THE ROSES. THE END.
NOTE: For this story, to make it easier to read, Alex is represented in the italics.
It’s light outside, and I turn on my side to find the darkness. The alarm goes off and my phone tells me it’s twenty six degrees outside, but I’m freezing. It rings again. I press the lock button long enough for it to turn off. I get into the shower. I watch my heart beat under my breast. Is it the fault of that little beating heart that I hurt so badly? If I could, I would tear it out, like the warlock from Beadle’s tales. It’s been three days since the revelation.
It’s been three days since she disappeared. I came back home and she was gone. Just like that. For the first time in my life I’d allowed myself to love, and so for the first time in my life, I experienced the fear of losing someone. I drove for hours. In the end I called a friend I do some work for sometimes, Pip.
So Xander calls me up, and he’s like, hey man I can’t find my wife. I’m like, well I’ll ring her for you and you see if you can hear her. And he gets all huffy, and so I’m like calm your farm, gimme an hour.
Pip found her in half an hour. She’d moved hotels three times in two days. Without answering my texts, she had left me a message loud and clear. I knew exactly where she was and yet I didn’t go and see her. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether she still loved me, and that was, for the first time in my life, one question that I couldn’t ask.
Alexander’s wife left him. I don’t know where she went. I don’t know what it’s going to do to him. I had never seen him truly love until I saw them together. She came to the house a few times, yes, to say hello, meet the future mother in law, et cetera. But on their wedding day, with a bouquet of white roses, she looked beautiful, and that was shown in the most exquisite way simply by the way my son looked at her. I’ve never liked Sarah, but I’m ever grateful to her for what she did for my son. I had never seen him truly smile until he smiled at her. And I know I will see him die if he cannot find her, and fix this. This is something I cannot fix for him.
Questions has rejected four jobs in the past few days, including the one we were working on when his wife walked in on us. I don’t know what’s happening but any fool can tell it is not a good thing.
I feel alone. I get in my car and drive through the city, and through the neighbourhood I grew up in, past mum and dad’s house, and I drive past the house of every friend I’ve ever made, but I do not stop. Because I feel alone. There is no one I can tell this to, no one to share my burden. There is no one. I am alone. Last night I tried to hate Alex. I sat on my bed and pieced together who he was, and I tried to hate him. But as much as the murderer I now knew did not fit in with lover, husband and friend I had known for so long, I couldn’t. As much as I did not want to think of Alex being something more than what I’d thought, I could not hate him. My mother once told me perfect love drives out fear. If I could not hate him, and I could not be afraid of him, where was I? Did that mean I still loved him? How could I? And so, I ended up beginning to hate myself.
Being with Alex changed me. Suddenly I wasn’t the ugly duckling of the family, or the frumpy friend. Suddenly, every dress I put on fit perfectly. Suddenly, I had no shortage of friends. But was my beauty mine, or his? Was it the dresses I tried on that changed or him the one that convinced me they were different? Were they friends really friends at all? Did I live in his shadow, and had I been okay with that? If I had been, could I continue to knowing it was that much darker?
Pip kept me updated on where she was going. At one point I drove to her hotel and sat in my car across the road. I watched the door, knowing full well she might never leave the hotel, but at about three thirty, she did. She was wearing a jumper I’d bought her for her birthday and sweat pants. Her hair was in a bun, and a few hairs had somehow escaped. She was wearing no make up and still looked beautiful.
You know, in nature, it’s always the male who tries the hardest to impress the female. It is the male monkey that beats his chest, it is the male cricket who sings the song, and it is the male bird that looks the prettiest and even builds the nest. It is humanity that refuses to do things the way they work, forcing the women to look the best, sing the loudest and make the home. But not for me. With Sarah, I knew after a while I would need her to survive, and so I tried to do things the way they worked for every other species. I was the one who worked, and maybe I worked too hard so that one day, if she ever had a reason not to be with me anymore, she would decide to stay with me anyway. If I worked harder to build a stronger foundation than was needed, no storm would blow us over. And we’d be okay. Better than okay. But now the storm was here, and I was doubting my work. I was doubting everything I’d ever believed. Because it meant Sarah.
I was walking to the shops to get a cheap coffee, and I look across and there is Alex. He’s sitting in someone else’s car, pretending not to see me, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t come to this exact spot by accident. I don’t know whether to say anything to him, so I keep walking. A few days ago, I found out that I was pregnant. Yesterday, I found out that was no longer an issue.
She walks to a Mr Whippy Van- you know, the ones that travel around playing Greensleeves with scary looking men inside who look like ex-cons. I already know what she’s going to order, and how many sugars she’s going to put in. I know every detail about her, which is why, I guess, I knew what would happen when she found out. Which is why I didn’t tell her. But the one thing I don’t know is what is going to happen now. What is the next step?
