Fern, cattail, lily, sedge, violet, anemone,” she imparted her knowledge of the wetlands. They were all distinct, and the bud saw them as the girl did: the fiddleheads that characterized ferns, the creamy clusters of meadowsweet, the heart-shaped leaves of Celandine. The bud approached her thoughts so she would single it out from the lilies.
With cupped hands, she scooped it up. It had never been out of water. A breeze shook its wet leaves, and the bud tightened its scales, bristling its hairs against the bracing weather. The girl’s skin was warm, but the bud couldn’t take comfort in it. She was shivering. The bud had to stop that first before it could feel better. It linked itself to her temperature center and took some of her chill upon itself. The sharing was both strange and delicious.
“Oh!” The girl straightened. She’d grown numb to the cold. Her train of thought suggested she might go out to explore some more, but the bud nudged her against it. A taste of withering was enough to give her a vision of being snotty and feverish in bed.
“You,” she began. The bud loosened its folds so she could study its entirety. Her uncertainty oozed in. She sought to name it but failed. A fat, pink bulb, that was all it was.
“You’re beautiful,” the girl breathed. Beautiful. The plant embraced the word. It was beautiful when a bird pecked Mother’s fruit open and released its seed brethren. It was beautiful when the river carried them downstream. Passing tributaries and lowlands, the bud had been separated from its kin. It had arrived in a lush bayou and there taken root among the lily pads. It didn’t know how long it had been since then, just that the flowers had come and gone.
“You’re coming with me,” she said. As the last few droplets dripped down the length of the bud’s roots, it knew this would be the last it would feel of the wetlands.
The bud draped a tendril over the girl’s little finger.