The Scent of Daffodils

The Scent of Daffodils
The dawning moment:

Your wife, Blanche, puts the vase of daffodils on the breakfast table between you and Ethan. On either side, two bowls of cut pineapple and blood orange. You scratch the corner of your mouth as red oozes into sunny yellow.

“It’s good for you,” Blanche says. “Ethan is eating it.”

Your son pinches a red segment, drops it onto his tongue, and you catch a whiff of the flowers. The vase is an empty gin bottle that plucks at the blur of a memory, of that last family get-together when Blanche stood barefoot in your garden. You had just told her it was her fault Ethan wasn’t sleeping (she lets him watch too much TV), her fault he was failing PE (not enough protein in his meals). Ever the diplomat, your sister took the children for late-night donuts, while her husband, Paul, stood beside your wife, tall and reedlike with his fingertips grazing the space between her shoulders, the light from the house reflected in the bottle, in the blonde of his hair.

Just then, you decide daffodils don’t smell too good—a ghostly, phlegmy scent. A drop of red juice falls down your son’s chin as he watches cartoons on “that tablet.” He wipes it away with a long, slender arm, unlike your burly, stubby ones, and you squint at the golden sparkle in his lashes, realise you’ve seen the jut of that jaw elsewhere, his little cowlick before—before your brother-in-law grew his hair out, before he held your wife in your own wilting garden.


To confront your suspicions, go to paragraph 4.


To trust this is just paranoia and finish breakfast with your family, go to paragraph 5.


4. You pick up the gin bottle and throw it against the wall. A waterfall of glass and yellow flowers. Your son cries. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Blanche shouts, dabbing Ethan’s tears away with her sleeve. “Get out of here right now, you horrible bastard!” Your life dulls to black and white; you crave fresh fruit in the mornings. You don’t see your wife or Ethan again, not even on alternate weekends, or your sister and her devoted husband. Instead, you sink into the sag of your friend’s couch, bottles swamped around you, and you begin to think, as the room shrinks to an image of your son on your phone, those are your cheekbones, those could easily be your wild and troubled eyes.


5. The daffodils stay in their vase. You get up from the breakfast table and ruffle your son’s hair with a smile, walk over to Blanche and kiss her on the shoulder, stroke her lotion-soft arm. Life continues but with more light. You take time off work; you compliment your wife’s blow-dry and camellia-pink lipstick. You read books with Ethan on insects and birds and mountain adventures. Until one day your assistant returns to the office from a Starbucks run, tells you they bumped into Blanche buying macchiatos with her brother. But your wife doesn’t have a brother. Pulse doubling, you ask, “What colour was his hair?” Your assistant scrunches their nose. “Er, kind of dark blonde. Why?” Your mouth fills with gluey spit. “That man is tall,” she laughs, cheeks prickling, and hands you a black americano. The bitter steam hits your nose like a handful of soil. And you’re out the door, knocking over the popcorn cart you bought to boost staff morale, and in your car with the engine firing before your assistant can finish. Before they can say, “I almost didn’t see his wife standing behind him. That’s how tall that man is.”


About the Author

Catherine Roberts lives and writes in the UK. She has work published/forthcoming in Flash Frog, trampset, Emerge Literary Journal, and New Flash Fiction Review—among other places. Her stories have been nominated for Best Small Fictions and shortlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Find her on Twitter/X: @CRobertsWriter


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash