We’d been sat silently beside one another on the rickety porch swing for five minutes, the sun beaming on us both.
I’d already finished telling Rose everything. I told her how I found him dying by the railroad tracks. I explained that he didn’t want her to be alone; that he’d asked me to tell her how to spend his bag of money, and that he was proud of their son. I reassured her that someone was there to witness his last breath and comforted her with his final words: “Give my love to Rose.”
Tears of condensation trickled down my glass of lemonade as Rose’s face remained dry.
“10 years is a long time to wait,” she said, staring intensely at the floor. “My goodbyes were said in the courthouse.”
Rose opened the bag of dusty dollar bills and grubby coins that sat on her thighs. She fingered the notes and gave a half smile: “Clothes, you say?”
“Only the prettiest,” I nodded.
A silence hung in the dry air as our eyes met properly for the first time. I began to undress Rose in my mind; removing her stained apron, greying, over-sized t-shirt and baggy torn jeans. I thought about taking her in the shower, cleaning her over-worked skin and dressing her in a thin, revealing, linen summer dress. The kind that would celebrate the curves she was graced with.
Rose’s gaze remained locked on mine. She gently pushed her hair behind her back, the sunlight kissing her neck. I could hear my heart thumping. Rose leant in closer to me, her sweet scent filling my nostrils. “10 years is a long time to wait,” she said, her eyes moistening.
I placed my palm on her left cheek, catching a teardrop with my thumb. “He’s right, what he said,” I whispered. “You shouldn’t be alone.”
Rose smiled a warm smile as she brought her hand up to mine and said: “I’m not.”
The front door creaked open, slowly, and a 12 year-old head appeared from behind it. “Who’s this, mommy?” the boy said, tentatively.
Rose placed my hand back on my knee and shuffled across the porch swing. “This is Johnny,” she said, rubbing the dampness from her eyes. “He’s a friend of Daddy’s.” Rose patted the newly formed space between us. “Come and say hi.”
© Carl Burkitt 2013
This story was inspired by the lovely Johnny Cash song ‘Give My Love To Rose’.