© — She would be beautiful, if not radiant, as always. It pleased her husband to see her dressed like a schoolgirl debutante, and the superiority he then felt would quiet him some. An afternoon at the mall with a handful of bottomless credit cards produced the desired effect. The straight gin settling her hand as she artfully applied her make-up; the routine promise to only have two more drinks allowing her to stay at a party long enough to find a handsome man to talk with. And an Ambien to sleep by, if she could find a bottle in one of her husband’s disingenuous hiding places. The night would be another page in a prosaic story: words without significance.
“Honey, we’re going to be late, and it’s my new client!”, he barked up the broad stairs with a restrained tone of anger.
Her mahogany make-up table sat in the corner by the bay window of a large bedroom, rouge camouflage and synthetic pheromones covering the tired veneer. Sitting on her plush chair, she stared at the roses in the courtyard below, occasionally, blankly, and in frustration. Her father had planted these roses, having become an avid gardener in retirement. They were heirloom types, strains of varieties well over 100 years old. All beautiful in full bloom, and all exceptional. The collection included remontant types that were covered with small, red flowers, and after waning, would bloom again, coming back several times throughout the year. There were fleshy, pink cups that filled with petals into a solid cradle of complex layers. And there were the huge, yellow single flowers, like simmering solar spectacles, larger that her outstretched hand. Her father had planted 16 years back, and now the roses were mature flora, and her father was gone.
“Honey! We’re going to be late again. It will be bad enough if we have to leave early because of your drinking. We at least need to get there on time. They’ve catered dinner, and it’s formal. Hurry up!”
“I’m just putting on my jewelry.” she uttered, “Have a scotch and settle down. We’ll be fine. Grab my Vuitton coat out of the closet, please.”
The roses had not done well lately. Her father had planted strains with their own, original roots, unlike the roses out front that had their roots carefully grafted on to them by attentive nurserymen, thereby protected from parasites, and assuring a healthy plant. These roses, the ones below her window, were starting to show signs of wilt, with the flowers small and the flower buds less forthcoming, and now with blight creeping down the stems. The plants had become infested by a small aphid-like insect that attacked the roots, and sucked the juices, and energy, out of the plant. The insects did not arrive for several years after her father had planted the roses, so, she then enjoyed the beautiful gift that was intended. Now, the vermin had set up invisible camps at the roots, and unseen, had slowly stripped the roses of their glowing beauty. The roses would not die, as the parasites would wane with the plant; however, the once striking splendor would remain weak and bare, and as unattractive landscape decoration.
“Grab your keys on the way down.” he yelled, “I need to bring a box of files. They won’t fit in my Porsche, so we’re taking your Mercedes. And hurry up! This is important business!”
“I’m coming.” she softly replied, as she clipped on her other earring. “And I think I’ll wear the Prada coat, instead.”
“You don’t even need a coat. It’s summer!”
“The buttons match my jewelry. Please just throw it on the sofa.”
As she floated down the stairs, she wondered what kind of people she would meet tonight. Her graduate degree in French literature was of no use at the social teas with the other wives of men from her husband’s firm, or with the pastel ladies at the country club. Her candid take on politics was a conversation strictly off limits. And talk of movies, new restaurants, and other women’s children was of no interest to her. Their son, the successful attorney, she could brag on about endlessly; but when someone asked about her daughter, she could only falter nervously with half-truths hiding the too many rescues she had undertaken in the city to drag her daughter out of serious trouble, again. Maybe there would be someone at the dinner with an interest in art or fashion design that may prove interesting. Otherwise, she would have to patiently nurse two drinks.
“Finally! Let’s go. And just say one of the kids called at the last minute. I hate this!”
“Well, thank you for saying I look nice. I do, actually. Maybe someone at the party will notice.”
As the car rolled down the long drive, she considered her perfectly tiresome life. All dreams lost; a golden façade silencing the gasps of drowning in a sea of turbulent opulence. Lonely when around others. A man to sleep with that she genuinely disliked. Nothing to call her own. And dying roses, parasites draining the life out of them, with no one to care enough to restore their bloom.
Robert W. Hansen
Copyright – Robert W. Hansen – 2016