Elaine loved flowers. She’d told Donald this just after they were married and, taking the hint, it wasn't long before he presented her with a bouquet of carnations late one evening after a long shift at work.
“How lovely”, she said, the smile curdling on her face.
He'd found them in the bin the next morning. He’d tried harder for Valentine's Day; a dozen long-stemmed crimson floribunda hand-tied by an upmarket florist.
“How sweet” she said, bitterly, “but don’t you think red roses are a bit of a cliché, dear?”
Donald could never get it right. At the factory, they'd thought it romantic when he took on an allotment to grow flowers for his wife. That was part of it, at first; but no-one had any idea that it was also his escape from Elaine. Whatever feelings he’d once had for her had wilted in their arid, sterile marriage. The only thing that seemed to grow was her sense of martyred, resigned disappointment.
He grew everything from the everyday (ox-eye daisies – “weeds, really”) to the exotic (stargazer lilies – “rather gaudy”). Nothing pleased Elaine.
“Flowers are supposed to speak of love” she often reminded him, in the wounded tone she'd taking to using with him. He had no idea what the flowers he grew were trying to say, but Donald knew that he and Elaine were no longer speaking the same language.
At the inquest, everyone agreed that there was no way Donald could have known that the drooping, delicate purple blooms he'd grown were so deadly. He was an enthusiastic grower, but an amateur, not a specialist plantsman - he could not have been aware of the effect aconites would have on someone like Elaine, with her weak heart. By the time Donald got home from work, it was too late; the bunch he'd given her after his early morning visit to the allotment had already proved fatal.
If anyone was surprised at Elaine's funeral that there was no floral tribute from Donald to the wife he adored, they didn't say so. They all agreed that, in the circumstances, he’d have found it too upsetting.
He’d been saying it with flowers for the whole of their marriage. He hoped that, at last, Elaine had finally got the message.
© Tracey Hipson