“I am…a leaf collector. Of sorts.” Ingram straightened a bit to encompass the room with a sweeping gesture before returning with a grunt to his usual stooped-over posture.

Ross was nearly speechless. “They…they’re beautiful.” Leaves of every shape and size danced on the walls and froms strings in the air. Most were pressed flat, with a slight acrylic sheen, and all had either a letter or a simple picture cut out of them.

“Wherever I go, I cannot help but collect a handful of leaves here and there,” Ingram said, a note of pride detectable in his voice. “Then I return home to my flower press, and once they are flattened I craft the leaves into art or a message that most associates itself with where they were collected.”

“May I take a look?”

“Please.”

Faded by age and lit into translucency by the late afternoon sun, the most conspicuously displayed leaves each bore one letter of the word LOVE.

“I proposed to my wife on a fall day, in a park,” said Ingram, following Ross’s gaze. “I took two handfuls that day; the second is with her, in the Alzheimer’s home.”

“What about that one?” Ross pointed at a phrase arced across the wall: WEALTH.

“From my first business trip to Japan. The businessmen over there thought it terribly unlucky and inauspicious.”

Suspended in the far corner of the room, the shadow hiding the monofilament wire: LOSS.

Ross examined it, brow knitted.”Your wife?”

“No, she’ll get her own when I finally…lose…her,” Ingram sighed. “That’s something else entirely. Something much darker. Perhaps when I know you a little better you can hear the story.”

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