ONE PERFECT ROSE • by Lisa Finch

A mild breeze pushes at my back as I walk across my yard to Stephanie’s. She crouches in front of the wilted rose bush, studying its leaves.

“How goes the gardening?” I ask, even though I can see for myself that the little rose bush she recently planted isn’t flourishing.

She stands up and places a strand of long sandy hair behind her ear. She reminds me of a little girl when she does that. As always, I’m surprised by the intensity of her large luminous eyes. I can never make up my mind what colour  they are. Grey, or maybe green. In different lights, they seem to change.

They haven’t lived here long, this little wisp of a thing and her husband. But she and I have become fast friends in that time.

We look at the rose bush together.

“It’s not doing so good,” she admits.

“Well, don’t take it too bad. Roses aren’t easy and this ground is… hard. Mostly clay. You’re going to have to get some good soil. I may have some in my garden shed. I’ll ask George to put some of the soil in for you. He’s a genius with gardens.

Her face lights up. It takes so little to please her.

“You’re lucky,” she says. Then she pauses, as if she’s afraid to say more.

I wait.

“George is good to you, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” I say softly. She’s a little bird, always ready to take flight. I wonder if she’ll ever stand still long enough to really let me in.

“Hannah, do you ever feel like today, with the stirring of the wind, that you could just do anything? Change your name. Run away…”

She chews her lip as if she could bite back the words.

“Stephanie, I’m madly in love with my husband and four children.” I point to my belly. “I’ve got another one on the way. Inside my house, there are two dogs, one mean cat and a goldfish.”

I cross my arms across my chest. “So in answer to your question, yes, of course I do! Every day!”

She laughs, a real good laugh, right from her toes.

I chuckle along with her and then hug her. “But I’d never really do it. I’m pretty happy.” I hesitate, but then jump right in anyway. “Are you? Happy, I mean.”

She shrugs.

Before we can say more, her husband Troy walks across the yard. He’s a big bruiser of a guy. Stephanie told me once he’d been the most popular boy in school, captain of the football team. She’d hardly believed her luck when he started dating her. It had been like a dream.

“My God, Stephanie,” I’d said. “You have no idea, do you?”

“What?” she’d asked.

“You’re beautiful. Don’t you know that?”

Now I see him stroll across the grass. He stuffs his beefy hands in his pockets, a storm cloud brewing across his face. I wonder what he wants from her.

An assortment of bad images of him compete in my head now. Troy’s bellowing voice wafting through the open windows last summer; Troy’s tires screaming out of their driveway, with Stephanie standing on the porch wiping her eyes; Stephanie and her mysterious bruises. And just a gut feeling about him that I can’t wipe away.

“Hannah.” He raises his hand to me.

I nod. “Troy.”

He turns to his wife. “How’s it going?” He wrinkles his nose at the rose bush. “Not supposed to look like that, is it?”

I stick up for her. “This clay soil is hard to grow anything in, especially roses. And anyway, there’s still hope for it yet.”

He nods slightly in response and then turns to his wife. “I guess you’re already packed then?”

“Oh yes, that’s right!” I gush. “This week is your visit with your sister in New York. Oh, you must be so excited. She works in a big fancy office, doesn’t she?”

Stephanie nods.

“If I let her go,” Troy says, smugly.

She laughs, but not before a look like she’s just gotten a shock crosses her face.

“Oh-ho,” I laugh. “You wouldn’t want her sister to be worried now, if she doesn’t show up. How would that look to the in-laws?”

He grunts something about lunch and walks away. She follows him.

“Hey,” I call after her. “Don’t worry about your roses. I’ll look after them. Have fun in New York!”

She smiles back at me. Maybe her sister can talk some sense into her. Maybe her sister will keep her in New York.

***

I just got off the phone with Troy. He told me to turn on the news. I keep hoping there’s some mistake, but no. The words come in fragments, hitting me one after the other. Collision. Tour bus. Oil tanker. Closed off area. Explosion. Then come the first words I hear in the form of a complete sentence:  “There were no survivors.”

***

Two weeks later, I get a post card in the mail. On the front is a picture of a bird in flight. On the back, in small careful script is written, “I needed you to know I’m okay. I’ll be in touch… some time. Love, Rose. P.S. You know what to do with this post card, right?”

Moments later, lighter in hand, I stand at the sink and watch the edges of the post card turn brown and curl.

I catch one last glimpse of her message and at her new signature at the bottom. She now goes by Rose. Perfect.


Lisa Finch lives in Forest, Ontario with her wonderful husband, Chris, and three beautiful children, Hailey, Matthew and Ben. She’s had the great fortune to be published locally, in several anthologies and also online. Please visit her website at www.finchtales.webs.com.


Rate this story:
 average 3.5 stars • 6 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I hope Stephanie / Rose didn’t engineer a fatal traffic accident to escape Troy. Very readable, but full of unnecessary description and a bit of an overdone theme.

    • Carl Steiger

      Maybe she didn’t engineer it. There have been people who have taken advantage of convenient disasters to disappear and lead their undesirable friends and family to believe they had perished. But it’s unclear to me why Troy (and Hanna) think Stephanie/Rose was on that bus. Maybe a call to Troy from the in-laws, who are surely in on the deception.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        I’d say the in-laws came up with the deception and forgot to tell Stephanie how to write a wink-wink message…

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I hope Stephanie / Rose didn’t engineer a fatal traffic accident to escape Troy. Very readable, but full of unnecessary description and a bit of an overdone theme.

