Roots and Roses
By Melodie Campbell
(first published in Star Magazine, NY)
“Thank goodness I met Jacques otherwise I would have missed the most romantic weekend of my life.”
Kate was recounting the details of her recent elopement as she sat across from Lauren and me in the back booth at the Country Kitchen Diner.
As I listened to the thrill in her voice, a hidden, empty corner of my heart began to fill up with ache.
“When I got back to my room there were two dozen red roses waiting,” she said. “Two dozen! Can you imagine? I had to call the front desk to get a vase large enough to hold them all.”
“Must have cost him a fortune,” Lauren mused.
“Hope it was worth it.” I silently calculated the amount of feed two dozen, long-stemmed red roses would buy.
The waitress hovered at the lunch counter, her ear cocked.
“We had dinner in the best restaurant in New York,” Kate continued. “I wore my pink silk – he said it clashed with the roses! We spent the whole weekend sightseeing. I took a rose everywhere we went. So romantic…” Her voice drifted off.
I looked down at my five year old polyester skirt and grimaced. “You’re so lucky,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” Kate demanded. “You’ve been happily married for years!”
As her left hand waved gracefully through the air in my direction, a shimmer of light flashed from the pear-shaped diamond on her ring finger, casting a rainbow beam on the wall behind her.
“Nuts,” I laughed carelessly. “I’m just jealous. Nobody’s ever sent me two dozen roses.”
“Pete would if you asked him to,” Kate quickly countered.
“That’s not the same at all. And if he did, I would kill him.”
What I didn’t say was that we needed the money for other things. Like crop insurance and seed and new pairs of school shoes, just for starters.
Kate looked at me with a queer expression on her face.
“You don’t understand…” I tried to explain, but the words got lost in a clash of lifestyles.
Pete and I had married young and had three kids in quick succession. Romance quickly lost ground to doctors’ bills and midnight fevers.
Money to fuel the fire is always scarce. And so runaway weekends and bouquets from the florist had no place in my unromantic, down-to-earth world.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Pete isn’t a good husband…he’s the best. Always ready to help with the kids, always there when I need him. Always there, period. I couldn’t ask for a steadier partner.
It’s just that sometimes you don’t want the dependable husband. Sometimes you want the lover. I stared wistfully at the daisies that were wilting in the cheap glass vase siting between the salt and pepper shakers.
Kate’s romantic escapades had no more relation to the life I led than the stories I devoured in every best-selling romance novel I could get my hands on.
“You’ve had something I’ve never experienced,” I continued, “a romantic weekend away.”
“Boy, do I know what you mean,” Lauren added. “It’s not the same when you meet when you’re both in school. Nobody has any money. The closest you get to romance is a pizza parlor.”
“And I went from the pizza parlor to the church!” I caught sight of the waitress choking back a snicker as she hurried over to refill our glasses.
Kate shook her head. Earrings tinkled like silver bells on a Christmas tree.
“All these years, I’ve envied you – the married one, with three little boys,” she said. “Are you saying now that you envy me?”
I flinched at the irony. “In a way, yes. Not that I’d change things – I love Pete and wouldn’t want anyone else. But sometimes I wish we had met when we were a little older. I would give anything if we had had a chance to experience the sort of mad-crazy weekend you’re describing. Together. When we were just beginning to know each other. Before the kids and the farm responsibilities and the money worries.”
“You can do all these things later when the boys are older,” Kate offered kindly.
I looked at her fondly. “Wouldn’t be the same. You see, we know each other so well.”
“Maybe you’ll discover something new,” Lauren philosophized.
I smiled sadly.
The bill arrived and it was my turn to pay for lunch. I struggled with my wallet and brought out two twenties. Enough for twelve long-stem roses, I thought. One dozen.
“You look so sad. What is it you really want?” Kate asked quietly.
“Red roses,” I said.
I left the restaurant feeling empty.
The house, on my return, was the same old farmhouse. Children’s shoes littered the front hall.
The same man wearing rugged jeans and a T-shirt stood in the doorway sporting an oh-so-familiar crooked grin.
I smiled, in spite of myself.
“Got you something,” he announced. “Come with me.”
I followed him out to the back yard and dutifully looked in the direction of his pointed hand.
The grass had been cut away from the wire fence, and something stubby stood in its place.
“I planted it this morning,” Pete said proudly. “I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but it’ll grow. It’s a climber, see? By August, the whole fence will be covered with blossoms.”
I stared down at the still sodden planting and felt my eyes water.
“What’s wrong?“ he demanded, alarmed. “don’t you like it?”
“I love it,” I choked. “What colour are the roses?”
“Maybe I can cut some and bring them into the house,” I whispered.
“Sure!” he enthused. “And just think. If we take good care of it, it will bloom year after year.”
Year after year. Planted in firm ground and nurtured with love.
We walked back into the house arm in arm.
Melodie got her start writing comedy. She has over 200 publications and has won 6 awards for short fiction. Melodie was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer Award and Arthur Ellis Award, and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She experienced a personal best last year when Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.