Tales From an Active Imagination: Part 7

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 6 here.


Seven o’clock in the morning and the sun is already making its way into my bedroom, leaving the dark of night a distant memory. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. I love waking up with the sun, greeting a new day, but at this moment, all I want to do is roll over, hide under my covers and go back to sleep. Sleep. That’s funny. I did not see much sleep last night, and when I did, I wanted to wake up.

The lavender on the table beside my bed failed me. Its typical calming effect and sleep aid never did its job. I tossed and turned all night. When I was able to fall asleep, I was back at the rose garden. Only, it no longer felt peaceful. At least, not long enough. One moment I was dreaming of roses, breathing in their intoxicating fragrance, admiring their beauty, and then the next moment I was slamming into Rose’s car.

People at the scene of the accident started pointing at me, judging me. They knew what I had done, knew about the text I felt necessary at that moment to write.

“Was it really that important?” they chided. “How careless could you be?”

Others spoke to one another about me. “Did you see what she did? She could have killed that poor old woman. How evil can a person be?”

I wanted to yell to them, tell them to stop judging me, to just leave me alone. But what right did I have to do that? I knew I was stupid. I knew I made a terrible mistake. They had every right to say those things, so instead, I remained silent.

My dreams were relentless. Several times throughout the night I woke up, pulled from their judging eyes. But every time I tried to sleep I would find myself back in the same cycle, switching between the peace of the garden and the reality of the crash.

One time, I even dreamed that I had killed Rose. That time I was being sentenced in front of a judge and jury. “Lock her up and throw away the key,” they cried.

The constant swirl of memories—reality mixed with fiction, the smells from the garden and the hospital, the sounds, whether real or imagined—was more than I could take. At one point during the night, I woke up in a cold sweat and ran to the bathroom. Last night’s leftover Chinese dinner came spilling out in a violent fury.

Now, lying here in bed, my head is pounding. I feel like I have a wicked hangover, but I never enjoyed even one glass of alcohol yesterday. Getting up will prove to be a great feat, and I’m not sure I want to try. I’d rather lie in bed all day and forget about the world. It’s not like I have work today. Thankfully, today is my day off.

I don’t really want to be an adult today, anyway. I want to be a kid again and have my mom hold me in her arms, telling me it’s all going to be okay. But that can never happen. I’m on my own. I should be used to it by now, but how do you get used to the idea of never being able to see someone so special to you, someone you loved more than anything in the world?

No, I’m not going to think about this now. “Suck it up, Nicole,” I scold. I have no choice but to be the adult that I am.

Slowly, I push back my covers and pull myself up to a sitting position, placing my bare feet on the cold wood floor. For a moment, the room spins, but after a few steadying breaths and an unexpected but not unwelcome surge of strength, I am able to stand. Another deep breath in and out and I’ve successfully walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen. Breakfast this morning may consist of a meager sampling of dry toast and coffee after last night’s emptying, but I need something before I can take my pain medication.

“Hey, Niki?”

I jump, spilling my coffee down the front of my shirt. Grabbing for a napkin, I start wiping up the spill on my shirt and the counter. Am I really hearing voices again? But this is a different voice than the one I heard in the shower, a familiar voice. And it sounded so real.

“I’m so sorry,” the voice said, apologetically. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you okay?”

This time I look up from the mess I’m cleaning. “Aly? I thought you were at your parent’s for the week.”

“I was, but I have a lot to do here, so I decided to come home early. It’s not like they live that far; I can visit them anytime.”

Lucky you. The thought takes me by surprise. Was I jealous of Aly? Maybe a little, but I never really let it bother me. I should be happy that she has a loving family. She chose to move here because of her choice of college, not because she wanted to get away from them. And now, she’s staying because she was able to land a great job close by, right out of college.

“When did you get in?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“I got in late last night. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

Ha! If only she knew. “No, you didn’t.”

I don’t think she would have been able to affect anything that happened last night. But I wonder when exactly she came in. Was it before or after my sprint to the bathroom? I don’t bother asking.

“Anyway,” she offers, “I found this note on the floor in the bathroom. Is it yours? I opened it to see if it was mine, but I don’t recognize the name.”

Note? What note? It takes me a moment, the fog in my brain slowly clearing away to reveal something I should remember. And then it hits me. “Thanks, yeah.” Begrudgingly, I take the paper from Aly. It’s the one the nurse handed to me yesterday. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I dropped my clothes last night. Darn cat.

“So, who is Rose, if you don’t mind me asking?”

It takes me a moment to respond, trying to decide how best to answer her question. Finally, “She’s just someone I met yesterday.”

Realizing I wasn’t going to say anything more, Aly excuses herself to do whatever it is she came home to do.

Well, I guess it’s time. I carefully open the note, bracing myself as though something is going to pop out at me. But of course, nothing does. There are just words on the paper, written in black ink in penmanship that far surpasses my own:


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