The Rose of Amaranth

Driving home to visit family for the weekend I stopped at the traffic light just within the city limits. A sprinkle of rain covered my windshield and I reached for the wiper button. In the dim light of sunset, a city bus bench captured my attention. The scene reminded me of Rosemary, my first day of senior high school, and all the things one thinks they have forgotten. In the face of heartbreak, we take the position of believing everything will be fine, time will move on, and the sun will rise the next day. What we discover is each day melts into another until one day you realize a lifetime has passed.
The echo of the last bell rang in our ears as Billy and I headed to the bus stop. “Man! I am so glad to see this end of this day,” he said.“Yeah buddy!”Billy shaded his eyes from the bright sun. “Let’s hit the beach.”“Gotta work dude.”“Work?” Billy said, as he slipped on his sunglasses.“Sorry dude.”“Yeah, whatever,” Billy said as he ran to the corner. I caught up with him where he had stopped, leaning against a utility pole. He discreetly nodded toward the bus bench across the street. “Check out the babe.”I could see a beautiful girl sitting alone, and said, “This high school gig . . .”“Ain’t so bad after all,” Billy interrupted.Our plan was simple; dazzle this young splendor of womanhood with quick wit and charm. I stepped off the curb in my urgency to cross the street and the sound of a screaming car horn jolted me back into reality.“Smooth move,” Billy said.We stood behind her left shoulder, and quickly discovered, wit was out the window, and charm was on vacation. All we could muster were pokes in each other’s sides and stolen glances. I felt funny in my stomach, as we stood there stupid with hope, praying she would say something to initiate conversation. In what seemed an eternity, she did.“What does it take to get a hello out of you guys? Are one of you going to say something, or just act like jerks until the bus arrives.”Billy and I looked at each other, and then had the unbelievable thought—this girl knew us. Taken aback by this twist, we searched our memories while standing there as fools.“Hey it’s me, Rosemary—Hello—What’s wrong with you two?”Then the moment where you slap your forehead and realize, you are not so cool after all. She’s the skinny kid from the park. Rosemary? We are talking about the love of my life, not the tomboy from summer.We forgot our embarrassment as the number six metro bus arrived. Billy and I raced to the back seats. My future wife sat up front glancing at us out of the corner of her blue eyes. It was then I knew there was no longer an option of wanting to, could there be another, and all the other validations you go through in the mating process. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I had found.“Do you think she will marry me,” I said.“What?” Billy responded as if I had said something stupid.“I said, do you think she will marry me?”“You’re such a fool,” Billy said as he put his feet on the back of the seat in front of him, “and besides, she’s going to marry me.”“I don’t think so.”Billy responded, “Dude, neither of us has a snowballs chance in hell.Each day the ritual repeated. Each day, I, the boy from the lower side of town would fall in love with Rosemary Bennet, daughter of Howard Bennet—not only the mayor of Cedar Creek—but also the most powerful family in the county. Everyone knew Rosemary Bennet would marry into wealth, and not into a blue-collar family like mine.Each day we would see each other in the hallway and I would try to build my courage. The three of us would sit at the bus bench, Rosemary doing most of the talking. She was like the setting summer sun—you could see it, you could feel the warmth, but it was going away fast below the horizon and out of reach. I had to say something; I knew I did, but each time I opened my mouth, it was as if the wind took my words away. We had played ball, played checkers, I had walked her home, and I knew her family. What was the big deal? I thought. Why is my stomach jumpy?After weeks of practicing my approach in front of the bathroom mirror, I sat quietly as we waited for the bus. I had decided today would be the day. With all the bravado I could pull from the depths of my soul, I took a deep breath and waited for the perfect moment.“So Rosemary, how was your day?”“It was great. How was yours?”I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but my mind was blank. All that came out was, “Good. Yep, good.” Nodding my head, I thought about how stupid I must have sounded. I searched for something smart to say—something charming.It didn’t take long before she decided to talk. She talked, and talked some more—about everything. “I love school,” she said, “but I miss summer—and vacation. My dad told me about . . . my mom said . . .”Lost in her words, I watched her lips, her expressions, and the breeze pushing her hair across her perfect freckled nose. Her movements, as if in slow motion like on a shampoo commercial I had seen on TV. . . . “and, I don’t want to date anyone else for a long, long time.“What was that?” I asked, as I looked at Billy.“What was what?” she responded.“You said something about dating?”“I said, after breaking up with Sam, I don’t want to date anyone for a long time.”Actually, I thought to myself, she said long, long time, and in girl talk, that meant not a chance. One innocent proclamation crushed my hope and all of my dreams as I discovered the girl I had to marry wasn’t the slightest bit interested in a simple date.The ride home was quiet, my mind in replay of Rosemary’s proclamation. The bus stopped. Rosemary stepped off first and into her mom’s waiting car. Billy and I walked home.“What was all that about Bill?”“What do you mean?” he asked.“The not wanting to date thing Rosemary was talking about.”“Oh! She’s a girl dude, and girls are confusing. Don’t try to figure it out.”“I think I really like her.” I wanted to say I loved her, but Billy would have died laughing at that point.Several more painfully embarrassing weeks passed as I met up with Rosemary in the hallway between classes. Billy saw Rosemary walking just ahead of us. He elbowed me in the ribs.“Now would be a good time,” he said.I took a deep breathe and sped up to be next to her. My hands were damp, and I felt like I was going to blackout. Instead, I blurted out, “Hey Rosemary. I was thinking, how about a movie this weekend?”“No thanks,” she said.“Maybe we could get a pizza.”