They were a mismatched pair and she knew it. The single rose limping over the edge of the chipped terracotta pot was just one more bit of evidence.
He was a bursting smile and a firm handshake. She was a shadow that slipped past the bright people at a party. She disliked most of them. What was there to like, really? No one said what they meant at those things. It was exhausting to try to figure out the subtext. You look great tonight = you really can’t pull that off and shouldn’t even try.
Except him, she whispered to the empty room. There had never been undertones with him. Where was that potting soil he bought last summer? Dirt doesn’t expire, does it?
Maybe in the hall closet under the dry cleaning. Most of it was his. Colors and patterns swathed in ocean-killing plastic, abandoned, still hanging next to her darks and solids. She preferred gray. City camouflage.
The petals were starting to sag. She knew soil wouldn’t help. The stem was rootless. There was no way it could dig in and fight for everything it needed to survive.
But stranger things have happened. When he got down on one knee in the middle of the mall with a $99 ring bought on credit, that had been odd. When he sat on the floor next to the hospital bed holding her hand all night, that had been unexpected. The day-old rose he brought her every Saturday from the corner deli had been mystifying.
Why don’t you grow a garden on the balcony, he’d ask. Every time. Start with this rose. I’d love to look up at our window when I’m walking home and see roses.
It was a stupid request and a stupid idea. She told him so. Who had the time to grow roses?
And so, yes, she didn’t deserve him. Maybe he’d finally realized that. He was worn down by her inability to kiss him in public. That she avoided his mother and didn’t like dogs. That she saw the negative in every silver lining he tried to shine into her dark little version of a day.
What was the goal? To see the smile fade from his eyes and hear that annoyingly persistent cheer finally leave his voice? Now that the room was empty, triumph seemed like a pretty shitty reward.
A bit of grace. Wasn’t that all he’d asked for? It didn’t seem like much now, looking back. Maybe she should have told him the truth. It all seemed to come easy to him, but she just wasn’t sure how to start.
April can be such a miserable month when the city doesn’t want to let go of winter. She opened the window to the chill anyway, balancing the pot and single bud in the center.
Search: container roses. Category: Flowers, Plants and Seeds. He has to come back and get that dry cleaning some time. When he does, he’ll see roses.
KIMBERLY PAULK is a writer in Matthews, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Ground Fresh Thursday Press and Charlotte Parent magazine.