Alone, Sammy sniffled and ran the tip of his tongue over the swollen spot, just below his bottom lip, where the hairs had been torn out. His gray eyes became unfocused and he sat cross-legged on the tiles for several minutes, staring at nothing.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Slowly he came back to himself and looked around.
“Who’s there?” Not hearing a reply, he peeked under the bed and saw only the long box holding his clothes. Pushing to his feet, he walked even with the foot board and waited.
His head turned toward the window. When the thumping came again, he raised an eyebrow at the earth-toned blinds that were still drawn. Holding the ties of his gown, he walked over and pulled at the cord, raising the thick slats until the faces of the sunflowers outside were visible. Two of the quintet were taking it in turn to fall forward onto the glass, each strike producing a dull thump. Tilting his head a little to the side, he watched them for a few seconds, then raised his fist and banged on the glass, startling the two performers.
“What do you guys want?”
Snapping upright, the pair opened their petals wide and began vibrating. Sammy’s eyebrows jumped upward. Scrambling atop the radiator, he pressed his ear to the glass.
“I’ll be damned,” he said softly. “Just like the words written on my chart. Hold that thought.” Hopping down, he raced to grab the clipboard. Flipping quickly through the pages, he ran a finger down each one, scanning over the words written along the edges and tucked between lines. Glancing up at the window he said. “You’re right, it’s all here.”
The largest of the group focused directly on the gnome and it waved its two largest leaves dismissively. Sammy scowled.
“You don’t have to be rude,” he muttered. “I can take a hint.”
All five plants straightened and arched the very top of their stems, making their faces stare down at him in accusation. Rocking back at the display, Sammy pursed his lips for a second, then let his shoulders droop and looked at the floor.
“Fine,” he said. “I’m a jerk.” A sharp rap on the door made him jump. “What!” His jaw tightened when he saw the Reaper filling his doorway. With the hood of his cloak lying down on his shoulders, the short, freshly trimmed hair branches with their slightly yellowed leaves stuck out dramatically.
“I hope I’m not interrupting,” Alba said. “I was just in the neighborhood.”