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THE ROSE

 


Suddenly the book opened at a bookmark inserted between the pages - a dry white rose. The petals withered over time but the beauty has not faded away. He carefully takes the flower, contemplates for a few moments, then grabs the pen and starts writing...

 

The new morning brought a surprise to a flower bed populated with red roses. A white tea-rose emerged from a tight green bud, and was looking at the world through the patches of sunlight reflected in her tears. She was welcomed by the rest of the flowers; they bid her good morning and in eager rivalry began to introduce her to the garden and their daily routine. They talked about the lady who lives in the house when they got interrupted by the gardener. His face seemed familiar to her. The rose watched him closely while he was watering the flowers, cutting the bushes mumbling something she could not hear. When her turn came and he approached her, she noticed his hazel eyes with a glimpse of surprise.

A white rose? - he said, - a gift from Heaven? – and he went back to his humming as if nothing happened.

- Why is he so sad, - asked the rose?

-    He is not sad, he is melancholic, - answered the exalted Miss Tulip with rusty voice, shaking off the ashes from her short bright dress.

-    Why is he so …melancholic?

-    Ah, - sighed the Madonna-Lily, high on her own fumes, - he is in love with the lady of the house. But she doesn’t care for him.

-    Why doesn’t she care? He is so handsome, - insisted the rose.

-    Too many questions, kid, - muttered the old flabby withering Chrysanthemum.

 

As the day progressed, the rose was very busy catching up with the world to which she was born.  All the inhabitants of the garden came to meet her and bid her welcome. She became acquainted with the Butterflies, Water-tiger from the brook which gentle murmur she could hear; a gang of Grasshoppers performing their acrobatic routines. She was surprised by the Ground Beetle who came to demonstrate his macho attitude and was very aggressive. From her half-sisters, red roses, she learned that although bugs tend to be fascinating creatures, they are not generally popular for appealing looks and engaging personalities.

 

The day faded into the evening. Long shadows changed patterns and colors of the flowers; the breeze slowed down, as the rose was about to experience her first night. And what a night it was! Sultry… The garden life at once transformed into a strange show with all characters set in motion by the heat and the fragrance, and the darkness which freed them up from the days’ orderliness.

 

The Madonna-Lily as well as all other flowers, even the Chrysanthemum, turned out to be quite promiscuous creatures. While Lightning-bugs flickered here and there adding a flare of intimacy, the bugs started their courting game with the flowers. Their behavior though did not strike the rose with anything of a romantic nature. Most of them behaved pretty obnoxious, but the flowers did not mind it at all, they opened their petals and allowed the bugs to land onto their bosom and touch their stamens, and that would cast even headier fragrance than in the day time. The petals would then come to close over the bug’s back, and the rose would watch with astonishment the mysterious dancing accompanied by even buzzing, murmur, and purling muffled up out of the close shut petals.

-    They all probably have established relationships, - naively thought the rose. At first, she felt embarrassed but the embarrassment led to sadness. All of a sudden she imagined the gardener; she recalled her first impression of him and how he tendered to her… She remembered the look in his eyes – it was a blank look. This made her even sadder. She closed her eyes to listen to the jingle that started inside her. Memories of his touch send her juices to dash up along the stem right to where they stumbled over the bud and oozed out. She felt the warmth of his calm and confident hands. She wished his touch would last forever.

Her fantasy was interrupted by a Cockchafer suddenly emerging from the darkness and descending in concentric circles closer and closer to the rose. His buzzing was disturbing and his approach - with undue familiarity.

-    Hey, babe. Waiting for me? Let’s move it then, I ain’t got time for romance…

-    I beg your pardon, - politely replied the rose, her voice trembled, - I am not sure I understand what you mean...

-    C’mon rose, you know --- you and me --- buzz-buzz …a quickie --- I ain’t got whole night to spend on you…..

-    Forgive me, - interrupted the rose, - but I must decline your offer; you are a very attractive bug but I already have a significant other.

-    Hey, I don’t like your kind to start with, - he mumbled as he took off. - Darn virgins, can’t stand them! Wasted the whole night on her…

 

At the crack of dawn the rose woke up fresh and all showered by little shiny diamonds of the morning dew shaping an aura around her head. The gardener, whom she was consciously waiting from the moment she woke up, finally appeared --- at the same hour as yesterday. While he tended other flowers, she was trying to find the most advantageous position, adjusting her posture, shaking her head to make sure all petals are in order.

She surely looked marvelous, white as a bride, fresh and innocent taking pleasure in her grace --- she looked radiant and she perfumed the whole garden. But all her efforts went unnoticed. He didn’t even noticed the way she gave in to his touch, as her stem all jingled when he, as she thought, accidentally brushed against her roots while adding the plant food. Alas, it all went in vain. He was preoccupied with his thoughts mechanically doing his work. She looked at his face of a stranger, the face living in some other world which remained mystery for her. And she felt determined to unravel it. She cried a few more diamonds (that just added to her beauty) and this time did not share her pain with the neighbors. But soon after the gardener was gone, a new person made her appearance. It was that lady of the house Madonna Lily talked about. Indeed she was a beauty but there was a touch of harshness in her features and the way she conducted herself. Feminine and yet something of a tomboy, - thought the rose.

The lady was stunned when she saw the rose; she could not restrain her admiration. Making no sense at all, she said that her prayers got answered, and that she dreamed of an innocent pure white rose and her heart was overwhelmed with joy at this gift from Heaven..

