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Madam Reina Fleming on Life, Love, and the Chihuly Gardens and Glass Exhibits

Featured: Garden and Glass Art of Dale Chihuly

By D. ALEXANDRA PORTERPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 5 min read
Dale Chihuly Glass Art: Photo by Chris F on Pexels

This fictional story features the real-world art of Dale Chihuly.

My cautious doctor means well. He put me on rainbow-colored pills and bedrest for a week, to begin today; however, on this splendid afternoon, I am indulging in all things autumn and brilliant Chihuly garden and glass exhibits. All are worth a few short breaths and the aches of time-worn joints. Have you ever experienced Chihuly masterpieces? An old lover, deceased, once described them as glass on fire.

I am honoring him now, Viktor Merrick, by attending the wedding of his youngest daughter, Ciara. The ceremony will start soon in a Chihuly salon here in Seattle. She is marrying the love of her life. Her father was once the love of mine.

Long before he married Ciara's mother, what's-her-name, we traveled together as musicians. His classical guitar and my mezzo voice sold out standing-room-only concerts. We performed folk music in venues where most fans called me Reina and classical music in venues where aficionados referred to me as Madam Fleming.

One of our favorite folk song performances, requested time and time again, was "Scarborough Fair," a traditional canticle. Our most popular classical performance was "Ballata Dall'Esilio" by Duo Apollon.

By the way, what's-her-name is Amelia Merrick. Though she is not a musician, artist, or writer, she is actually a pleasant enough person and a good mother to Ciara. She is the kind of woman who was willing to stay at home and raise five loving children who are musicians, artists, and writers.

Today, I am with a companion, a Derby walking stick from Viktor. Handcrafted and carved out of oak wood, my cane has a look of class and definitely upgraded my former shabby chic look. I am depending on my companion since I am a lady who can no longer take long walks without a spare leg. It was a gift from Viktor on my sixty-seventh birthday six months ago, right before he passed away unexpectedly, from heart failure.

Cane: Art Walking Stick; Background Edit by PhotoRoom

In the Chihuly gardens and hothouses, life is a celebration. Nature and glass art: who would have thought they could be so wonderful together? Okay, apparently the artist.

As I walk uphill to the wedding salon, I cannot help but hear snippets of other people’s lives reminding me of song motifs: life's pains and the knowledge that a chance at happiness is worth our struggles.

I am eavesdropping right now on two young men walking in front of me. I recognize them but do not want to disturb their intense conversation. They are heading to the wedding, too.

"Okay, Jonathan, why again are we going to this shindig?"

"Don't start, Caleb. We promised Ciara–our best friend from high school–that we would come. Now, you need to make me a promise. You're not going to hit the groom-to-be again."

"Oh, please. You act like I'm a barbarian. I didn't throw the first punch."

"No. You just went to Steven's bachelor party last night and wondered out loud why Ciara was scraping the bottom of the barrel, marrying him."

"She could do better."

"Oh, with you, maybe?"

"Why not me? We were together in high school."

"Yes, five years ago. And you were a disaster as a couple."

"We were not." Caleb sighs. "Look, Jonathan, we were just so young. We had to work out priorities."

"Ah-h-h, yes. Like you needed to learn to remember her birthday two years in a row."

"There was that. But I bought her expensive gifts."

"After I told you why she wasn't returning your calls. Another time, it was the jalopy thing."

"Here we go with that, again."

"You took her to the Rocky Horror Picture Show in a jalopy you knew was junk. Then, when it broke down miles away from home, both of you had to walk back in the rain."

"That's when she broke up with me, too, and I don't blame her. I was irresponsible back then."

Caleb is sadly silent for a few heartbeats. "Jon?"

"Yes, Caleb."

"I'm still in-love with her."

"I know. So, be a grown-up. Pretend you're happy she's marrying another dude, give her that expensive wedding present you bought her, and don't hit Steven, again."

"Okay, Jon. I can do that."

