Among the Begonias (Andrew Bertaina)

She planted her husband amongst the begonias, beneath a timid willow, which had never wept as she’d hoped. Life is full of such grand hopes though or so she once thought. He’d left her ages ago, for a woman from the small farmland near Provence. It was all the rage then or perhaps now, men leaving their wives for pretty students. The second wives were little markers of status, when the men had failed at everything else, career, sports, the stock market. 

He’d written her letters then, telling her of the great unfolding of lavender flowers, of the bees humming, and the way the light fell in France, which she suspected fell just the same as it fell in the attic of their old house. But she didn’t say so. He was always talking, always justifying. Men were like that. 

When the second marriage had ended, she’d just settled into her quiet life. She watched reruns of Murder She Wrote and joined a bridge club. She’d always thought of bridge as a game for old women, and it was, and thank God she was old now and could enjoy it. Life had a steady rhythm, like those bees among the flowers in Provence. 

The truth is, she didn’t want him back, but who wants anything they come by in life? It was all some bizarre accident. So, she said she’d have to think on it, but really she’d just watched The Golden Girls and laughed at Blanche and thought about how wonderful Betty White had been. 

She was surprised then when she heard the rapping at her door. He’d left a small package, and when she opened it, a large plastic bubble wrap. When she’d opened it, she found a small bulb, which, when looked at through a microscope, contained the tiny replica of her husband. The package said the plant needed to be watered three times a day and given good fertilizer. 

She thought about the bulb, about the long years they’d spent together, and then she planted him amongst the begonias. Inside, she started to fret over the fertilizer, carrying bag after bag to the back of her car, wondered if she’d be able to travel to England to visit their daughter in a month. It was all so stressful. This tending to a newly planted husband. 

She drank a glass of wine to calm her nerves and sat on the front porch, birds scattered air, beetles among the cracks, the faint baying of a dog. She stopped herself with a laugh. She’d given enough. The damn thing would grow or it wouldn’t. 

She went inside and called her daughter. The woman was really interested in Kew Gardens, she couldn’t wait to see the way the light fell along the Thames, the way she wouldn’t have anyone to tell her how it reminded them of Provence. 


Andrew Bertaina‘s short story collection One Person Away From You (2021) won the Moon City Press Fiction Award (2020).  His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Witness Magazine, The Normal School, Orion, and The Best American Poetry. He has an MFA from American University in Washington, DC. His work is available at


image: MM Kaufman