A Perfect Bloom 38 – Alex Ankarr
“You were only teasing me,” Cory finishes for him, with a wide grin. “Didn’t I know it, too. Okay, when you caught me re-purposing my own flowers,” he corrects, “and you very kindly stopped me from bleeding to death out in the grounds…”
Sam gives a snort at that. But he doesn’t quibble with Cory’s description of events, not more than giving him a side-eyed slight grin that makes fun of Cory’s hyperbole all by itself. It’s a pleasure, being made fun of in that tacit way by Sam, and it emboldens Cory to continue. “Bleeding to death,” he repeats emphatically, with a grin of his own. “Well. I think I mentioned to you at the time, that I was taking a sample, to help me investigate the mysterious appearance of another flower. In my own office, as it happens. On my desk. Just this last Monday morning. No note, no identification, and nobody putting their hand up to having put a flower there. Fascinating mystery, isn’t it, Sam? It would make anybody curious, don’t you think?”
The twisting smile that Sam is trying to keep off his face is quite admission enough for certainty, as far as Cory is concerned. But he manages to fight it off, and to raise an eyebrow in as good an approximation of innocence as can be expected, given the circumstances. Quite creditable, really. There’s a little pause, while Cory waits for Sam to comment, to crack, to give way under this pressure. Of course, he doesn’t. He only puts a politely enquiring look on his face instead. It’s all but a dare for Cory to suggest anything, impute anything, to go on.
So Cory goes on – with a very dry note in his voice. In the warmth of the very late summer sun, and in the enclosed, maybe twenty foot by twenty foot middle of the maze, surrounded by greenery, it’s like they have their own little private enclosure, as if no-one else is ever going to find them. Maybe it’s just an illusion, but it’s comforting, and Cory sure likes the feeling of being secluded away from everything. With Sam.
“So, that was the first curious… incident,” he says. And he takes a step, or two, very casually – not to bring him up face to face with Sam. But, as he swivels round to face in the same direction, he’s standing side by side with him, both of them looking over the long lush green valley, beyond the hedges of the maze, that the company grounds – here in the central branch, the headquarters – stands in. Sam doesn’t give any outer sign that he notices, or is aware of, the realignment. But somehow, Cory can feel the stillness, stiffening, the awareness in the lines of his body, even so. He’s noticed.
Cory doesn’t make like he’s realised that, though – he just carries on like nothing’s happened, quite blasé. This is possibly the most savoir faire he’s ever managed to achieve with another person. He doesn’t even know where it’s coming from. “Then there’s the Tuesday,” he says, coming forward a little, leaning one knee on the wall of the lily pond to stare down into the dark cavernous depths of it, where koi carp lurk, swinging suddenly, orangely, up from the depths to nip at flies and fingers that trail in the water, to disturb the round calm flat plates of the green lily leaves and their waxily scent-dense blooms. And Cory is staring down at it, letting a koi nibble at his fingers as he trails them, as he says, “Tuesday – and this is a mystery too, wait ’til you hear it – I got a gift of a cupcake. Did you ever hear the like of that?”
© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014
No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.
Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra (https://www.flickr.com/photos/21185968@N00/3428731883/in/photolist-6dZ9wX-6e1HhW) via a Creative Commons licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode), book cover modifications made.