- What is your name, - asked the lady and recollected suddenly, – Oh, you probably don’t have a name, but I will call you Rosa! Rosa is right, it means “the rose” in many languages and it fits you too as you are a stranger here. - The lady was excited about her power to name…she recited from her favorite poem, “Look how much there’s to admire, And what world is at your sight…”

 

And so Rosa acquired a name. She felt silly and proud; it made her stand out and she enjoyed being different. Coyly she looked around to see the reaction of her new friends. She caught a glimpse of a couple of grins, nothing more. The lady talked and talked about herself but Rosa grew bored of this prolonged conversation. She yawned for a couple of times and finally turned away. Then the lady took Rosa’s head into her palms, pulled her closer to herself and gave Rosa a kiss right over her petals. Rosa thought she blushed and everyone saw it. As if roses could blush… What a strange feeling it was. Just recently she dreamt of a kiss. Could it really feel so wrong? Wrong? Why was it wrong, she could not explain but she abruptly pulled her head back and got stung by the neighbor’s thorns. Ouch! At once she found her balance and turned to the lady with her own thorns at the ready and pricked her. The lady flinched and looked with sadness at the tiny droplet of blood on her finger; - it’s not the kiss she wanted back… But it did not stop her, her caresses were getting more and more ardent despite Rosa’s pitiful attempts to resist. She was so in love with the flower, so lonely and so longing for companionship, that she would hardly notice anything except her own emotions.

Finally alone, Rosa sensed that the naïve flare she was enveloped in faded out and the world turned sober. She wanted to cry, but there were no tears. The innocence was lost.

“Heart, my heart, don’t be discouraged and embrace your run of luck…”, - on her way home, the lady recalled her favorite verse. - I am just as fragile a flower as Rosa. We both are granted five thorns, four for defense and one for love. – She smiled at this thought.

 

The day came and went by. The evening brought no relief. Before the sundown, Rosa had a questionable pleasure of being visited by a Pompous Mantis... pompous mantis indeed. He was all black with a tiny white collar around his thick neck. He came to lecture her on behaving in the community; he explained to her the role of women as wives and mothers.

-    You should be submissive - submissive to us, - he said, - if you want to become a mother and fulfill your destiny. - Sudden compulsion between his legs interrupted his speech; he choked and lost his train of thoughts staring at Rosa with confusion. But she did not say a word and let him take off with dignity.

 

As soon as the usual nightly commission started she had a visitor, the Maybug. He looked elegant in the evening frock, shaved and almost charming. His appearance though turned out to be quite deceitful. Without saying a word, as if she was not even there, with his black horns he pushed away her under-petals and landed right on her bosom. In a debilitated moment before she could understand what was going on, she felt a needle somewhere inside her, quick and sharp pain that made her numb; then she felt dizzy and a bit nauseous. Sharp pain receded giving way for a burning sensation and great discomfort. For a moment she was unconscious. Then she saw the Maybug checking on his wings, shaking up while he was getting ready to leave. All of a sudden, he spitted and with words, “it wasn’t worth the trouble” buzzed off. Despite the night’s cool and humid breeze, her petals hanged down to the sides, they felt flabby… There was this emptiness inside and nagging pain.

Few hours later, going over that eventful night, and when all the pain and discomfort were gone, she discovered that she probably would be willing to try and be like everybody else. She recalled her girlfriends and half-sisters chatting of pleasures; and maturely admitted that once she shakes off the debris of bitterness, she would be ready for the new encounter.

Next morning when the gardener returned, she wanted to reproach him for letting others take advantage of her; for not being the one to lead her into the world of love, for allowing the lady to torment her…, but he wouldn’t listen. She was slowly immersing in the cold waters of rejection until the numbness came and alleviated the pain. From there it was easy to observe him. After he was done he stepped behind the thick fence of oleanders and waited for the lady to come to the garden. When she appeared, the rose noticed the excitement on his face. Then it changed to dissent and anguish when he heard what the lady confided into the rose. There was the answer to his mystery, right in front of her eyes. And she felt deep compassion. Disappointment in her life, bitterness, irritation caused by the lady… all in one little lifetime. Was it really worth living?

Where is that beauty that was supposed to save the world?

He realized the lady would not change toward him, but he could not bear being turned down… even for a flower. For a moment he was looking where to channel his anger, and then his eyes stopped at Rosa.

 

Then came the night and she refused no one, and it brought satisfaction with a touch of … bitterness. In the morning she felt tired. She felt mature.

When the gardener finished his chores for the last time, he returned to Rosa. He stood there in front of her, motionless, staring at the flower. Rosa, being not an amateur in the matters of passion anymore moved toward him.  Her heart pounded, juices flushed up the gentle stem. She hoped… and he stroked her swollen, young stem a couple of times (Rosa almost fainted); and then in one brusque strike he cut her off right above the roots.

- Ah, - she moaned, - as the heat wave rushed past her lungs…

 

She got around from pain and found herself in the library… standing in the vase. Tall bookcases going to the ceiling, chairs, books scattered around. She made a few gulps from the vase to relieve thirst. Then she heard arguments coming from the garden. She recognized the voices of the lady and the gardener. She wasn’t interested. She felt nothing. Amazing, - she thought, - what has just happened to me? Here in the vase I can’t feel a single thing, am I dead?

The hours were dragging hanging heavy. It seemed that the time had stopped for her forever. She heard voices, people moved in and out the library, their shadows moved getting longer, but the time stopped. The last thing she remembered was the face of the lady with eyes wide open and two little dew drops on her cheeks. Rosa closed her eyes and died.

 

He finished writing and added from his favorite verse: “And my heart, with all your might You can love all you desire…”