Where the Wild Roses GrowWillow Rose
Where the Wild Roses Grow
Emma Frost #10
On the third day, he took me to the river
He showed me the roses and we kissed
And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he knelt above me with a rock in his fist
On the last day, I took her where the wild roses grow
She lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief
And I kissed her goodbye, said, "All beauty must die"
And I lent down and planted a rose between her teeth
Nick Cave 1995
She had almost given up on ever meeting that special someone. At the age of thirty-six, Bridget Callaghan had embraced the fact that she might end up alone for the rest of her life, just like her late Aunt Alannah, who had died in her home when Bridget was no more than ten years old. Bridget still remembered the horror she had felt when she was told that her aunt had been dead for weeks when she was found, and that her cats had eaten off half of her face just to stay alive, now that the hand feeding them had ceased to move. Bridget hated thinking about how lonesome her aunt must have been to the very end of her life, and she didn’t like the fact that she might end up just like her. So, back then, when she had been no more than ten, on the brink of her life beginning, she had decided to never let such a horrific fate overcome her.
But life seldom turns out the way we wished for it to as children. And so it happened that Bridget now found herself alone in her small house in Enniskerry with no one but her cats to keep her company. There were days when she was terrified of her future, where she would wake up alone in her bed sweating from a nightmare, only to look into the eyes of her cats while she wondered how long they would wait after she died to start gnawing on her flesh.
But now, things seemed to have changed. Finally, after years of praying, she had met a man, a nice and decent man. Michael was his name. Bridget knew she wasn’t as attractive as she had been in her younger years, but she wasn’t ugly either. As a matter of fact, people still told her she was quite beautiful. That’s why many in the small town wondered why she had never married and had children like all the other girls of the town. Bridget wondered that herself. Some believed she was simply too beautiful for a man to handle. They simply feared her because she was so out of their league.
She had dated her share of men throughout the years, but only a few had stuck around long enough for her to get to know them properly, and the only one she had ever managed to actually dream of a future with, had turned out to have a wife and children in Dublin.
Bridget smiled at her reflection in the mirror and brushed her long blonde hair, thinking of this man that she had met. What she liked the most about him was the fact that he wasn’t from Enniskerry. He had come to town just a few weeks ago, he said, and as soon as he had laid his eyes on her at the florist where she worked, he knew she was the one for him. That’s what he told her while buying one bouquet of red roses after the other and telling her that they were all for her and he wasn’t going to stop buying roses from her store until she agreed to go out on a date with him. Bridget had refused at first, but the man came back the next day and bought red roses from her store till there were no more. The very next day, he had returned and started all over until she had finally told him to stop it. She argued that he was going to go broke on buying red roses, and she couldn’t let that happen.
“So, you’ll agree to go out with me?” he asked with a handsome smile.
Bridget felt a tickling sensation inside and she knew then that she liked him. Never had a man pursued her like this before. And she had to admit, she really liked it. She liked the way he looked at her, she liked the way he spoke her name…how he tasted it like it was special.
“Could he be the one?” she asked her own reflection as she put on make-up. If that was the case, then it was certainly worth the wait.
Now Bridget wasn’t stupid. She knew he was from out of town and just moved here; she knew almost nothing about him, and for all she knew, he could have an entire family somewhere, or he could be some pervert. In fact, that was why she had said no to him the first two days he had come to her store. But now she had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He deserved that much for his effort. And Bridget realized that this might be her last chance of finding someone to grow old with, someone who could make sure she wasn’t left to die on her living room floor alone while the cats chewed on her nose. She felt hopeful that it wasn’t too late for her. She never wanted children anyway, so that part didn’t bother her much. It was the loneliness, the sadness of having no one in her life that made her miserable.
The doorbell rang and Bridget got up. She rushed to the door with all the anticipation of a first date, and then swung it open with a big smile.
The sight of the handsome man made her blush and she felt silly. He was wearing a nice gray suit and in his hand he was holding a single red rose.
“Hello there,” he said, and handed her the rose. It still amazed her how he could have known that it was her favorite among flowers. It was very seldom that florists liked a flower as ordinary as the red rose. But it had always been her favorite. The fact that he knew that somehow told her he just might be the one. He just might.
He reached out his arm so she could grab it.
“What do you mean we have to wait an hour? First you tell me we can’t get the car we booked online, and now we have to wait for another?”
I stared, baffled, at the guy behind the counter. He looked like he had just graduated high school. I felt Morten’s hand land heavily on my shoulder. “If that’s the best they can do, then let us just wait,” he said with a gentle voice.
I wasn’t ready to give up the fight this soon. “No. I booked this car online,” I said, and pointed at the receipt I had printed out before we left the house in Fanoe Island. “And now they want to give me this instead. It’s half the size!”
