The bud appeared incongruous among the piles of drifting leaves; an autumn afterthought on a bush marked by bare branches and blighted stems. Its arrival was unexpected, unwanted even, in a season when roses are expected to relinquish the stage to displays of vibrant mums and orange pumpkins. The unseasonable warmth of the day had convinced the bloom to open, until it relaxed into ever widening spirals of wedding dress white.
Meghan wondered how long the flower would live. The present warm spell would soon be supplanted by frosty winds. The mercury would slide ever lower, and then the petals would fall from the stem to become part of the detritus littering the ground. She considered clipping the flower and taking it home to press between the pages of her heaviest book. The winsome delicacy of the flower petals would be lost, but its substance would be preserved for years to come.
Her mind rebelled at the thought. It was the fleeting nature of its beauty that defined its allure to her. She felt it better to let the flower flourish – even if only for a single day — than to imprison it forever in faded imitation of its former charm.
A time for every moment under heaven, she thought to herself, and it was then that she realized there could be only one answer to John’s question.
“No,” she breathed in his ear, “but I think you already knew that.”