When I came back to the hotel, he was still sitting there. He had some sunglasses now, but he mustn’t of been thinking straight, because I gave them to him for Christmas. I went up to the car and he nearly jumped out of his skin. I told him he wasn’t as smooth as he thought he was. Then I asked him to follow me back to the hotel room. He immediately got up and followed. Almost forgot to lock the car.
On the way up, we didn’t speak. I guess we were just thinking about what we were going to say. When we reached my room, I sat down with my coffee and took a slow sip as if I had all the time in the world. He sat on the edge of the bed. I spoke first.
I asked him how he’d been.
I was honest- I told her that she’d been driving me out of my mind.
I asked him, point blank, what he would have done in my place.
I told her that I probably would have done the same, but that didn’t make it easier. I have a feeling, if the shoe were on the other foot, she would have handled it much better anyway.
I laughed. I couldn’t even imagine being in his place. His little secret had come out, and there was absolutely no way I could imagine myself with the same secret.
I didn’t want her to imagine being in my position, I didn’t want to imagine her being in my position.
I asked him where we were to go from here. He asked me what I wanted to do. I pointed out there were two ways this could go.
She outlined it very clearly and very simply. She could either stay, which would mean this was okay with everything, and she wasn’t, or she could go, which would mean letting go of me.
And I just didn’t think I could do that. To change the subject, I asked him what his tattoos meant.
What did his tattoos mean?
I was a little thrown, but I played along. I explained that the Road Runner was me as a child. Ideas of running away, of being bright and lovely, and thinking of a better life. The Pelican is the mother, my mother. The Sparrow was a friend of mine named Spencer [I was not about to go into detail about that one], and she was the Peacock. Before I could finish, she stood up and spilled her coffee.
You think of me as the peacock? The most narcissistic and cocky animal on the planet?
I explained that the female peacock, though, the red peacock was much different.
I looked down and realised there was coffee all down the front of my dress. I started to dab at it, and suddenly the futility of it all hit me. Not just the coffee, but the whole damn situation. And, despite myself, I started to cry.
I went over and comforted her, and this time she let me.
And we sat down on the bed and I cried on his shoulder for what seemed like hours.
My arm was around her, and after a while, she was quiet. And we just sat there. And then I explained the final part of the tattoos. The roses. The roses were the end. They were the flowers at Spencer’s funeral, they were the main part of my father’s floral arrangement at his funeral, and they will be on my coffin at mine. Because, for all life is, it will end the same way for everyone. That first time at the tattoo parlour, I got the Road Runner which reminded me of my father, the pelican to remind me of my mother, and the sparrow to remind me of the only friend I’d ever truly loved. And the roses were intertwined to remind me of what happened to them, because of me. And the roses were to remind me of what my end would be too.
And then I met Sarah. Because of one person I had gone from living life to death to living life for the sake of living. Each day was different, and special, and I realised I could do something. Sarah gave me a purpose.
And yet, I whispered, you continued to kill.
But if I had stopped, it would have all been exposed, and everything would have finished before it began.
I think I still would have loved you, if I had found out at the very beginning.
It’s not for me that you would have stopped. You enjoyed it. It’s for you you must stop.
But you let me grow to a point where I could stop.
And yet, you didn’t.
And there it was. The unavoidable thing to sit between us. The wedge. I could have stopped, but I didn’t. If she hadn’t of found out, I would have kept doing it. If she left me, perhaps I would even return to work tomorrow. Perhaps I would do what we both expected and continue. Or, perhaps I would break. I was silent, and so was she.
In the morning, they awoke tangled together. She stirred first, and stared at his face. She did not know him, and that would make this easier. He woke up slowly and looked at her. Perhaps he believed the past few days had all been a terrible nightmare. She stood up, grabbed clean clothes and walked to the bathroom. She was just going to change, but she had never had a problem with changing in front of him before. She could not afford to make him suspicious. She had a shower. He sat on the bed and looked out the window. She walked into the room. Her hair was wet and made parts of her dress darker. She stood in front of him and delivered her verdict. She loved the Alex she knew. He was not the Alex she knew. She could not do this. She turned to grab her bag. He stood up and forced her back around. She was startled. He kissed her. She would not leave him. He continued to kiss her until he could taste her blood. He let her drop to the ground and put his gun back in his chest pocket. As he walked down the corridor, he rolled his sleeve down over his tattoos, over the peacock in amongst the roses. He shut the door at the end of the hallway and kept walking.
As he came to the lobby of the hotel, he reached for his gun once more. He pulled the trigger for the last time. Finally the last question was answered. He knew who he was. He was fulfilled. He died.