Writing exercise

not T's card, but the same scene, basically
T sent me a postcard from England:  On the front is a photo from Polesden Lacey in Surrey,  picturing a charming Venetian well-head in the rose garden.

On the back:
write a short story 1000-5000 words (or longer) incorporating
1. the scene on this postcard
2. an adventurer/traveler
2 a quote from John Donne:
For love all love of other sites controls.
And makes one little room an everywhere. 

My answer is after the jump.

Toni's Card Prompt (this is not a romance, that's for sure)

The sky remained a clear and endless blue during their second visit to Surrey. Phillipa rather wished the rain was pouring down so she could retreat to the library and read. Instead, Simon had insisted they take this stroll through the garden. Almost at once they began to bicker. Again.

This squabble--the very last one, she suddenly knew--was her fault. Simon liked to recite poetry when he felt sentimental and he’d just finished with a couplet from Donne. She ought to have given an appreciative sigh but instead she said, “What does a little room have to do with this? It’s a garden.”

She leaned close to a blossom and gave a worried sniff. Not that it had any scent. The modern craze for form and beauty had left scent behind. She straightened and gazed out over the flowers. “And the roses have some sort of blight, I’m afraid.”

“You have no poetry in your soul,” he scolded. “How can anyone feel anything but pure joy at this sight? Have you ever seen such blossoms?”

“Yes, I have seen better here, Simon. They were so much healthier last year, and I wish I could figure out what has hit the garden this year.”

“It isn’t your concern and I’m certain the National Trust will have the problem well in hand soon. Shall we finish our tour?”

“No.” She stopped in the middle of the pale roses, near the well-head.  “No, I’m afraid I’d rather not, Simon.”

“What has ruffled your feathers, Philley-bird?”

That infinitely annoying nick-name. “I am not a bird and I have no feathers and--”

“Ah, ah! More proof you have no poetry and--”

“None. You’re right about that.” She pulled in a deep breath and before she could think too hard she continued, “And I think it best if we part ways.”

“All right. Fine," he said with weary patience. "I’ll see you back at the hotel for tea.”

“No, you don’t understand. I mean part ways permanently.”

Simon took a step back as if she’d shoved him. For some reason she had imagined he’d simply nod and agree. There seemed to be real pain on his handsome, angular face. For a moment she remembered why she’d fallen in love with him a year earlier. Stay the course, she warned herself. Something deep and reckless had been uncovered inside her over the last few minutes and it must be allowed to sweep through her life. She’d clean up and reassemble what she could when she returned home. Alone.

He cleared his throat the way he always did when angry. That was good. The anguish in his blue eyes had been replaced by anger.  “Philley, you’re right. I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I, but I am sorry. I doubt that helps, Simon. But I’m done. That’s all.”
He folded his arms over his carefully ironed button-down shirt and stared at her. “You’ve never done anything like this before.”

“No,” she agreed.

“I mean with any man. You’ve never dumped a man before. Why am I so lucky?”

She was rather shocked he knew this about her. She’d told him, of course, but she hadn’t supposed he’d been paying attention when she said that men always had walked away from her. She shifted from foot to foot, remembering the pain she’d felt when Charlie had left her. The year-long mourning after Johan blighted her life rather like the fungus had hit these blossoms. Her thoughts strayed to the flowers again. Could it be some sort of rust?

“Phillipa. I love you.”

That phrase had never been uttered between them. She held back her snort. “No you don’t.  You just don’t want me to take off.” Like a Philley-bird she thought and imagined it gawky, long-legged and red-haired like herself. Rather like an ugly flamingo. See, she almost told him, I am capable of flights of fancy.

“I love you,” he said and the indignation had drained from him again. She wished it would come back.

She concentrated on the roses and tried to ignore the fact that instead of walking away, he moved closer to her, so close she could smell the cheap scent of the hotel soap on his skin.

“I love you and perhaps I didn’t say anything because I hadn’t known how much until this minute.” A little louder he said, “I wish you’d look at me. Really look at me.”

She supposed it wouldn’t hurt to obey him on last time, and she looked at the cut he’d made on his cheek that morning had a little scab. His patrician nose would soon have hair growing out of it, like his father and he already laughed like the old man. His eyes would go blurry and his hair gray, so the lovely contrast of dark hair and blue eyes would be lost.

She looked at his neck with the visible adam’s apple that had once fascinated and attracted her and now made her wonder how he could possibly swallow.
“I’m sorry,” she said.

He ran a hand through his thinning dark hair and shook his head. Without another word, he turned and walked away swiftly, no doubt fighting the urge to look back and see if she watched.

She did watch, of course. Simon never looked back at her and she felt a sudden surge of affection at his strength, at the way he strode along the grassy paths, surefooted, upright and brave, facing forward. Perhaps she might give it another chance. . . But first she wanted to pluck a few petals on the sly and take them with her to the library to see if she could identify the blight that had hit the roses.


  1. Ahhhh...complicated, complicated.


  2. thanks! (I think?)

  3. Anonymous6:10 AM

    Typo in the John Donne quote:

    sites -> sights

    I hope I didn't write that wrong in the postcard.


  4. Nope, you didn't get it wrong. I just didn't have you proof it first.

  5. Anonymous9:46 AM

    ok, that's a relief. As long as it wasn't my flub. Toni

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