Her mother gave her the name out of desperation. Nine months hadn’t really been enough time, after all. There had been so many other decisions to make, and now … She remembered the vase of flowers sitting on the desk at the nurses’ station, and named her daughter Rose. Those would be her last words. Minutes later, the poor woman was gone.
So it seemed to go through the child’s life. She was allergic to her favorite foods. She would eat the fish and green beans, and throw them up a mere ten minutes later. Cotton fabrics made her break out, synthetics made her sneeze. Bottled water, to Rose, tasted like sewage. Soda caused her throat to swell practically shut.
The one place Rose was comfortable and happy, strangely enough, was the garden. More than a green thumb, she could rescue even the most neglected plant and bring it back to flourishing life. This gift made her regionally famous, but not especially wealthy. Many of the people who brought her dying house planets never returned to claim them. Everyone knew she grew the best flowers anywhere, but most were content to wander by her shop window and look rather than buy.
Rose didn’t really seem to care. Life had shoveled so many disappointments at her so as to make her adept at ignoring many of them. Rare was the day the young woman was not smiling. She greeted everyone in the small village with exuberance whether they bought anything from her or not. Many days she gave away more flowers than she sold. When asked why, her response was that she liked seeing people happy, and that happiness did not come with a price tag.
Dating had never really been something Rose pursued, despite the fact she was quite possibly the most beautiful woman in the whole county. She understood too well that for every positive there is a negative, and her happiness was not always in the best interest of the person who made her happy. The first boy she dated, when she was 16, had been so enthralled by her kiss he stepped off the porch in a daze and broke his arm. Her first lover had fallen out of the bed and cracked his head on the window sill. She joked about not dating anyone until she knew their insurance was paid.
Life in the small town didn’t change much. Most days, Rose worked in her gardens and hot house until 10, opened her shop at 11, then returned to her gardens after closing the shop at 6. The gardens were her place of solitude. No one ever bothered her there, and when she had her hands in the soil nothing bad seemed to happen. Many was the night during the summer that she simply stretched a blanket between the rows of flowers and slept there. She was happy.
She laughed when he first told her his name; Thorn seemed the perfect antithesis to Rose. A litigation attorney, he bore the brunt of every lawyer joke and was well known for his aggressive behavior in court. Some feared that he would sue a person simply for looking at him the wrong way. Most others just thought he was mean.
Granted, he did have an off-beat sense of humor, which is what regularly sent him to Rose’s shop. Thorn had a habit of buying his clients flowers for difficult situations, the most frequent of which was the anniversary of a divorce. He would also send flowers when an injury client had a cast or stitches removed, and when a criminal client got out of jail. When he would occasionally loose an especially contentious case, Thorn would send large bouquets to the opposing attorneys with the note: “Congratulations on a game well played.”
Their paring seemed inevitable, despite the opposition of their very personalities. Rose laughed at his dry sarcasm and dark humor. Thorn would actually smile at the sound of Rose’s lilting voice and cheerful platitudes. Before long, folks took notice that when Thorn stopped by to order flowers, he lingered. They also noticed that Rose had taken to cultivating more of the exotic flowers that Thorn often preferred. Rose dismissed it as simply a smart business decision, but that didn’t keep folks from talking.
Before long, she became part of his daily routine. He would stop by around five in the evening to place an order for the next day. Some days he would stay and help Rose close the shop. before long, he was walking her home. Eventually, neighbors noticed, Rose invited him in, and he nearly always accepted.
Rose remained cautious. Thorn seemed to be the exception to the rule. After several months of dinners together and long strolls through the gardens at night, Thorn had yet to step on a rake, or trip over a plant root or experience anything else that might make Rose the target of one of his infamous lawsuits. Yet, experience had taught her there was always a downside and knew that eventually this one would make itself known.
Months passed and nothing happened. Before either of them knew it, three years of this strange relationship had passed. “I think,” said Thorn casually one night, “it may actually be safe for us to like each other. We just go together.”
Rose smiled. “Do you know why Roses have thorns?” she asked.
The question caught him by surprise. “Hadn’t really thought about it,” he answered. “I just assumed it was some sort of protective thing.”
She giggled. “Roses need a lot of water throughout their stems,” she explained, “and the thorns help the stems attract and hold more water, allowing the flower to flourish.”
“So, the thorns are actually good for the rose?” he asked.
“Yes,” she nodded. “While there are a few manufactured breeds of roses without thorns, they are very difficult to grow because their stem systems don’t hold water as well. Roses really do need thorns.”
He paused for a moment, then asked, “Is that your way of saying you need me?”
“Like a flower needs water,” she answered.
Their wedding was the largest anyone in the county could ever remember. Flowers of every imaginable variety cascaded across the lawn and throughout the garden. Rose planned for rain, and the sun shone brightly. She watched carefully at night to protect against a late frost, but none came. Her dress of red and white rose petals was stunning. His jacket of purple lilies was dashing. Everyone in town received an invitation, and they all were happy to attend.
Then fate, in its strange sense of balance, finally stepped in. As Rose and Thorn kissed under the archway, the ground literally shook beneath them. At first Rose and Thorn just thought it was their own excitement, but soon the gasps of their guests told them this was real. For the next ten minutes, the entire coastal California town shook. The cake fell. So did most their houses.
People rushed home to rescue pets and salvage what they could. No one stayed for the rest of the ceremony. No one drank the champagne. No one danced. Rose’s home seemed to have been spared destruction, but her dress had all but fallen apart. They laughed, and as the sun set, their marriage was consummated on a bed of fallen petals.
The town slowly recovered. The local minister was quick to point out that, had not everyone been at Rose and Thorn’s wedding, many would have been inside the houses that fell, and many lives might have been destroyed as well. “Because of the marriage of Rose and Thorn,” he had said the following Sunday, “our lives have been spared.” The couple were treated as the town’s royalty and they responded by giving flowers on their anniversary to everyone whose home had been lost on their wedding day.
And so it was, Rose and Thorn lived, not happily ever after, but dealing with the balance that life brings both positive and negative, the end result of which is beauty.
MODEL: [Alicia Kay]