The Rose Thee Belongs

"Come on." she muttered to herself, holding the phone close to her ear, listening to it ring. "Come on. Come on, please pick up!" She held the phone close, grasping it so hard her knuckles were turning white, and her small delicate fingers trembled. Hoping against hope that the person she longed to speak to would pick up, for if she didn't, she didn't know what she would do.

"Hell-lloo?" spoke a cheerful voice on the other side of the line.

"Hello, am I speaking to Clair? Clair Durain?" she asked, voice trembling slightly, trying not to be too hopeful, in case it wasn't her.

"Speaking!" came the simple yet joyful reply.

"Oh thank god! Hi Clair! It's me, Rosemary!" she cried in relief, clasping the phone piece gratefully in both hands, like it was the end of her life's rope.

"… Rosemary? Oh! Rosey! Rosey Summit? That you Rosey?" came the pleasant voice over the phone.

"Yes, it's me." Rosemary replied, smiling happily, laughing slightly in relief, just to hear Clair's gentle friendly voice.

"Well hi darling! We haven't talked in ages, you and I." the voice of Clair replied in her ever pleasant tone, and Rosemary replied, trying to act as normal as possible, "Well, no. We haven't much."

"So, Rosey dear … What was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Clair enquired gently. Rosemary was slightly taken aback, because she thought she heard something in Clair's voice that seemed to hint Clair already knew of her troubles.

"Well … nothing much Clair. You know … I just thought I'd call … that's all." Rosemary replied, hesitating, trying to sound sincere.

"I see. Well then Rosey, how fare thee?" Clair asked, and Rosemary silently smiled, as she remembered Clair was very fond of using the old language, and forgot her sudden unease.

"Well … where do I start?" Rosemary said to herself, half joking, when she heard Clair reply, "The beginning is always the best place to start, Rosey!"

"Yes," Rosemary laughed, feeling herself become more relaxed and more like how she used to be, just like when she was with her old friend, years ago, "Well, from the beginning then!"

"So … starting from when we last talked. How long ago was that now? A year? Two? … … Anyway, I moved out of home some time after that, you know, leaving the nest and all! I still call my family now and then. I now live in the big city. Can you imagine me in the city Clair? I still can't believe it!

"I'm employed now, shuffling papers and taking calls unfortunately, secretary sort of job in the biggest bank in the city. It's not so bad … it has good pay! And end of year parties are always a blast!

"Thanks to this job I was able to afford to live in this nice little flat. Situated close to the bank, so I didn't need to drive … I don't have a car anyway. You know me Clair, I don't like driving!" Rosemary laughed at herself, and was glad to hear Clair's pleasant chuckles on the other end.

"But, yeah, the flat! I suppose it was a little small, but I didn't need much room. It had only three main rooms, not including the bathroom - a bedroom, a kitchen, and a lounge room. I spent most of my time in the bedroom, catching up on some Z's. I tell you what Clair, that bank job of mine is a tiring job! … It's not exactly what I had hoped for in a occupation … but … it gets me by ..." Rosemary paused for a while then said, "Listen to me, I'm blabbing. Are you still there Clair?"

"I haven't left, Rosey. I'm listening." Clair's voice replied gently over the phone.

"You must find this boring. Me, talking all about myself-" Rosemary said, embarrassed, but Clair replied, "No. That's not true. I love hearing of thy great endeavors! Come on Rose Bud!" Clair pleaded, using the nickname she had given Rosemary in high school.

"Are you sure? My life really isn't that interesting-" Rosemary tried again, but Clair replied, in her ever patient, pleasant, and gentle tone, "Come, my Rosey so fair! We haven't talked in years! I really want to know what you've been up to. Tell me everything! And don't leave out a single detail!"

"Okay Clair Bear. If you say so." Rosemary replied, using the nickname Rosey herself had given Clair, so many years ago.

"So … what was I up to? Oh yeah! Now Clair, I know you'll think it's cliché. But I found love in the big city! Me! Little Rose Bud! Bet you can't believe that! I didn't either!" Rosemary smiled, but it was a sad little smile as she thought back, "He was so nice, charming, honorable … and so damn sweet! You would of liked him Clair, he danced ballroom! But he did smoke though … he promised to stop if I wanted him to. Mark was his name."

