The next installment of The Rose Garden is here! As always, if you’re new to this story, you can start here. If you just need a refresher from last time, you can find Part 5 here
I open the door to my apartment, and immediately, the fresh floral scent that fills the air greets me. Closing my eyes, I breathe in the familiar fragrance of hydrangea, impatiens, and peace lilies. It welcomes me home. Slowly, I let out my breath and open my eyes. Pops of color fill my periphery, spatterings of pink, white, purple and green. I’ve never been more at peace with the placement of plants around my apartment as I am at this very moment.
I set my purse down on the couch as I make my way to the bay window. The African violets that line the sill catch the fading light peeking through the window, deepening their hues and presenting a rich palette of red and purple. After checking the soil, I give the violets a little more water and then turn their pots to provide the blooms on the other side a chance to greet the sun in the morning.
Gardening has always given me a sense of purpose. Though I live in a small, two-bedroom apartment that I share with my roommate Aly, with a tiny yard that we share with three other apartments and no real way to garden, I have always made it a point to surround myself with nature. The only solution I could find in this situation was to bring the outside in.
A passing car catches my eye through the window, and the events from the day come rushing back. The peace I was beginning to feel fades away, and I notice my body reacting, tightening in response to the thoughts that once again swirl around in my mind. How was Rose not hurt? How was I not hurt? What’s going to happen now? Does she know what caused the accident? I feel a tinge of fear setting in with this last thought. How much does she know about the accident? She hadn’t said much at the hospital; she only seemed concerned for me. Was she sincere, or was she waiting to pounce?
I remember the note the nurse had handed me. Reaching into my back pocket, I retrieve the note, still folded neatly into a rectangle. With trembling hands, I begin to unfold the stationary, but I stop myself. Instead, I return the note to my pocket. “I’ll look at it later,” I tell myself. Right now, I need something to eat.
I head into the kitchen and pour myself a cold glass of water and then proceed to open up my refrigerator in the hope of finding something quick and easy to heat up. Observing the contents of my fridge, I spy a container from the Chinese place in town and cautiously open it while trying to remember when I last ordered Chinese food. Lo mein noodles. After a quick assessment, I declare them fit to eat, dump them onto a plate, and heat them in the microwave. As soon as they are ready, I grab a fork and plop down on the couch.
It’s at this time I notice the silence that permeates the entire apartment. Typically, when she’s home, Aly’s music can be heard through her bedroom door, feint as the sound may have been. Somehow, it seemed to have a calming effect on me. I don’t know what she listened to, and I never bothered asking, but right now it doesn’t matter; Aly is out of town visiting her parents for the week, and what’s left behind leaves an eerie feeling.
Aly and I aren’t close. We occupy the same apartment, and we share half the rent and utilities, but apart from that, we don’t really have much interaction. She’s busy with who-knows-what for school, and I have my own life. The rules are simple: we each attend to our individual rooms and are both responsible for cleaning the shared spaces. As long as we respect the fact that both of us live here, there are no problems. And in the four
Maybe this silence is good for me. There’s no shuffling of feet or papers, no beeping, no questions, and no useless talk. But it’s more than I can bear. There’s nothing to keep my mind from over-thinking. I turn on the TV, but at this time of night, and with the meager channel selection we have with the antennae, all I find is news, news, and more news. Why we even try to have a TV is beyond me. Aly and I pay for Internet but drew the line at cable television. I could watch something on my tablet or laptop, but there’s really nothing I’m dying to see; I just want some noise. But not this noise. I turn off the TV and walk to the kitchen to wash my dishes, then make my way to the bathroom to shower.
Stepping into the shower, I let the hot water cascade over me, drowning out all of my thoughts. I want this day to be over; I want to be washed clean.
I can wash you clean.
What was that? “Is someone there?” I call out, but no one answers. Laughing nervously, I shake off the strange feeling that passes over me. It has been a rough day, and now I’m hearing things. I’m allowing my imagination to run away.
Run to me.
My laughter comes to a halt. The voice is there again. It’s a little creepy, I must admit, but I need to push the thought away and chalk it up to
“Silly boy,” I say, nuzzling his nose, “you scared me.” I snuggle with Fiorello for a moment and then let him back down to find some other area of the apartment to hide. Regaining my composure, I pick my clothes back up and head to my bedroom.