    • Carl Steiger

      Maybe she didn’t engineer it. There have been people who have taken advantage of convenient disasters to disappear and lead their undesirable friends and family to believe they had perished. But it’s unclear to me why Troy (and Hanna) think Stephanie/Rose was on that bus. Maybe a call to Troy from the in-laws, who are surely in on the deception.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        I’d say the in-laws came up with the deception and forgot to tell Stephanie how to write a wink-wink message…

  • Wendy Lauzon

    I thought it was beautiful!

  • Wendy Lauzon

    I thought it was beautiful!

  • Dustin Adams

    Paul, I’m sure she didn’t engineer the fatalities of others in order to escape her life. 😉
    Yeah, I’m sure her sister (not in-laws) is in on the disappearance. I imagine Troy believes she’s perished in the accident when he can’t reach her. He calls Hanna, probably as a backup/confirmation. Hannah hasn’t heard, so she’s got plausible deniability. Some time later, the post card comes. By then, Troy has moved on, and Hannah has closure.
    Good story.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      His in-laws.

      • Dustin Adams

        Ha! Of course. 🙂

  • Paul, I’m sure she didn’t engineer the fatalities of others in order to escape her life. 😉
    Yeah, I’m sure her sister (not in-laws) is in on the disappearance. I imagine Troy believes she’s perished in the accident when he can’t reach her. He calls Hanna, probably as a backup/confirmation. Hannah hasn’t heard, so she’s got plausible deniability. Some time later, the post card comes. By then, Troy has moved on, and Hannah has closure.
    Good story.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      His in-laws.

  • joanna b.

    well-written story but a bit predictable. it’s hard for me to believe that Rose got away so easily from Troy.

  • joanna b.

    well-written story but a bit predictable. it’s hard for me to believe that Rose got away so easily from Troy.

  • Shelley

    I loved this story. It kept me engaged and I was surprised at the ending. Good job!

  • I loved this story. It kept me engaged and I was surprised at the ending. Good job!

  • terrytvgal

    A simple tale nicely told. Thank you, Lisa.

  • terrytvgal

    A simple tale nicely told. Thank you, Lisa.

  • Lisa

    Hey thanks everyone for the comments!

  • Lisa

    Hey thanks everyone for the comments!

  • Von Rupert

    I’m glad “Rose'” got away from Troy. It’s nice when abuse stories have happy endings. I appreciated Hannah’s obvious affection for her friend. I’m impressed with how much backstory you managed to fit into a flash–nice writing! Five stars.

  • Von Rupert

    I’m glad “Rose'” got away from Troy. It’s nice when abuse stories have happy endings. I appreciated Hannah’s obvious affection for her friend. I’m impressed with how much backstory you managed to fit into a flash–nice writing! Five stars.

  • Bill Nilsen

    I loved it. Never suspected Stephanie caused the accident, just assumed she wasn’t on that bus. Stephanie was too timid and weak for that.

  • Bill Nilsen

    I loved it. Never suspected Stephanie caused the accident, just assumed she wasn’t on that bus. Stephanie was too timid and weak for that.

  • I can imagine someone taking advantage of a disaster to escape from their life. I also like the parallel of Rose and the rose. II am having fun trying to post this from my iPhone. I may post several times or not at all!

  • I can imagine someone taking advantage of a disaster to escape from their life. I also like the parallel of Rose and the rose. II am having fun trying to post this from my iPhone. I may post several times or not at all!

  • Cranky Steven

    Very nicely done. I feel she took advantage of a disaster to escape her own, and had no part in its creation. Four biggies and I want more from this author.

  • Cranky Steven

    Very nicely done. I feel she took advantage of a disaster to escape her own, and had no part in its creation. Four biggies and I want more from this author.

  • kathyk

    Nicely done. Enjoyed this a lot.

  • kathyk

    Nicely done. Enjoyed this a lot.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Thank you all so much! I appreciate your encouragement 🙂

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Thank you all so much! I appreciate your encouragement 🙂

  • Domestic abuse is far too common and escaping isn’t common enough. This is a delicately constructed story of quiet liberation with no fanfare, no flash bang wallop, and a thoughtful closure for a kind neighbour.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      A conflagration isn’t a flash-bang plot device? Heck of a deus ex machina.

      • And that’s all it is – probably not the best of devices but that’s another issue. It’s not the ending and it isn’t even essential, it’s just a dreadful coincidence that makes it less likely Rose will be discovered. For me, the rest of the story is much more important and would have done very well on its own.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    A conflagration isn’t a flash-bang plot device?

    • DrSuzanne Conboy-Hill

      And that’s all it is – probably not the best of devices but that’s another issue. It’s not the ending and it isn’t even essential, it’s just a dreadful coincidence that makes it less likely Rose will be discovered. For me, the rest of the story is much more important and would have done very well on its own.

  • Joan M. Caska

    Lovely story, skilfully told, around the theme of timing and taking advantage of opportunities. I was rooting for Stephanie and it was a pleasure to learn she spotted and grasped this chance to escape her situation. Nice writing!

  • Joan M. Caska

    Lovely story, skilfully told, around the theme of timing and taking advantage of opportunities. I was rooting for Stephanie and it was a pleasure to learn she spotted and grasped this chance to escape her situation. Nice writing!

  • Lia

    Very well-written and created a rich scene, brilliant!