Now, if you would just take a grace minute to look at Otto Beckett’s to-do list, you will see, other than ‘buy the milk’, ‘pay the bills’ and ‘dental checkup’, the words ‘send roses to Odette’. And you will know how important this Odette lady is by simply judging the handwriting on the beige slip of paper. The other to-dos were written in a quick, scruffy scribble, the cursive illegible and the ink almost dried out. But Odette, sweet Odette’s to-be-sent-roses task was written neatly using a calligraphy pen in elegant penmanship, an aesthetic script.
It’s complicated, really. Why waste so much energy on something that hope is no longer in it? Like a strand of beads with one untied end, the beads fell, eventually, as predicted. Otto was the knot that is still holding itself together, no matter how painful it gets. Odette? Well, she was the other end, wasn’t she?
The sun has not decided to rise yet when Otto woke up this fine morning. His hands ran over the nightstand for a good few seconds before locating his glasses. Everything became clear once the frame was on his nose, but everything was the same. Otto made his bed, he cleaned up, he made sure there was no dust lingering on the surface of the family portrait hanging on the wall of the grandiose living room, he made the simplest breakfast, he ate the meal, he flossed, he put on his best suit and matching shoes, and he sat down. Otto Beckett was never born an organized man. He was just like all the other boys, running recklessly in the wind and picking fights just to win impress a girl in middle school. Yet here he is now, seventy-one-year-old Otto Beckett was brushing his bruised finger over the velvet cushion where he sat, making sure that the material was all laying in the same direction.
He waited. The grandfather clock inherited from his father decades ago was standing right in front of him, doing its duty, running in circles. The tall wooden mechanical clock was alive. It had a ticking heartbeat, and the gears breathed as they slid against each other, working together in harmony. It loved to chime, this old thing, acknowledging with a chorus of bells and dramatic enumeration of each hour of the day. Otto waited patiently for the clock to strike seven. Dong. At that very sound, Otto stood up, shifted his tie, making sure it was perfectly centered, checked for his wallet in his pocket, and out he went.
The first stop was, of course, the florist’s.
“Looking lovely,” Otto remarked. He made sure to greet the sunflowers in his front yard before stepping out on the streets. It was a beautiful morning for the flowers to meet the sun, indeed. The peonies, however, were looking less lively than usual.
Otto took a left and sauntered the two blocks down to the florist’s. It was a Monday; many of Otto’s neighbors were already up getting ready for work or for school. They greeted old man Otto as he walked by. It didn’t matter if the neighbors were picking up their morning paper, watering the plants, or walking the dog – they all took time to stop and wave at him.
Otto Beckett was a well-known name in town. The children adored him. The adults respected him. His friends, well, most of them are no longer living in his neighborhood. He was the grandfather you’ve always wanted; the one who told stories of World Wars vividly and snuck you candy when you’re grounded.
“Good morning, Mr. Beckett,” Yvonne the florist chirped as Otto entered the store, which triggered the bell above the door to ring.
“Why, Yvonne, how many times must I insist on you calling me ‘Otto’?” The old man chuckled.
“Never enough, Mr. B!” She joked. “I take it you’re here for the regular? Twelve roses in a pale orange wrapper?”
Otto nodded. He’d only ever came for the same flowers, the same amount, the same colored wrapper, for the same person.
Yvonne got to work swiftly. The store belonged to her late mother’s but she has been helping out since she was ten. Now twenty-seven and having studied botany in college, she has taken over the reins of the store. She was quick with her hands to wrap up a dozen roses and hand them over to Otto.
“And how much will that be?” Otto asked, fumbling the notes in his wallet.
“For you, Mr. B, on the house!” Yvonne spoke with so much sunshine in her words.
Otto laughed at her cheerfulness, thanked her, and got on his way. Odette lived far from the florist’s. It was quite the walk for Otto but he enjoyed a good stroll now and then.
