It starts after she begins her new job working in the plant nursery, one month after you move in. You like how sexy she looks: hips shimmying, fingers tying apron strings in a bow behind her back. Inside the greenhouse, the heat is sweltering. There’s the scent of spilled dirt from potted plants, an earthy, loamy smell. She comes home with dirt grimed under her fingernails, leaves and twigs tangled in her hair. No matter how many times you wash the sheets, lugging them to the laundromat, quarters jingling in your pockets, the sheets come back dirt streaked.
She tells you she’s sick of your constant talking, how you always have to tell her every little thing about your day. You’re like a fly, she hisses, and you flinch, thinking about how when you were small, the neighbor kid on your block would pluck the wings off flies and smile at their wriggling, helpless bodies. The small house you share becomes crowded with the potted plants she brings home: tulips and fuschias, dandelions and cactuses, caryopsis and poppies. Sometimes when you’re in bed, you wake up suddenly, sure someone or something is watching you. It always turns out to be one of the plants. A plant stem curling around your finger like a lover’s knot or the kiss of the opened center of a flower, lurid like a wet, open mouth.
Her skin and hair turn a sickly green sheen. You lie to your neighbors and tell them your girlfriend accidentally spilled a bucket of paint on herself. Your neighbor asks you if your girlfriend is aware of the effects of green dye: the zinc oxide and cobalt, titanium and nickel. When you were in high school, you studied bread mold under a microscope. It takes you a minute to remember the names from science class: Aspergillius, Cladosporium, Botrytis, Mucor, Fusarium. There was one that was beautiful: velvety and blooming, the color parakeet green.
When you ask your girlfriend if you can take some of the plants outside and plant them in the front yard, a six by six feet patch of grass, she won’t let you, tries to bundle all of them up in her arms at once, coos at them like they are her babies. Your hand reaches out for hers. In response, she shoots to her feet and slams the bedroom door.
The next day, you watch your girlfriend’s body bend, face tilted to the sun, like a plant seeking nutrients. You duck and crawl to get to her; vines block your path. Vine nodules stare at you with accusing eyes. Your girlfriend doesn’t speak. Her arms stretch forward, impossibly long. They tighten around your legs like rope.
And you know, you just know, there is only one ending to this story: if you don’t break up with her, she’ll keep you here forever, skin Venus flytrap sticky, you a fly desperate and thrashing, snared in her tight grasp.
Candace Hartsuyker has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from McNeese State University and reads for PANK. She has been published in The Citron Review, Cease, Cows, Heavy Feather Review and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter at C_Hartsuyker.