Afflictions: Part Thirty Four

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Paul sat alone in his room, holding his breath for as long as he could, in an effort to build up his endurance. He wasn’t sure if he’d actually end up under water, but based on the visions he’d been having he gave it a 40% chance. The DSR was still working on getting the paperwork filed to approve his request, so he really didn’t have anything better to do than prepare for the hypothetical situation in which he had to swim, and hold his breath until he could work out which way is up. Ideally he’d be able to see light to navigate, but he couldn’t be certain.

Paul’s important training was interrupted by a knock at the door. He actually wasn’t expecting this, so he was a bit confused for a moment as to how to react.

“Come in…?” He answered.

“Paul, are you doing anything today?” Deven asked. His tone seemed a little excited.

He thought for a moment. The DSR definitely wouldn’t approve his request today, and the vision was fixed, so he didn’t see any sense in waiting around. “Nothing too critical, why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if you could come with me to something.” He hesitated.

“What’s the thing?”

“I entered in a flower contest…” He mumbled. “The judging is today.”

“Oh okay.” Paul nodded, relieved. “I thought you were about to ask me to do something weird or hard. Not sure why you want me there, since flowers are more of a visual thing, but I don’t mind.”

“I just thought you’d like to go out, and you might like it.” Deven replied.

“You do have a point… I do like a good reason to go out.” He nodded. He wasn’t the most sensitive individual, but even he recognized the significance of Deven asking to go out with him. “Alright, give me a minute to get ready, then we can go.”

Paul changed out of his clothes that he’d been wearing for an indeterminate length of time, and into something vaguely clean and decent. Once he was ready, he met Deven in the living room, and the pair made their way to the bus stop. It was a pretty decent fall day. The sun was out, but a breeze was blowing just hard enough to keep it slightly warm. They rode the bus for about a half hour, before arriving at their destination.

Based on the noise level, Paul assumed that it wasn’t a huge ordeal. It at least wasn’t taking place at a convention center or anything. It smelled of air freshener, with a hint of perfume.

A few moments after they entered, a woman approached them. “Good luck Deven! I think yours looks the best.”

“Thank you Mrs. Dobbs.” Deven replied, stifling a happy giggle. Once the woman had walked away, he turned to Paul. “I don’t think I’m going to win. Mine’s pretty simple. Some of these are very pretty.

“Well what does yours look like? Can you describe it to me?”

Deven led him over to what was presumably his arrangement. “Well it’s not too much. I’ve got a bunch of different color roses… Red, white, and pink. I spread them out pretty even, and then put some lemon leaf, which is just kinda big green leaves, around the bottom.”

“Oh wow.” Paul nodded. “That’s pretty cool. I don’t think I’d have the sense to do that kind of thing even if I could see.”

“This is pretty basic compared to some of these other ones…” Deven led Paul a few feet over. “This one’s really cool. It’s not even in a vase, it’s on some kind of a plate thing. It’s a few shoots of bamboo, but its got a base of small white flowers around it. There’s a dendrobium orchid, that’s just a tall purple one that has petals going up the whole way, and it’s running around and through the bamboo.”

“Oh wow, that sounds cool.” Paul replied. “I thought flower arranging was a bit more narrow, but I guess you really could do a lot with it. Using bamboo on a plate sounds really cool.”

Deven laughed, and proceeded to pull Paul around the shop, describing all the arrangements. Paul was a little bit sad that he wasn’t able to see any of these himself, but he really felt like just going to see these with Deven wouldn’t have properly captured his excitement. He described the plants really vividly, and with such an excitement. He’d really almost forgotten what fun could feel like, after obsessing over his visions for so long. He was relieved to have some time where everything wasn’t going wrong, and he didn’t have to worry about the future.

After about ten minutes or so, Deven had finally described all the arrangements. Paul could sense a little bit of a crowd gathering around them, as Deven gave his tour, but he didn’t really mind. They finished going through all the entries just in time for the results to be announced. Everyone got quiet and directed their attention in a singular direction.

“Alright, everyone. This seems a fitting time to announce the results. I’m glad to have you here, both old-timers and newcomers.” An older sounding lady began to speak. “Today we’re giving out a first place and a runner up. Even though you won’t all get an award, I want you to know that I appreciated every entry, and think they’re all quite lovely.

“In first place…” The woman paused for emphasis, and Paul felt his heart rate accelerate. “Yuki Tanaka, with the bamboo arrangement, congratulations.”

The crowd of people quietly politely applauded, and Yuki collected her reward.

“Runner up…” The woman again paused, and Paul’s anxiety increased even more. He felt pretty sure he didn’t need to worry about Deven throwing a tantrum, but the possibility still existed. Based on Deven’s descriptions, it felt like his was one of the least visually impressive, but that didn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t get an award, depending on how they judged.

“Evelyn Douglass, with the hydrangea arrangement, congratulations.” The shop politely applauded, as Evelyn collected the runner’s up award. Deven seemed to take it fine, and Paul could hear the clanking of his hands as he clapped.

The crowd began to spread around the shop, and Paul heard someone approaching again. “Little bit of a bummer, but next time you’ve got it. We all loved your tour.” Mrs. Dobbs said.

“I’m not too worried about winning.” Deven replied. “I learned a lot this time, and I got to take my friend with me.” Paul felt a heavy metal hand on his shoulder.

“You’re too sweet…” Mrs. Dobbs laughed. “Thank you for joining us, you two. I hope you’ll come again!”

Paul nodded politely and smiled, then followed Deven out of the store.

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Pretty good week, until the part where it’s saturday and I feel sick.

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