Karen and Marc are at it again. They have these little chat sessions and next thing you know… it’s prompt time! I could definitely NOT refuse this one. Somehow Magnolia became the object of their desire to write. OK, OK… when you read Karen’s beautiful post, you’ll understand. Just so happens, that when it comes to flowering trees? My ultimate favourite. Marc’s wonderful story is here. I honest-to-goodness don’t know how they do it. But they do it so bloody well. Instead of telling myself I just can’t play with the big girls and boys, I shall simply strive to do my best. Now I am quite late to the party but there was no “write-by-date” so…
She loved to walk. She had her favourite destinations and usually decided on the spur of the moment which one she’d take. Turn right? Turn left? Go straight? Either one would end up bringing her joy. On this day, she chose right. Once past the residential houses, she ended up in the first park. In winter, a hockey rink would have a few people passing a hockey puck, or, depending on the time of day, a solo skater, practicing his shots. In summer this would be full of kids splashing in the water games. But today it was spring. The air was warm but now and again a breeze came by, teasing with a hint of cool – just to let her know that it was not yet summer.
She walked across the first park, through a walkway, across a street, through another walkway and bingo! There it was. A huge magnolia tree planted in the middle of a field. How did that happen? No way the city would plant such a tree in a park. It must have been some good Samaritan or lover of spring blooms to have donated such a gift for all peeps to enjoy.
It was an older tree with a good-sized grouping of trunks, the flowers starting just high enough for her to sit beneath. She had brought a blanket and her book but instead of reading, leaned back and let her memories loose.
They met just as the first magnolia flowers appeared. Each on a two-week solo vacation, no plans, free to do as they please. Both expected to spend that time reflecting, visiting, ambling. One particularly warm day, she was sitting at a table on a terrace, sipping a cool drink watching the passersby. He arrived and chose a table next to hers and ordered himself a beer. They smiled at each other and continued their individual reveries.
“This is going to sound ridiculously corny, but, have you been here before?” he queried, smiling.
She laughed in return, “No, actually, I’m on vacation. You?”
“Same. Where are you from, if I may ask?”
“Canada is pretty big. Care to specify by province, at least?”
“Well now, I am impressed. Most Yanks don’t even know we have provinces,” she grinned. “Just teasing. I’m from British Columbia, more specifically from Victoria. How about you?”
“The United States of America,” he smirked. She raised an eyebrow. “My turn to tease — I’m from Seattle, Washington.”
“Jeez. We live so close to each other yet meet here, so far from home. Are you travelling alone?”
“Yep. I always dreamed of coming to New Orleans, to be here in the spring before it gets hot and disgusting.”
“Nice. I have never been here in the summer but I have heard it is brutal. I’m also on my own. We were supposed to be four girlfriends à la Sex and the City, New Orleans-style but they all flushed me last minute. I decided that I still wanted to come here.”
He dragged his chair closer to hers. “You mind?”
“No, not at all. Why don’t you just join me officially?” She held out her hand, “My name’s Charlotte. Most of my friends call me Charlie”
His warm hand clasped hers, “Pleased to meet you, Charlotte. Such a beautiful name. I’m Dante.”
“As in inferno?” she could not help but ask, tongue firmly in cheek.
“For you to find out!” he laughed, eyebrows wiggling up and down.
She smiled, ever more curious about this handsome stranger.
Afternoon turned to twilight, turned to evening. Soft jazz played in the background. Their conversation never waned, food was ordered, eaten, neither remembering what they ate. They left the restaurant and walked the streets of New Orleans, hand in hand, their conversation ebbing and flowing as if they’d known each other forever.
They spent their two-week vacation wrapped in each other. Loving, talking, sharing, eating, laughing. One room got cancelled and their solo vacations became a couple one. They visited whatever took their fancy and come evening, visited each other. Listening, touching, tasting, feeling, whispering. Every day, as they left to explore, they marvelled at the magnolia tree planted right outside her Air BnB. The blooms so much larger than either had ever seen in their hometowns. “So beautiful,” one or the other would comment. and off they’d go. Museums, Bourbon Street, French Quarter, City Park, Garden District, they played it by ear, deciding as they went along.
On their last day together, a sudden wind swept through, blowing most of the blooms off “their” magnolia tree and sending them in all directions, save the ones that swirled around them, encouraging them, embracing them as they held each other close, loathe to separate. They swore they would return. While neither of them was married they laughed and said it could be like Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year. Both film buffs, they needed no explanation.
However, that also implied they would only see each other once per year…