My girlfriend is an exceptionally talented and passionate writer in her own right with an English BA; however, due to the realities of career and motherhood, her dreams have been sidetracked. Last week, she shared this story with me that she wrote sixteen years ago in undergraduate school.
I pray that you enjoy this story as much as I do. Please be forewarned that all but the most hardened souls will be in tears at the end.
A joyful whistling could be heard echoing through the otherwise silent hall of Bayside apartment building 310.
The jubilant individual responsible for the noise stopped before a door emblazoned with brass lettering declaring what lay beyond the door to be apartment 8F. The once-working peephole was painted over in the same dull brown as the rest of the door.
The door opened with a click as the woman stepped inside the apartment. Keys and a small black purse were dropped on a convenient table. Black pumps size 8 were kicked off in the general vicinity of a bedroom.
Jayne headed into the small kitchen. She gingerly placed the package she had been cradling in her arms on the green tile counter. She then perched on her black stocking-clad toes and reached high above into the top cabinet. She withdrew a large crystal cut vase.
(image courtesy rubylane.com)
The vase sparkled in the little moonlight that was able to filter in through the small kitchen window. She could see the small rainbows that were cascading off the surface as she set the vase in the sink. Jayne filled the vase with a few inches of lukewarm tap water.
Turning her attention to her precious package, she slowly untied the red velvet bow around the brown butcher paper. She spread the paper open to reveal the twelve long-stemmed red roses that lay nestled inside. Taking a sharp knife from a drawer, she deftly chopped of the dead bottom ends of the roses and then placed the remaining part in the vase. They stood up proud, interspersed with baby’s breath.
(image courtesy wallpapergalaxy.com)
Jayne took the vase and headed into the bedroom, stepping over her shoes, left forgotten in the doorway.
She placed the roses reverently on a dresser top crowded with jewelry, scarves, makeup, and perfume.
As she began undressing for bed, she glanced often at the roses. They were a perfect ruby red, thornless stems that ended with soft, unblemished petals that curled tightly into a bud.
Every time she looked at the flowers, she thought of the wonderful man who had proudly presented them to her earlier that very evening. She had met Gregory through a mutual friend and they were set up on a blind date. Normally, she avoided blind dates like the plague. She was usually afraid that the blind date would show her how much her friends thought of her. However, this particular man had sounded so intriguing that she broke her rigid rules for one night.
That one night had proved to be heaven on earth. They had hit if off immediately, laughing most of the evening. They had similar interests and past histories that made an instant bond between them.
At the end of the evening, when Greg asked to see her again, she did not hesitate in giving her positive answer. That was a few weeks ago. Since that time, they had seen one another every other night and most all weekends.
This evening, he had surprised her with the flowers. Since that moment, about three hours earlier, she’d had a little bubble of joy welling up inside her.
As Jayne slipped her sensible cotton pajamas on over her head and climbed into her over-sized Queen Anne bed, she realized how much she loved this man and she wanted to be with him for life. He was a nice stable guy and seemed just like one of the heroes from that best-selling romance novel on her nightstand. She reached over to one side and turned off the bedside lamp. Her last sight before darkness enveloped the silent room was the red roses set elegantly in the vase.
Every morning from then on, she made sure to look at her beautiful red roses first thing. They brought a smile to her face and made the day more tolerable.
Every evening as she laid down to sleep, the last view her eyes beheld before she clicked off the lamp was the roses. Their image seemed etched on her eyelids even when she closed her eyes.
The following days after she received her roses, Jayne went about her daily business.
From the hours of nine to five, Jayne was a bookkeeper for a large company. She had a small cubicle with a phone, computer and stained coffee cup emblazoned with the words, “Wake me when it’s Friday.” More times than not, her work hours extended past five, curtailing her limited social life. She caught up with friends over quick lunches and even quicker phone calls.
She had few friends at work. She spent her break time reading some steamy bodice-ripper romance novel, keeping to herself most of the time. She was not a snob, just shy almost to a fault. Before she’d met Gregory, she’d spent time daydreaming about her perfect guy. Since she’d met Greg, her image of the perfect guy seemed to mirror all of Gregory’s best traits.
As if was, Jayne spent more and more evenings with Greg. She saw him almost every night, except for those nights when she left the office in enough time to head home, shower and sleep for a bit before heading back to the office.
During this time, the roses opened to a full bloom. The petals uncurled, displaying their wondrous beauty as they opened into a burst of deepest red.
She never let a day go by without sitting down and gazing at the roses her love had given her. By this time, she just knew he was her one true love. She was more certain of this than anything else in her life.
The day after he’d given her the roses, Jayne professed her love to Greg. Nothing elaborate, just a simple declaration. They were kissing their good-byes when she pulled him close and whispered into his ear those three magic words. When she pulled back, he smiled at her and gave her a passionate kiss.
