It was mid-July and the Hydrangeas had not yet bloomed. Her mother would have told her to be patient. “They might be late bloomers,” her mother would have said. What she wouldn’t have said, but thought, was, “like you.” She was a late bloomer. That’s how she thought of herself, though the truth was that she had never bloomed at all. Oh, there might have been one dewy night in her 30s when she felt beautiful, but that was it. One night. Flowers were allowed to be late bloomers. People not so much. People were expected to excel and wow. Children needed be precocious or not bother at all. She had been neither a dull nor a brilliant child and she had been a clinger. Her mother had kept her home that extra year when she missed the kindergarten cut off by 29 days instead of lobbying for her to enter kindergarten as a four going on five. “You weren’t ready,” her mother said when asked. Her father had not been there. He was dead. Men just died. They were there and then they were not there. They were figments. They were filament. They were figurative. They were fire. Oh, how the wind blew strong and fast over the clam flats, bringing with it the salty smell of decay. All around town hydrangeas were blooming, blue and white and pink, while her own hydrangeas were nothing but clumps of leaves. Not late bloomers at all. Nothing but fire.

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