Morten chuckled. “Now you’re exaggerating. Besides, we shouldn’t allow this to destroy our vacation, now should we?”
I growled. He was right. I just felt so cheated. I had paid for a much bigger and nicer car, and as soon as we reached the car rental in Dublin airport, they had told us we had to get another car. Not a word about compensation or even a little, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
But Morten was right. We had finally managed to get away on a trip, just the two of us. It was sort of a make-up trip for a disastrous vacation we had taken six months earlier, where we had taken all of our children to Spain with us to visit an old friend of mine. The two teenagers had done nothing but argue about everything, and Victor had ended up throwing one fit after another, getting us thrown out of the hotel because he screamed all night, waking up the other guests. Jytte and Maya had been moping and not wanting to do anything, especially not with each other, and meanwhile, I had fought hard to keep Victor calm. Once we had set foot on our peaceful island again, Morten and I had promised each other that we were going to go on a trip soon, just the two of us.
So, here we were. In Dublin Airport trying to get a rental car, and already we had run into trouble. Maybe vacationing together simply wasn’t our thing.
“We’ll take it,” I said to the teenager behind the counter. I felt determined to have a great time and enjoy my boyfriend. It was so rare we had time on our own and it was going to be great. No matter what.
I threw Morten a glare and he smiled triumphantly. He hated when I made a big deal about things.
“Let’s sit over there while we wait,” he said, and po
inted at a row of red chairs leaned up against the window.
“Even the chairs are red-haired in this country,” I groaned and dragged my suitcase after me.
It was no secret that Ireland wasn’t my idea. It was Morten who wanted to go there. I wanted to go somewhere exotic with great food like Greece. We had discussed it for months until I finally had enough. I told Morten we could play Monopoly and the one who won would get to decide. I thought I could beat him, but…well, here we were in Ireland. Rainy, cold Ireland where sheep wandered the streets and potatoes were as exotic as it got. At least that was my presumption. I desperately wanted to be proven wrong.
We sat down. I grabbed my cellphone and turned it on, wondering if the kids were all right. My mom and dad had taken both them and the dogs in for the two weeks we’d be gone. School was out for the summer. They weren’t exactly thrilled at the thought of us going on a vacation without them. Or the fact that they couldn’t stay in their own house while we were gone. Maya was old enough to stay home alone, but after all she had been through and with her memory not having been fully restored yet, I felt very overprotective of her and I didn’t like the thought of her being all alone in that big house. Victor didn’t do well with change and had screamed when I told him he was going to live with his grandparents for two whole weeks. The past six months, his condition had gotten a lot worse, and he had become more and more introverted, even though he was getting help for it. I worried about him and his future. I didn’t like the prospect of him spending his adult life in a home somewhere. I still believed he could manage to live a good life and be able to take care of himself. But my hopes were getting smaller, I had to admit. It was hard to watch. He was extremely intelligent, and I simply refused to believe he should be wasting away in some home just because he didn’t quite fit into the way our society expected him to. I still thought he would make an excellent math professor or botanist one day. He loved trees and plants and he had a way with numbers that I had never seen before. Even his teacher in school had realized how well he did with math now and constantly gave him challenges that he aced completely. Stuff they taught at the universities. I clung to the hope that he was simply a misunderstood genius of some sort. But the fact that he wasn’t even able to dress himself in the mornings if the clothes weren’t put out properly or were in the wrong colors, told me living on his own one day was going to be hard. I had no idea how to help him. But regularity, routines, and schedules seemed to help. Now I had pulled him out of all that and placed him in a home he barely knew. I didn’t feel good about it. My dad and Victor seemed to have a connection though, beyond what I ever had, and my father had told me to relax, that they were going to be fine, so that’s what I tried to do.
“I think our car is ready,” Morten said and got up. “The guy just waved at us to come.”
I rose to my feet. “Finally,” I grumbled.
Morten gave me one of those looks.
“Sorry,” I said. “That was the last grumble you’ll hear from me. I’ll be good from now on. I promise.”
She was named after the Irish woman who tried to shoot Mussolini. Not that she was in any way related to the real Violet Gibson, but her dad loved the story so much, almost as much as he loved his own little Violet, that he wanted her to have a name of significance. Violet was the only girl in a flock of five children, and as the youngest, she was also the most loved of all of them.
Growing up on a farm in a small town outside of Dublin, Violet would sit in her father’s lap at night in front of the fireplace and listen to him tell the story of the fierce Irishwoman, Violet Gibson, one of four people who tried to assassinate fascist dictator Mussolini, and the only one who ever came close to succeeding, yet she had largely been written out of history. Her father would tell the same story he had heard from his own father…with the same enthusiasm and determination to not let this story of the brave Irishwoman be forgotten. Especially since they shared the same last name.
