Neighbors' Noise - Part 3

"From Flora" (Short Story Title)

Flora buzzed the doorbell a third time and looked up at Mrs. Savellini’s three-story home. The roof sloped down over broad windows dressed with curtains that used to be gold, but now were faded. Evette Savellini’s house shared a wall with the bakery, and the bakery shared a wall with Flora’s apartment building. Three buildings, sandwiched together, sat on Alexander Street, and Mrs. Savellini was the proud owner and landlord.

“I never really apologized,” Flora said as soon as Mrs. Savellini opened the door.

“Words mean nothing to me,” said Mrs. Savellini, shaking her wispy, white bob. “You shoveled the snow as requested. Late, but you completed the task.”

Flora cradled a narrow cardboard box in her arms. She wore a thick, beige sweater and matching earmuffs, but no gloves, and her hands were pink from the cold. “We didn’t start on the best foot, did we?”

“You failed to be prompt. And you chose to begin the day with forgetfulness, or laziness...whatever you young people want to call it,” said Mrs. Savellini.

“I know. I mean before that. From the first day we met,” said Flora.

“Flora, why are you here in this city, renting the apartment in my building?”

“I’m still figuring that out. But here, I brought you this.” Flora handed her the box.

Mrs. Savellini peeked in and saw a striped purple orchid planted in a glossy, red ceramic pot. The bloom hung from a thin stalk as frail as the old woman herself. “Oh my, what a beauty. I should get this out of the cold.”

“You’ll want to put it in a window for sunlight.”

“Of course. Yes. And thank you.” She turned, as if she meant to go, but then said, “Flora, we are more alike than I want to admit,” she said.

Flora laughed and her posture relaxed. “So, we can be friends, not enemies? Even though you almost slipped and broke your hip on the icy sidewalk?”

“I assumed the worst of you,” said Mrs. Savellini, as her hardened, wrinkled face softened. “And people always assume the worst of me.”

“Humans do that to each other.”

“I know, isn’t it awful?”

“Being that we’re all made in God’s image, yes, it is awful,” Flora said. “The orchid is for a fresh start.”

“Fresh start, you say? Then you’ll assume better of me than I deserve? I misjudged you, Flora. I admit, I haven’t liked you. Thought you were just plain selfish. I was wrong.”

“Oh, but I am selfish. I won’t pretend I’m not. Everyone struggles with this.”

“Flora, I just redeemed my opinion of your character. Now you’re arguing with me?”

“Redeemed? But, oh Mrs. Savellini, it’s God himself who redeemed us, through the person of Jesus Christ. And good thing, too, because I can be sweet and smart, but I can be inconsiderate and think only of myself sometimes.”

“Well, that’s quite a lot of words,” interrupted Mrs. Savellini. “Indeed. No one’s perfect.” She moved to close the door, but Mario, her poodle, blocked the way.

“I’d like to be generous toward you, Mrs. Savellini, and not think only of myself,” said Flora.

Mrs. Savellini blotted her nose with a handkerchief. The cold air had set it to dripping. She opened the door a bit wider and Mario squeezed out. He jumped up at Flora’s legs, and his claws snagged her leggings. “Aw, what a sweet little cutie,” she said, bending to pet the wriggling poodle at her feet.

“I should get this orchid inside,” said Mrs. Savellini. She signaled to Mario with a sharp whistle, and the dog bounded back into the house. “Come to think of it, Flora, why don’t you plant a garden in the yard we share? When spring arrives, you pick out flowers, vegetables, whatever you’d like. Then you can keep the discounted rent we agreed upon.”

“That’s a gracious fresh start. And I do love plants,” said Flora.

“Yes, I guessed so,” said Mrs. Savellini. “And I do, too. So there, that’s something we have in common.”

Writing Prompt: Characters can annoy us with their shortcomings, but we do have to like them (or empathize with them) if we are going to spend time writing their stories. Go back and look at a story you wrote. Perhaps you began one with last week's writing prompt from the short story "The Catalog." Revise your characters into people you want to cheer for as you commit to writing about them. Why are they in the story? Do they remind you of yourself or someone you know? Many writers use bits and pieces of characteristics from people they know in real life to create fictional personalities.

26 views