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    Defiance19
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Shorts and Prompts - 1. O. Henry Short Story Prompt 2 - The Last Leaf

The second of the O. Henry prompts attempted.. The premise can be found in the link below..

http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/41526-o-henry-short-story-prompt-2-–-the-last-leaf/?p=610763
“You've got to see a doctor about that cough Johnsy, it's getting worse.”
 
“You worry too much. It's the change in weather.”
 
Johnsy looked at her lover, pausing for a minute from packing up their work. She knew it was more than the change in weather, but it was pointless to argue right now. She turned back to wrapping the paints on the table.
 
“Sue, love, I'll call the doctor if there's a need. Right now there's no need.”
 
The two silently finished up and rolled their cart three blocks to their walk up apartment. The red paint peeling off of the door, welcomed them to their small, but well kept space. Sue hurried Johnsy inside from the cold. Not that it was any better indoors. The landlord barely made sure that the heat was functioning. Sue turned on the small electric heater keeping in mind she could only let it run for half an hour. They didn't sell nearly enough paintings to afford the extra money on bills. Her thoughts were interrupted by Johnsy’s wracking coughs.
 
“Johnsy, off to bed. I'll take care of the rest.” Worriedly, she helped Johnsy to the single bed and pulled the greying sheets underneath her chin.
 
“I'll get you some tea.”
 
Johnsy grabbed Sue's retreating hand tightly, her eyes searching in the dim light. Sue squeezed the hand holding hers in return.
 
 
Sometime during the night, Sue was awakened by movement.
 
“Water.” Johnsy croaked. “I need water. So..hot.”
 
Fully awake, Sue reached over and pressed her upturned palm against Johnsy's forehead.
 
“Shit, Johnsy!” she cried. “You're burning up.”
 
Racing out of bed she got Johnsy a glass of tap water, and filled a bowl with the same. Back in the bed she helped hold the glass so Johnsy could drink. Settling her back into the pillow, Sue dipped a cloth into the cold water and wrung it before resting it on Johnsy's head.
 
“We have to call the doctor Johnsy. This is bad.”
 
Johnsy stubbornly shook her head, and attempted to glare at Sue. “And just how are we going to pay for a doctor Sue? There'll be medicine to buy too. We can't…” She was again seized by her coughs.
“I know we can't afford it Johnsy, but I'll paint more. I'll sell the Hudson River Park painting. We'll get a lot for that.” Seeing Johnsy open her mouth to argue she rushed on. “We'll go back, and I'll paint us new memories. What could be more important than your health Johnsy, or you.”
 
No argument there. Johnsy closed her eyes in defeat, knowing that she would do the same if it were Sue lying in their bed.
 
“Okay, but let's see how I feel tomorrow before we call him.”
 
Two more days passed before Sue called the doctor. Johnsy's fever had broken, only to return worse than before. The cough was not improving either. Johnsy lay in the bed, her face pale and drawn. Unable to eat more than a few spoons of plain broth at a time.
 
“Keep her comfortable.” The doctor lowered his voice. “There's nothing I can do. You can give her the medicine, but she has to want to fight this. She's weak and needs to get stronger if she's to make it.” He gazed sadly at Sue before leaving.
 
 
 
“C’mon Johnsy, let's get you better. Today is the day.” Sue said with a brightness she did not feel.
 
She pulled open the shade of the one window in the room to let the light in, and went to sit on the bed. Johnsy opened her eyes and attempted a weak smile.
 
“Shh, love. It's been a week you've been like this. I just want you to listen.” Taking Johnsy's frail hand, Sue softly rubbed over the knuckles she held.
 
“We've been together forever Johnsy. And we're going to stay that way. I'm too young to be a widower and besides, who else will put up with me. We made plans and we didn't even get to half of them yet. And you. You want to paint the Bay of Naples don't you? With Vesuvius looming in the background? How are you going to do that if you don't get better. That's our big adventure, we'll be dipping our feet into the Mediterranean Sea. We're going to rent that little cottage in Sorrento remember? I still want to do that Johnsy.” Sue's breath hitched as she stared into the eyes looking back at her.
 
