I never had the nerve to touch it until today, the thorns always looked like they were wet, they were, with some type of thick white slime. I snatched my hand back and rubbed the slime between my thumb and forefinger... it was powdery and it burned.
Mr. Lee said it was from China, he said it was special, it smiled upon the righteous and punished the unrighteous, he told me if I were a righteous person, I could look to the plant for protection. I smiled and talked a few more minutes with Mr. Lee, I made my rounds, checked on the rows of flowers and went back to the rose.
It had been such a long day... I was tired and I'd had a cough for about two weeks. I threw the keys on the table and flipped on the news. Pugsly jumped up and down almost tripping me. He was the cutest little ugly thing... a pug still young six months, no sense of where he was bouncing, he would just as soon bounce on top of my head as on my feet. Feeding him calmed the bounce syndrome.
Staring at the television, my eyes started to droop the cough had drained me and I wanted to sleep until a familiar face popped on the screen.. Mrs. Davis...missing....last seen Monday around 5pm....call the number on the screen....reward... She was at the nursery monday, we had talked about the rose. She had looked like she was in Heaven when she looked at it.. she touched it and kissed the leaves, talked to it. I could have sworn it trembled a little. Now she was gone. I debated whether or not I should call the police, then thought better of it because, there wasn't much that I could tell them.
My friends and family had been on me about visiting the dr. I didn't want to go. Dreaded it however, I began coughing up blood.
Six months to a year... I kept repeating what the dr said... six months to a year and that was only if I started chemo as soon as possible. The words were so hollow.. the dr had looked as concerned as he could.. but I knew I was just one more victim of this system and one more dollar in his pocket.
I went home... turned on the television, fed Pugsly, refused to answer the phone, cryed and coughed until two more faces. Mr. Ceasar, I knew him, Mrs. Salcido, I didn't know her.....missing....tuesday....call number on screen...family offers reward... They both had been in the nursery on tuesday, I remember because they were standing in front of the rose and I had made the mistake of thinking they were married... they had looked so right together as if they belonged that way.
I placed the handkerchief over my mouth, it made me angry to see the specks of blood. I couldn't stand being around everyone they all looked as if they would cry,, I didn't want to hear it was going to be ok, cause it wasn't. I was dying, that was the fact.
I stood behind the column that supported the glass roof, Mr. Ceasars' son stood in front of the rose, I started to call to him but stopped when I saw the rose split into four. The man looked stunned at first but then he smiled and stepped into the plant. It actually wrapped its ebony petals around him and pulled him gently foreward. He never called out, didn't cry, closed his eyes and smiled.
I ran to Mr. Lee,, I almost passed out from the pain... I couldn't get it out.. The cough wouldn't let me tell.. good thing, I don't think they would have believed me.
My nurse was strict but, she was an excellent nurse... She settled me in my bed and pushed Pugsly out of the door. I felt so sorry for the little guy, all he knew was he wanted to bounce all over me.
My first week back home, I slept, threw up, and brushed out chunks of my hair. I pulled myself out of my bed and went to the bathroom... usually my nurse brought the bedpan.. not today.... I was heaving and dizzy by the time I made the few steps.. I sat on the toilet, but I was determined.. whispy patches of hair, sunken hollow cheeks and dark circles.. that's what the mirror showed me. I had to cover my mouth so that I wouldn't scream, I didn't have enough breath to scream..
That wasn't me...that was not me. I turned my head from one side to the other. I touched my hair and strands came out in my hand... I sat back on the toilet and cried.
Mr. Lee sat me in front of the rose.. he had held my arm in one hand and the chair in the other.. He told me to just call him when I wanted to come back in. I stared at the plant. It shook a little,,as if there was a breeze, but we were in the hot house, no breezes. Finally I started to talk to it,, I kept asking what it was, why had it killed Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Salcido, and the two Ceasar men. I held my head in my hands leaned forward and started to sob....
I felt something touch my face.. a very lite touch almost imperceptible. I looked up and... hallucinations from the meds.. but the hallucination spoke. It asked me why did I think it had killed the people. I hoped no one would come in and hear me, but I answered. I told it I'd had a feeling about it, that I knew something was wrong with it... that I had watched as it had taken the Ceasar man.
It moved closer, folding the black petals around me... I didn't struggle, there was no point, I was going to die anyway.. at least this was comforting.. it was, so very comforting, so warm, soothing.. I felt a weight lift from my body, I felt a buzzing in my veins, energy flowed through me... I felt so lite.. so good, as if I had just fallen in love. It backed away, withdrew the petals and left me standing there... I didn't understand " You are not going to kill me?" The rose actually laughed, "No my dear you have too much to live for" "but the people,, I saw.. " The rose split into five, four besides itself, four beautiful flowers just like the original.. In the middle of the petals I saw four smiling faces.. "You see, they had no future, illness, broken hearted, this is what they wanted, " "But couldn't you have healed them?" "No,, there was not enough lifeforce left, I could only move them from one place to another, you have much to do before your lifeforce is gone." It touched my face again,, this time I smiled.. I watched the five plants become one again.. the thought of leaving made me sad....
It has been two years, the drs. were amazed at my recovery, were even more amazed at the total disappearance of the cancer.. I am watching Pugsly play with Donovan, my bright eyed one year old.. I handed out the brochures.. about the ten signs of cancer.. I handed one to a woman that said she had been battling breast cancer she smiled at me,, "What is this beautiful flower? " I looked at the little booklet and smiled.. "A Black Rose"