Tears in his eyes, he replaced the vase upon the windowsill with a shaky hand. The once beautiful blooms had withered to shadows of their former glory- the pink roses were tattered, sad things. Much like his daughter, lying broken and pale in the hospital bed. Whoever had done this needed to pay, he thought to himself, careful not to crush the fragile glass vase before it left his fist. His daughter, sweet, charming, and full of life, lay like a worn-out doll that had been thrown away after a child has played long and hard with it. Her pale blonde hair was stuck to her forehead with sweat from the fever of infection and the blue cast under her eyes told of little real sleep in days upon days. Even now, dozing as she was, she twitched and whimpered with troubled fever dreams.
Iris had loved riding her bikes everywhere- to work, on the many mountain trails nearby, and to get-togethers with her friends. She cherished the fancy and expensive road bike he had bought her as a college graduation present. He had known she would appreciate it more than the down payment on a car, which is what he would have preferred she use for her commutes. Cars to him felt safer. But, his daughter loved being outside and loved the feel of the wind in her face and the burning in her lungs as she pedaled the 12 miles to and from work each day. She said it kept her in shape because now that she had landed a prestigious research internship she “sat too much”.
Well, perhaps sitting in a car would have proved healthier, in the end.
When Iris hadn’t shown up for dinner a week ago he’d been hardly worried. She could be flighty, and often lost track of time or forgot about these things, especially with how busy she was recently. It wasn’t until he didn’t receive a phone call, text, or email by the next night that got worried enough to text her and check in. She may forget in the moment about a dinner, but she always eventually remembered, apologized, and then laughed and rescheduled. It was unusual to not hear from her at all, and even his text of, “Missed you at dinner last night” went unanswered. By nightfall the next day he felt that something wasn’t right at all and impatience had him driving across town to check up on his only daughter.
She was not home, the door was locked, the lights off. Also unusual for Iris on a Wednesday evening. She was a night owl, but one that generally stayed in during the week. It was only 9:00 PM, far too early for her to have gone to bed. The creeping feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach grew, and he used his phone to look at the only other place she was easy to reach, Facebook. She mostly used it for her work, and many of her coworkers and friends chatted on the platform. He posted to her timeline, “Has anyone seen Iris today?” An almost instant response sent a chill through him. One of her coworkers and former classmates whom he’d met a couple of times messaged him. She hadn’t been at work today, and no one could get ahold of her.
He immediately called the police.
Almost 12 hours later, he received a call from the sheriff. Iris and her bike had been found, and she was barely alive. From what the police could tell, she had been on her way home from work and been hit by a car. The force of the impact had thrown her far enough off the road and into the flowerbeds that lined the highway in that part of town. Both she and the bike had been hidden from view among the marigolds.
He could still smell the offensive flower, like a permanent stench embedded in his soul. His daughter had lain among the flowers for days and when he first saw her in the hospital, before the medical staff could remove the soiled and bloody clothing, the scent had permeated everything. He couldn’t get the sight or smell out of his mind, now. Someone had hit his daughter in broad daylight and never even stopped, had just let her lay hidden and bleeding and broken among the cheap city garden flowers. Marigold, cosmos, and others he couldn’t name, but mostly the marigolds. Ugly, yellow and orange, offensive to the nose. For some reason, that’s what he was fixated on. He needed something to hate.
Iris survived her ordeal, but she would never be the same, and it would be a long while before- if ever- she got back on a bike. Months and months of rehabilitation, living again with her father like a child, unable to finish her internship. Grad school was put on hold. One instant and everything in a person’s life changes.
One day, while walking with her father, using her cane and brace down the sidewalk of town, she froze. The look of terror was obvious even to casual passerby, and the panic attack hit instantly and so hard that she stumbled and would have collapsed if he hadn’t caught her.
“What is it?” her father asked urgently.
“That truck. The one parked just there- that’s the truck that hit me.” Iris gasped. They had never caught the person who had hit Iris, but she had seen it coming. From what she had told the police and her father, a truck had passed some cars and nearly hit her head-on. She had swerved just enough to not be crushed, but barely. She said she had seen it unfold almost in slow motion- the black truck pop out from behind a line of cars, roaring at her, and her swerving towards the flowers. That was all she remembered, though. But one thing that she did recall was that the truck had a license plate on the front that was red. This truck also had a red vanity plate on its front bumper, and as they slowly walked past, there was an obvious dent and scraped paint just behind the driver’s side headlight. There was no way this person had hit her and not known.
Her dad took a picture of the real license plate as they passed, and told his daughter not to worry. He’d be punished now. But she had no idea that her dad didn’t mean punished by the police.
There was something he hated more than marigolds.