“I know you want it too Johnsy. You can't leave me alone.” She let her head fall onto Johnsy's middle, her pleas for Johnsy to fight on, muffled by the bedding.
 
“Sue,” Johnsy whispered. “Sue, look outside.”
 
Confused, Sue picked her head up and turned to the window. “What am I looking at love.”
 
“The ivy, on the building across the courtyard.”
 
Sue looked back at Johnsy, face frowning. “It's been there all along Johnsy, what of it?”
 
“You know I love you Sue. There's no one else I love like I do you. But I know it's coming.”
 
“Don't talk like that Johnsy. You don't know what's coming. You're getting better.” Sue was frantic.
 
“It's okay Sue. It's all clear to me now. That ivy is losing its leaves, and I just know when the last leaf falls, I'll draw my last breath. Don't ask me how, but I know.” Johnsy stared out the window, oblivious to the panic she stirred in Sue.
 
Fighting back tears, Sue removed her hand from Johnsy's and picked up the half empty bottle of medicine. Measuring out a dose, she spooned the amber liquid past Johnsy's cracked lips into her mouth. It's the fever talking she told herself, her mind trying desperately to come up with a plan. A few minutes later, she had it.
 
Making sure Johnsy was asleep, she made her way down to the apartment below. Not sure how helpful their neighbor would be she banged loudly on his door, pausing only for a second before starting again. The old man would likely be passed out drunk. The door flew open just as she raised a fist to bang again.
 
“Was!” he shouted in German, cringing after he recognized the woman who stood there. “What do you want.” he asked a little less gruffly.
 
“I need your help with something.” Sue pushed her way into his apartment, not waiting for a response.
 
She took note of the old man's room and breathed in the familiar scent of an artist’s space. There was a blank canvas and stool set up in front of the window. Charcoal, pencils, and open paints littered a nearby table. Strewn on the floor was balled up paper, which looked like it had been ripped from a sketch pad and thrown away in frustration.
 
“Well, are you going to tell me or do you need to look around some more.” His irritation made his accent thicker.
 
“I need you to pose for me Behrman.” Sue held up her hand to ward off what she knew was coming. “I'm painting a fish market scene and I need a fisherman. Now before you say no, let me tell you why it's important.”
 
Behrman’s eyes narrowed, his face hardened, and he tugged on his Moses like beard but he gestured for Sue to continue. Sue told him about Johnsy's illness, and her desire to finish the painting, the sale from which could buy more medicine to make her well. She also told him how Johnsy had gotten it into her head that the ivy tree losing its leaves was a sign of her impending death, and that when the last leaf fell, Johnsy thought her life would end.
 
“That is quite a story. Maybe the fever is in her head.” Behrman shook his head and walked to stand in front of his canvas. He stared thoughtfully at the blank space.
 
“Nein.” he said firmly. Then at the look on Sue's face, he threw his hands in the direction of his canvas. “If I help you I will have no time to work on my own masterpiece.” he groused.
 
“Nein? Is that no?” Sue clutched his arm. “Please Behrman, it will only be a few hours at a time. I can't just let Johnsy give up. I have to fight for her.”
 
What she didn't, couldn't say was that there was no way Old Behrman was ever going to finish a painting, much less a masterpiece. The man was hardly ever sober.
 
“You're my last hope Behrman. I need you to help save my Johnsy. Please.”
 
Something flickered in Behrman. His own Gertie had needed him and he'd failed her. He couldn't fail this desperate woman too.
 
“Okay. I'll do it. Let's go.”
 
“Okay?” Sue asked to be sure.
 
“Are you deaf too? I said okay.” The grumpy old man turned toward the door but not before Sue squealed and grabbed him in a brief hug.
 