“See, my child,” he would say with an almost deep whisper, letting her understand the importance of what he was about to tell her, “In the early years of his dictatorship, Mussolini was adored by Italians and admired by leaders across the world. People came to Italy just to hear him speak. In April 1926, at the ancient site of the Compidoglio in Rome, the petite, grey-haired Irish lady edged her way into the crowd that was waiting to greet him after his address to an international conference of the College of Surgeons, but she had not come to admire him. She was there to shoot him. Just as she pulled the trigger, he moved his head. The bullet hit his nose. At point blank range, she fired again, but—click—the gun jammed. She missed his bald head, but removed parts of his nose.”
Violet’s father pointed at his nose and made a sound like it was ripped off. Violet giggled, then looked at him intensely. “But what happened to her? What happened after she shot off his nose?”
“She was taken away by the police. After some time in a prison in Italy, she ended up in St. Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton. Spent the rest of her life there. Rumor has it she spent the rest of her life writing letters, asking to be released, but the letters were never mailed.”
It was while listening to her dad’s stories on calm nights like these that Violet understood that life was short and not always fair. A lesson she was glad she had understood early on in her life, especially when, two years later, her mother died at the age of only thirty-two. Once her mother was buried, she was left to be raised by her father and four brothers. Things changed at the farm. Her father didn’t know much about raising a young girl, and he became strict and God was mentioned a lot when he spoke. Words like punishment and repentance were used daily in the house, while a nine year-old Violet tried to take the role of the mother in the kitchen.
In school, Violet got beaten up by the nuns a lot. She didn’t always understand why, and that was probably why she kept getting herself in trouble. When she got back to the farm, she had to explain to her father why she had bruises on her cheeks, and when she did, he would slap her as well to make sure she didn’t act badly in school again. Then he would ask her to leave him alone because he was tired from working all day on the farm. He had been tired like that ever since Violet’s mother died, and his eyes had grown old. He never took her on his lap anymore and he never told the story of Violet Gibson again.
“Go away,” was his reply if she asked. “You’re too old for stories.”
When she walked out of the living room, she could hear him sob, and she would think it was her fault…that she made him sad, that she could no longer make him happy like she used to.
In her room, Violet would throw herself on her bed and ask God why he had to take her mom away. But she would never receive an answer. All she could hear in her head were her dad’s words:
“God didn’t put us on this earth to make things easy for us. Life is a tough journey and dying is your prize for fulfilling it.”
“You look so beautiful,” Michael whispered across the table.
Bridget Callaghan blushed and looked down. She couldn’t believe him. He kept telling her how gorgeous she was, how her eyes sparkled when she spoke, how delicate her hands were. He smothered her in compliments. Not that she was complaining. On the contrary. She was quite enjoying this moment at the small pub. They had taken the car and driven into Dublin. It was her wish. She wanted to get away from Enniskerry and the staring faces. She, for one, knew how much they talked in her small hometown. She didn’t want to ruin her first date with Michael wondering about others. In here, they were nobody. They could be anybody.
“So, why have you stayed in Enniskerry if you hate it so much?” Michael asked.
Bridget sipped her pint. She shrugged. “My friends are there. My family. I have the shop. I guess it’s not all bad. It’s all I have ever known.”
“And your parents are still alive? Both of them?” he asked, t
asting his shepherd’s pie.
“Only my mom. I guess she is a part of the reason I stay. She needs my help. She’s getting too old to take care of herself. She had me late in life. My dad, I never knew.”
Michael smiled. “I see. Ever thought about looking him up?”
Bridget shook her head. “No. My mother never spoke of him. It would kill her if I started asking questions. I never really felt an urge to.”
“You’re not the least bit curious?” Michael asked.
Bridget shrugged. “I guess I never gave it much thought.”
Michael tilted his head. “That’s too bad. Everyone should know where they come from.”
Bridget grabbed a forkful of her lamb stew and ate it. She didn’t really like to talk about her family. Of course, she had wondered where she came from while growing up. But her mother had been very strict, and it was simply not something they discussed. Bridget never dared to ask. So, instead, she kept quiet. Like she had for most of her childhood.
“How’s your shepherd’s pie?” she asked, in an attempt to turn the conversation away from the subject of her lack of a father.
He smiled. Bridget liked his smile. “It’s excellent. And your stew?”
She swallowed another bite, then nodded. “Quite good, actually.”
“Marvelous,” he exclaimed with a grin.
Jackpot, Bridget. You really nailed it with this one. He’s perfect. Finally, you found someone. This one is a keeper. Play your cards right and you won’t have to grow old all alone. No cats will get to eat your face.
Michael lifted his glass. “Cheers. To a wonderful date with great food and a lovely lady.”