Pearl knocked on the door of her girlfriend’s apartment. It was the first day of spring, and Pearl had brought Sheena a gift. A few of the flowers in one of Rose’s old gardens were in bloom, and Steven had told her that giving flowers was a rather romantic gesture. Pearl congratulated herself for being such a good girlfriend.
“It’s open, come in,” Pearl heard from inside.
“You know, having your door unlocked isn’t very safe,” Pearl said as she walked in, “I could be someone coming to rob you.”
“Oh sure, because coffee-shop baristas are prime robbery targets.”
Pearl couldn’t help but notice that Sheena’s voice was a little nasally, and when she entered the living area she figured out why. Sheena was on the couch with a nose redder than her hair and dozens of used tissues around her. Despite the fact that her favorite daytime show was on the television she looked like she was having a bad day.
“Oh my,” Pearl exclaimed, “are you okay?” She put her flowers on the adjoining kitchen counter and walked over to the couch.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Sheena said, “it’s just a little hay fever.”
“Oh, I see.”
Sheena looked at Pearl. “You don’t know what that is, do you?”
“It’s, uh, when you get a fever from eating hay?”
Sheena smiled. “Not exactly,” she said, “it’s when there’s so much pollen in the air that my body reacts badly to it.”
“Oh!” Pearl exclaimed, “Pollen is those little specs that…” Pearl trailed off and looked at the kitchen counter. “That flowers produce.”
“Well, it’s not just flowers. I think most other plants make something similar-” Sheena then noticed what Pearl had brought. “Oh hey, don’t worry about that.”
“No, no, I was stupid,” Pearl said as she got up to remove the flowers.
Sheena grabbed Pearl’s hand. “Hey, it’s okay,” she said, “you didn’t know about my hay fever. Besides, a few flowers won’t change the air that much, and I need to take an antihistamine anyways. It’s fine.”
But it’s wasn’t fine. Pearl had forgotten that Sheena was human. Pearl had forgotten that Sheena could get sick, that she might have allergies. What was she thinking? Flowers? She should have asked first. They had only been dating for a few months, she shouldn’t have assumed that she would like flowers.
She shouldn’t have assumed she would be like Rose.
“Hey, Earth to Pearl, are you doing okay?”
Pearl looked back at Sheena. Even though she was sick, she still wanted to know if Pearl was doing okay. Pearl sighed. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she said, “Just… personal issues.”
Sheena smiled. “No worries,” she replied, “If you want to talk about it, I’m here. If not, that’s okay too, and I’m still here.”
Pearl smiled. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”
“You learned how to cook a mean chicken soup, for one thing.”
Pearl giggled. “Understood. One mean chicken soup coming up.”
“You’re the best.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
Pearl went into the kitchen to help take care of her girlfriend. As she put the pot on the stove she glanced over at the flowers she brought. Sheena was not Rose. Pearl would always miss Rose, but Sheena was not Rose. Sheena was Sheena. She worked at a coffee-shop, drove a motorcycle, and re-dyed her hair every month. She was distinctly human with her sleep schedule that she never followed, her need for food that she couldn’t always afford…
And her allergies.
Sheena wasn’t Rose. Pearl was beginning to accept that.