 
For days afterward, Old Behrman sat as Sue painted. He had to admit she was a good artist. He listened as she encouraged Johnsy, who seemed to despair even further with every falling leaf from the ivy outside. He heard the stories of how they met, how they ended up in the poorest part of the city, living on the income from their paintings. He even managed to smile at the plans they had made to visit Italy, so Johnsy could live out her dream. All the while, Johnsy appeared to be making no progress. He watched as Sue smiled as she carried on, hiding her hurt from Johnsy.
 
Finally, the painting was done. Surprisingly, Old Behrman volunteered to sit with Johnsy the day Sue went out and tried to sell the painting. Pulling up the shades before she left, Sue's eyes lifted to the ivy. She drew a sharp breath when she noticed the one remaining leaf. It fluttered, almost like a taunt. Sue made to pull the shade close again, when Johnsy's weakened voice stopped her.
 
“There's only one leaf left isn't there?” she asked. “It's not going to be much longer now.”
 
“Nonsense.” Sue tucked the pillow and sheets around Johnsy. “I'm going to sell this painting Johnsy. Behrman will stay with you if you need anything. I'll be back with more medicine and food.”
 
Kissing her spouse gently on the lips, she rushed out of the door. In the process she almost ran over Behrman.
 
“What's the hurry?”
 
“ I've got to get her food and medicine.”
 
Behrman nodded, letting Sue rush off.
 
Hours later Sue returned happy, and grateful to Behrman for agreeing to pose for the painting. From the sale, she was able to buy enough food and more medicine for a week, maybe more. To thank him she offered a small portion of the remaining money from the sale, which he refused. He instead agreed to stay for a small dinner of soup and bread.
Sue patiently fed Johnsy soup, mashing the potatoes and vegetables, making it easier to swallow. She cooed encouragement until every drop was gone. Behrman watched quietly, then shortly after said his goodnights, muttering that it was past time to get back to his painting. He left the couple to settle in. No one mentioned that the wind had suddenly picked up outside.
 
 
The next morning, when Sue could no longer contain herself she opened the shades. With a relieved laugh, she bounced back to Johnsy in the bed.
 
“Look Johnsy, your leaf, it's still there.” she exclaimed excitedly.
 
Johnsy wore a look of disbelief. She was certain that after the night of howling wind, death would have met her. She had waited, until she fell asleep.
Sue was beside herself. She fed Johnsy some oats for breakfast along with her medicine, before starting on another painting.
 
 
 
The next days got colder and the nights more blustery, yet every morning that leaf hung on and so did Johnsy. She was moving around more and getting stronger. She was talking again about their plans and how she couldn't wait to be painting. As they sat at the makeshift table, Sue suddenly exclaimed.
 
“Old Behrman’s not been around. I wonder what he got up to?”
 
“I hope he doesn't think he needs to stay away now that I'm getting better.”
 
“I'll check on him later. I was getting used to the old codger.” Sue giggled.
 
That evening, Sue went knocking on Behrman’s door only to find it slightly open. She pushed it in, calling for him as she went. Getting no answer, she tuned to go back the way she came when she caught sight of the canvas. No longer blank, she walked over to see what Behrman had finally painted.
 
“Well I'll be…” she whispered.
 
Taking the painting with her, she pulled his door closed behind her never noticing the ivy branch on the floor next to the table.
 
“If you looking for Old Behrman, you ain't going to find him.” A voice called out.
 
“Hey Sophie. You know where he is then?”
 
“Took him to the hospital, seeing how sick he was. Drunk old fool was sitting out in the cold and managed to get himself pneumonia.. Don't think he'll make it past the night.”
 
Sue thanked her neighbor, and ran to give Johnsy the terrible news. It was hard to believe he had been drinking again. They were both saddened for the man whom they had come to think of as their friend. Worried that they should have checked on him sooner, they sat in mournful silence until Sue remembered the painting.
 
