Roses for My Love

I am holding a red rose, and sitting on the doorstep of what used to be our house. The removal van has long gone, and all that’s left is for me to stand and walk away.

We said we would love each other forever. We whispered it during our wedding waltz, and promised it in church. We wrote versions of it on every Valentine’s, birthday, and Christmas card we wrote.

When the world turned black you cradled me in your arms, and said it firmly to the universe.

“This is just a setback, Emmy. I’m not going anywhere. I will love you forever.”

Again, at the hospital, you gripped my hand—weaker than you’ve ever been—and said it again.

“I’ll never stop loving you.”

Hot tears run down my face and make spots on my jeans. I’m holding the rose so tightly the thorns are pushing holes in my palm, and I can see bright red dots of blood. I don’t let go.

At your funeral, your mother hugged me so hard I lost my breath.

“He loved you so much,” she said. I could only nod. Love felt pointless then—ephemeral. It couldn’t save you or keep you with me. From that moment in the doctor’s room, you grew smaller and sicker. You were slowly being taken from me, and all the love in the world couldn’t harness you and pull you back.

“I won’t ever leave you,” you promised, in those final days. “I’ll find a way to come back. I’ll haunt you!” We kind of laughed.

“Nothing scary,” I said. “I mean it, David. If lights start going on and off when I’m alone I will never forgive you.”

And then, two weeks after your funeral, it was my birthday and I awoke to the smell of your aftershave. I smiled for a moment, in that hazy state, and rolled over to find you, but of course you were not there. Instead, on your pillow, was a red rose.

No one could have come in and put it there. I knew instantly it was you. As promised, you had found a way to come back to me.

It happened again at Christmas, and on Valentine’s Day. Each time, I awoke to your smell and found a rose on the pillow. Sometimes if I was sad, or if I had cried myself to sleep missing you, the rose would appear again.

I never told anyone. It was our secret, and it warmed my heart on those days when I thought it just might break.

Two years have passed, and there is someone I talk to at work. You’d like him—he’s funny, and he’s nice, and he likes all the same weird movies you do. But something tells me you don’t like him, because I have been receiving rose after rose every night since I agreed to go out with him.

Sometimes there are twenty, piled up on your pillow and spilling on to my face, and one time there was only a pile of petals thrown about the room.

I don’t know if you will follow me to the new house, but I have to go. The sickness and guilt are consuming me. Will you understand? Will you turn up, rose in hand, and find I am gone? How can I leave a ghost?

I am still holding the last rose you will give me, and I hope you can forgive me. Your love really was forever, but it seems mine is not.

I stand and place the rose on the step, and I walk away.

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