The roses were Gerald’s pride and joy. Full bloom, bud, cane and leaf, he loved them as if they were his own children. And, in a way, he supposed they were. He’d given so much of his life to them already…
It had started with his mother’s death.
When she passed away, he had inherited the house, and surrounding garden. And a sad little garden it had been at that point. Mother’s health hadn’t allowed her to do much with her flowers, but she’d refused to let anyone else care for them – not even Gerald had been allowed so much as a chance to weed or water the blooms that surrounded and perfumed the whole yard.
Roses, roses everywhere.
Blossoms that ranged from tiny, miniature plum-sized blooms, to the crawling, clinging vines of mid-sized lovelies, and on up to the ponderous heads of the double-sized variety.
And Mother had left behind some curious instructions as to their care.
Mulch wouldn’t work, Gerald was told. It didn’t provide enough of the nourishment they required. Fertilizers burned the ground, making it inhospitable in the amounts that would have been necessary to care for these beauties. Don’t use them.
“They’re man-made chemicals, Gerald, so don’t you be using them on my babies, now. These roses need LOVE, love and natural food, mind you. You make sure you give of yourself, you hear?”
Mother’s voice rang in his ears, clanging against his brain as it reminded him, once again, that she was gone, and would never be there to tell him exactly how this was to be done.
But he’d learned. It had started to become clear one day when he’d been pruning the dead and browned heads from the plants, and accidentally nicked his finger on some thorns.
Oh yes, he’d learned. The roses had taught him what they needed from him. And he gave it. Every day, a little more each time. And as he watched the plants flourish under his care, he wondered how his mother had been able to even keep them alive at all… considering…
But then again, maybe that’s why…
No, stop that thinking, Gerald pushed it out of his mind. He couldn’t, wouldn’t let that stop him. The roses were too important. And now, they needed more than he could provide.
That little nick on his finger had given him the clues to raising his roses – red and healthy and beautiful. Blood. Blood dripping down his hand from the cut, it had stained the leaves and canes of the roses he’d been pruning, and they’d practically exploded after that.
Blood. That’s what they needed, thirsted for, flourished on. Tendrils of green wound around his ankles as he worked in the yard now, pricking his skin and pulling the life-force from him as he trimmed, watered, weeded.
The roses had drunk thirstily of his blood for too long now. He was weakening, he could feel it, strength slowly ebbing every day. It was too much, he needed help. And he’d take it, unwilling, if necessary, to feed his children, his roses red.
Shears in hand, Gerald hiked his bag over his shoulder. Inside, he’d packed plastic sheeting, to capture the necessary fluid. And plastic bottles. Must make sure he could carry enough home, so he didn’t have to care for his roses alone.
The rest of the city didn’t know it yet, but they were all about to join his garden of roses red. And it was time to do some pruning.
-Jan. 19, 2014