"Was?" Rosemary heard Clair's soft voice ask, but Rosemary continued, as if she hadn't heard her, "We went out for about a year, the best year of my life! A little while after that he asked me to move in with him, and of course I agreed!"

"Um … Rosey dear? …" Clair asked, her gentle voice tinged with concern, but Rosemary carried on, reminiscing.

"So nice he was, my Mark! We moved into his little up town house, he was renting at the time see? The house wasn't huge, but it was a nice size, you understand. About two bedrooms, a lounge room, kitchen, bathroom, and a spare room.

"Oh, he would invite his friends over some nights, and we'd have parties that carried on till dawn, having as much drinks as we could afford! … Then a while after, some of his mates moved into the house. They said they had nowhere to stay at the moment-" Rosemary rattled on when Clair interrupted, "How many?"

"Oh … only a few. Any way-" Rosemary continued but Clair interrupted again, "How many of his friends Rosemary?" Rosemary paused. She knew Clair, and Rosemary knew Clair never used to use her full first name, and she never spoke so plainly or seriously … only when Clair wanted a straight answer out of Rosemary. So, sheepishly, Rosemary replied, "Oh, you know … one or two … okay, maybe even five at one point."

"That many could fit in one house? Even if it had two bedrooms, a spare room, and a lounge room! It would have been a tight squeeze! I hope they helped pay the rent?" Clair asked, stern yet gently concerned, her playful tone gone, and for once Rosemary was surprised to hear her so serious.

"… Are you going to let me tell you my story or not Clair?" Rosemary retorted angrily, not liking how Clair picked up on these facts so quickly, and sounding like she actually understood what was going on for once, instead of her old ignorant self.

Clair paused, and seemed to understand Rosemary's silent wishes, because she became quiet on the other end of the phone, and Rosemary took the opportunity to keep talking.

"Now where was I? Oh yeah, Mark and the house. Yeah it was so great! We had the time of our lives! Sure, we weren't rich … what with my bank job and Mark working as a dance instructor in a small dance hall … Oh! That reminds me! Mark got a job as a dance instructor on a cruise ship!" Rosemary reminisced, bursting with pride, but Clair remained silent.

"He travels all over the world on this cruise ship, leading the dance each night in the big ballroom … it's one of those old fashioned ones! I haven't seen the ship myself, but he told me it was huge, and very flashy. He's sent me emails and letters from each major city port they stop in. My Mark, he's been all over the world!" Rosemary boasted, but Clair didn't reply.

"Hey, Clair? Clair? Are you still there?" Rosemary asked, afraid she had hung up on her, but Rosemary got the gentle reply, "I haven't gone anywhere Rosey dear. I wouldn't hang up on you."

"Then why won't you say something?" Rosemary demanded, annoyed that Clair wasn't showering praise on Mark's accomplishments.

"Well … I think that is very well of him … but Rosey … are you alone?" Clair asked. Rosemary was again taken aback, hearing such a solemn tone in her voice, and Clair's pressing concern for her, but Rosemary replied, "Well … you know Clair … I couldn't go with him, I'm not a dancer!"

"Oh, Rose Bud." Clair replied with a voice full of sympathy.

"Hey! It's not that bad, you know! He has his dreams!" Rosemary said, defensive, trying to shake off Clair's pity. But then Clair's last reply silenced her protests, "But … Rose Bud … What about you? What about your dreams?"

The phone shook in Rosemary's trembling hand as silent tears fell down her face.

"Rosey? Rosemary? Are you okay?" Clair asked when Rosemary hadn't replied in some time, "Rose Bud? … Are you still there?" but Rosemary didn't reply, when from Rosemary's side of the phone Clair heard a baby's cries.

"What's that noise Rosey? Is there a baby in your house? One of your house mates'?" she asked, innocent and gentle as ever. Finally Rosemary found her voice and Clair heard her reply, "No Clair Bear … None of Mark's friends are staying in this house any more …"

"Oh … Rose … Bud …" Clair replied, her soft voice braking up with remorse.

