A rose. What does it make you think of? I open the tiny box that sits on the table at the side of my chair. Inside lay a rose, aged yet beautiful, dead yet meaningful. I lift it to my face and draw a breath. The rose has a lingering, sweet scent that stands out amongst many others…
It was a foggy night. The pub reeked of smoke and alcohol. ‘A scotch, please,’ I called over the bar. The bar attendant nodded and grinned at me, showing off his blackened, rotting teeth. No sooner had I hoisted myself onto the bar stool, then he smacked the glass down in front of me, making the yellow-y orange drink slop over the sides.
‘Found a date for the Andy’s wedding yet?’ he asked, his breathing jagged and stinking of stale beer.
I shook my head sadly. Of all my friends, I never expected Andy to beat me to the Altar. I’d looked in my wardrobe yesterday and looked through my clothes. That’s when I noticed it. All the suits I had in there? They were from weddings I’d attended before. That’s what I was in life; a best man.
The door opened, bringing in a draught of cold, fresh air. Along with it came a whiff of something sweet. A whiff of hope perhaps, I thought as I whipped around on the stool. A young woman stood at the door. Her golden hair floated around her, as did her dress. There seemed to be something magical about her, like as if a slight mist of glitter hung around her figure. In her hair she wore a ruby red rose that gave off an enchanting aroma, distinguishable even through all the bad air.
As my gaze dropped back to her face, I caught a pair of curious grey eyes watching me and a perfect mouth casting me a shy smile. She walked towards me and offered me a hand. She said, ‘I’m Rose.’
I pull the flower away from my face and reach to stroke its petals. The rose has velvet petals, soft to touch, delightful to the skin. Delicate and tender.
She walked down the aisle looking like a princess from a fairytale. Her dress was layered and flowing, endless white and silver. Her hair was pinned up in a bun with a couple of tendrils escaping from behind her ears. She wore a jewelled tiara that glinted and shimmered in the light, and a white rose. In her arms she held a huge bouquet of white and red roses. Her makeup was exquisitely done, body glitter on her eyelids, cheekbones and shoulders.
The sermon proceeded but I had no eyes for anyone but Rose. I was mesmerised by the radiant beauty before me. At long last, the priest said ‘I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.’ As I lifted her veil, I noticed her eyes sparkle with mischief and affection. My hand brushed against her silk soft dress and my fingers against her satin like cheek. But her red lips were gentle as velvet.
I make my hand move down to the stalk of the rose and quickly draw back as pain travels down my fingers. For every beauty comes with an element of danger. The rose has thorns so treacherous that they can cause wounds deep and beyond repair.
‘I have to go,’ she said. ‘It’s a once in a life time opportunity.’
‘I know,’ I sighed. It would be the first time apart for us. I guess we’d have to get used to it. Life in this new house wasn’t going to be easy with her travelling to France so soon after our honeymoon.
That night, she packed her clothes and clambered into bed with me. ‘I’ll be leaving for the 5 a.m. flight early in the morning.’ she said. ‘I’ll say good bye now so that I don’t have to wake you after.’
And she kissed me good bye.
Later that night I was aware of someone lightly kissing my forehead and of the bedroom door and then the front door both shutting softly. I awoke with the chirping of the birds, at 8 a.m. at least. I looked at her side of the bed and I saw a single red rose resting upon her pillow. A rose for Rose, I thought and went to make myself a bowl of porridge. The house seemed scarily silent, without her bustling about, singing and throwing breakfast scarps to the birds.
I picked up my bowl and turned on the radio to break the silence then reached for the milk with my free hand. Then I froze. ‘…flight 3681 flying to Paris this morning at 5 a.m. had a faulty engine and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. All the bodies were recovered. However, there were no survivors…’
The bowl fell from my hand and smashed to a thousand pieces. My heart was broken too, and the parts could not be fixed together again. Not now, not ever. All I had of her was the rose.
Now, I feel a single tear slide down my cheek and watch it as it drops onto the rose. The rose no longer has a scent that filled the air and lingered, making you happy; its petals no longer were velvety under my touch but rather felt like stiff, singed cotton. The blood red colouring had leaked away and now all that was left was brown. The memories were fading. But the thorns were still sharp and the pain still fresh. The wounds were still raw and would never heal.
And somewhere out there, Rose lay still in her coffin, aged yet beautiful, dead yet meaningful. She who had made me feel safe, like every moment of my life was worth living. She had also given me infinite hurt. It was hard to take in. Rose and I would never be together again. Rose was but a memory etched into my brain. Died, faded and withered into the past. Yes, withered, like the rose she had left upon my pillow…