THE PURPLE CHRYSANTHEMUM
Cold winter days always brought solace to Jolly. She loved crisp mornings, goosebumps on her skin and shiver that had never bothered her. Instead, it brought her some pleasant joy.
Jolly was a widow, but the happy widow. Her poor parents had married her to a much older English man who was not only wealthy but mean and ugly. Beautiful, young, blonde and tall Jolly was a perfect mismatch to the fat, old and wrinkled Mr. Peterson. He had properties all around France and preferred living abroad than in cold England. Luckily, he died of stroke when Jolly was only twenty, after a year of the unfortunate marriage. Jolly inherited all his wealth but she didn't care much about it. Most of the it she gave to the charity institutions, orphanages, institutions for victims of domestic violence and maltreated children. She sold the huge house in the center of Paris and moved to the small farm house in the countryside. The house was just ruins with beautiful purple chrysanthemums around, but she renovated it. And the new house was a magnificent little haven that breathed with life and love. Jolly enjoyed taking care of her animals, her little garden and orchard, and she had never been happier than in that small house with so many animals and plants around. The big oak tree and the purple chrysanthemums under it were her favorite sight. She looked at them, the old giant and the fragile beauties and admired their gracefulness.
Two young boys, Philip and Nico, as well as a lovely elderly lady, Mrs. Daban, helped her run the farm. Life on the farm was absolutely everything she wanted. Peaceful, uncontaminated, fresh, jovial and untroubled.Far from the city's noise, traffic, hustle and bustle. Not a day passed in boredom, and all the creatures and people who lived on the farm showed the gratitude and appreciation for everything they had. Dogs wagged their tails happily, cows mooed occasionally, chickens ran around looking for some seeds and grains and cats soaked up the sun on the porch lazily. Smiles and laughter spread all along the farm and happy animals as well as colorful plants and fruits made this place special. Jolly couldn't wish for more.
As the years went by, Jolly started noticing that her skin was getting whiter and, in summertime, when the sun warmed the air and the hot breeze dried the soil, she couldn't breathe properly. The sun and heat started bothering her. She still loved them, but they didn't seem to love her back. That was what she thought. The sun rays burned her skin which became as red as a beetroot and she felt dizzy and weak. She had to hide inside the house or in the shade of the old oak tree and during those hours, she was not able to work. Some strange intolerance to warm weather possessed her body and she couldn't do anything but surrender.
During summer, Jolly felt useless and idle. She was not able to enjoy her own farm and everything on it. Mrs. Daban comforted her telling her that she should not worry and that everything was running well. And she begged Jolly to see a doctor. But Jolly refused. She honestly hoped that the next summer she would be normal and start afresh and her body and the sun would hug each other again.
But every new summer she felt worse and worse. Her condition deteriorated and her breathing became frail. Every time it was sunny outside and she went to the garden, her heart beat harder in her chest as if it had been trapped and pressed by lead or iron, and she thought she would suffocate. She wondered what had happened to her and if she had caught some terminal disease. But seeing the doctor was out of the question.She was terrified of finding out what was wrong with her. And she preferred living in oblivion and hoping that she would get better than hearing bad news.
One spring day, when the sun shone brighter than any other previous day that year, Jolly's breathing became heavier than ever. She couldn't walk, she couldn't call for help. Her voice let her down. She just lay in her bed, closed her eyes and peacefully and obediently let her body fall into a deep sleep and irrevocable rest.
A couple of hours later, Mrs. Daban found her unmoving body that seemed so calm and at peace. The tears fell down Mrs. Daban's wrinkled face and her heart ached. But she knew that Jolly had led the life she had wanted and that she had enjoyed every moment of it. Dying young seemed cruel and unfair but for someone like Jolly who had seemed happy with whatever life had brought her, it was probably just a normal life cycle.
They buried her under the old oak tree. It had been Jolly's favorite place and she had loved sitting there and reading. The purple chrysanthemums were making her company.
In less than a year, the bright purple chrysanthemum started growing and blossoming there. It was the most beautiful chrysanthemum Mrs. Daban had ever seen. It was bright and sparkling in the sun. No one planted it there. It just appeared unexpectedly and surprisingly. Mrs. Daban admired its delicate petals and often touched them feeling their fine texture on her skin. The chrysanthemum reminded her of Jolly. It was beautiful, calm and fragile. Mrs. Daban didn't know if it would resist bad weather but she promised herself to look after it as long as she was alive.