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LITERARY STYLE INSPIRATION: THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN

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ROLLING WITH JAMES JOYCE ON AN IRISH HILL

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ODE TO THE BOOKISH GIRLS

The flower hoarder

story flower hoarder

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“They talk about the flower hoarder, the ones drowning in lilies…”

Sitting on the benches of the piazza on nights that come with dreary weather, the villagers always start their story by saying they have forgotten the last time they saw her step foot out of her house. She is the children’s first encounter with terror when the women donning haute couture dresses, and the men in their suits and boots, would tell them that she is a ghost. I hear them whispering about how she’s drowning in lilies and roses, while they wait for her to be carried out by her servants on a bed of leaves to be buried in the garden.

I remember the first time I was led to the drawing room by her butler — an old man who looked as old as time. I had worn a short floral dress, just in case, and heels, since I had once heard the woman who hid her smiles with her scarves saying that the woman wore heels even to bed. There was a layer of petals covering every inch of the room — there were roses on marble tops, lilies encompassing arm chairs and hoards of tulips resting on old furniture; gerberas dying on the wooden floor, peonies instead of a flame in the fireplace and carnations on every candlestick in sight. I stood on the embroidered carpet centering the room and cursed myself for not having come here sooner.

“So you finally showed up Madeliene.”

Despite having been closed in here for an immeasurable time, she was young, with defiant eyes and pale cheeks that stood out with the darkness of her black hair. She came towards me in her short dress and heels and gestured for me to sit down on the sofa.

The story of the flower hoarder

I had worn a short floral dress, just in case…

“It would have taken me longer if you had asked me to come.”

“I know, so, are there any stories for me?”

“I don’t know of any stories — I could tell you what’s been going on in the village.”

A maid, who looked older than the butler, roamed around us, and removing vases brimming with peonies from the piles of hardbacks near the velvet sofa, she placed a glass teapot of rose tea instead. Her face was heavy with wrinkles and her bones prayed for eternal rest.

“If you must Madeliene.”

I spent some time telling her what the villagers were up to. I told her women wore haute couture now, to buy bread and milk, and the men were donning hats again and fighting duals in the street when one was required. I told her people were breaking into song during conversations and that some of us had taken up dining in the woods under chandeliers.

I stayed there for a while, sipping tea and recounting. She merely nodded and mumbled a few things but nothing else, while holding one of the peonies and rocking slightly on the sofa. I knew I would come back to see her once I left. She would always be kind to me, despite having a temper with everyone else.

Story credits: Vogue; Giambattista Valli; Moda Operandi; Giuseppe Zanotti; Farfetch; Gianvito Rossi; Peter Pilotto.

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