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Butter Cream Roses
The roses looked as far away as the sun from my perch in the treetops. Untouchable, in their golden beauty. As my swing flew closer to them I could see that they were butter cream roses. Each petal was smooth and yellow. Like butter cream milk I thought, although I have never actually tasted it. The white tea table stood proudly among the green grass, and my mother appeared to be that of a queen, sitting ever so majestically in one of the matching chairs.
“O crap!” I heard her scream. “Honey I’ll be right back, I just spilled some tea on the table and I need a paper towel. Don’t swing too high,” said her consistently nagging voice.
“I think at seventeen I know how to behave on a swing,” I replied. That was my mother, Kara Elizabeth Harring. She was always right about everything, and never did anything wrong. It was me who seemed to get the short end of the stick in my family. I am always wrong, my ideas never seem to work, and I get caught doing everything I shouldn’t. One time, when I was thirteen, I snuck downstairs to watch an R rated movie, like all my brothers had done before me. Naturally, three minutes into it, my mother came bursting down the stairs just as somebody got their head chopped off. I can’t say I was too upset however; the movie was starting to scare me.
“Molly can you come here and help me clean up this table.” I was about to hop off my swing when my Grandma Gracie walked outside.
“Let her enjoy her youth Kara, I’ll help you clean up.”
‘Grandma I can get it, really.”
“No, no, just stay where you are, trust me, by the time you get to be my age you’ll want to be swinging, and then you’ll realize, your legs don’t work!” Despite my Grandmothers decaying appearance, she still had most of her wits about her. She almost always wore a lavender dress, and carried a big black cane. My mom always has to buy her new dresses though because she likes to cut them short like all the famous pop-stars. What I don’t think she realizes is that there is a fifty year difference between her and those girls. Her hair, like any other old lady, was white, short, and curly at the top. And her small rimmed glasses sparkled in the sun.
I hope my hair turns white when I’m old. I never liked gray hair. It just seems so dull and lifeless. But white hair is vibrant and pure. It’s like the oceans hidden pearls, masked with age, but strung on a string for all to see. Unfortunately for me, I had brown hair like my mother. Although I despised the color, I did like the length. I had long flowing hair that waved behind me when I swung. But that was before I cut it off. Before I lost my friends. Before I made my mother cry.
It happened late one Friday night. I had been dating this guy Charlie for the last month or so. We were sneaking into my house through the backyard after an awesome date. He had taken me to a candlelight dinner that night, and then a walk through the woods, away from the city. There, we didn’t even need the city lights to see, for what I knew to be the sky had turned into a field of stars. I remember hearing the swing creaking in the wind, and worrying that my mother would wake up and find me missing from my bed. Now, I wish she would have. My wrist still hurts from where he grabbed me. I remember trying to run away, but I couldn’t. My legs felt like jelly, and I made it as far as the rose bushes before I crashed into them under the weight of my own body.
As I sit on my swing motionless, I can still see the crushed petals, and broken stems. It’s been a week and they still haven’t grown back, I wonder if they ever will. I never did find my necklace after that night.
“Molly?” I can hear my mom calling me, “Molly did you hear me? I need to talk to you.”
I slide off the swing and walk through the kitchen doors, but all I can see is myself running through those doors. It’s an image too vivid to be a shadow, and too blurry to be anything less than a ghost. I look up and see my mom sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. I say nothing.
“There’s been an accident” she says, “Charlie’s dead.”
I see her mouth form something like an apology, but all I can hear is Don’t you love me?
I drive to school today silently, walk inside, and take my seat. Before I knew it, hoards of people begin to bombard me with hugs, tears, and choruses of “I’m so sorry!” The crowd is so sticky and hot. I just want people to stop touching me. I can hear my name being called from somewhere, but it’s muffled by the sound of rushing water in my ears.
“Molly!” I can hear Melissa calling my name through the water now. Finally! Somebody to save me. We break away from the ocean and run to our holy sanctuary, the second floor girls’ bathroom.
“Get out of here freshmen!” I hear Melissa scream. This was typical of her. Even in second grade, when I broke my leg, she was the one yelling down the hallway for people to move out of my way.
She came rushing over to me, “Molly,” She said sternly, “I’m so sorry about Charlie. I can’t even imagine the pain you’re going through. Do you know what happened exactly? I mean why was he even driving there that late at night? Everybody knows that area is dangerous. When was the last time you spoke to him?” I stared back blankly.
“Molly?” she asked, “are you okay?”
“No. I’m not.” As I told her what happened, her mouth dropped. That always sounds so cliché when people talk about that. Yet, it my position, nothing else in the world seems quite as real as seeing an exposed set of teeth.
“O my god,’ I heard her whisper, “O my god, o my god, o my god.” Then the bell rang.
It didn’t take long for the stares to be noted, and the glares to be ignored. It’s only been two days since my chat with Melissa, and already word had spread. I hate her. People who are supposed to be your best friends are supposed to be just that, friendly! Spreading rumors is not friendly. I turned my face away from my locker to notice Emma Clerky glaring at me from across the hallway with a face ready for blood lust. I turned back around for a second, and she was suddenly right next to me, whispering angrily into my ear,
“You know it’s all your fault. I’ve heard the rumors, everybody knows. Charlie never did anything wrong. It was you. If you would’ve just loved him like he loved you none of this would have ever happened. He would’ve never been depressed, and he would’ve never been in that car. You killed Charlie Baliey.”
As I watched her walk away, I could feel each step of her high heels stabbing into the ground, and simultaneously into me. The bell rang.
