When Iris reached the flower-shop she was greeted by a cocktail of chrysanthemums and lilies. Wind-chimes tinkled at the glass door, which led into a valley of flowers—from full-mouthed roses and carnations to drowsy daffodils and orchids. A wooden board painted in red and white stood reading ‘Senses Flora & Fauna’ and a series of glass panels separating the flowers created a small maze inside the shop, with nobody inside it and no roof over it.
“Yes? How may I help you?” a voice called out from somewhere and Iris looked around to trace it.
Soon an ageing man appeared from the flower-maze holding scissors and a bunch of gerberas in his hand. His face was patched in cream and brown spots of Leukoderma and he gazed straight ahead at Iris, though not directly into her eyes.
“I am looking for someone… err David Arrow?” she asked checking with a card that she had fished out from her bag. “You’ve found him,” the old man replied, “I am David, pleased to meet you!” and he smiled still gaping towards her face, but not quite into her eyes. His gaze barely moved while he dropped the flowers in a vase nearby, placed the scissors on a table and began walking towards Iris with calculated steps.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
Iris, who had been studying the man closely, understood that he was blind; evident from the way he walked and looked at things with tangential orientation.
“My name is Iris. I’m from the plains. A friend of mine…”
“Iris?” David butted in without letting her complete. “But you smell like Jasmine!”
Iris did not know how to respond to something like that. David stopped a few footsteps away from her, gently sniffing the air around them.
“Definitely jasmine… and from the plains? You must have a wonderful smile,” he remarked and pulled out a flower for her. “Welcome to the mountains, Iris! So you were saying…”
Taking the flower from David’s graceful hands, she replied, “My friend came here a few months back. Camellia. She’s an artist. She came here for a painting project and was supposed to return last month. But she hasn’t and there’s been no word from her either. That’s very unlike her. In one of her letters she had mentioned you and your shop so…”
A smile brushed on David’s face and he turned to approach his desk. Sitting down on his chair he tapped at a fish-bowl on the desk, and a lone goldfish inside the vessel swiveled around in response.
“Camellia! Of course I remember her. What a gentle voice she had! We were a great match. I told her stories and she would draw for me. She spoke of the world beyond us—that’s why I liked her. She was my thousandth one,” David said and continued to play with his goldfish.
Iris went towards the desk and took out a paint-book from her bag.
“These are the paintings she did for me. She would always paint one before leaving for her expeditions so I would not miss her much. But she has never gone so long without a word. I’m worried. Do you know where she is?”
David touched the sketches in the paint-book and smiled.
“Lovely Camellia! She said a special friend would come looking for her. And there you are!”
“I’m really worried”, replied Iris in a heavy voice, “Something rather odd has been happening to her paint-book. With each passing day Camellia’s paintings are mysteriously disappearing. I don’t understand this. Is she alright?”
“Those under a spell are always alright,” David said and tapped at the fish-bowl to call the goldfish closer.
“A magical spell,” he replied, gently scratching the goldfish’s mouth from outside the glass, “She told me I was beautiful. That she saw tiny butterflies on my skin. She even drew my portrait. Here it is,” and he fetched a sketch from under his desk.
Iris looked at the portrait. It was David’s face inhabiting several brown butterflies instead of Leukoderma spots.
“How do I look?” asked David.
Iris did not reply. Her eyes had begun to swell and she could feel a strain of dry saliva choking her throat.
“You don’t have to worry really, dear Iris. She is alright. You’ll find her soon enough. Patience is a virtue all lovers must strive for.”
“You look beautiful,” Iris replied wiping off a tear that had just sprung from her eyes.
“Thanks!” he replied smiling in glee. “There was a time when people called me pretty. They wanted to catch me, but I would trick them. Never fell prey to them, flew and hovered around lovely flowers—carrying secret messages from one to another, until the day I was cursed for my folly.”
“What kind of curse?”
“Cupids are not meant to fall in love. And I fell for my wonderful Lily. At first sight. We knew we were made for each other. Loving her was my folly as I was only carrying a message for her from another flower. I couldn’t do it. Wanted to immerse in her and she wanted to be mine. That’s why we were cursed. I became who I am, destined to grow and take care of flowers until a thousand romances were fulfilled by me.”
There was silence for a while and Iris looked at David’s portrait again. He could really be a butterfly, she thought to herself.
“Your Camellia told me about you two,” David continued. “How the world wouldn’t let you be together. She loves you. I hope you know that.”
“Is there something I can do for you, David?” Iris asked shutting Camellia’s paint-book.
“There is something she wanted you to have”, and he stood up from his seat to leave. However, before entering the flower-maze David turned to Iris and said, “There is a jasmine standing alone in the vase behind you. Why don’t you take a close look at it while I fetch you your gift?”
Iris looked at the petals of the jasmine blooming alone in the glass vase. She felt drawn into the flower. In a few minutes David returned with a bunch of color pencils in his hand. “These are Camellia’s. She left them for you” he said and handed over the pencils to Iris.
Holding the colors close to her heart Iris heaved out a faint sob. David smiled at her with compassion, as though he could see she was crying.
“Draw for her, dear Iris! Draw what you feel for and I’ll leave you alone with your gift.”
Leaving the desk David vanished into the flower-maze again.
Iris opened Camellia’s paint-book and started drawing the jasmine she had just seen. While she stroked each petal of the flower on paper, David plucked new flowers from his garden. And with each flower that he plucked, the sun seemed to turn brighter and the day more intoxicating.
After a while when David returned with a fresh lot of flowers to be put in the maze, he found Iris missing with the paint-book and color pencils. He smiled looking at the jasmine vase and put some water in it. The jasmine in the vase was not alone anymore and had company of an Iris, blooming by its side.
Turning towards his goldfish David said, “It is time, Lily. It is time now for us to be together.”
About the author:
Tushar Madhav is an independent media professional and also teaches film-making to graduate and undergraduate students for a living. Raised in small towns of India, he dreams of bringing the local tales out to the world. Authors like Haruki Murakami and Roald Dahl have inspired him to write, while Quentin Tarantino and Hrishikesh Mukherjee remain his primary guiding lights for cinema. He has written and directed short films and photo-essays in the areas of Child Labor, Education, Sufism and Positivism. He is currently working on a film project which deals with conflict resolution through music. To read more by the author visit his blog: www.etcetcetra.wordpress.com.