4 min read

Evergreen, by Dawn Vogel

Green ferns pressing against a greenhouse window
Photo by micheile henderson / Unsplash

Content warnings

Parent with terminal illness.

Lennox slammed the door on their way out of their mum's house, stomping across the rocky yard, barely holding in a scream. They'd only come back out of duty. The doctor said it wouldn't be long now until their mum passed, and they thought she might be a little gentler, now that she was facing down her mortality.

She wasn't. She'd started harping on about how she wouldn't have a legacy, no grandchildren to carry on her name.

It didn't matter how many times Lennox had explained that they didn't even want a partner, let alone to be a parent of any sort. Their mum was set on the tragedy of having never gotten a grandbaby.

Even if Lennox had been so inclined, it wasn't like there was time to do anything about it.

They took a deep breath and focused on the rocky coastline, the dreary grey of the sky blending seamlessly into the grey of the water, the faint fishy, salty scent suffusing their nostrils. And here and there, the timid green of moss, clinging to the rocks, hoping it wouldn't be washed away by the coming tides.

Lennox crouched beside one of the mossy rocks, their fingers sinking into the soft coating. Here, they felt grounded. This was their element.

Their thoughts calmed as they teased ephemeral wisps of greenery from the moss. The surface beneath their fingertips wriggled as it began to grow. Tendrils danced around their wrist and forearm, eager to cocoon Lennox just as easily as the greenery had covered the rock.

But Lennox gently redirected the growth, letting it spread across the rocky terrain rather than their own body. As the moss reached other green-tinged rocks, it sparked their growth as well. Soon the beach had taken on more color than greyness.

It was temporary, Lennox knew. But for the moment, until the tides swept their work away, the beach lived.

It was a shame they couldn't influence other living things to thrive.

But they turned their gaze toward their mum's abandoned greenhouse, beside her cottage on the beach. She'd been too tired to work in it lately, and Lennox couldn't see a speck of green inside.

But maybe...

They picked up a mossy rock from the beach, one that hadn't been swept up in the wave of green they'd encouraged. Slipping into the greenhouse, they set that rock in the center of the floor and crouched to touch it.

This time, the growth took more effort. The seeds here were dormant, sleeping off their lack of care. And this place was tied to Lennox's mum more than the beach had been.

Lennox searched their memories, trying to find a good moment with their mum. They grumbled when they remembered how their mum had dressed them as a child, but they pushed through it. “She was doing her best with something she didn't understand,” Lennox reminded themself.

There had been once, though, when their mum had let them pick out a navy blue blazer when they were nine. Lennox had learned to sew, then, too, turning their outgrown skirts into bow ties and pocket squares. They'd worn that blazer until it no longer fit, and even then, they kept it in their closet to remind them of that span of years when they'd worn what they truly loved.

The dormant seeds took root in their memories, pushing out from beneath the dry soil, joining the growing color popping up all over the greenhouse now. Flowers in every imaginable hue burst forth from their buds, tinging the air with sweetness. The scattered vegetables grew large enough to pick, their more earthy scents tempering the flowers' before they reached cloying.

Digging deeper, Lennox pushed away their arguments with their mum. They didn't have to forgive her, but they did need to set those aside if they wanted this place to thrive.

They didn't know how long they'd been at it when the door creaked open, followed by an astonished gasp.

“Mum?” Lennox said, looking up, through the foliage that now filled the greenhouse. They were bone tired, having poured every ounce of themself into the growth.

Their mum clung to the doorframe, unsteady on her feet.

Lennox rose, shaky themself, and moved a couple of the plants from a small bench. They led their mum to it, grateful for her halting pace. “What do you think?”

“Lotta work to keep a place like this so nice.”

“For some, maybe,” Lennox said, looking around to see the full extent of their handiwork. They yawned. “I'm going to need to sleep for half the day, but this ought to stick around for a few months.”

“Longer than me.”

Lennox shrugged, still not making eye contact with their mum. “We'll see. Either way, I hope you like it. It's the best I can do for a legacy.”

Their mum was quiet for a bit, then said, “No, I was wrong about that. You're my legacy. Grandkids, in the end, would have been your legacy, not mine.”

Lennox's heart leapt into their throat as their mum finally said what they'd been longing to hear for years. They couldn't speak, but they nodded.

“I know I've been hard on you for entirely too long, and I don't expect you to forgive me. But I want you to know, I am sorry.”

With a sigh, Lennox wrapped their arms around their mum and squeezed her gently. They cleared their throat. “It's a start, Mum. Thank you. Now let's pick out some flowers to brighten up your room and get you back indoors.”

Dawn Vogel

Dawn Vogel has written for children, teens, and adults, spanning genres, places, and time periods. She is a member of SFWA and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their cats.