Fleeting Blooms

by Lisa M. Griffiths

Fleeting Blooms

by Lisa Griffiths

Beck Hansen walked through the entrance to British Columbia’s Butchart Gardens where a weak sun was blanketing the full blooms of springtime.

He was thankful for such an easy photography assignment. Allowed to enter the park one hour before opening, Beck focused his camera at the colorful foliage. He passed a multitude of begonias in hanging baskets and stopped to take a few shots. He had always thought of these flowers as prehistoric.

Dark clouds formed overhead but he welcomed them. The overcast sky gave him the perfect lighting making the bright colors iridescent. He spent five minutes or so on each of the different floral displays. Peonies and rhododendrons vied for his attention. Even the roses and azaleas were putting on a show. He wasn’t as tempted by them as most people were who visited.

Beck was headed for the sunken garden and its quilt of tulips. These were his favorite flowers. They were simple in structure, a modern art of soft lines and symmetry. His grandfather once told him that the smoothness of the tulip was just like a young woman’s cheek. He had laughed and dismissed the imparted wisdom as the ramblings of an old man. But, here, now, he wondered how his grandfather had come by that revelation and felt a twinge of envy.

The view opened before Beck, and he let out a breath. Hundreds of red and pink tulips stood at attention. They surrounded a small clearing where a cherry tree and some benches were located. The light pink blooms of the tree contrasted with its dark trunk and branches.

This is a perfect shot, he thought. He looked through the eyepiece on the camera and took aim. The clicking sounds of the shutter were slightly distracting to Beck as he drank in the view of saturated color. He paused in his shooting to sneeze, and when he returned to look through the viewfinder, he saw something that wasn’t there before.

A young woman was seated on one of the benches.

Beck held the camera away from his face and stared in her direction. How had she gotten there? He instinctively looked around the area but saw no one else. He knew there weren’t any other patrons in the gardens, and she didn’t look like an employee.

Feeling much like a voyeur, he brought the camera up, focusing solely on the newcomer. A few turns of the lens and Beck could now see the woman clearly.

Perhaps too clearly.

Thinking it might be a trick of the morning light, Beck swore that he could see through her as if she was an apparition or hologram.

Once again, he moved the camera away so he could look with his own eyes. She definitely did not seem solid. He stood staring, perplexed at the vision in front of him. He blinked several times. But there she sat half-turned from him.

Beck was unnerved by the scene. He found himself annoyed by the fact that his favorite part of the photoshoot was cut short. He checked his watch and saw that there was only twenty minutes left before the gardens would be open to the general public. He decided to go elsewhere for the rest of the photos.

She sobbed softly.

It was barely audible to Beck, but it made him stop in his tracks. With a feeling of delayed regret, he slowly walked over to the woman. His trepidation seemed justified when he got to within six feet of her. He could see through her completely.

She looked no older than twenty-five with light brown skin and dark hair. She wore jeans, a sweatshirt, and sneakers.

He moved closer despite his reservations. She noticed him and looked up when he was within three feet of where she sat. A startled look covered her face, and she brought her hands up in front of her.

“Oh, hey, I’m just taking pictures,” said Beck as he lifted the camera. “I don’t mean to disturb you.”

She lowered her hands and wiped away some of the tears.

He knelt on the damp ground. “I’m sorry. Do you need some help?”

She smiled at him. “You’re so nice for asking. But I don’t think you can help me.”

Beck was confused. He stared at her intently, realizing that she was fading more each minute. “I’ve got my cellphone. I can call someone for you. Or get one of the park attendants?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think it works like that. This is my happy place.”

He watched as her outline and details, like the crinkles at the corners of her eyes, began to disintegrate. He felt panicked and stood up suddenly. “Wait, don’t go yet. Are you a ghost?”

“I’m Vanessa Bartolli.” She said the words softly before fading away completely.

Beck thrust his hand in the space where she sat moments before. There was no trace left. Have I lost my mind? He couldn’t answer his own question truthfully.

As hard as it was, he somehow finished his photoshoot and left Butchart Gardens just as the patrons were entering. He vowed never to talk about what he had seen.

A month later, Beck was visiting his parents. As he helped his mother prep for dinner, the news on the television caught his attention.

He listened as the newscaster gave an update on a missing woman. A body found not far from a rural highway in eastern Washington had been identified as Vanessa Bartolli of Lake Chelan.

The color drained from Beck’s face as he saw the photo now showing on the screen. It was a picture of a young woman with light brown skin, dark hair, and crinkles at the corners of her eyes.

If you want to download the pdf of this story, click here.

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{
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