'Queen of the Night' by Nicki Blake
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection Flash Fiction 'Queen of the Night' by Nicki Blake
'Queen of the Night'
The porch chair creaks as I sit. I have swollen this summer - face, fingers, ankles, belly. I sweat through my dress and my thighs stick to the plastic seat. The cooling breeze I hoped for hasn’t arrived. Hours past sunset and the veranda’s concrete floor is still too hot for my bare feet.
The cactus beside me is named for the time it blooms - Queen of the Night. It sprouts from a hanging plant-pot, snaking leaves tipped with two fat white buds. I think they will open tonight. The darkness and stillness are foreboding. I understand now why we often imagine birth as something that occurs at night. Pregnancy has made me sensitive to anticipation.
As I wait and watch, the larger bud unfurls into a creamy rosette which exhales rich perfume. The first of the moths appears soon after. Lured by the flower’s fragrance, the big brown insect bobs like a conker on a string before perching on the petals and uncurling a long tongue into the yellow stamens.
The car pulling into the driveway distracts me from the moth’s activity. The door opens and he gets out, walking up the garden path with a jaunty energy, an energy which drains away when he spots me. I imagine how I must look - face round, wide, pale as the unfurling blossom. His eyes drop to the path, to the veranda steps. His shoulders slump. As he passes me in silence, he trails a sweet perfume which overwhelms the scent of the cactus flower. The door bangs shut behind him.
Feeling even heavier now, I return my gaze to the cactus. I notice the moth, having taken what it can from the full bloom, is now hovering by the next opening bud.