The sun was setting over the western horizon after having brightened Man’s life for yet another day, the birds were homing in noisily to their nests, chirping and fluttering to their heart’s content. Rose peeped out of her first floor balcony to feast her eyes on the picturesque sunset and heaved a deep sigh. Oh! She thought, ‘it is so romantic, love seems to be in the air, and why not? It was Valentine’s Day!
I’ve got to hurry! He could be here any moment thought Rose as she hurriedly closed the balcony door and for the umpteenth time critically surveyed the arrangements she had painstakingly made. The table had been set for two, two crystal wine glasses shone on the table besides a bottle of champagne. Rose nodded approvingly, straightened an imaginary crease on the table cloth and took out the antique candle stand from the cupboard and placed it on the table. Now! That’s a perfect setting for a romantic candle light dinner with Neil, she thought. She than checked the grandfather clock hanging in the kitchen and decided she had just about time to grab a quick shower and get into something enticing that Neil would like.
Once in the shower the hot spray soothed her tired bones and she basked in the warm water, her heart aflutter in anticipation of her candle light dinner with Neil. She was sure he would be surprised out of his wits!
She got out of the shower and put on the yellow silk dress which Neil had presented her sometime back, was it two years ago or three, gosh! Her memory was failing her!
She walked to the music system and put on a soft, melodious and of course romantic number and sank into the couch to wait for her lover boy, and lover boy he definitely was, even after Sixty years of marriage! Oh! How the years had rolled by like a euphoric dream, she thought. It seemed like just yesterday that she and Neil had got married and had zipped off to an exotic hill station to spend their honeymoon. They had spent fifteen blissful days lost in each others company, totally oblivious of everything else, and wanting the honeymoon to go on and on.
The doorbell rang and Rose jumped with a start, shaken from her reveries, it must be him she thought, her heart thumping with anticipation.
She walked to the main door and peeped through the magic eye to make sure it was not some unwanted stranger before unlocking the security catch and opening the door. This was a necessary precaution as they lived alone in the big city where crime was the order of the day and elderly citizens a vulnerable target for the burgeoning criminal elements.
It was not Neil but the little boy who lived next door with his parents, Grandma! He shouted, has mom given the keys? Yes my dear, here you are, said Rose thrusting a bunch of keys into the boy’s hands. Thank you Grandma! shouted the roly-poly boy commonly known as Fatso by all and sundry because of his rotund proportions, before wobbling away.
Rose sank back into the couch, disappointed and also getting a wee bit worried. He should have been here by now, what’s taking him so long she thought. To still her apprehensive mind she picked up the album lying on the magazine rack and was soon lost in the old memories evoked by the Black & White photographs of a bygone era.
In another part of the city Neil hurried towards the bus stand, walking as fast as his arthritic limbs allowed him to, clutching a huge bunch of yellow roses in his withered hands.
It was late and Rose would be waiting for him, she must be getting worried by now, and that thought pulverized him into pushing himself to increase his pace. His heart could barely take the exertion and was hammering away. However Neil now ran like a man possessed, he could see the bus just waiting to depart, and if he missed this bus he would have to wait for another half an hour. He could not bear the thought of waiting for another half an hour before meeting his beloved Rose. He wanted to sweep her off her feet with the bunch of yellow roses he had bought for her to commemorate their undying love on this Valentine’s Day.
With a superhuman effort that belied his age Neil made a final desperate dash and managed to get into the bus just as it started moving! The Bus conductor yelled at him and some passengers glared in anger tinged with pity at the antics of the octogenarian.
But Neil didn’t care; he sank thankfully into his seat, breathless, heart pounding but very happy to have made it! He closed his eyes and with a pleasant smile on his lips got lost in his musings. He would be by his Rose’s side within 30 minutes, thought Neil. Oh! How he loved her. His life was Rose-centric. His days began with his beloved Rose and ended with her. He could not even bear the thought of a life without Rose. Even after 60 years his love had not lost its madness and passion. If at all, it had only increased with the passage of time, but now the love was much, much more beyond the physical plane, it was something beyond description of comprehension, it was pure, unalloyed love for the sake of love.
The bus jerked to a halt and the conductor shouted: Old man! Get down, this is the last stop! Neil came back to the present from his deep thoughts and clutching the bunch of roses to his heart like an umbilical cord slowly got down from the bus and began the trudge of about one mile to his home where his beloved would be anxiously waiting for him.
He had barely walked a few steps when he was gripped by an inexorable pain in the chest. He started gasping for breath and could feel an icy cold sweat streaming down his brow and his legs refused to move a step further. Neil clutched at his chest with his right hand and sat down on the pavement still hanging on to his precious possession, the bunch of roses with his left hand.
As he sat down, he was dimly aware of a small rotund boy shouting, Daddy! It’s the next-door Grandpa; he is sitting on the pavement! And then Neil was seized with an irresistible urge to retch and he threw up by the side of the pavement. Oh! What a relief he thought, I am all right now and I shall be with my Rose shortly, and with that pleasant thought Neil got back onto his feet, only to collapse back onto the pavement, the bunch of yellow and pink roses dropping from his hands.
Rose was flicking through the last pages of the album when the doorbell rang ominously. She peeped through the magic eye and opened the door. Her neighbor, Fatso’s father walked in with a grave expression saying, “I am sorry aunty”.., she barely heard him as she stood transfixed and rooted to the spot as they brought Neil inside. He appeared to be fast asleep. But she knew that this was one siesta from which Neil would never wake up. A dull ache gripped Rose as she staggered and held on to her Neighbor’s arms for support . She felt as if some part of her body had been amputated, but she could not fathom where the pain was localized, but Oh God! The pain was excruciating. But tears did not come to Rose, her mind was benumbed and she groped blindly for the sofa and sank into its folds.
Her world had collapsed all around her and for the first time in 60 years she felt all alone, and the truth sunk in. Neil had gone.
Despite the pain and the shock Rose got up and hobbled to the small make-shift chapel in the corner of the living room and knelt down to pray. She prayed for Neil’s soul and also thanked God for his mercy and kindness in sparing Neil the pain which she was going through! Because she knew he would never have had the strength to bear her loss.
As she knelt silently in front of the crucifix, she felt a small soft hand shaking her shoulders. When she opened her eyes, she saw Fatso who thrust a bunch of yellow roses into her hands saying, “Grandpa dropped these on the pavement”.
Rose clutched the roses to her bosom and walked to the door, looking out at the doorway, desperately hoping to see Neil walking towards her on the driveway. But alas! this could never be! Neil lay cold and dead inside the house.
And now the tears streamed down Rose’s eyes in a deluge and she collapsed on the doorstep, weeping inconsolably as a petrified Fatso looked on.
The bunch of roses fell to the floor, and there they lay not mere “flowers at the doorstep”, but memories of a beautiful love story that would transcend life and death.
Roses for Rose – A passionate love story. Did this passionate love story tug at your heart strings and appeal to the romantic in you? If so, please let us know in the comment section.
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