The Rose Garden
Fleur was excited. She was 13 and she was becoming a woman; her body had given her the final sign. The sign that made her mother sigh, that caused her, with red-rimmed eyes to finally agree to help Fleur with the one thing she’d asked for her entire life: to start her rose garden.
Fleur sort of understood the rose garden, she thought. She knew that when her father was home, her mother’s roses blossomed no matter the time of year, and that their home was always infused with the perfume of sun and spring. She knew that when her father was away, they were more like rosebuds, those flowers–they came, but they were tiny, pained, and they struggled to bloom.
She didn’t quite understand the big deal with the roses, but it seemed like all of the adults around her were obsessed with the rose garden. Some told her to cherish her garden–her Papa for one, who tried to drill into her that her rose garden was sacred and she should only share its blossoms with the man she married.
Then she’d turn on the TV or talk to her friends and it seemed like everyone was swapping roses.
She was confused.
She was also a little scared.
But she was intrigued, and she knew that she wanted access to the secret world the rose garden seemed to open up for adults.
It had been two summers and her rose garden was still struggling. She found her mother’s relief at her failure to be maddening.
“I just don’t understand it, Mom!” she would whine. “Why won’t my roses blossom?”
And she, with all of her 15-year-old angst would stomp to her room and slam the door, where she would spend hours researching gardening, roses and reality TV on the Internet–anything that would give her some insight into how to get her rose garden to flourish.
It was January when Fleur got her first real bloom. That’s how her mother knew.
Fleur wasn’t allowed to date, but she’d been coming home the past few months from her drama club practice flushed. She’d smile at her mother, something she hadn’t done since her wretched adolescence started, and she’d go to her room.
Her cell phone bill told her mother that Fleur was on the phone for hours with someone.
A harmless infatuation, she’d told herself.
But then it bloomed.
Fleur wanted to pick it. Her mom tried to explain. “It’s…it’s a rose, but it’s so much more. When you give someone a rose from your garden, you can’t control what they do with it, Sweetie. You’ve been tending this garden for two years, you put sweat and tears into it–are you sure you want to give your first bloom to this boy? Are you sure he won’t just throw it away?”
Fleur knew, but she didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. It was her rose. She’d worked to grow it and she wanted to give it to Simon. Her mother gave her roses away, it seemed like all the time now, since her father hadn’t been home in so long. So what if she wanted to give Simon her rose?
It was hers.
Simon had a rose pinned to his shirt pocket, but Fleur was positive it wasn’t hers. She knew her roses–she’d spent enough time in that garden to know each swirl on each flower, each mix of pink and red, each highlight of white and orange.
That rose was not the right ratio of colors and swirls.
She screamed, right there in the high school hallway, and she ran out of the school. She didn’t stop running until she’d made it home and she ran straight to the garden. She began ripping her roses out of the ground at their root, fueled by the way the thorns tore into her hands–she hated them for all they meant, for all she still didn’t understand about them. She crushed their petals with the soles of her feet; kicked dirt over their vibrant petals. She didn’t stop until she was exhausted, and when she was, she laid in her patch of the yard and cried herself to sleep.
“I don’t know,” Fleur told her friend Lily. “I’m so confused. I love my roses–I put so much work into them. I’m proud of the way they bloom. I’m proud of the way I can get them to bloom whether or not I’m seeing someone special.
“At the same time, though, I work so hard on my garden. I want to share my roses with someone, and I want to share them with someone who appreciates them.”
Lily laughed. “Girl, they’re just roses. You grow a million of them and you give them away however you see fit.”
Fleur had heard that, seen that explanation before, but it was never one she could truly feel. She had tried casually giving her roses out, but whenever she went back to her garden she was always aware of the empty space on the bush where they once were.
She didn’t believe that she should only give her roses to the man she would marry–she wanted to share her life’s work as she saw fit. But she also didn’t believe that she should share the products of the work she’d been perfecting for the past 11 years with anyone just because she suddenly got the urge. There had to be a middle ground, right? Somewhere she could meet someone who had an appreciation for fine horticulture; someone who would recognize the beauty of her roses; someone who would keep them until they died, or at the very least, someone who wouldn’t carelessly throw them out without stopping to appreciate their beauty?
Fleur mused, as she absently tended her garden.