Happy Saturday! Not sure what it’s doing where you are weather-wise, but here in Nottingham, it’s blowing a BLIZZARD!! Well, hunker down by the fire, grab a mug of coffee, and enjoy the second instalment of Die, Blossom, Bloom…
links to the other parts of this serialisation:
Part 1 (cont)
Pushing himself out of the deck chair, Ted walked over to one of the climbing roses. Reaching over three metres, he needed a stepladder to get anywhere near the top. The topmost stems had been out of his reach for a number of years now, but he was content maintaining the ones he could reach. Opening the stepladders that stood nearby, he took the first two steps. His doctor had warned against climbing too high; in the final years of her life, Ted’s fiercely independent mother had attempted something similar. She had fallen, breaking her pelvis. Though not fatal, this had ultimately hastened her death. At his age, Ted faced the same risks, and he had had his fill of hospitals and had no wish to find himself back in one. He pulled the clippers from his belt and made several judicious cuts to the plant. Climbing down from the ladder, he stepped back to admire the fruits of his labour. The paper-thin skin on his arms had come in contact with several of the thorns, and his yellow pressed shirt showed tiny dots of red. He took a moment to unbutton the cuffs and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. Pulling a large white handkerchief out of his pocket, he wiped the blood spots away and returned the handkerchief. He remembered planting the rose when they moved in. It had been his wife’s choice. She had chosen a bright, vibrant red. ‘Happy Ruby Wedding’ was the store name of the variety. We’re nearly there, she had told him, planting a kiss on his cheek when he questioned her reasoning. They had planted the rose together, and like their love for each other, the rose had thrived, making a wonderful focal point for the garden.
Rolling his sleeves back down and buttoning the cuffs, he looked over the rest of the front garden. Every plant was in full bloom, and with the judging so close this was perfect. His wife had spent almost eight years working on this garden, but the title of ‘Haverly in Bloom’ winner had eluded her. Ted suspected it had more to do with their standing in the tiny village community than it did her skills in the garden.
Satisfied that there were no more jobs for the day, Ted turned back to the deck chair. He took a moment to stare at it, before easing himself down into it. His arms trembled as they took his weight, before he flopped back. He would worry about getting up later but for now, he unfolded his paper and took his glasses out of his breast pocket. Placing them on his nose, he snapped the paper open.
“Oh, Mister Harris.” Ted sighed and continued to hold up his paper. He recognised the voice and took a few moments before he peered over the top. After a second or two he put the paper down and removed his glasses, acknowledging the speaker. She was dressed in a brightly coloured blazer fastened with gold coloured buttons that looked like they were doing entirely too much work. Flat-soled shoes and a sensible skirt completed the ensemble. In her late fifties, the woman seemed to have at least twenty years of makeup on her face, and Ted marvelled at how it hadn’t started flaking off. She wore her hat at a jaunty angle, which Ted thought made her look ridiculous. He chose not to share his musings.
“Mrs Butler-Thompson, how nice to see you.” Ted spoke courteously, hoping he had managed to hide his dislike for the woman, but he suspected she knew well enough. “What brings you to my little corner of the world?” He made an effort to get up as he spoke and grunted with the strain.
“No, no, please don’t get up. I just happened to be passing and saw you at work on your,” she paused, looking for a word, “garden.” In total contrast to Ted, Mrs Butler-Thompson failed to hide the disdain in her voice. She tugged on the blazer she wore and brushed an imaginary piece of lint off the padded shoulder. “I do think you have done ever so well with your entry again. I’m sure you will place in the top five again this year.” She tittered at the end of the sentence, making Ted grip the sides of the deckchair tightly. The muscles in his jaw stood out as he clenched his teeth. He took a moment to compose himself before he replied.
“I hope you’re right. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.” He managed a smile.
“Well, yes. It’s nice to have a little hobby, isn’t it? I imagine it was a great comfort to you following,” There was another pause as she chose her words, “your wife’s departure.” She clasped her hands together in front of her chest and tilted her head to the side. “I’m sure you must miss her.” She steepled her eyebrows and stuck out her bottom lip as she spoke.
“Yes of course.” Ted’s wife had been gone for almost two years. The circumstances surrounding her departure were the subject of much speculation in the village, where everyone seemed to know everyone else’s business. Ted and Sissy had been private people – not always by choice – and Ted, now on his own, saw no reason to break that habit. He saw no good reason to speak of it to anyone. But in a small community, tongues will wag, and wag they did; she ran off with a younger man; she had gone to the coast to care for her elderly mother; she had an affair with the parish priest. None of these were close, and Ted lived in fear of the day that someone would fit the pieces together and discover the truth. The last few months of their life together had been difficult, trying times. No one cared enough to come calling, so Ted let the talkers talk and offered no evidence for or against any of the theories.
“Well, don’t let it get you down. You keep pottering in your little garden.” She tugged down on her jacket again and walked away without waiting for a response. Ted smiled nervously and leaned back, closing his eyes.
That’s it for today. Next week is the start of part 2. Any thoughts so far?