Foxglove, do not worry. I’m only taking one of your soft purple slippers. It would have fallen soon anyway I’m sure, and joined the slugged and rotting socks below. I try to ease it from the clutch of flowers which crown your branch – I do try to be gentle – but I want it to be quick. I won’t prolong it. So I use my thumbnail and pushing it into my finger I slice the tender arm which holds you on. I cut it away, it’s done. And now, Foxglove, you won’t be forgotten. It might be sad at first, but then you’ll be the lasting one, the stolen slip, the petal pressed between the pages of an old anthology, surviving years beyond the rest. You might even be glorified, given as a gift on a card or prized under sticky-back plastic.
You caught me, Foxglove, with your upright colour. You turned me from the river thinking I had been alone. I liked your pale and speckled belly, and the tiny fragile hairs guarding your mouth. I liked the protection of your purple cloth, and saw the stigma it encloses when I peered to check for bugs. I don’t like to press bugs with flowers, and I don’t think you would either. I’ve done it before, unintentionally, of course. When sat cross legged in a patch of sun, I had sprawled wild flowers across the carpet and arranged them page by page – to be pressed en masse in my Oxford English Dictionary. When I went back a few months later, to reap the drying harvest of my work, I found a bug. It was small and flat and brown and broken, pinned inside its own circle, the stain of its death. The same happened once in a favourite notebook: a woodlouse, found stuck between the cover and the opening leaf. A surprise – a mystery – and an accident of course, but I left him there, pressed like a flower but not beautiful. It’s not the same, you understand.
You’ll join the others, purple Foxglove. I’ll give you your own folded page, bleached white, ready to soak up the oil of your skin. You won’t be as pretty as some, closed and shyly fluted as you are, but you’ll be there. With the Herb Robert, its petals splayed in dainty rounds, balanced on their pinkish stems. And with the Forget-Me-Nots, oh! The Forget-Me-Nots! What perfect clutches of unmatched blue, touched with yellow and pierced with tiny rings of white. To be beside such purity, Foxglove. The lasting iridescent glow of Buttercups, or Celandine. The simple spread of Periwinkle; petals webbed with veins. You’ll do better than the Fuchsia too, I think, despite your simple form. You won’t be quite so damp or slow to starve, so stubborn and seeping.
Foxglove, you surpass the English rose! That ancient lord of flowers, so unsuited to the pages. To try to keep a rose would be a crushing, not a pressing. Or the smiling daffodils – think – they squash themselves in uncouth ways, folding petals under trumpets and dying into brown translucency; nothing of their yellow left. No, they belong in the sunshine, just as the rose belongs in a cut-class bowl. You will lose some colour, of course, and I can’t say how much, but looking at your velvet back I see no reason why you can’t keep some. You’re the first, you see. The first of your kind. You’re a pioneer, Foxglove. I wonder how your flesh will fall and soften around your tiny hearts, whether you will cling to the page, how easy I should prise. I wonder which side will last the proudest – your velvet back or purple speckled belly.
For now, you’ll be waiting in my notebook. Only a page away from the tip of an unfurled fern, laddered green and Jurassic, chosen too. Slotted in, carried away and, today, made perfect by my pocket.
Yes, be happy Foxglove. You’ll live forever.
Kathryn Tann is from the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales, and is currently studying for her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, having graduated from Durham in 2018. She writes mostly short stories, one of which was recently published in the PENfro anthology ‘Heartland’. She also writes reviews and non-fiction for Wales Arts Review, Gwales and The Manchester Review, and works as an occasional freelancer in indie publishing. Kathryn hates to be indoors for too long, and finds her favourite inspiration on the coast.