"Good, we're here at the wedding salon."

And so, we are. I walk through the lobby door right behind them, wondering what Viktor would think of that conversation.

The salon takes my breath away. Chihuly brilliance again partners with nature in a wide-open space of glass and light. Reds and yellows, greens and blues are like jewels suspended in time.

I am seated, then surprised by the young men on whom I eavesdropped. They sit with me.

"Madam Fleming," Jonathan says, "Forgive us for not seeing you earlier."

"Yes," Caleb adds, "I'm afraid we were in a heated discussion."

"I know, my young friends. I heard you." Caleb reddens, and the three of us laugh.

"Ciara did not think you could come," Jonathan said. "She cried." That news almost breaks my heart.

"Jon," I respond with resolve, "I want nothing to burden my Ciara on the best day of her life. Please, get a message to her: I am here."

Right before the ceremony begins, Jonathan returns with a shining smile, a note, and a microphone.

"I will not cry," I whisper. "I will not cry."

The ceremony begins, and the music is sublime, as I would expect of Viktor's child and a young woman who is quickly rising in music circles. Ciara is known as a gifted singer, a mezzo-soprano.

Steven and the groomsmen look like models. Children, looking like cherubs, drop a trail of rose petals. Bridesmaids are grace personified, floating down the aisle.

Now, it is time for the bride. Her audience awaits.

Jonathan and Caleb help me to my feet. I stand–relying on the Derby–and then I hear him, Viktor. The sonorous notes of his guitar play on a recording.

"Scarborough Fair" flows through the salon like a message from Heaven. Viktor, his family, and friends are waiting for me to sing.

I do not disappoint them.

"Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Remember me to one who lives there

She once was a true love of mine."

Ciara is divine: an angelic vision in shades of cream and white lace. She walks down the aisle on Amelia's arm. I must admit that Viktor's wife is lovely.

Ciara's eyes zoom in on me as I sing. She blows me a kiss.

No, I will not cry. I will not cry.

Amelia gives me a smile of approval.

At the end of the aisle, Ciara joins the love of her life as I sing the last lyrics.

"She once was a true love of mine."

Viktor's guitar notes cadence.

"Viktor," I whisper, "she's beautiful and happy. You did good."

On this splendid afternoon, I am indulging in all things autumn, brilliant Chihuly garden and glass exhibits, and the wedding of my old lover's beautiful, youngest daughter.

"Chihuly in the Garden"


"Ballata Dall'Esilio" by Duo Apollon

Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit in Seattle

Derby Walking Stick

"Scarborough Fair Lyrics"

"Scarborough Fair": Traditional Canticle: Simon and Garfunkel

InspirationFictionExhibitionContemporary Art

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Comments (8)

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  • Jacob Damian10 months ago

    Thanks D.Alexandra for your amazing comment .i enjoy reading your Content also

  • 💙✍️ Hello, Vocal Family: Thank you very much for your reads and comments! Please know that a technical mystery is eating some of the comments. I know you are posting them because of the notifications, but your messages are missing. Please know that I appreciate you! ✍️💙

  • Lacy Loar-Gruenler11 months ago

    D. Alexandra, I was originally drawn in because we have a Chihuly museum here in St. Petersburg, but your story outshines my admiration for the glass artist. Lovely, lovely, work!

  • Donna Renee11 months ago

    😭 this made me teary!! I loved the way you tied in the music, that song is a favorite of mine ❤️

  • Jazzy 11 months ago

    I had a chance to see the Chihuly garden, and this story gives me major FOMO!!! Great work!!

  • Novel Allen12 months ago

    This is beautifully gorgeous. I love Simon and Garfunkel. I hope this story gets placed in the challenge. It was so well researched and well presented.

  • It's so sad that Caleb is still in love with Ciara but I'm glad Jonathan managed to talk some sense into him. Must be hard to watch the person you're in love with, marry someone else. Just like how Reina watched Viktor marry Amelia 🥺💔 I loved your story!

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