Just a few shops down from the florist’s was Joe’s Coffee Shop. Joe was somehow related to Yvonne. Were they cousins or something else? Poor Otto simply couldn’t remember. He entered the shop, instantly welcomed by the strong aroma of coffee. He was woken up, alive. Otto ordered his favorite drink and sat down for a chat with Joe as he savored the delightful beverage. The steam from the coffee was visible, being hit directly by the sun’s rays. It was a warm morning at Joe’s. The kind where you can sit for hours with a captivating book and a coffee in hand. At Joe’s, the world was peaceful, quiet, stopped.
Otto wasn’t about to purchase Odette any sort of beverage, no sir. She always nagged Otto for the amount of caffeine he was ingesting on a daily basis. He never listened, firming his stance that coffee is a gift from the Gods and heaven above. Their arguments were always about the most insignificant things. Bickers would reverberate down the neighborhood for only a few minutes before the pair was back to normal couple functioning again.
Once he had finished the coffee that already went cold, Otto bid Joe goodbye and stepped out of the shop. The streets were starting to fill up with cars. Cars! Otto loved the idea of walking and taking in the surrounding. He loved the sound of morning bells and people chatter, even more so the smell of fresh flowers and baked pastries – all of which one is stripped of the privilege of hearing and smelling when they speed by in their motor vehicles.
Otto came to a stop in front of the movie theatre along the same street. It’s been a while since he and Odette watched a film together. Otto is a little old fashioned, of the mind that a proper, gentleman date consists of a dinner and movie and delivering the lady home by eleven. Odette was wilder on the modern side, but she adored Otto and his old fashionness – every inch of him.
They had a tradition, of sorts. The pair would stay until the very end of the film every time. When the credits rolled, they would try to find their own names up on the screen. Whoever’s name came up first would get treated to dessert. Both of them had lost track of the score by now.
Otto stared at the posters and couldn’t help but wonder which show Odette would be interested in viewing if she were next to him right now. She could say the word and they would hop into the cinema immediately. He’d line up for the tickets and she’d make a beeline for the concession stand, returning with salted caramel popcorn and drinks. If they were lucky, the hall would be empty with only the two of them watching the film. Then, they’d vocally comment on certain scenes and actors without a care in a world – not needing to stifle a laugh or hold back a tear when it was just Otto and Odette, Odette and Otto.
After what seemed like hours of walking, Otto finally reached Odette’s. He opened the low-fenced gate to see her. His heart paced just as it did years ago when he first laid eyes upon her. She was easy to recognize; Otto closed his eyes for a second and tried to memorize her face. Her most promising feature was her dimples. They curved every time she smiled or laughed, which is most of the time. She was graceful inside and out, the epitome of beauty and elegance. Otto opened his eyes.
“Happy birthday, love.” Three simple words. Otto then placed the roses in front of her. Odette didn’t say a word.
Her name was delicately engraved on the tombstone, several others around her. Hers was marble white, a color so pure and innocent just like her. It’s been eight years since. Every single year, Otto made the time of day to come visit her despite the journey. Valentines, anniversaries, birthdays – not a single one spent without her.
Otto sat on the grass in front of her and told her about the recent news. He talked and he talked endlessly for an hour or perhaps, more. Otto never ran out of conversation material when it was Odette he was talking to. Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a single thing in the universe they’ve yet to discuss. The cosmos was wide and terrifying but so was their relationship.
And so, on a mundane morning, Otto cried. Tears flew down his cheeks. There was silence. A bird flew past. He looked at the sky and the tears stopped flowing for a second. Then they came back in waves. This was the rather painful part of his routine. He had loved her since the moment he knew her, and it has felt like a lifetime, nay, countless lifetimes.
As he delicately closed the black-painted gate behind him, Otto looked at her again, his eyes glistening, telling her he’ll be back soon.
Otto Beckett straightened his tie once more and carried on with his day. He bought the milk. He paid the bills. He attended his dental checkup – which the dentist surprisingly remarked, “strong teeth after all these years!”
It will be quite a while before Otto has to visit Odette once more; he smiled (with his strong teeth), knowing that he’ll do nothing but keep counting down the days until he gets to send roses to Odette again.