The Wilting of the Roses

Here’s a short story I just dug up! I wrote it at night a year and a half ago, but I thought you might enjoy reading it. It’s not one of my best works (those are the ones I send to literary magazines), but I like it, nonetheless.


 

 

The Wilting of the Roses

          She turned on the lazy ceiling fan. Its cool breeze gave her a moment’s reprieve from the June heat. She hadn’t felt this hot since the day she found her Danny hanging from this very fan.

She watched the simple wooden boards spin around and around, chasing one another in a never-ending game. With a long sigh she released all the pent-up air from her lungs. That had been many years ago. Danny should have been in his thirties by now. He would have laughed to see how wrinkled and frail she had become.

She didn’t blame him, of course. She had often seen herself dangling somewhere, too. She guessed that the fan was as good a place as any.

The grandfather clock echoed through her empty house. Five, six, seven… the pendulum swung back and forth, back and forth. Then there he was again, swinging back and forth, back and forth. She had come too late. His body dangled limply, still swinging from the struggle he had made just seconds before she came. Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Antony had inherited that clock from his godfather. They would not have been able to pay for something so ornate and delicate—not with his factory job. She had begun to work, too. She had to, so that Danny could go to college. When Antony died, she had to start working twice as much and still keep up with the chores and her relationship with Danny. Well, she had failed at the Danny part. He still hung there in her mind, the rope scratching at his neck as he swung back and forth, back and forth…

It was time. The sun had risen over the horizon, painting the sky with red and orange. It had been twenty years since Antony had died, to the day. You wouldn’t think it, looking out at the way the rising sunlight tinted those few wispy clouds and hearing the black-capped chickadees calling for their mates.

But it was on this day that the roses would bloom. Roses were Antony’s favorite flowers, so she had planted them in honor of him, and they always came up at the same time each year. She had plenty of poppies for Danny, too, of course, but the poppies were never as pretty as the roses.

She unlatched the door and heard a muffled creak when she swung it open. She was surprised to feel the dew and grass clinging to her feet. Had she really forgotten her shoes? Odd. No time now, though. She had to watch the blossoms open before it was too late.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the poppies lying open on the damp dirt. And flashes of purple—were those wild violets? She would have to stop to check, but the grandfather clock still rung in her ears.

Ring, ring…red, red…

No! Not again! Red on the ground…his body crumpled and unnatural. His grey eyes widened in dismay before flickering between a hundred emotions. His life flashed by him and the light went out. No, no, no. Why had he followed her? She had not wanted this. No matter her words, she had not wanted his death. She loved him! She felt it in her heart. She never meant any of the threats. She did not want this red on the ground.

But it couldn’t be! Her roses—the red on the ground. Scarlet satin petals scattered across the rich soil…she had worked so hard! How could they have died before even blossoming? The vines were naked; thorns stuck out at odd angles.

No! He couldn’t be dead. Didn’t he see the car coming? She wondered what he was going to say. His mouth was still opened in a small oval, but blood stained the corners of his lips. It dripped slowly, painfully onto the cracked white sidewalk. She bent forward to brush the hair out of his eyes, but jumped back when her fingers felt sticky and wet.

Blood on her fingers! The traitorous thorns had stabbed her. She watched the drops fall onto the petals at her feet.

The roses had wilted. It was her fault. She had not been careful enough. She should have paid better attention. She could have stopped Danny. She could have stopped Antony. But the red had clouded her vision. She could not see. It hurt! She had been pricked! Oh, how her heart hurt! She had failed them all!

In another world, she could hear the ringing of the grandfather clock. The song was dull and flat, joined by the screeching of car tires and the words that Antony could not say. His mouth in that little ‘o,’ the light fading from his cloudy eyes, the red on the cement…The pendulum of that old grandfather clock was red. Back and forth, back and forth…

Through a gauzy veil, she saw Danny—her Danny—hanging from the fan. Back and forth. Back and forth. She had failed. She should’ve cared for him more. Of course he would feel just as dark as she did—he was their son, after all. Back and forth. The necklace of red beads dripping from the scratches of the rope against his neck. Red. Like the petals on the ground. They were next to her now. She could feel them—the roses, Antony, and Danny. They were there. They were hers. She would run to them now.

She pushed the veil aside and let the light flood in.

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