Thanks to all of you who have followed this story and encouraged me to keep writing it. After you read the epilogue, tell me if you “get it”! 🙂
Read Part 2 HERE. RECAP: The gardener realized then what had really happened to Les. He had become a powerful businessman within a day, but only at the sacrifice of being a werewolf at night.
But, the gardener did not think about that for long. His thoughts turned back to the girl. With a leap, he lunged out the window and over the rose tree. Just as the other beast had the night before, he raced over the empty fields toward town with death in his heart.
He arrived in less than half an hour. In the moonlight, he could see the silhouettes of two people standing on the porch—one was leaning against the doorframe, and the other was holding a sharp object…a knife.
The gardener-turned-werewolf howled and the people turned. Now he could see that his love was the one with the knife. Her eyes were bloodshot, terrified. She waved the weapon at him, screaming, “Get away! Make it get away!”
The other person on the porch started laughing. “What, dear? It’s just your old friend, the gardener!”
“What?” She gasped.
The speaker stepped on the first stair, tossing a bottle of green liquid in the air. “Now you see, don’t you?”
Les? An yelp escaped from between the wolf’s teeth. Les had given her the red rose? However, his shock lasted only a moment. The wolf growled, his heart racing. He watched the girl on the porch—she looked at him with tears in her eyes and the knife still clenched in her hand. Les continued sauntering down the stairs. When he reached the bottom, he stretched his hand out to the landscape beside the porch. Pulling it back in the light, he revealed a red rose cradled in his palm.
Les smiled coyly. “You loved her first, and you loved her last….but in the end she always came back to me.”
The gardener snarled. He could envision himself charging, latching his teeth around Les’s ankle, and taking him down. He could see the blood mixed with red petals across the porch walkway.
Then he heard his name. Not from Les’s lips nor from the lips of a monster, but from hers—that gentle voice. Questioning, but gentle.
“Quiet.” Les hissed. The girl started crying, and in between the sounds of her sobbing the gardener could hear her begging for salvation.
But all he could do was watch as Les walked back up the staircase. “Who do you want, woman? You’ve never really decided have you?” She pointed the knife at him but he easily wrenched it from her hand. Then he took the rose, and holding it up to his nose, twirled it round and round. “Have you?”
At the sight of the flower the girl stumbled backward. “No….no…no….”
“Who is it then?” Les barked.
The girl looked at the gardener with the saddest expression the eyes can create. The gardener could see the years of time crumbling away before his eyes. He saw her again, twenty years younger and just as confused, tearing the petals off his pink rose.
In the blankness of memory, he missed the moment where Les grabbed her wrist and pressed the rose into her palm. She looked up at him, eyes teary, and murmured something under her breath. The gardener couldn’t hear…..was it his name? Les’s name? A curse? A plea for mercy? But the next minute, she was sinking to the porch floor, blood running from her wrist…splashing in dots on the cement. Red like the petals—but her cries spoke more for the thorns. The gardener remembered her scratched wrists, her horror at the sight of the pink rose, and finally understood.
Les ripped the rose away from her wrist and unscrewed the top of the bottle. “Our trees grew in different corners of this town, but they had the same beginning….”
With a single gulp, he downed the liquid, and in a second was transformed, “and now the same end.”
The girl screamed, and with a strangled cry she reached across the porch for the knife and stabbed at Les’s foot with it. He whirled on her, and as the gardener watched her fall, it seemed that time stood still.
The moon glowed over the grass, reflected in Les’s eyes and made his fur sparkle. He bristled. His teeth snapped, and a puff of air came from his nostrils and crystallized in the night air.
The gardener saw his love on the porch, crumpled. He had never been enough to find her, and now not enough to save her. Maybe it had never been love at all. Maybe love would never have grown the rose tree. Maybe love would have protected her from his thorns instead of crumpling the red rose in a fist of hate. Maybe….
The gardener saw Les creeping toward him. The last thing he saw was the red rose tree, and in the light of the moon the flowers looked strangely pink.
In the morning, the neighbors found a crime scene in their front yard. Patches of skin flung here and there, fur, blood stains, and a dead woman’s body on the porch. Tragedy, they called it.
Back at the gardener’s house was the rose tree. However, no longer were its leaves emerald and its stems straight and its blossoms bold. As soon as his transformation had occurred, it had wilted into brown dust…..leaving only a single pink blossom in its place.
EPILOGUE: Years passed, and the rose remained in the garden of the abandoned house. It did not fade, its petals never withered, and its thorns were still sharp and cutting. One day, several of the neighbors spoke of seeing a ghostlike old woman glide across the gardener’s property. When they went to investigate, they saw the rose was gone. A few questioned if the ghostly woman was the girl, seeking revenge on the flower that had caused her so much grief. However, eventually the story faded into memory, and then into legend.
But in another corner of the world, the old woman and the rose lived on.
One night, during a storm, she found herself wandering in open country and in need of shelter. The only building in sight was a castle, highlighted with each flash of lightning. Shivering, she stumbled up the steps and knocked on the door.
However, the prince of the castle refused to give her shelter.He would accept no pleas or reason. In desperation, she offered him her only treasure, the rose. Nevertheless, he turned the gift down and had her thrown out into the night.
Today, legend says the old woman left the rose on his doorstep anyway, and that through this series of events the prince became a monster. It was said that only true love could stop the curse of the rose tree and make the beast a man again.
But that….that is a story for another day….