From then on, she told him often that she loved him. Sometimes it was included in her goodbye to him at the end of the night. Sometimes, it was a whisper during a poignant part of a romantic movie. Once, she mailed him a Hallmark card with a silly romantic message of love. She signed the bottom with love always.
Still, every night, she would check on her roses. Sometimes, she re-cut the stems or poured in fresh water. Every so often she would change the water or add a little cut-plant food. The roses flourished under her diligent attention.
The night she invited him to stay over, the roses were at the deepest bloom. They looked artificial, so perfect was their positioning and image.
When he walked into her bedroom, he never noticed the flowers in their place of honor atop her dresser. She knew he had other things on his mind at that time. Herself, she could not believe what she was doing. She’d known the guy for a little over a week and already she felt comfortable to share the most intimate parts of her life with him. But, he was her perfect guy, her mind would remind her every time she doubted her senses.
The next morning, as he swung his legs out from under the sheets, his eyes never fell on the roses on the dresser across the room, staring at him in silent beauty.
From that night on, he spent most of his nights at her apartment. She made rooms in the closet for his clothes and even bought him a toothbrush for him to keep in the bathroom next to hers. He started leaving more and more of his personal his personal items at her apartment, until it made more sense for him to spend most of his time there.
Every morning, she greeted him with a kiss and a profession of her undying love. Each night, before she succumbed to sleep, she wrapped her arms around his torso and kissed his ear, whispering how much she loved him.
She did small things, like leaving love notes in his briefcase. He thought it was cute, until one fell out of his day planner during a meeting with his boss. He was hard-put to explain it to his boss, later telling Jayne to quit the cutesy stuff.
She quit, but continued to show her devotion in other ways. She would massage his shoulders after a hard day or bring home a bottle of his favorite brandy.
Her days progressed in much the same routine. Any friends she may have had once had stopped calling to ask her to join them at a bar or club. She spent less time at work.
Her life became intertwined with his. She tailored her work schedule to be home when he got there. Greg had his own key, but Jayne liked to greet him as he arrived.
Her shortened work schedule sometimes meant going in to work earlier, but she made the sacrifices willingly. She often left the apartment while he as still sound asleep, one hand curled around the pillow.
Her roses did not receive the same attention they once had. If he had ever seen them, he never gave any notice of such. She herself barely gave them a glance, her time was so wrapped up in him. The water in the vase grew stale, but she never noticed.
When they had their first argument, dead brown spots had begun to appear on the neglected roses. The once brilliant petals were dotted with small ugly brown spots, marring their perfect beauty.
She never noticed. She was too busy weeping from the heated exchange that had taken place. The argument had started over nothing, really.
She’d been too tired to cook and wanted to eat out. He’d had a rough day as well and just wanted to stay in. Things had quickly escalated from there, until the finale when he’d grabbed his jacket and stomped out the door. She sat on her bed, letting the tears roll down her face. She went to bed silently that night, her back turned to the drooping roses.
Greg slipped in around midnight and they made up, both apologizing for the hateful things that they had said and both promising to never let such a silly thing happen again.
These midnight promises made in the heat of the moment were broken as most promises are. Jayne would become upset over something trivial or Greg would sulk moodily over a slip of the tongue. Sometimes the fights were small, sometimes not. But, the make-ups covered all the fallacies they were facing, or so Jayne thought. After, all he was the perfect guy for her.
Along with the rocky waters of the relationship, the flowers suffered. The larger outside petals were becoming brittle from the dry air in the apartment. There was some slimy type of scum forming on the top of the water, which was now a light brownish color. However, the inside petals of the roses were just as picture perfect as the day she placed the precious bouquet in the vase.
Their fights became more frequent. The only thing that was more intense then the times the two headstrong individuals clashed was when they had a passionate make-up session. These rituals of forgiveness were as intense as any barrage of words with which they pounded each other.
After one particularly grueling fight, he stormed out of the apartment, the door vibrating from his force. From the living room window, she could see him getting into his car. She heard the squeals as he peeled from the parking lot. She then slowly sank to the floor by the window. Placing her face in her hands, she sobbed. She cried for herself She cried for becoming so angry over something she could not even recall now. She cried because this was not supposed to happen to those in love as much as she was with him. She cried so much that she was sure her eyelashes would bleach from the salty tears. As she sat, crying over ugly words and lost chances, a single petal detached itself and floated to the floor. When she went to sleep that night, she never even noticed.
He didn’t return for a couple of days. She called in sick to work- they wouldn’t miss her, she was one of twenty bookkeepers who all did such similar mindless work it seemed. Jayne dragged about her small apartment, hoping and praying he’d call. At the same time, she was hoping and praying he was gone for good. But, that was a small hope. She didn’t really want him to be gone. Just the hurt.
