Well, it’s been a crazy couple days. Finals week + long plane trip sitting behind screaming Russian twin babies + Jewish/Gaelic wedding + severe lack of sleep + adjusting to a 2 hour time zone difference + 5 siblings all excited to see me and wanting to talk my ear off = exhausted me. So this week, I’m taking a break from my current series on deficiencies in my writing (and how I fix them), and I’m going to give you all another one of my short stories. This one is a short piece I wrote earlier this year, one of my rare 3rd person stories, and is an amalgamation of three very painful relationships I went through in the past few years, all tied up into one story of a relationship between a man and a woman. I hope you enjoy.
He had given her the rosebush a few months ago, when the flowers were just beginning to open. She could just barely see the soft red petals starting to show through the new green buds. With a soft exclamation of delight, she set the pretty blue pot on the little antique table beneath the window, right next to her favorite chair. The plant was beautiful, she said. She loved it. She threw her arms around his neck, and to his surprise, left a soft kiss on his lips. Their first kiss. He responded in kind, drawing her closer, wrapping his arms around her waist as the sunbeams streamed through the window and bathed the little rosebush in golden light. The barely opened blossoms seemed to be drinking in the warmth of the happy couple even as it absorbed the warmth of the sun. It was a beautiful day.
Days passed. The little rosebush was taken good care of by its mistress. She carefully watered it every day, letting the cool water sink into the soft dark soil with delight. She gave it just the right amount of sunlight, too, and gently trimmed the newly formed thorns that threatened to scratch her hands when she came close. She would sit there sometimes, staring dreamily at the new flowers, talking to them as if they could really hear her. The buds opened fully over the course of several days, and the vibrancy of the deep red petals seemed to fill the little sitting room with a bright, lively color that it had been missing before. Sometimes the man would come to visit, and he would sit on dilapidated green velvet couch next to the plant’s table, and the woman would sit on his lap, her head on his shoulder. She would look over at the delicate roses, smile at him, and then lean in to kiss him again. They would sit there for hours, whispering things the rosebush couldn’t hear, smiling and laughing together. Sometimes it seemed like the plant’s leaves were going to burst out over the edge of the pot and trail along the table towards the couple, as if longing to share in the happiness that seemed to glow and fill the whole place with warmth. The whole room was alive, thriving and growing alongside the two young humans and the little rosebush near the window.
One day, the rosebush wasn’t watered. It waited patiently, anxiously for her to come in with her plastic green cup and speak to the flowers as their roots thirstily soaked up the moisture. But she didn’t even come in the room. As the sun sank in a rosy glow of orange and purple, the little bush drooped a little, curling in its leaves ever so slightly. She hadn’t even come in to say hello. She came in at the right time the next morning and gave the little plant some water, but it was like she hadn’t even noticed that she had forgotten to come in the day before. She didn’t speak to the rosebush this time, either. Just poured out the water over the fragile blooms and left. She hadn’t even noticed the way the flowers sagged. The rosebush was sad as she left, maybe even a little hurt. What was wrong? She had never forgotten before.
That night, the man came over again. He didn’t kiss the woman this time, though. The two humans sat on the couch, a slight distance between them. The rosebush watched anxiously, nervous even though it didn’t know why. The man started talking, but the woman interrupted him. Within moments they were arguing, her face flushed a bright pink, and a slight red crept above his collar. The plant cringed slightly, drawing back into its’ pot, confused as the woman burst into tears. The man wrapped his arms around her, looking embarrassed. He played with her hair, told her he was sorry. He shouldn’t have yelled at her like that. She sniffled slightly, but told him it was ok. He looked around, and plucked a flower off the rosebush, tucking it behind her ear and smiling. They should just go to dinner and forget this ever happened, he said. She smiled slightly, and he led her out of the room, her hand in hers. The rosebush perked up noticeably as they left. Everything was ok now.
And everything was fine, for a while. She came in every day to give the rosebush water, and she confided in it again like it was her best friend. The man came over almost every day, and they would sit on the couch again, happy and smiling. The little plant especially loved the times when the man would stand up, bow, and ask the woman to dance. They would sway back and forth in the middle of the room, their arms wrapped around each other as the music played softly in the background. The leaves on the rosebush would sway back and forth in time with the music too, sometimes, seemingly glowing with something akin to happiness. The bush grew healthier and more vibrant every day, the leaves becoming greener, the petals brighter red, and new buds appearing on the stems, thriving under the loving care of the woman. She seemed to glow herself, always smiling and happy. Together, they were absolutely perfect.
She forgot to water the plant again one rainy day, months later. The little bush didn’t mind. It thought she’d just come in and bring the water the next day, like she did before. But this time was different. She came in and sat down on the couch, staring listlessly out the window, her arms wrapped around her knees, tight against her chest. The plant was confused. It had never seen her like this before. She didn’t say anything, didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. Just sat there for hours and then left without so much as glancing at the little plant. All the flowers began to droop, worried about her. Something was wrong.
Days passed. Hot, sunny, cloudless days. She still didn’t water the rosebush, or even move it out of the burning light that hurt the little plant, made it sick. She didn’t even remember to trim back the thorns. She still came into the room, but it was like she didn’t even see her plant. She would just curl up on the couch, motionless. She never made a sound, just stared out the window or at the wall with eyes that didn’t see anything. It was like she had forgotten that the rosebush even existed, and that’s what hurt the plant most of all. Its leaves began to curl up, folding in on themselves, and it wasn’t just because of the heat or the lack of water.
The man came over sometimes, but the plant could tell things were different. They didn’t cuddle on the couch anymore, and if he kissed her, it was just on the cheek. He never asked her to dance, either. It made the little plant sad. The air seemed cold now whenever the two humans were together. They would sit for long periods of time without even speaking to each other. They didn’t even notice the rosebush, its petals slowly becoming dry, the leaves turning brown. Every time the man left, walking out the door without so much as an “I love you,” another petal drifted gently through the air to land on the table, dry and colorless. But they never noticed, never even looked as the rosebush slowly died.
The day came at last when everything ended. He came over again, but they didn’t sit in frigid silence this time. They began to argue. Hot, angry words flew through the air, tossed back and forth in passion. The rosebush couldn’t even shrink back in fear as it watched the couple get up in each other’s faces, screaming, crying, unhappy. It didn’t even have the strength to feel sad as the two people bitterly let loose all their frustration, their complaints, their pain. And then, in the space of a sentence, it stopped. The rosebush couldn’t tell who said it, but that didn’t change the facts: it was over. He would never come over again. She wouldn’t say “I love you” anymore. She collapsed on the floor, sobbing, bumping into the table as she fell. He jammed his hat on his head and walked out the door without a second glance, not even looking back as the pot on the table wobbled slightly, then rolled off the edge and onto the floor with a loud crash. Pottery shards littered the floor, and the plant lay there, lifeless, its leaves crumpled into dust. She continued to cry violently, surrounded by pieces of broken pottery and desiccated roses. Everything was gone now. Everything was dead. Just like the flowers.