The Red.

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She realized then that it had been the purple flowers, and the flowers of her mourning, that had kept her from writing for so long, that had kept her from herself.~

Was she painting her roses red?
Were they red from the beginning?  She had hidden them away with herself like so much contraband.

The red roses, they were the ones it seemed that no one wanted to tolerate. Their thorns sometimes wicked, demanding her full attention and respect, demanding handle with care, with the most reverent caution because their beauty was that great. Radiant red, iridescent at the edges, deeper and deeper toward the center, pushing to a maroon, the color of a deep cut that needed tending, that needed her love every day.

The red roses that kept her up all night, pulled her away from the world and all others at times, the red roses that climbed the tower walls, threatened to cover the windows and steal every ounce of air with their perfume. She didn’t sleep. She didn’t eat. She tended the roses. Her hands sometimes washed in the results, the crimson etched in her cuticles, evidence.

Who could understand it, her attention to these roses? Her absence, others said, from the ‘real’ world? Who could understand the need of such, and the exhaustion? They began to whisper as she hid herself away, day after day, night after night, in the rose garden, in the rose room, began to whisper about her heart, her mind, about what was healthy and other things that she could fathom their worry over less and less, longing more and more for that understanding of one who knew the red roses too. They had never made much sense to her, their world, though she thought, sometimes, she wanted for something to equal the ardor of those roses red, for satisfaction to match her own imagination.  She pulled at the leaves and the tangles, grabbing at the thorns, penetrating her flesh, becoming a part of her. The roses, flowers so beautiful they were born with their own defense mechanism.

The red roses stopped time. Before she knew it, two o’clock in the afternoon, she wasn’t dressed yet, one o’clock in the morning, daybreak. The world outside spun round, it seemed without her, the need to explain herself to it began to wear under the sockets of her eyes and around the corners of her mouth. Wanting to say,   “Please, please understand, I have got to tend these roses. Please do not abandon me because I cannot abandon these roses. These roses cannot wait for me any longer.”

They said these roses were killing her.

“No,” she said, “It is without them that I would be dead.”

She tried to keep the hours of the others and lay awake in the still of the night, the ticking of her watch too loud. She hid it in a drawer and saw a petal there. She closed her eyes and tried to dream a normal dream. The dishes were not done. She felt the judgment of neglected chores and dreamed of a perfection that would make sense to everyone else, make them happy while she kept her roses, that she would not feel the constant need to apologize for these red roses. They offered all the other flowers again, she knew they did not understand, the crack in her heart widened a little more then. They offered all the other flowers again and she knew.

She dreamed the red roses needed water and felt something jabbing at her side. Unable to bring herself to look then, resigned herself to the watering. In the shower her hand caught something sharp, blood trailing around her red polished toe nails, forcing her to look, to tend the wound. The vine she worked so hard to keep hid, the vine growing out of her side from around his rib.

~ Teri Skultety



Categories: Fiction, prose