The roses stay calm, no petals fall. They are drinking the fresh water and smiling with their opening buds…”
by christine tothill
The petals fall softly to the floor; swaying and shivering as they descend, silent and shy they touch the mat without a further quiver. Dust motes dance to a silent tune – wearily turning one way and another, frantically buzzing above my head trying to find peace – to settle until the breeze stops wafting in from the open door.
‘You finished dreaming?’ his voice spoils the calm, the silence, the afternoon. He has a grating tone, loud, threatening. ‘What about some food, when you’re ready,’ he scoffs.
The roses stay calm, no petals fall. They are drinking the fresh water and smiling with their opening buds. The older ones, picked yesterday – try to reassemble, jostling for space with the bright young things.
There is hardly any food in the house. I know what I can rustle up but I hesitate to go and organize the meal. It will be stared at, picked at and then pushed down in moments followed by wind belching from his mouth.
‘It’s about time you got off your arse and did something with your time, use your head, earn some cash. Sitting about dreaming all the fecking time,’ he rants on and on and I can’t be bothered to even tell you what he is saying. He is tapping his foot as he speaks, as if to make it sound important. As if?
Next to the roses, on the mantelpiece, is a photograph. It is of me. I am standing in the garden with a straw hat on my head, I am wearing a full skirt, with petticoats under, a polka dot pattern on it, a skinny looking sweater makes it the fifties and how sweet I look. My hair is brown, short and wavy. My legs look like sticks and my feet are in little red pumps. How innocent, how naïve.
‘If I had my way, I would be away from here,’ he is talking quiet now, almost whispering, the saliva in his throat makes him sound weird. ‘This is your place; you have to stay here, with me, looking after me, in a prison.’ He kicks the table leg next to him and the tea cup rattles in the saucer, the spoon tings and the sound of it echoes through the room, hitting walls, hitting me.
One of the rose buds is leaning over the top of the vase as if trying to escape. It is a peach colour, the brightest one of the lot. Its dark green leaves and stem look so strong while it struggles to take in the water. A wasp hovers near and tries to settle. The breeze comes through again while the insect flies restless and impatient. The white rose, with the vanishing leaves, groans and sheds the last few petals, relieved of the burden of trying to live.
He took that. The photograph. He can’t move to move it. The photograph I mean. I leave it on the mantelpiece to remind me how I was. Once. He can’t see its detail, eyes fading with other things, movement gone, only the tapping foot. He is fading away, crumbling, decaying.
The peach coloured bud has recovered, it is standing erect and I didn’t see it happen, I missed it. The bud is trying to open because its outside petals are slightly quivering – ready to bloom.
(illustration: dee sunshine)
Christine Tothill is British and lives in Spain. She writes short fiction, flashes and articles. Christine has published work in UK and Spain. She writes with Alex Keegan’s online Boot Camp and plays the organ in any other spare time she has, which is hardly ever. More from Christine Tothill can be found in the Vault of Smoke.