Thursday, 31 July 2014

Rose Man

Maud lost her heart to a rose. A single closed pink bud presented to her.
Until then, she known him only as the Rose Man. A quiet and gentle young man who tended her grandmother's garden; a neighbour's son who lived two doors down from her dear nan. His name was Arthur. Arthur Booth. And he had an affinity with roses.
His voice was soft, as soft as light summer rain, but when they quarrelled it became as hard as hailstones. At their last meeting, sharp words were spoken and hers in particular were as prickly as thorns. Their nine month courtship ended abruptly before he left to join the front. Maud begged him to desert, to resist, to be a pacifist; she didn't want him to die for King and country and refused to write to him. Women feared for their men, but most wanted them to be courageous; not Maud. She wanted Arthur, who had passed the medical, to stay and accept the taunts and white feathers.
There were younger men just as scared as him Arthur said. Just boys. Despite his misgivings, he owed it to them to stand up and be counted. To fight and even die alongside them. It didn't change anything between the two of them, but Maud wouldn't have it. If he went, they were finished! She didn't want to pine or live in hope like other sweethearts; she wouldn't search for his name in bulletins or be afraid of a knock at the door.
Those words once said couldn't be taken back, and soon more were thrown and hung in the air like London's smog. He was weak, she was selfish. He would be sure to get killed, she was cruel and callous. Neither of them meant it, but the tension sizzled like a storm that wouldn't break. Maud grew silent and Arthur, after one final glance, walked away with heavy footfalls which echoed up the garden path.
Maud, who had been terrified of further wounding her lost heart found it bled anyway. Too proud to back down, she constantly thought about Arthur and moved into her grandmother's house where she felt his presence lingered in the garden. She befriended his family, talked to his roses and breathed in their heavenly scent. She found the words to reconcile them, the words she wished she had the nerve to write or speak.
Arthur too was stubborn. He wrote letters he didn't send.
When it was confirmed he was missing in action, his belongings were returned and with them was a packet of letters tied with string and marked, 'For Maud.' He'd poured out all his thoughts so that the words read like Tennyson's poetry. Maud's tears dropped onto the fragile papers for while their raised voices had rung in her head, he, without her knowing, had continue to love and had forgiven her.
She knew Arthur was dead for the roses which climbed up the brick wall began to call her. They'd never answered her before, but now they seductively whispered, “Come into the garden, Maud...” So that each day she said farewell to the setting sun and welcomed the rising moon there. Maud's visits were so timed that as she approached a red rose would cry, “She is near, she is near” and a white rose would weep, “She is late.” Their sweet musky perfume entering her blood when each twilight she admired them.
This late renewal of Arthur's love, even in death, revived her withered soul, because through the roses he loved her still and would always be with her.

Maud by Alfred Tennyson