Something to Give Courage
I dreamt of chopping it down. Every night the same dream, but in the morning I always changed my mind. Now I’m glad I didn’t. It remains there to remind me that losing courage isn’t a failing. I need to believe that now. I’m fighting the same battle but not as bravely.
He planted that rose bush when he was still strong. He had been feeling unwell but nobody had taken much notice. We thought he was just getting older, and being the man he was, finding it difficult to adjust. He was always strong and vital, so alive. He’d had an ordinary life but had appreciated the small things so much that none of the other stuff had mattered to him. It was a wonder to see him take a tiny seed and use it to create a whole new world. He imagined the plants had lives as complex as our own. He would talk to them, chid them, encourage them and refuse to give up on them.
I remember seeing the rose grow stronger and him grow weaker. Through my innocent eyes I thought it was stealing his strength. I thought they had somehow become connected in a way they never should have been and now they were both battling to survive, and the scales were tipping against him. Maybe he didn’t realise that he had given too much of himself to the plant and now it was too late.
I haven’t told anyone yet. I don’t know how I will. All my life people have told me their stories. I have listened to so many stories from so many people. Happy ones, funny ones, but mostly sad. My husband has always said that my face tells people that I like sad stories. Maybe I do, but today I have a sad story of my own and I want someone to listen to me but I can’t decide who.
My sister has been having a rough time lately. I tried to tell her yesterday but it just didn’t happen. Tim is being an ass again. She told me she can’t take any more, but she always does. I suppose she still loves him and that’s the real problem. I listened and after she thanked me but I didn’t say anything. She has enough on her plate and she can’t help me.
My mother is so worried about her that she has forgotten me. Maybe I should have married Tim. Because she is so anxious my father can only talk about how concerned he is about her. And I worry about them both. I know I should tell my husband but I don’t want to make him as sad as I am.
I found myself dreaming about that rose tree again last night and I decided to visit it. There will be nobody there who knows me anymore but I need one last look. I owe it to me and him. The place is empty; the man who owns this place now is not tied to it like he was. I pull in across the road and get out.
The rose bush is still here thankfully. I haven’t seen it in so many years I was afraid that it would be gone or worse – that it wouldn’t be what it was supposed to be. I start to think of the last time we came here as a family. We were dressed in our good clothes. My mother sat in the passenger seat, silent, she didn’t really look like my mother that day. When we got there it wasn’t the same. It had already changed. There were people everywhere. Some lady with too much make-up was sitting in his chair. Another man was drinking from his cup. It was too much. I ran and found myself searching for the safety of the back garden. I couldn’t bear to go out front because the rose was there.
I crouched under the oak tree. He told me he had sowed it as a child but I had never believed him. It was so big it surely had to be older than him. Maybe he was older than I thought or the tree wasn’t really that big at all. It still looks the same as it did that day. I decided that I wanted to sow one but then I remembered he was gone and I wouldn’t be able to do it without him.
After a while my mother found me. I don’t think she was looking for me, she had come to the tree to find peace under its branches just as I had. She didn’t say anything. She sat down beside me and put her arm around me. After a while I asked her if he had really sown the tree. She smiled a half smile and nodded. I was afraid to ask her if the rose bush had killed him.
As I walk back to my car I pick up a stray acorn. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet. Maybe I’ll sow it. I suppose that rose must have given him some hope. Hope that when he was gone there would be a little part of him left behind. Something to give courage.
Deirdre Moran is based in Kildare and loves exploring the freedom and challenges of flash fiction. She has had work published in Silver Apples, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs, Number Eleven and Flash Flood. She was awarded third place in the Allingham Arts Festival Flash Fiction Competition in 2014.