The Rose Tree, Part One–a remix of fairy tales, Goethe’s Faust, William Blake’s “A Poison Tree” and some photos to liven it up a little. I hope you enjoy! ❤
Once upon a time there was a pink rose.
It had crisp petals and a stem the color of a puddle when the sun shone on it about teatime. For many years, it was displayed in a vase and watered faithfully.
People saw it every day in the window as they drove through the neighborhood on Spencer Avenue. Some commented, “what a lovely flower” or “how come you didn’t buy me any like that for our anniversary?” Others wondered if it was a valentine’s gift, and if so, what the recipient must look like.
However, none of them took the time to find who the rose actually belonged to, and if they had, they would have been surprised. In reality, the treasure belonged to a boy. He was about seven years old, and unlike his friends who were obsessed with piggy banks and toy guns, he cared most about his flower.
All day, it sat in the windowsill, in a spot where the puddle of sunlight could always reach it. When he was young, the boy used to keep the rose in an old Mcdonald’s cup and pour water into it every three days….or maybe two and a half if he remembered. However, as he grew older, he moved it to a kitchen glass and then to a vase. Every afternoon when he came home from school, he dumped out the old water and refilled the vase. And every evening, he would watch the rose turn from yellow-pink to orange-pink to red-pink as the sky changed color with the sunset.
When he was about nineteen, the boy decided to part with his gift for something even more beautiful. She was his next door neighbor—brown hair, hazel eyes, and terrified of dogs. She was quiet in a group but outspoken in the notes they wrote and stuck in the mailboxes. Slowly, she began to take the place of his rose. Not blonde or redheaded like the passersby thought, but perfect all the same.
For a while, the girl adored the rose. She photographed it, tied a ribbon around it, and kept the occasional fallen petal in a box by her bed. The young man was pleased that the rose had fallen into capable hands. He did notice that on some days those hands were covered with scratches—but the girl said it was nothing so he didn’t worry too much.
However, as dreams change with age, so the rose began to wilt. It shed its petals all over the girl’s desk, and she stopped brushing them away. The young man panicked—was she beginning to forget? Was there another flower? There couldn’t possibly be a more beautiful one!
One day, when the poor rose was bending over in its vase, the young man approached her with “why?”
She answered. Her face was white, terrified, and the cuts on her hands looked worse than he ever remembered. With tears in her eyes, the girl ripped the rose from its vase and started tearing off the petals, one by one. When there was nothing but the thorny stem left, she threw it out the window and told him to never look toward her house again.
Oh, but he did.
Several weeks later, the young man noticed another rose in the window—red, perfectly shaped, radiant. He couldn’t look at it without feeling betrayed.
Because the young man could not stand living beside her anymore, he packed up, said goodbye to his family, and headed for the edge of the town. There, he worked under a farmer for several years, learning when to seed and when to harvest, when to fertilize and when to cover for weather. The work took his mind off the red rose in the window.
Sometimes though, when the sun was hot and sweat rolled down his face, he could still see it—fashioned like a fairy tale. Sometimes he would blink back tears, and other times he would only stare at the ground and scuff the dirt back and forth with his shoe. It was then that he began to desire revenge.
One day, the farmer died and left his farm to the young man. On the day after the funeral, he rode into town and picked up a seedling from the garden store. Bringing it back, the young man planted it outside the window. Years of grooming the rose had given him a gentle touch, and the seedling grew quickly. Its thorns reached out to several inches, and its leaves were emerald. On his way into town to get fertilizer for the seedling, he drove down Spencer Avenue. There was the red rose—still in the girl’s window. However, it was bent over and its petals were wilting.
Smiling, the young man headed back to the farm.
As the seasons changed, his prize emerged from a seedling into a full-fledged rose tree. During the summer months, he planted a birdfeeder outside the window also, and enjoyed seeing the robins and jays flock to grab the seeds around the tree. He dreamed of the day that she would be there also, watching the birds with him, her laugh dancing around the house. But several years passed. First one and then five and then ten and then almost twenty…. the young man turned into a middle-aged gardener…and there was still no sign of his lost love.
On a Saturday, the gardener was pruning his rose tree when a convertible pulled into the driveway.
Although he didn’t recognize the driver at first, he introduced himself as a friend from high school—Franklin Mephistyles (or Les because that was terribly long).
Taking off his hat and twirling it around one finger, he proceeded to ask the gardener about his life—his crops, his house, his rose tree. The gardener listened, noticing the whole time the scratches that covered Les’s wrists. Odd, he thought, remembering the scratches on his girlfriend’s hands. However, it seemed that Les almost read his mind, for he quickly turned the conversation around to the gardener’s love. At the sound of her name, the gardener grew quiet. Les interrogated him, but couldn’t get more than a grunt and a mumble.
However, instead of walking away in frustration, he handed the gardener a bottle of green-blue liquid and said, “Water the rose bush with this at midnight two days from now.”
“Why?” The gardener stared at the liquid—it didn’t look like any fertilizer he had seen before.
“It won’t hurt your tree,” Les explained. He chuckled, “that stuff took me from the farmyard to a studio office in one night.” Winking, he whispered “good luck”, tucked a rose in his breast pocket, and walked back to his convertible.
The gardener thought that the whole encounter was queer. He poured the bottle’s contents into a glass, set it on the table inside his cottage, and forgot about it for two days.
But….at eleven fifty-five on the night of the second day, the gardener woke up from a nightmare. His shirt was damp and heavy on his shoulders. He could still hear the girl screaming for mercy even though he was awake. To clear his mind, he decided to take a walk.
However, just as he was passing the dining room, the gardener saw the glass on the table. It was deep-blue with swirls of green; it sparkled in the moonlight.
Shuffling over to the door, the gardener opened it just enough to reach out and pour the bottle over the base of the tree. Then he waited. Nothing. Then he waited some more, humming a tune to keep himself awake. Still nothing. He looked up at the sky and watched the moon pass. He could feel the nightmare passing and his mind growing heavy again. Shaking his head at the foolishness of getting up at midnight to water a tree, the gardener headed toward the door.
He was stopped by a sound. Not the snapping of a twig or the thud of a foot in the grass, but a hum. No, not a hum….a growl.
It grew louder. Goosebumps crept up the gardener’s arms, but he was frozen between the tree and the door.
Then he heard the growl again, more clearly this time.
Her name. Her name.