The Black Rose

Courtesy Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.com
Courtesy Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.com

Ours was an unusual romance, one bordering on desperate, teetering on brave. Whether squawking like crows or cooing like doves, we loved and hated with equal passion. She was the black rose with thorns so barbed as to puncture, and I was the unwitting gardener who cultivated its cruelty.


Corrine was a hateful woman until one got to know her. She discouraged this by using a wide variety of scowls, sneers, and shakes of the head. If one got close, she stepped closer, sudden and sharp. If one spoke over her, woe betide them. The darkness in her eyes steered all in the required direction, drove the rest away. All except me, that was. I couldn’t run. My pride wouldn’t allow it. We grew close. Some might have claimed us entangled.
We took a tour of Europe by train, The Orient Express. You may have heard of it. Despite the indisputable luxury this vehicle offered, Corrine bellyached non-stop. At first, I agreed with her, employing appeasement. Soon, I grew as disenchanted as she, not with the train trip, but Corrine herself. Despite her unrivalled beauty, her exquisite lines, hair to die for and eyes to drown in, there was only so much one could take. I had taken enough.
I stepped from the train as we crossed a viaduct. Dramatic, but true. I had, of course, threatened to leave first. “If you don’t stop! I’m warning you! I’ll do it! Don’t tempt me!” Etcetera, etcetera.
“Promises, promises,” her always reply. She’d blow smoke from her cigarillo right into my eyes, as if us trapped in a Parisian haze. The urge to scream became unbearable. So, I did. I’m unsure when I stopped?
So, as mentioned, I leapt from the train whilst my strength remained, my will still intact, and most of all, whilst Corrine was, as we say in polite circles, momentarily indisposed.
I hit the water as her scream shattered the landscape, sending boulders crashing and birds flooding into the sky.
The question came after thrashing my way to the riverbank, where I lay like a floundering fish until the moon rose high and stars blinked a welcome: Why? Why would a woman who so discouraged interaction, actively oppose it, be bothered? In the greater scheme of things, what difference did my escaping her make? Here was the key.
Schemes are like flower bulbs planted so deep as to go forgotten. Only when they burst unexpectedly from the cold, hard earth into rainbows of unexpected colours do they become apparent. I was her colour, and she the darkness that buried me.


We met again quite by accident at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. I had taken a liking to this country so unlike my own, where a shrug meant more than a novel and kindnesses were only ever a handshake away.
Turandot: Opening night. The performers were so close as to sing in my ear.
I don’t know why I turned, looked up, stared. Why I held her gaze when I should have slipped down in my seat, or better still, run. She was older then, her raven hair now closer to lead. She wore black, trimmed in lace, as an Italian widow might. Her face was as pale as snow.
As the music played, she mouthed something at first unreadable in the fragmented light. At first, but not by the end: You killed me.
Curiosity forced me up there to that empty stall. Curiosity or madness? Getting even never came into it. She had gone. Only a solitary black rose left snuggled in a seat proved her ever there. This, I took.


London, and home.
The rose remained un-withered, as fresh as if picked that very morning. This, I planted in my garden.
When I awoke the next day to Big Ben’s incessant chimes, breakfast was on the table. I had no servants? The windows were thrown open, the curtains flung back and a stench of decay permeated the atmosphere. Confounded, I wandered outside. The rose was gone.
Corrine’s fingers slipped around my throat like a noose.
“I always wanted to visit London,” she breathed. “So kind of you to bring me.”


We argue daily. Life is not good. Yet in my heart of hearts I know this, I missed her misery, her melancholy ways, and she missed mine. For what is life without the threat of death to keep the world in balance. No, seriously! I need to know?

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

50 Word Stories: The Lie


“There’s sharks in the river!” screamed Ray.
Our elders set out to kill them, men and women. No one returned.
The army tried next. They dynamited everything, then drained the river. There wasn’t a shark or a villager in sight.
“I lied,” confessed Ray.
“So did our parents,” I replied.

