I’m trying to find another way to phrase it when she interrupts.
‘Do you smell them?’
She gestures toward an open window with a subtle nod of her head. The air carries the sweet aroma of her memory. I strain to fill my lungs with it before it fades away.
‘The roses. They’re called Great Maiden’s Blush.’
She asks if I remember.
I see my father in his beige cardigan, covered in soil and grass stains. His grey slacks, fraying at the knee. His round tortoise shell spectacles slip from the bridge of his nose as he dabs beads of sweat from his bald head with a handkerchief. The air is laced with the odour of primrose and freshly cut grass. My mother brings him a jug of lemonade which she rests on a tea towel beside him. He called his roses “mummy’s cheeks” because they reminded him of the colour of her cheeks when she was younger.
I ask if she understands what I’ve told her, though I know that she hasn’t. She’s absently wandering from cupboard to kettle. Saucers clattering, silverware clinking, her hands shaking as she carves a slice of carrot cake which goes uneaten on the plate.
‘Do you fancy a cuppa?’
She begins vaguely picking at a chip in her teacup as though she can pick it off, the cup still empty in her hand. The kettle cools, neglected.
In this house as a child I slept with the lights on, afraid of the monsters in my closet. In this house the fourth stair from the top creaks where it’s come away from the joist. As a teenager I tried to avoid stepping on it when getting home drunk after curfew. In this house there’s a water mark on the bathroom ceiling that I used to think resembled Elvis Presley. In this house the panes in the kitchen window rattle in a stiff breeze.
In this house on a bookshelf in the living room is a sepia stained photograph from their wedding day. My mother pours across the ballroom floor in her ivory dress, a small bouquet of pink roses blossoming from her hands. Their eyes sparkle as though the rest of their lives would be full of days such as this.
She’s lost in the image as I button up her cardigan. She’d been wearing it inside out.
I look up and notice her watching me. Her once jet-black hair is drawn into an unwieldy grey bun. Her smooth skin, now deep with wrinkles. It happened slowly, like raindrops razing a mountainside.
Twilight splinters through the blinds, illuminating nascent wrinkles on the backs of my hands. I slip the final button into its hole as silence settles around us like dust.
I try to tell her I’m sorry, but she interrupts.
‘Let’s just sit together and smell the flowers okay? I always did love the roses you know.’
Charles Prelle is a London based writer and playwright. He’s written several short plays which have been staged at fringe theatres across London, and short fiction which has been published in The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Idle Ink, Storgy and Reflex Press. Charles’s writing has been longlisted in Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction.
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay