Those Three Roses

The sleeting rain seemed to reflect my sombre mood; it trickled down my face, creeping its way through the various wrinkles as though they were valleys. I let the rain soak what was left of my greying hair, and let it fall into my eyes undisturbed. It hid my tears and for that I was grateful, it would have been horrific for everyone to see a man going on seventy bawling his eyes out.

I was not usually this emotional; in fact, the last time I had cried was about ten years ago when I'd broken my leg. The pain had been excruciating then, but it was nothing to how I felt now. Nothing to the way that being broken from the inside out can make you feel. Terry had been my last anchor; I'd lost everyone else, my mother, my brother and my father. Now it was time for me to say goodbye to my wife too.

My eyes became progressively more and more blurred from a mixture of tears and rain, so that I had to rely on my other senses to tell me what part of the funeral was happening at that moment. When I heard the coffin lid creak down, I felt my heart rend itself in two.

The sound was awful, the thought of Terry, exuberant, fun loving, always-moving Terry, stuck in a box. Stuck in a wooden box, all alone. I felt like throwing myself in there, along with her, being buried alive to stay with my wife. In fact, I think the only reason I didn't leap for the coffin was that with my bleary eyes my co-ordination was not at its best. I'd most probably miss and crash into whoever was giving a speech now.

My own speech was last, terrible public speaker that I was, and bad with expressing my emotions to boot, this little gem is all I could come up with, "I loved her." Brilliant eh? I get to sum up the most amazing human bond of my life, and that one-liner is all I can come up with? Terry deserved better, she deserved Shakespearean verses in her honour, I should have written her a sonnet or something.

As it was, 'I loved her' was about as eloquent and coherent as I was going to get, as the minister running the funeral seemed to realise. Without further ado he said, "May she rest in peace," and then the coffin was being lowered.

I was so busy choking back the tears that I nearly forgot to throw the flower I was holding onto it as it descended. It was a blood red rose, Terry's favourite flower. I wished now that I had given her one for every day of her life, it was what she deserved.

I reflected, hoping against hope, that there would be at least ten occasions when I'd given her a rose and made her day just that little bit special. I was bitterly disappointed, I recalled clearly every time I'd given Terry a rose, and there had only been three occasions.

Those three, though, were so beautiful; the petals perched amongst the thorns so perfectly, incongruous objects sitting together in harmony. There had only been three bittersweet, blood-red roses.

I stood outside the apartment door, mentally going over everything I should have done. Everything she would be expecting. Shit. I'd forgotten the flowers. No date could run smoothly without the flowers.

I didn't want to be late, couldn't be late, not for this girl, but at the same time I needed some flowers. That was when it hit me, flowers didn't have to be from a florist and they were all around me, just waiting to be passed into Terry's hands.

I cast about me; even if it wasn't from a florist I wanted this flower to be nice. I wanted to impress her. That was when I saw it, half-illuminated by the moonlight, it looked perfect, there was just one still rose rising up from the otherwise green bush. It was the first one, and it was perfect, more perfect than any that would come after it, more perfect than any that I would find at the florist.

I practically sprinted to the bush in my eagerness to get the flower. It was only when I got there that I realised how hard it was going to be for me to get that one particular rose. It was guarded by so many thorns as would discourage even the bravest from plucking it. Still, I was determined that Terry should have this one.

Bracing myself I leaned forward and extended my hand towards the rose, wincing as it met with thorns. I let a sharp whistling gasp escape me when the thorns pierced my skin. Then I had the rose, it was grasped in tightly in my hand. I also had a long gash on my wrist.

Searching through my pockets I found an odd tissue and held it to my wound. I was running out of time, and I hurried back up to the apartment door as I covered up my cut. I took a deep breath when I reached the door, then I knocked.

I looked at the rose, hoping that she'd forget my imperfection in all of its beauty. I really had no idea why Terry had said yes when I'd asked her out. I had still less as to why and how I'd actually managed to ask her out. Wherever on Earth had I gotten my courage from, it all seemed to desert me the moment she opened the door.

I gulped nervously, incapable of words; I just shoved the flower out at her, hoping that its thorns would protect me from her piercing blue eyes. "Wow, how'd you know roses are my favourite?"

"Uh..." my voice had come back to me, but what to say? I couldn't tell her that I'd just grabbed a flower from one of the bushes near her building. "Lucky guess, I always thought that they were nice flowers," I managed.

"Well, you have good taste then," she said with a smile.

I smiled at the memory, it had of course been our first date, that was long gone now, but it was nicer to remember such pleasant times than lose myself in what was going on now. I remembered the second rose just as clearly as the first and it was given under very different circumstances, much more bitterly.

I needed her back, I couldn't let it all fall apart not when everything had been going so perfectly for five months. Terry was probably the love of my life, I couldn't believe I screwed it up by forgetting our five month anniversary. I was really a sad excuse for a boyfriend.

She had said I had till sundown to do something for her, something romantic and then she had holed herself up in her apartment. I was, I had to admit, stuck for ideas in the romance department. I could come up with nothing better than a deep and meaningful conversation about how I was an unromantic ass who may occasionally forget things like this. I supposed that would have to do, because it was nearing sundown.

I heaved a sigh and pulled myself up off the park-bench I had plonked myself on to think and made my way to Terry's apartment. By this time, I knew the way well, that path was familiar and well traversed. My feet knew their own way, which was good because my mind was too lost to control my direction.

The cogs of my brain had been turning uselessly churning out nothing but what was obviously not romantic. I continued to walk in this distracted way until, wham! I had knocked into something, something thorny...

A rose, deep and blood red had fallen into my palm, its thorns piercing my skin. I rubbed my forehead gingerly, other thorns had scratched me here too, then I reached my arm out, intending to cast away the rose that lay in my hand. At the last moment a realisation dawned upon me. This could be my romantic offering.

It would be a sort of rekindling of love, after all this was the very flower I had given to her on our first date and she had loved it. Feeling slightly better, I continued on my way to her apartment.

I had given her the second rose, timidly, hoping that she would forgive me and not be too resentful for the rest of the evening. She had outdone my expectations, one rose, that was all it had taken and Terry had whole heartedly forgiven me and our relationship came out all the stronger for the little fight.

The last rose had been, perhaps the sweetest of them all. I'd dropped her engagement ring into the folds of the flower and she'd found it when she bent to sniff the rose. I'd been accepted and that rose had become a part of the most important turn in my life, the most important memory that I had left with me.

I crossed my fingers nervously and hoped that this would work. My biggest fear was that Terry would smash her nose against the hard metal of the ring when she bent to sniff the rose's too-inviting scent. Still, it had seemed like the best way to get the ring to her, concealed in the folds of her favourite flower. If she did find the ring without any trouble, there was still the matter of her answer...all in all, I had a lot to be nervous about.

I handed her the rose, fingers trembling worse than leaves in the wind. Then I closed my eyes and prayed, I wasn't generally religious, but I was going to need all the help I could get on this one. "Oh you didn't have to..." she said as I handed her the rose. I opened my eyes, only to witness her bringing it up to her nose and inhaling it's scent. I winced, this was the part where everything could get messy, very messy.

It worked out ok though, to my surprise, "What's this?" she marveled and pulled out the ring, it took her a moment to realise what it was, and I waited apprehensively, but then..."I love you!"

"So that's a yes then?" I said laughing happily.

"What do you think?"

I looked up, still crying and noticed that everyone had gone. Everyone had gone from the graveyard except for me and the little man who was filling in the grave. I stood up with a heavy shuddering sigh, I was shaky from all the crying I'd been doing, and shuffled towards the exit of the graveyard, comforting myself with the thought that it would only be a couple of years till I myself would join Terry in heaven, but who'd be left to mourn me?

A.N. I know the ending's a little weak and the flash backs may be annoying, but I'd like to know what you guys think of this piece, so please, please, please, review.