"It's okay Clair. No need for you to be sad … Mark and Janice aren't …" Rosemary replied, talking through her tears.

"Oh no … Rose Bud! What has the world done to you!" Clair cried in sorrow and sympathy for her friend, "If only I were … If only I weren't … Rose Bud … I would hold you right now and let you cry on my shoulder, like I used to! Together! You know I would!"

"But you can't Clair. You can't any more, and you never will be able to." Rosemary replied, her voice full of grief.

"Rosey …" Clair tried to speak, but her voice went silent, and they were both silent for some time, the only sound that could be heard was the baby's wails.

"I-I knew I shouldn't of called. I should've known you wouldn't understand this Clair. You're just to innocent! You're still to young to understand life! Real life! … Being where you are. To far away from me! … I'm to far ahead of you … I've left you behind." Rosemary spoke, as if to herself, berating herself for her weakness.

"Rose Bud?" Clair's soft voice asked, gentle and sweet, but it was like a questioning child's, unable to totally understand what she was going on about, pleading for her to explain.

"… I've got to go Clair … Little Clairice is calling." Rosemary finally replied, trying to escape, tears pouring down her face, not wanting to remember Clair anymore.

"No … Please … Rosey? … Rose Bud? … Don't leave me yet … Please? … You can tell me everything! I'll listen! I've always listened!" Clair called franticly. But realizing that Rosemary sincerely wanted to leave, Clair replied softly, her voice gentle and patient as ever, but now filled with a faint trace of sorrow, "Rosemary, if you ever need to talk to me, you know I'm always here. I've always been here for you, and I'm always with you, where ever you go. I've never left you. And know … Rosey … You'll always be my ever radiant … Rose. You are, and always will be beautiful and perfect in my eyes Rosey … You always have."

… The only reply she got was the dead dial tone …

Opening her eyes, looking around, Rosemary realized she had fallen asleep on the couch, next to the phone. Slowly Rosemary got up, and registered that her little baby daughter was crying, the sound coming from the baby room. Getting up drowsily, and plodding down the hall to the baby room, moving over to the cot, and reaching down, picking up the little bundle up in her gentle arms. Walking back to the lounge room, Rosemary sat back down on the couch.

Nursing her child, Rosemary thought back to her dream, remembering slowly a few details, but as it is with dreams, she didn't remember very much.

Rosemary smiled a sad little smile, resting her head back, staring up at the ceiling, and said to herself, "I dreamed of her again." Rosemary heard a funny sounding gurgle, and looking down she saw her baby looking up at her, as if asking who she was talking about.

"Well, little Clairice, I dreamt of my old friend, Clair, we were best friends in high school. She was a odd one she was! Always painting, and singing … she was a great artist!" Rosemary laughed, remembering to way back then.

"We gave each other nicknames, as best friends do. I called her Clair Bear, and she called me Rose Bud. … Clair used to say that I was just like a rose bud, waiting for the future. She always used to say, 'One day, radiant Rose Bud, in the future, you will bloom into the fairest rose the world has ever seen! And when that day comes, the world will rejoice, because you are alive! And you are blooming, and sharing your gifts! The most radiant, the most beautiful woman rose in the world, just as you deserve! … For as Shakespeare wrote, 'Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded, yet not so deeply as to thee belongs!' …" Rosemary quoted, remembering back to the day Clair had said that, sitting on the grass, in the shade of the trees. Clair had cupped her hands, to look like a bud of a rose, then letting her fingers flare out, like gentle little rose petals. Her face had been so sincere, looking back at Rosemary, smiling her gentle smile. Then moving closer, Clair hugged Rosemary, held her gently as she cried, softly quoting Shakespeare, gently whispering in her ear.

Rosemary remembered they had sat there like that for what seemed like a long time, until all of her tears had gone. She couldn't even remember what she had been crying about, but she was grateful Clair had been there, for she was sure, if Clair hadn't come, she wouldn't of known what she would of done to herself.

"Clair always said strange things like that. I still don't understand that last bit about Shakespeare … I think - no, I know, Clair saw the world very differently to me. She was a regular little philosopher!" Rosemary reminisced.

