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What Some of Us Need
a story by Carol Church

The daisies she ordered haven't come. The man who is supposed to bring them, the one they buy kale and lettuce and garlic from at the farmer's market all winter long, isn't answering her calls. It may be only eight in the morning, but she feels somehow sure that he's already awake and out in his greenhouse, placidly hand-picking bugs from the tomatoes, ignoring her messages. Maybe she would too, she thinks, if she were faced with the sound of her voice.

Somehow, two buttons have come off the back of her dress, and she still hasn't done anything about it. So many buttons, she kept letting herself think, who'll notice just two? Now she sits down on the sofa and looks at the tiny, torn threads, the pair of little white cloth-covered knobs, wondering if she even knows how to repair the damage. The dress's thickly embroidered skirt slumps heavily over and around her lap. It reminds her of a badly trained dog, one who doesn't know he's too big for this kind of thing.

Leif, of course, is still in bed, the covers mercifully drawn over yesterday's raw haircut. Sometimes it's hard for her to even remember that he's there. She has already been out to buy bagels--something she never does. She turns her eyes to the dull light coming through the high windows and wonders if the fog is going to burn off.

Then, she pushes the dress gently aside and goes to the kitchen for a glass of juice. She drinks it with the refrigerator wide-open, one hand on the door. She studies the five corsages that are cooling on the shelf above the cheese drawer, white carnations and green fern. Leif picked them out. Leif was the one who got five, not four.

"At least make a toast to him," her mother had said. "At least thank him. You don't have to be sappy. Just say something about him. He needs to feel special."

"What about you?" she'd asked. "Don't you need to feel special?"

Her mother hesitated. "Some of us need more than others," she said.

There is one dream she still has, sometimes. She and her father are shipwrecked; they wash ashore together on an island that is not a tropical paradise but someplace cold and made of granite with hard sharp cliffs and barely any trees. From the start, her father is angry, wild-eyed, inflamed. He imagines himself to have rivals for her, though the island is deserted except for the two of them. He chases her a lot, and sometimes catches her. When she has this dream, often she wakes up Leif. This is usually because she is kicking at him like an angry child.

"Are you sure you won't do this for me?" her father had asked her, one last time. An odd, guilty smile creased his face; his tone was pleading, beseeching, weirdly cute. "How bad could it be?"

She shook her head, mute.

"The relatives ... it doesn't look right for you to walk up there alone," he tried, weakly.

She looked at him.

"Okay, okay," he said, and shook his head and laughed a laugh that would be scripted just like this: Heh, heh, heh.

She sits at the kitchen table, a once-bitten plain bagel looking up at her from a blue glass plate. Leif is shifting in the bedroom; she knows he'll be awake soon. She allows herself one moment with her head on the table. One cry, choked off into the woven cotton of the placemat.

This is when the doorbell rings; this is when the man covers her stoop with flowers.

"What Some of Us Need" Copyright ©2001 by Carol Church.
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations for the purposes of critical reviews or articles. Educators who wish to print or photocopy in part or whole this story for classroom use, or publishers who wish to include this story in an anthology, should send inquiries by email to the author. Inquiries by mail may be sent to: Carol Church, c/o collectedstories.com, Columbia U. Station, P.O. Box 250626, New York, NY 10025.
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