BRUEGEL TAROT: XIV TEMPERANCE

Gardenias in the Storm

My grandmother smelled like gardenias; she taught me to play chess. I sit on the window-seat and watch the stormy night, remembering the cozy evenings at the chessboard in her living room. The streetlight flickers in the driving rain. The wind howls and knocks on the windowpane; it wants to enter. 

I yawn. My book lies open on my lap, awaiting me to turn the page, but I reminisce and the house heaves an exasperated sigh. I lean my forehead on the cool glass and let the memories flow. The cuckoo clock ticks, the only remnant from my grandmother’s living room. Each tick-tock sends me back to my childhood, the chessboard and the constant scent of gardenias. 

Cuckoo! It strikes the hour and I jolt as lightning flashes. The room lights up and for an instant, I’m sitting in Grandma’s living room, the chessboard before me, the fire crackling. 

“Sarah…” she whispers, but I don’t see her. 

The cuckoo is still chiming; twelve times it must chime. 

I gaze out the window. A young woman stands in the lamplight. She looks up at me; her face aglow. I recognize Grandma, though it’s the grandmother I only saw in her wedding pictures. 

“Sarah…”

She smiles and waves. 

I wave back. 

The cuckoo slides back into its house. Rain patters against my window. I turn away. I’m back in my room on the window-seat, my book still open on my lap. I sigh; the balmy redolence of gardenias enfolds me. 

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