She awoke feeling stiff and a little chilled to a soft dawn light. On the low table beside her was a single red rose, one velvet petal detached and lying next to the flower’s head. She smiled as she sat up and stretched then picked up the rose and breathed in its perfume.
It had started a year ago more or less to the day. She’d been new in town, spent a week finding and settling into a new home, and was just stepping out the front door on her way to start work at the local primary school, when she’d found a single red rose on her doorstep.
Each morning for the rest of that week there had been a new flower; peony, hibiscus, azalea, carnation, geranium, chrysanthemum. Each different, except that it was red. She found herself looking around to see who might be watching her, she told herself she should be worried, but somehow this didn’t feel wrong.
Then Monday came round again and there had been no flower on the mat. For a moment she was disappointed, not realising till that moment how much she anticipated this part of the day, then she looked around and saw on the low table on the porch, a crystal vase with a single red rose, and trapped under it a small yellow folded sheet of paper. She opened it to find a short message written in neat cursive script in a dark burgundy ink.
“I don’t want you to be worried,” it read, “the day I don’t see this vase in your front window with a red flower in it, I’ll stop and you won’t hear from me again.”
It wasn’t signed.
She took the vase into her house and put it in the front window then left for work.
That evening she had placed a note of her own under a pebble asking, “Why?”
In the morning she had found a red gerbera daisy. Her note had gone.
Several days and several fresh flowers later, beside a dark wine coloured rose, she found a piece of yellow parchment under her stone.
She opened it.
“…because my red heart races
filling my veins with ice,
and my mind soars dizzily
rising up on impossible dreams
when I think of you.”
She knew the horror stories about stalkers and the terrifying ends of their victims, and this note scared her. That night she took vase away from the window.
The next day there was no flower, and for several weeks afterwards. Eventually she realised she missed them, and one evening on impulse, she cut a red pansy form her own garden, and put it in the vase in the window.
The next morning, there was a red rose on her porch and a note.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
There followed an exchange of notes.
“I know that now,” she wrote, “can we meet?”
“Please be patient.”
So she was.
The seasons turned, and the flowers continued to come. At Christmas there had been a bottle of wine (red of course) and a garland of holly. Once after the first snow of winter she had woken to find her drive cleared and strewn with rose petals. Always there were flowers.
Summer came round and she made up her mind. One warm night she stepped out onto the front porch with a blanket and a cup of cocoa and sat on the swing seat to wait. Around midnight she realised he might stay away if she sat up all night so she lay down on the seat and closed her eyes.
It was over an hour later when she heard the sound of footsteps on her drive. Through half lidded eyes she watched him approach. Tall and slim with a kind, freckle filled face under a crown of unruly hair like twisted copper wire. She recognised him as the manager at the local hardware store.
As he placed the rose on the table beside her, one of the petals fell off. She lay still and watched him walk silently away.
The morning sun warmed her and she looked around at the tired looking porch. The railings needed a lick of paint. She had things to do this morning, but this afternoon she would head for the hardware store and buy some paint. She had it in mind to ask for the manager and see which shade of red he might recommend…
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