“No thanks.”She turned the corner toward her classroom. “See you at the bus stop?” she asked.I continued practicing in front of the mirror. I would stop by her house on the weekend. Her sister would tell me Rosemary wasn’t home. I could hear the giggling of young girls as the door closed.Each day we walked the school hallways and at the end of the day, we would walk to the bus stop together. We were just friends, and that was okay with me. If I could only walk with her, talk about the day, I would be fine. Just standing near her, I felt a sense of blue sky and white clouds mixed with ocean breeze. Summer break arrived, and we shot hoops at the park, I walked her home in the afternoon. We were a common sight together in the neighborhood, but near the end of summer, things changed.One afternoon, in which I was feeling particularly brave for no apparent reason, I said, “Hey Rosemary, how about a movie this weekend?”“What’s playing?” she asked.I could have touched the moon.It was a year of cautious companionship, still just friends, as I waited impatiently, wanting to press my lips against hers. A passion burned inside my heart, knowing that one day we would be together. As our friendship grew, so did love. We held hands. We sat next to each other on the bus. We watched movies together, and we shared our popcorn. We kissed.Her family, her father, acquiesced in the face of love, giving us his blessing. We worked our way through college, found good jobs. In the sunset of one evening, we walked the shoreline of the beach. It had been a perfect day, blue skies and white clouds, a slight ocean breeze. I stood behind Rosemary and wrapped my arms around her as we faced the horizon.“What do you see,” I asked.“I can see forever,” she said.“Would you love me forever,” I asked.She turned in my arms and said, “Yes, I will love you until forever.”After a year of marriage, we had not conceived. We scheduled our family doctor and he contacted a specialist that provided a series of tests, of which there were many. Months later, during our final visit, the specialist explained we were not capable of conception. Disconsolate, we buried our disappointment deep inside our hearts. A year passed and we needed something to move us forward. We decided to build a home outside of the city. The property sat at the edge of a small lake and I knew, after a long day at work, this location would be perfect for relaxation. To save money, we moved into an apartment attached to my parent’s house. We lost ourselves in the design of our dream home.Soon afterwards, Rosemary began to complain about everything. It appeared I could not do anything right, or wrong, depending on the hour or day. She would begin to weep over nothing, and everything. She was sick in the morning, and sick at night. I figured the pressure of building the house was getting to her. Her condition was starting to concern me. I made an appointment with our family doctor, but she decided to go alone. She said, “I don’t need you trailing along.”She returned a few hours later with a smug look on her face. I asked about the results.“He said it looks as though I am pregnant.”“You told him that was impossible?” I said.“What do you think?”“Okay, I guess we will have to wait for the results.”“Whatever. He said he would call Saturday.”Saturday morning arrived and my Dad and I sat at the dining room table enjoying the morning cup of coffee, and talking about the progression of the house. Rosemary was sitting at the kitchen bar next to the telephone, complaining about something smelled, looked, or tasted odd when the phone rang. She answered and listened without talking.“Okay. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”The room was silent. When I close my eyes, I can see Rosemary, my sandy haired, blue-eyed beauty; her face flushed red, tears streaming down her ruby checks. She was smiling the kind of smile that touches your ears. The impossible had become a reality.“I’m pregnant,” she said in a little squeaky voice, her shoulders scrunching up, and her hands cupping her face.Within a few months, we finished the house. Rosemary chose a bedroom with a southern exposure. “It will stay warmer all year round,” she said. The doctor told us it would be a boy and we painted his room our college colors. We sat on the porch in the evening while planning his future.“Can we name him Matthew?” she asked.“Matthew? Any particular reason?”“It means, Gift from God.”I held her in my arms as she rubbed her slender fingers across her swollen belly. Her skin was translucent, delicate and reflective of her way. She was soft and gentle, unlike anyone I had ever known. I stroked her hair, and quietly thanked God for placing her in my life.“I think it’s time,” she said.“How can it be time? Aren’t you supposed to have contractions?”“My water just broke, and the contractions will be here soon enough.”I picked her up and carried her to the car, ran back into the house and grabbed our pre-packed bag. We arrived at the hospital and the nurse met us. She checked Rosemary and threw hospital scrubs at me saying, “Get these on.”“Now?”“Now!” she demanded.The labor was harder than expected and by the end, her hair stuck to her forehead, her eyes red from tears—my hand hurt from her squeezing. It was the perfect moment of elation, love, and relief all in one precious package. She held our son in her arms. I left her and Matthew to find the parents.We met Rosemary and Matthew in their room a few moments later and celebrated the arrival of our miracle. Rosemary tired; I chased everyone from the room and placed Matthew in the crib. I was exhausted and sat next to her holding her hand. Then, in an instant, that second that flashes as time in slow motion, everything changed. I felt her body tense.“Something is wrong,” she said.“What is it?” I asked.“It’s dark,” she said, “Oh God.”I yelled for the nurse as my world fell apart and she pulled me close.She whispered to me as her eyes closed and her body fell limp. I held her close to me and someone touched me on my shoulder.There were people talking; noise in the background. The doctors said it was an aneurism. She comes back to me in my dreams, and each time I close my eyes. We stand together at the edge of the ocean. She points and always says, “Forever.”

The Rose of Amaranth

stevenlabree

Joined January 2008

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Where do you go when your world ends?

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