Thank you for reading
Richard

Photo by Wynand Uys on Unsplash

Sweeping Changes

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She made sweeping changes, everything from burning the curtains to killing the cat. The outside faired no better. She had the garden walls knocked down, the fountain plugged, even the old willow tree hacked to pieces. She did all this with a smile on her face and an unwaveringly airy disposition. Next, came me.

She made sure I saw everything, every last detail. She stood there bold as brass, hands on her hips and announced in a voice so sick as to be sweet exactly who she was, this woman who’d bought it all, my business, my home, myself.

“I’m your half-sister,” she purred.

“Half-sister!”

“Uh-huh. The worst half.”

Father had never said a word, and now he never would, after all, she’d disposed of him first. Apparently, it hurt less than the cat, and on the plus side, saved me a job.


Thank you for reading

Richard

Unsavoury Games

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Unsavoury Games

The Look

There was something unsavoury about her smile, an unavoidable diagnosis of disgust. Whilst she revelled in self-centred superiority, the world might’ve burned. The others played on.

The Feel

She felt wrong. The whole thing felt wrong. As if having swallowed a live worm when expecting a jellied one, she wriggled within. I’d have wretched, but she was watching.

The Fact

She’d done nothing other than sit there politely minding her own business. I hadn’t sought her, nor looked upon her by any other reason than an accident. She happened upon me. This was the simple truth.

The Result

Evasion proved the smarter side of valour. I slipped away to another table like a furtive rat, eager for some space and a place to breathe. She followed. Why the hell had I chosen this casino?

The Game

She sat and asked the time. I made a point of looking at her watch, but she ignored it. I gave her the correct hour but added twenty minutes. She laughed a crescendo.

The Cost

I woke to an empty bed and an emptier wallet. She was long gone. I wasn’t annoyed, though. I blamed myself. She enjoyed her games, always had. I savoured them, too, once, but less so after we married.

THE END

Thank you for reading

Richard

An Inelegant Game

Death was an inelegant solution to an elegant game, an imperfect answer to the most perfect of all solutions. Yet here, Death held no sway.   

Memories were never my forte. I remembered in fits and starts, never then till now, nor here to there. I recalled moments, or fragments of moments, nothing more, like a jigsaw turned upside down and with no means of reference to piece it back together. This was how the first conjunction occurred, grey on black, black on grey, always white in-between. 

The small, white bird was not a creature of feathers and pumping blood, but of glazed porcelain with a copper beak. It sang, though, trilled its little metal heart out. It sang and sang and sang.    

I put the bird in my pocket only to realise many years later, when next I checked, that it had a hole. I panicked then, something to set the heart palpitating. The dull boom, boom, thud of it rang throughout the place, as I searched everywhere except where I ought.   

The second alignment came upon discovering the first of two pits. I peered in one, dropped to my knees for a closer look and almost toppled into the other. In a world of insubstantiality, they were flat, almost symmetrical, two discarded black orbs in a land of dusk. Well, until they blinked.   

They say life comes in threes. Third time lucky and all that. Not for me.   

The sun appeared like a coin from a grandparent’s pocket. You wanted it, needed it, but if you took it too quickly, you might not get another. I had desired the sun since I lost it. She always gleamed. 

She was my little bird, pale with sable hair, which added to her ghostlike appearance. Her eyes were black. No other description fit them. Closing them was the hardest thing I ever did.  

The sun, now bright and beaming like a lighthouse slicing through a stormy midnight, rose higher. It reached its zenith like a diamond in a jet black ring. 

You’re forgiven.’ 

The voice hurt my ears. It rang through my befuddled thoughts like Big Ben’s bells thrust inside my skull. I hated pain. My pain, that was. 

I didn’t answer. I never answered. The words were never quite there. Instead, I wrapped my fogged shawl closer, pulled it tight. Anything else might have killed me.   

(ALMOST AN END)


Photo by Catalin Pop on Unsplash