As I ran to my car all I could think about was reaching my house and curling up into my bed. It had been an awful day. The jocks threw carrots at me during lunch. The nerds destroyed the books in my locker. And now the final kicker, as I approach my car it is obvious what the bold red lipstick slashed across my window reads. I just stare at the crimson lettering. It’s funny how one word, one simple word, can crush you. I can feel the heat of all five letters burning into my body. The first letter for whole, as in consumed whole by the world around me. The second for hatred, obvious by the disposition on my classmates faces. The third for over, as in defeated. The fourth letter for real, as in this was really happening. That’s the letter that was hardest to acknowledge. And finally, the fifth for everything, because at that moment everything seemed to be affected in my life.
The next morning I sat at the breakfast bar with my mom. I sighed. Thank God it was Saturday. I could not deal with the kids at school, and I didn’t want to play sick and miss another day of school. I hated just moping around the house, coughing my lungs out, and pretending I had a fever. I hated being weak, and helpless.
“The flowers are wilted,” my mother said to me. I turned to reply, only to realize she wasn’t actually talking to me.
“Those roses can fight through anything,” I heard Grandma Gracie’s voice call. She must be sitting on the porch. She sighed, then spoke again, “Yup, they’ll grow back, no need to worry. Their petals may appear beautiful, soft, and delicate,” she stopped to think for a minute, and then to my surprise said, “but they’ve got a thorn that will sting you in the a** quicker than you can say Lord help me!”
My mother laughed, but I didn’t. Laughter was something that I hadn’t partaken in for a while now. I had tried to laugh the other day. But it seemed so unfamiliar to me. It was like trying to learn a foreign language, slow and frustrating.
“O Molly, why don’t you come sit out on the porch here with me.”
I turned to my mom for help. I felt bad, but I had never much cared to be alone with Grandma Gracie that much. I loved her of course, but she just seems so old. What are you supposed to say to somebody with that great of an age difference between you. Alas, my mom nudged me, telling me to hurry up and go outside.
I walked to the porch in the backyard. I hated it. The swing had gotten stuck in the branches from the wind storm last night, and was cruel enough to destroy a baby bird’s nest. The flowers were wilted and dried up by the heat. There had been no rain from the storm last night, simply wind. I could almost hear them crying out to me, begging me to console their withered petals. But I couldn’t. My mom refused to water the garden for fear of ruining the tea tables. But it was the weeds causing the damage, they had consumed the garden along with the white tea table. I am stretching to call it white, for by now the table had turned green around the edges by the ever-growing weeds. But, if I try to appease the garden, I am afraid the weeds will spread. I was captured from my thoughts by my Grandmother’s sudden words.
“What’s wrong child?” She asked, “You haven’t seemed yourself lately, and don’t tell me it’s puberty. I went through that too you know, and I can see that this is different. You used to smile in the yard, and laugh in the house. And when was the last time you kissed George?”
George was the name we gave to the tree in the middle of the yard. He held up the swing for me. I wanted to say that I hadn’t kissed George since I was very little, but I just stayed silent.
“Is it that boy? Were you in love?” At this question, I broke into tears.
“No!” I screamed, “I wasn’t!” I just kept repeating this phrase and screaming until finally she stopped me, and held me close. It was the first time all year I had let anyone touch me. As I continued to cry, she squeezed me harder and harder. She stroked my hair, and kept telling me that everything was going to be alright until my tears began to subside.
“Settle now Molly, I think I understand your sorrow,” she said gently, “you have been hurt by a great loss I think, have you not? And I believe this loss is not one of death, am I correct?” I paused, thinking, just thinking. I could still feel Grandma Gracie holding me tight. Tight I thought, I typically thought of this word as suffocating, rough and demanding. But this was different. It was tender and loving. Her hug seemed to be the best way she could possibly show all her love to me. It was then, I knew she meant it.
“Yes,” I whispered, “That’s correct.”
The tears of joy and goodbyes fluttered through the hallways as the final bell of the year rang, and pushed us into summer. Emma Clerky still hated my guts, but I was beginning to look forward to my senior year.
‘Goodbye!” I shouted, as I waved to some friends of mine. I smiled, took the final dusty book off the locker shelf, and closed the door. Melissa walked up to me from behind and began to take the book out of my hands.
“I got it,” I said, smiling politely. She punched me in the shoulder, and made a sarcastic remark. I laughed, it was her signature mark of good for you! We walked out the door and back to my house.
“Melissa! It’s so good to see you!” I left the room as my mom screamed and began to chat endlessly with my friend, and walked into the backyard. I walked through the yard to our shed and grabbed a broom. I hesitated as I approached the tangled swing. I wanted to do this gently as I was not in the mood for a swing to come tumbling down upon my head. I reached up as high as I possibly could. Nudging the swing, and hitting the branch until finally, I tried a different approach. I leaned in real close, so our middles were touching, and gave George a quick kiss. Suddenly, the sound of freedom came rushing past my ear. It was a sound I knew well. The sound of coarse, braided ropes, and a well sanded piece of wood.
As I begin to pump my legs the smell of roses penetrates the air. It is sweet and luscious. The branches are still broken from where my body laid. However, Grandma Gracie was right, those flowers can push through anything. I kicked a little higher in an attempt to get a better look. “Buds,” I said to myself, “tiny yellow buds.”
Those little tiny buds looked as far away as the stars from my seat in the air. They were bright, and enclosed upon themselves. Each one was like its own ecosystem, self sustaining and beautiful in its own right. I continue to swing, admiring the garden as I rock; back and forth, back and forth. Always moving a bit higher with each kick. There was a glass sitting on the ground beside me. It was filled to the brim with a sweet substance. As I passed by the ground, I reached out to snatch it, when my hand brushed something soft. I smiled. They had been planted there by their Mother, and nurtured by the rain that falls from their Father’s sky. They were soft and beautiful, delicate but tough. I couldn’t help but smile at them, and I knew that they would be mine to take care of.
They were butter cream roses.