“What Lies at the Edge of a Petal Is Love” began with a dream. For a while, I was writing dream stories, such as this one and “How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth.” It hasn’t happened lately. Maybe my sleep habits have changed. The stories just seemed full-formed–but odd. Vanilla scent was vivid in the dream, for some reason.
“After the wedding, Ruth moved into the Victorian mansion on Jack’s vast, rural estate. She brought only two bags. One was full of clothes. The other she unpacked like a devotee arranging an altar: an assortment of vanilla-scented lotions, deodorants, soaps, moisturizers, scrubs and splashes.
Every morning, Jack watched Ruth stand by the pedestal sink in her white silk robe: rubbing, dabbing, spraying, powdering, and anointing. When she emerged, he took her hand and inhaled her from soft wrist to slender shoulders.
Jack had met Ruth only two months earlier, during his obligatory annual visit to his relatives in the city. Ruth was also visiting the city, on doctor’s orders; she suffered from a pair of charmingly old-fashioned diseases, malaise and neurasthenia. Her physician believed they might be cured by exposure to the warm southern climate, so Ruth’s mother, an old family friend, had arranged for an extended stay with Jack’s aunts.
Both Ruth and Jack felt out of place in high society, never sure which fork to use and whether or not it was polite to dab one’s face with a napkin between courses. “Being a person is so much work,” Ruth confided. Jack was forced to agree. He fell in love with her slender paleness like the stalk of an exotic plant; with the way drops of water lingered in her hair after she swam in the lake, like dew; and, of course, with her exquisite vanilla scent.”
It was an honor to appear in the first issue of The Dark and to be listed on Locus recommended reading list, 2013. The title nods to William Carlos William’s 1923 “Spring and All:” It is at the edge of the / petal that love waits.