"She and I were very different from each other. Clair was frail, skinny as a broom, pale white skin, and hair so fair, and long and wispy, so blond it was almost white! And I, much stockier then her, dark tanned skin and dark brunette shoulder length hair. Black and white we were, or as Clair used to put it, 'Rose petals and feathers'!" Rosemary giggled to herself, but then said, "… But, Clair wasn't the most punctual of people. She was always late, and always picked on. I had to look out for her. She was also ignorant of the real world, and much too innocent, I always had to explain things to her. It didn't surprise me she believed in angels, as pure as she was! … I looked out for her, and she was my support. I've never met anyone else like her." Rosemary smiled, a happy tear trickling down her face.

"Clairice, when your mummy and Clair were in school, we were inseparable! We did everything together! We even finished each others sentences! We were in the same grade, in the same school, all our lives! You couldn't find any other best friends as close as us. I even named you after her!" Rosemary said, turning to look lovingly at her child, letting baby Clairice's little hand grasp onto one of her fingers, playing with her.

"She also loved dancing, just like your daddy," she remarked, no longer saddened by him any more, since it had been so long ago now, "And, Clair, like daddy, she - she went away. She didn't mean to though, it was a accident, you see? It wasn't her fault the car went out of control … We were just sixteen at the time. Clair never got to finish high school … But, you see Clairice, Clair is a good friend, unlike daddy. She's with me, even in death. She talks to me, sometimes in my dreams. She's always with me. She is!" Rosemary said, trying to convince her little child as it blinked up at her from in her arms.

As Clairice gurgled happily, absentmindedly, being nursed in her mothers arms, Rosemary thought back to her dream. Rosemary thought it was pretty strange to dream she was talking to a dead person over a phone, especially a person who had died so many years ago.

As she thought back she was suddenly surprised to remember some of Clair's last words, before she woke and the dream had ended, "And know … Rosey … You'll always be my ever radiant … Rose. You are, and always will be beautiful and perfect in my eyes Rosey … You always have …"

"Rose … she called me a-a rose …" Rosemary realized, stuttering in shock.

"Not Rosemary, not Rosey, not Rose Bud …" Rosemary said to herself, and the simple sentence echoed in her mind again, and again:

You'll always be my ever radiant … Rose.

Rosemary was stunned, she had never heard Clair refer to her as a actual rose, only ever as a rose bud, always waiting to bloom. And the fact that Clair had finally acknowledged her as something more then a waiting rose bud, but now a blooming flower, it filled Rosemary with joy. She looked down at her baby girl Clairice, and finally understood what Clair had meant, those many years ago.

"… One day, radiant Rose Bud, in the future, you will bloom into the fairest rose the world has ever seen! And when that day comes, the world will rejoice, because you are alive! And you are blooming, and sharing your gifts! The most radiant, the most beautiful woman rose in the world, just as you deserve! …"Rosemary quoted again, smiling down at Clairice, "You are my little gift, Clairice! My beautiful little girl! She was right … the world is rejoicing! Because I am alive, I was able to bring you into the world! And you, little Clairice, have brought beauty into my world!" Rosemary cried tears of joy, caressing her small child's face, and kissed her on the forehead.

"Thy virtues spoke of … and thy beauty sounded … yet not so deeply as to thee belongs!" Rosemary slowly quoted, the very words Clair had quoted to her, whispering them as she had, crying tears of joy.

"I understand what you meant now Clair! There was a method to your madness!" Rosemary laughed, in joy and amazement at how smart Clair really had been! And she never realized!

Lifting her daughter gently to rest against her shoulder, letting her rest her small head down, slowly falling asleep as her mother cooed gently to her, "The thing was, Clairice, that Clair always believed in angels, they were her fantasy. And a angel, is exactly what she is for us now. She's here, looking down on us! Her radiant blossoming rose, and my own little rose bud angel!" Rosemary said, holding her child close, pure shining tears streaming down her rosy cheeks.

Rosemary looked back up at the ceiling, but past it, looking up at where she believed the heavens were, and where she believed the angel of Clair must be floating, watching over them.

And softly Rosemary whispered to her small sleeping child, "Clair. My ever innocent angel, Clair. She's watching over us Clairice … I know she is!"