Sunset Rose by Bonnie Carasso

The window seat was the perfect place to contemplate roses and death. The bushes were spare this year. A spring drought, the summer storms, perhaps the incursion of aphids—those little buggers they had been battling since Lee stopped spraying—likely stunted their growth. The few blossoms reaching up to the bay window, however, were the most robust and vibrant she had seen in the 63 years since she had come on the boat to serve the family.

Ever since the children of the house had grown up, married, and returned home to live with The Father, until he passed the house on to the eldest son, her life as Auntie Rose moved on its inexorable path toward a future not her own. She was property to them. A hand-me-down woman given away as a girl to serve a strange family and pay her father’s debts. The small back-rent her father owed had been paid after the first six months, but the job in Toronto came through before she was sent home, and so, they simply packed her up like a knickknack and took her along. She had no papers, no education, no proper name until little Kiki confused her with the flowers she loved to tend. There was no money for her, even after the debt was paid. 

Her knees cracked like lake ice as she settled into the soft, green cushions she had made from old velvet curtains from The Father’s study. Sun-dyed to a perfect jade, the fabric warmed her old bones like sitting in the lap of the sun to watch the rain. The downpour had finally let up. Cool breezes blew the tallest bloom, damp with raindrops, tapping against the glass. It was her favorite sunset rose—the Free Spirit variety of golden yellow, blending to orange, pink, and deep red at the tips. Like lips, the kiss of loveliness. Such colors filled her with a quiet joy, which was often interrupted by the demands of her day. She rarely got out to smell them anymore.

Today, she eased her bones deeper into the embrace of another used up thing. She had always found another use for those things others would discard. And so, as a frayed seam of light slipped in under the clouds, she watched the brightest rose fade with a smiling heart. This discarded moment for others was, for her, the start of a revolution, a race conducted at the speed of rain son panes of glass, to see which one of them would reach death first in a quiet little victory of her very own.