Flash fiction: Roses

This story was originally written in 2011.

She walks into the post office with her coat pulled tightly around her waist.  It’s early in the morning, but the local gossip crowd are already out in force, whispering and chittering in the corner.  She keeps her head down as she stands in the queue, pretending at a fascination with her shoes.  She can hear the words – they are spoken in one of those false whispers that happen on stage at the theatre – and knows they want her to respond.  She won’t cause a scene though.  Not here.  Not anywhere.

I heard he left her for another woman. I think it was her sister. Her niece. Her best friend.

She repeats the mantra silently inside her head.  They don’t know you.  They don’t understand you.  They have no idea what happened.  Sometimes it calms her.  Today it doesn’t.

The queue finally moves and she stands at the counter, fumbling with her purse. “Just a second class stamp”, she says, barely loud enough to be heard, and slides the coins under the glass partition.  They’re still talking about her and she wonders if they’re genuinely trying to provoke her, or whether they just want answers.

She fantasises about turning around and telling them the truth, but she doesn’t.

She slips the stamp into the transparent sleeve in her purse, ready to be used when she needs it.  Always be prepared, her mother taught her.  Always make sure you have whatever you might need.

You can’t blame him. She’s so dull, I’m surprised he stayed so long. No idea what he saw in her.  Wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

There was a lot of her mother’s advice that she had ignored, but when it comes to her constant reminder to be prepared, she is an expert.  She always carries some loose change.  Always keeps a stamp in her purse.  Always knows exactly where her keys are.

And always has an exit planned.

As she steps outside, she notices the weather has improved and she brightens at the thought of spending some time in her beloved garden.  When she gets home, she doesn’t bother to change her clothes – grass and mud can be cleaned – as she kneels down beside the roses.  They’re finally starting to bloom now, the tip of their petals only just visible.

He hated her flowers.  He was very much a beer and football man, and couldn’t understand why she spent so much time away from him.  He never spoke to her, it was always shouting, and she finds that she can remember the noise clearer than she remembers his face.  But now, as she did then, she ignores the voices and focuses on the beauty in front of her.  Her fingertips brush at the soil around the roots, seeking any sign of the weeds that persist in growing there.

No matter how often she removes them, they return, twisting around the stems of her plants.  She knows why, of course, and it’s her own fault, but it seems unfair.  After all the planning she did, and all the effort she went through, there was only one thing she hadn’t planned for.

How could she have known what his rotting body, buried deep beneath the flowerbed, would have done to her roses?

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