The Scent of Orange Blossoms

The room was dark, the curtains drawn against the world that mocks. Athlem felt like a child again, careful with each step as she approached the shadowed bed, her progress hindered by the air solid with the stench of medicine and regret.

“Mother.”

‘Tis a warning, not a greeting, for what remained of the woman constituted all company invasion, including that of her own child. Still, her frailty confined her within her fortress of quilts and solitude, half-blind, half-deaf, and altogether unintelligible. So carefully did Athlem approach, tried the limits at the bedstead, stayed there.

“Aunt said you felt better this morning,” She spoke to memory and dust. “Perhaps it’s because it’s spring? The…orange blossoms are here again, mother. I brought some for you.”

Can you smell it? Athlem only dared to look upon the woman now, whose blank gaze fell beyond her to fixate on a shadow on the corner of the room. Can she smell the gentle beckoning of the orange blossoms on the cusp of spring, that same season, that same scent burnt into her memory when she stood by the gate that day, dressed in her best tunic for a play unattended, coated in the dark scarlet of her parents’ blood?

She just stared, stared beyond remorse and muttered something about porridge and full moons. So she left the arrangement of orange branches in the vase upon the bedstead.

“Thalem.”

She paused, dispersed the thoughts of playing a ghost, “Good day, mother” and left the room.

The woman didn’t shift her eyes away from the shadowed corner, lips moving to find the name just pronounced, mind meandering to find the significance of it.

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