The traveler wandered wearily through the alley. The steps were a subtle blue, as if the sky had splattered itself onto the stone. Each step adorned itself with pots of marigolds and herbs alike. He paused and smiled, closing his eyes in silent reverie. The aroma of spice tickled his nose as he inhaled the fragrance of the culture.
Behind him, a muffled reprimand, and he spun around in curiosity and unease. It was a man who shooed out a cat screeching in apology.
“Breaking my precious vases again, you ungrateful cat! I’ll see if you come back again!”
The traveler smiled in sympathy. He too had broken a cherished vase long ago. As if sensing this camaraderie, the cat gazed at him with bright eyes and slowly trotted toward him, mewing. Our traveler smiled, acknowledging the cat but offering no encouragement. He turned his smile from the scene and continued on his journey with a nostalgic heart and lighter foot than before. He lovingly admired the flora and determined that the people of this land loved their nature above all else.
As the sun dipped across the horizon and let the silky drape of evening fall, he came upon a house and knocked wearily, the cat still nipping at his feet. The melody of bells signified her coming. The door opened to reveal a young woman who ushered him in. The cat mewed as if seeking attention and was promptly let in after a few words by the traveler. He walked to a makeshift bed in the corner, where lay a wrinkled woman, young by the corners of her eyes and the sweetness of her smile.
“Please, son, take care of the flowers.”
Her voice, worn by age but silky enough from years of speaking love, faded into a whisper. The traveler smiled softly with his eyes and knelt down, taking her hand and pressing his forehead to it.
That night the cat returned alone. Firelight emanated through an open window adorned with a cracked vase. She purred when a garden-worn hand stroked her fur.
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Learn more about the contest which inspired this story: Photo Flora 2019-01