Augusta’s Rose

Gather the rose of love whilst yet is

 -Edmund Spenser

She cleaned the reeking flower vases, rubbing her wrinkled fingers against the glass. It was a Sunday ritual  that she had never failed to accomplish  for the last fifty years. She loved the smell of the fresh cut white roses that gracefully entangled  with the wild grass as she placed them in the vases. She  lost herself in the soft smell, as nostalgia and grief hit her every morning. Wild roses grew in a large quantity in her backyard, but these white pearls of innocence were hard to find. Yet she woke up before the sun clouded the acid skies and searched for white roses concealed within the weeds. Augusta was seventy years old,  alone and her only joy was the sight of satin petals beside her bed every Sunday. But, she wasn’t unhappy.She was the proud grandmother of a talented four year old, the few talents you would see around the creek. He was a bright child with an even brighter future. He drew colours together to form a melody on a blank canvas, bringing the entire cosmos of shades to a close. He was a young painter, still unaware of his flair and  oblivious to the green notes that ruled his parents’ lives. Augusta wasn’t complaining either, till her own kin had their own house and food to live on. She wasn’t usually crabby or even critical; it was unlike her lady-like upbringing to stand up for what she thought was right. Who was she to complain to anyway? She lived on a fair share of money that was sent to her by her daughter living in Japan.  It was less, but  enough to keep an old woman walking.

Augusta believed in science, logic and reasoning. She appreciated art and music, but she never wandered alone in the dark matters of philosophy and human psyche. A child of the Cold War, she was  trained to be hostile towards emotions  and hence had a troubled childhood and adolescence. She lacked in studies and was thus pulled out of school to be admitted to a grooming school where she learnt  the ways of  perfect women. She was a perfect wife, a perfect mother and a perfect entity in t society until the death of her spouse.  She grew inert  ever since, walking through the  years like a silent movie. She forgot how to smile, that is, if she ever learnt how to smile.

A strange encounter during the late 70’s changed Augusta forever. In the lieu of the static summer, she wandered off to new lands after the graduation of bothher children. It was somewhere in the middle of her solitary existence and new Earth that she fell in love. She was middle-aged and slow, but her eyes did still twinkle, like a character out of a romance novel.   Her skin was white as camp marshmallows, and in her forlorn life, this was the first time she felt beautiful. This change was involuntary, and it followed just as soon as she caught sight of his thin fingers shuffle  the wet soil.

He was her gardener.

He gently stroked the new buds of roses with his rough palm and spoke of exotic lands.

He had dark brown hair that grew uneven on the sides, and his face formed lines when he grinned. But, age didn’t overshadow his beauty.

She watched him for months, drawing an air of silence between the two. He often  forgot his gardening tools  in her shed, and she pleasantly watched when he came back to collect them. She caressed the roses which he grew in the  garden and watered them every day. She watched him flex his arms, covered in dirt. After  months of quiet encounters, the evenings  became a thing of quiet conversations and  coffee. He  spoke of mountains and trees and the types of dragon flies  that hovered in the skies. He grew fonder of Augusta’s presence,  her indifference towards life,  love towards his love, his roses, it all overwhelmed him. He stroked her grey hair softly while they lay collapsed on the lawns behind the house. Their feet  cradled light water drops  as they indulged in endless glasses of cheap wine, but the time they spent together was never enough.

One of the most remarkable memories  for Augusta  was a rainy afternoon. Tipsy smiles ran across their emotion-laden faces as they listened to old records and played scrabble. They were children once again and a  strong force ran through their thin veins. He kissed her wrist softly and murmured sweet  nothings in her ear. In the midst of everything, she mentioned the white roses.  “They’re a sight, but they are too many. Yellow isn’t bad,” she whispered, batting her eyelashes as if asking for a favour. He stood up, offended and took small steps across the carpeted floor. “You know what white represents, Angie?” he asked, almost to himself, “it represents new beginnings. You and I, we’re a new beginning.” He propped her in his lap and felt her hot tears burn against his thin vest. That was when Augusta learnt  to feel love.

They eloped a few months later and lived  on the countryside  for the  years to come. The gardener did not give up  his hobby, and as a tradition, cut white roses every weekend before she woke up and placed it next to her bed. He did so until his death in a railway accident.

Now, Augusta was in a place where she felt nothing, and she was accustomed to the pain  that had settled around her like thin air. She did not comfort herself and did not let people comfort her either. She had created a void inside her chest and chose to zip herself into it. Family and friends grew worried and tried various ways of  making her deal with  the loss, but Augusta wasn’t the softest one in the crowd. She directed her soul into a dark corner of her body, and forgot the way to it. Silence wasn’t just a friend now, it was her life.

Still, the roses never grew dull.

She propped up the thin stems into the glass vase and filled it with cold water from the sink. A faint streak of yellow peered through the dark twilight. Tired from sleep and age, she walked back and placed the glass vase next to the bed.

Closing her eyelids for another time, she prayed he’d be there when she woke up.

None the less, his roses would be.
Shivi Singh

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