“Look Johnsy, he finally did it. Behrman painted his masterpiece.”
 
She turned the painting to Johnsy, smiling as she heard her gasp.
 
“But Sue, that's of us. I mean you and me.. Gosh, it's so beautiful.”
 
“Who knew Old Behrman had it in him huh. He got your eyes just right too love.”
 
The two sat, heads together, marveling at the way Behrman had captured them on canvas.
 
 
 
What no one would know, is when Behrman left the couple that night after dinner, he had a plan to give Johnsy something to believe in. If she believed that the last leaf was her end, then that leaf would never fall off. At least not the way they thought. So while the wind blew mercilessly that night, Behrman sawed off a long length of the low lying ivy branches and stripped it of all its leaves save one. Before dawn he set up the branch hoping that it would not look too out of place from across the way, and sat himself down on the cold damp floor. For hours he sat up in the abandoned building, holding the branch through the broken window. He was determined that Johnsy would see the leaf hanging on and it would will her to keep fighting herself. When the shades opened in the morning until Sue closed the shades again at night, he was there. During that time, he got inspired to paint the couple greatly due to watching Sue nurse Johnsy back to health. He painted them in a lover’s embrace. Sue's head resting on Johnsy's breast and Johnsy gazing lovingly at her. In a swirl of watercolor, one would miss the subtle outline of the lone ivy leaf overhead.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My unending thanks to AC as always.

Hope this wasn't too painful.. mistakes are my own.
Copyright © 2017 Defiance19; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 11
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Very sweet and romantic how the old man would go to such lengths to ensure that leaf didn't fall. Maybe being part of their little circle and seeing their love gave him joy enough to endure the cold?

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I like it. The portrait is a nice touch, and I also like how you have Behrman remembering the woman he loved once. That's a super subtle, but effective way to bring the older man to emotional life for the readers. Also vivid to me is the love of the couple; beautifully done.

 

Great job! Thanks for taking the prompt challenge!

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The devotion of these two is wonderful. You've painted a beautiful picture of them and their love. Behrman's compassion and help was so well done. You did a marvelous job, Def.
xoxox tim

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Such a beautiful tale of not just love, but the inherent goodness in people. Most people would see an old drunk when they looked at the man. Not the heroic compassion within him. I am touched. He died with purpose, and created his masterpiece because of the love and devotion he saw in these two women. I love your mind, my dear friend... well done... cheers... Gary....

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Beautiful Def!

 

Old Behrman finished his masterpiece, but instead of a painting, it was the survival of Johnsy and Sue!

 

Delicious!

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I can imagine Behrman's Gertie looking down at him from Heaven and nodding with satisfaction at his decision to help the two women. "Ja, Ja, mein lieber Mann." And being remembered with fondness and gratitude isn't the worst epitah for an lonely old painter.

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This was a beautiful tale, Def. the love these women had for each other was touching to witness. Who knew old Behman would be such a romantic? The man had a wonderful and kind heart. Although he was lonely, I would like to believe his Gertie was looking down on him and waiting for him with open arms.

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On 04/27/2016 05:43 AM, Puppilull said:

Very sweet and romantic how the old man would go to such lengths to ensure that leaf didn't fall. Maybe being part of their little circle and seeing their love gave him joy enough to endure the cold?

I think maybe he didn't even know he had it in him. I'd like to believe their love won him over too...

 

Thank you for reading this and leaving a review Puppi!

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On 04/27/2016 06:31 AM, AC Benus said:

I like it. The portrait is a nice touch, and I also like how you have Behrman remembering the woman he loved once. That's a super subtle, but effective way to bring the older man to emotional life for the readers. Also vivid to me is the love of the couple; beautifully done.

 

Great job! Thanks for taking the prompt challenge!

I'm happy you like it and that the couple's love stood out for you. I wanted to try making Behrman human so I'm glad I may have succeeded. Even happier I came up with a slightly better ending.