When Greg appeared on the doorstep, any ideas about banishing him disappeared from her mind. Things returned to how they were at first- all sweetness and lightness. She told him daily she loved him and rejoiced being in his presence.
These loving and carefree days continued on happily until the next big fight. This was the first since that time he was gone for a couple days. All small hurts had been building for another large blowout. This time, instead of running away as he usually did, he stayed for a discussion after the tempers had cooled.
They both talked about how maybe things were meant to be. Inside, Jayne felt as if she was being torn apart, bit by bit.
The next morning saw empty space in the closet as well as a damp spot near the sink, where Greg had once rested his blue toothbrush.
Jayne panicked at first, unsure of what had happened. Then, the foggy details of the talk the previous evening were recalled. She imagined that they had a reasonable discourse. But, she honestly could not recall a single thing she had said. All she remembered was when he said they should maybe separate-after that, even his words were a mystery to her.
After hearing those words issue out of his mouth, all rationality within her broke down. All she could think of was it was over. Her happiness, her joy, her future was breaking down before her very eyes and there was little she could do to stop it.
In the sane, logical world, she was able to agree diplomatically that perhaps it would be best for them to spend some time apart. Possibly a short hiatus, more likely a permanent separation.
In her own world, a hysterical voice demanded to be heard. She could make things work, she could be more pleasant, loving, forgiving, etc. She could change for him. He was her perfect guy, after all. Her hero that she had read and dreamed about.
Mere feet away, in her bedroom, on her dusty dresser sat a vase full of mostly dead roses. While random chaotic thoughts chased one another through her mind, a cascade of petals began to fall from where they once displayed their glory. These dead petals were a dark red, like dried blood. They were contorted from their former soft curve shape. The petals caused the dust on the dresser to stir momentarily, then settle back down.
She was not sure when he had left. Her mind was still functioning in two states. On one side, she was civil and polite and probably walked him to the door, although she could not remember doing such a thing. On the inside, she was a raging, crying, maddening woman about to crack.
She wasn’t even sure when he took his belongings. She might have been in the bedroom for all she knew. She might have helped him pack. Her rational mind was fuzzy on the details.
Still, when she woke up to face the emptiness echoing in her apartment, she was of one mind. She had silenced that hysterical voice inside. A calm, not unlike that which befalls the ocean before a storm, was upon her. She had tightened her control on her emotions.
It was nobody’s business but hers. So, she kept it bottled inside. All that escaped her lips now was an occasional silent sob or hiccup.
She never noticed the vase of dead blooms on her dresser. The slimy scum on to of the water had turned to moldy sludge. A few petals were stubbornly clinging to the top of the stems, but more and more littered the dresser and the wooden floor beneath.
These things ‘she never noticed, not even when the petals on the floor crunched beneath her bare feet as she mechanically carried on with her life.
Life goes on and hurts hurt less, or so she’d been told by numerous co-workers and the few friends she had left. They tried to comfort her, but it was of little use. She was too busy pitying herself to allow others to do the same;
Jayne buried herself in her work, trying to forget the pain. She would arrive home at night exhausted, sometimes never removing her shoes before she hit the bed.
Jayne pushed the thought of him further and further into the back of her mind. At first, even a whiff of a familiar cologne would cause her to well up with tears of hurt. With time, she forgot the exact color of his eyes, the timbre of his voice as he laughed.
It was one bright afternoon that the empty halls of building 310 heard her jaunty whistling once again.
Stopping outside of her apartment, Jayne unlocked the door with a click and stepped inside.
Her keys she placed on the inside table. She slung her purse off her shoulder onto the floor beside the table. She headed into the bedroom, pausing before the neatly made bed.
She gently laid down her package, arranging it just so. It was when she stepped back from the bed that she noticed the roses. The vase was a mess, filled with dirty water, slime and sludge. The petals were either crushed, unnoticed on the floor or laying in dusty heaps on the dresser top. All that was left was a bouquet of stems and yellowed, drooping baby’s breath.
She grabbed a broom and dustpan from the kitchen and swept up the mess on the floor. She drained the sludge from the vase into the toilet where she flushed it down. All the dead petals, stems and baby’s breath she deposited into the trash.
She took the vase into the kitchen. Using a soft sponge and bleach, she removed all the scum, mildew and general sludge from the vase until it sparkled once more. She dried the vase off and brought it back into the bedroom with her.
She opened the package on her bed and withdrew a sunny yellow bouquet of daisies. Daisies had always been her favorite flowers. And this guy who’d given them to her was the perfect guy. She’d met Paul through a friend. He was a fireman- the perfect manly job in her mind. He was just like that guy in the novel she was reading at night, “Flames of Passion.”
Paul had given her the daisies that very afternoon. She was certain that it was love she was feeling for him. What other emotion could make her feel as if her every step was fighter. He was her hero, her perfect guy. That she was certain of, more than anything else in the world.
(image courtesy etsy.com)