The anomaly was a particularly boring one, sparkling away innocuously in the middle of meadow while everyone – soldiers, civilians, and civil servants alike – watched it frustratedly.
Sitting on the grass next to Nick, Claudia looked at the myriad of wildflowers surrounding them. There were buttercups and daisies and several other varieties she couldn’t identify. There was also…
“Look, heartsease,” she said, picking one of the small purple blooms and showing it to Nick.
“Looks like a pansy to me,” Nick replied, looking faintly embarrassed about knowing even that much about flowers.
“It’s also known as the wild pansy,” Claudia allowed. “But my grandmother was always fond of the traditional names for things, so I always call it heartsease.”
“It’s pretty,” Nick said.
Claudia smiled. “It’s supposedly the flower used by Oberon to make people fall in love with each other in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“Why, Claudia Brown, you are a fountain of information today,” said Nick, feigning surprise.
Claudia gave him a sharp nudge with her elbow, and then after a beat, shrugged. “I studied it at school,” she admitted. “They drummed it into us so thoroughly that I’ve never been able to forget it.”
Nick grinned. “I see.” Then he took the flower from Claudia, and peered at it and then her. “So, how did this make people fall in love with each other?”
“The juice was extracted and then ‘on sleeping eyelids laid’,” quoted Claudia.
“But I’m not asleep right now,” said Nick softly, after a moment. “And neither are you.” He handed the flower back to her, and then kept hold of her hand when she took it from him.
Claudia felt a pleasant little shiver steal through her. “But we don’t need to resort to such things,” she replied. “Do we?”
Nick squeezed her hand, although the look in his eyes said he wished he could do more than that. “I hope not.”