Joseph held the little green watering can in a firm grip as he looked down lovingly on the dahlias. They had recently blossomed into one of the most beautiful plants he had ever seen, a magnificent shade of purple that he had tried to paint before but never felt he could perfectly capture its beauty.
A little girl bounced up to him, her golden hair in a messy plait. She pulled on his shirt, trying desperately to drag him away from the dahlias. “The lily whites, Jo. Water the lily whites.”
Joseph looked over to the only two calla lilies that the small child had made the centrepiece of their little garden. He smiled down at her, her cheeks rosy with life, her eyes bright and excited. “They’re white lilies,” he tried to correct her. But she shook her head, giggling.
“White lily,” he repeated, hoping she would get it this time.
“Lily white,” she said as she ran off laughing.
But then the whole world paused for a second, the sky darkening. There was a loud screech and a crash and Joseph felt himself begin to tremble-
Cold sweat slid down Joseph’s back as he awoke with a start. He was gasping, a few tears escaping his eyes. He quickly flicked his bedside lamp on. It took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the sudden burst of light but as soon as Joseph was able to see again, he immediately regretted it.
Across from his bed, there was a similar looking, empty one, the sight squeezing air from Joseph’s lungs. He closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face and through his hair. His heart was beating at a worryingly fast pace, the blood vessel on his neck threatening to burst with the pressure.
So Joseph decided to get up. As he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, several pieces of paper that had been nestled by his feet fluttered away. Joseph quickly caught one and looked down at it. It was an old drawing of his, unoriginally titled ‘Chrysanthemum’. But as Joseph looked at it closer, he noticed that someone else had scribbled ‘lily whites’ in big, wobbly letters on the back.
Suddenly, loud, insistent knocking rapped on the wardrobe door. Joseph stared at it in shock. His whole body began shaking, half terrified, half confused.
Tiptoeing closer, the knocking got quieter but there was no doubt that that was where the knocking had come from. Joseph pressed his ear against the door and listened, but all noise paused, a heavy silence invited back into the room.
Joseph, hand shaking slightly, reached for the handle, opened the wardrobe door and peered into it. It led to an upward, spiralling staircase that emanated a soft white glow.
Taking a deep breath, Joseph grabbed the handrail and began climbing the ominous steps, suddenly compelled to reach the top.
As he climbed higher and higher, his nose was greeted with a luscious, green, organic smell and he thought he could hear a soft, familiar song being sung. At the top he was greeted by a white room, beautiful pale pink and white fairy foxgloves adorning the walls, their green leaves decorating the four borders like banners. The floor appeared to be made of water and reflected the ceiling where cream petunias and magenta fuchsias trickled from hanging baskets.
And in the middle of the room grew row upon row of magnificent, radiant calla lilies, their white trumpets like full lips, humming sombre lullabies.
Joseph paused, and fixed his gaze on something else in the middle of the room. It wasn’t the flowers buzzing with music, it was a girl. A young girl with pretty golden hair tangled together in a messy plait. She had porcelain skin and wore a simple, plain white dress making her look like some sort of angel. She seemed to glow softly and she struggled to hold up a small green watering can that sprinkled water droplets like glitter over the lilies.
Joseph’s feet suddenly found themselves inching towards the girl, his feet creating ripples in the floor. He froze though as the girl looked up from the flowers and watched him curiously. For some reason, Joseph was nervous, an overwhelming sadness gluing his lips together.
A few moments passed as the pair looked at each other from a short distance away, before the girl’s mouth lifted into an excited smile and beckoned Joseph over.
Joseph walked carefully over to her and she handed him the watering can, gesturing to a sign hidden amongst the pearly flowers.
“Water the lily whites” it read, tickling the corners of Joseph’s mind.
Joseph looked back to the girl, who suddenly looked unsure of herself, a sight that Joseph hated to see. But Joseph understood. He nodded and began watering the flowers.
The girl slowly pushed herself into action, grabbing Joseph’s shirt to pull him down to her level. She planted a soft kiss on Joseph’s forehead and wandered out of the garden and up a different flight of stairs. Still humming her melancholy tune, she left, closing the door behind her.
Joseph looked down at the lilies, which seemed to glimmer like stars in a clear sky, and smiled to himself, an inner peace suddenly washing over him, a single tear suddenly rolling down his face.
Only one thought remained in his head: “white lily.”
And a small giggle seemed to sound out around him: “lily white.”