 

Thank you AC for your help and encouraging support..

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On 04/27/2016 06:44 AM, Mikiesboy said:

The devotion of these two is wonderful. You've painted a beautiful picture of them and their love. Behrman's compassion and help was so well done. You did a marvelous job, Def.

xoxox tim

I'm glad that Johnsy and Sue were so clear. I think that it was that devotion which made Behrman determined to help..

 

Thanks so much tim, for reading this and for your support.. xo

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On 04/27/2016 07:12 AM, Headstall said:

Such a beautiful tale of not just love, but the inherent goodness in people. Most people would see an old drunk when they looked at the man. Not the heroic compassion within him. I am touched. He died with purpose, and created his masterpiece because of the love and devotion he saw in these two women. I love your mind, my dear friend... well done... cheers... Gary....

Aw, Gary. Thank you for this review. To think I wasn't going to post it because I wrote a messy twist at first. I'm so happy that this little story worked for you the way it did.

 

Thanks again for reading and for your support.

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On 04/27/2016 08:54 AM, skinnydragon said:

Beautiful Def!

 

Old Behrman finished his masterpiece, but instead of a painting, it was the survival of Johnsy and Sue!

 

Delicious!

Delicious..lol. That's awesome.

 

Thank you SkinnyD. I actually love your take on what Behrman's true masterpiece is.

I so appreciate you taking the time to read this..

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On 04/27/2016 04:28 PM, Timothy M. said:

I can imagine Behrman's Gertie looking down at him from Heaven and nodding with satisfaction at his decision to help the two women. "Ja, Ja, mein lieber Mann." And being remembered with fondness and gratitude isn't the worst epitah for an lonely old painter.

I hope she is too, and that she's proud. Maybe it made up for whatever it is he felt he failed at. I know Johnsy and Sue won't likely forget him either..

 

Thank you so much for reading my little story Tim, and for leaving a review.

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On 04/27/2016 09:52 PM, LitLover said:

This was a beautiful tale, Def. the love these women had for each other was touching to witness. Who knew old Behman would be such a romantic? The man had a wonderful and kind heart. Although he was lonely, I would like to believe his Gertie was looking down on him and waiting for him with open arms.

I'm happy I was able to convey the love this couple had for each other. Behrman allowed himself to be moved by that, so Gertie waiting with open arms would be perfect..

 

Thanks for reading Lit, and for leaving such a nice review..

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Absolutely beautiful! There is so much that is hard or dark to the human existence, here you brought us a bit of the lighter, brighter side. These people all still struggled in one way or another ... life was not easy, but, they had dreams and they had love in its best form.

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On 04/28/2016 10:27 PM, dughlas said:

Absolutely beautiful! There is so much that is hard or dark to the human existence, here you brought us a bit of the lighter, brighter side. These people all still struggled in one way or another ... life was not easy, but, they had dreams and they had love in its best form.

I love this. It is good at times to be reminded that there is a lighter, brighter side. That people could be moved to be selfless inspite of their circumstances. I'm moved that you saw it this way.

 

 

I appreciate your thoughtful review Dugh. Thank you for reading this and for your support.

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Thanks Def!
That was beautiful! I particularly liked the description of the masterpiece, pulling it together with a subtle leaf. The love between Sue and Johnsy was tangible, as if I could touch it. And the old man did just that ....
Awesome short!

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On 04/29/2016 08:53 AM, said:

Thanks Def!

That was beautiful! I particularly liked the description of the masterpiece, pulling it together with a subtle leaf. The love between Sue and Johnsy was tangible, as if I could touch it. And the old man did just that ....

Awesome short!

Thank you Oxala. The love between the couple definitely struck a chord with Behrman. I don't think he would have acted otherwise. And it was wonderful it inspired his masterpiece yeah... I'm glad that it stood out for you too.

 

I really appreciate you reading this story and leaving a review.. Thanks again..

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