The Roses Left For Her

The Roses Left For Her
by, Melissa R. Mendelson

“Jacob!  Lunch!” She tapped her fingers against the counter.  She strained her ears listening for a sound.  Her eyes darted about the empty, sunny kitchen and then fell down on the tuna and peanut butter sandwich before her.  “Where is he,” she muttered.  “Jacob, lunch!”
The front door opened.  Keys jingled. Henry’s heavy footsteps fell against the floor.  Something plastic or wrapped in plastic rustled behind him.  He seemed surprised that she was there, as if he expected her to be somewhere else, and she looked at him, pretending to be annoyed with his staring.  
“Lu,” he began.  “What are you doing?”  He closed the front door but kept whatever it was in his hand behind his back.  “Jacob went out.  He’s with Jenny.”
“Of course, he is.”  She looked down at the sandwich.  “Well, I’m not eating that.”
“Well, I’m not eating that.  That’s disgusting.”  He hovered between the hallway and kitchen.
“What’s behind your back?”
“A newspaper.”
“A newspaper?  Really?” She moved toward him, and he darted into the kitchen, pressing whatever it was that he was trying to hide now against the wall.  “Henry, I can smell them.”  He sighed in defeat.  “He forgot, didn’t he?  He forgot what today was.”
“Lu, the boy has other things on his mind.”  He continued to hold the item behind him as she edged closer.  “You know that.”  She looked at him.  “We spoke about it.  Remember?”
“He has been spending a lot of time with her.  Alone.”  He smiled as she stepped back.  “You don’t think…  I mean. She may as well live here, but… No.  You don’t think that…”
“Lu.” He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. “He’s too young for that.”
“Very funny.”  She playfully knocked his arm aside.  “But what if they’re kissing?”  She wrung her hands together.  “They could be kissing, Henry.  Don’t you think that it would be weird especially with Maggie and Marty together. Should we say something?”
“No.” Henry slithered against the wall, putting space between them.  “Stay out of it.”
“Henry, I’m not an idiot.”  He stopped moving.  “We should say something.”
“Lu, it’s none of our business.”
“He’s our son, Henry.  He’s fourteen.  I was kissing guys when I was…”  Henry raised his eyebrows, waiting for the rest of her statement.  “When I was young too.  How old were you?”
“How old was I with what?”
“With kissing girls.  How old were you when you first kissed a girl?”
“I was…”  Now, she raised her eyebrows, awaiting the rest of his answer.  “Oh, for crying out loud, Lu.  He’s a boy.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean that he should go around kissing girls.”
“He’s not kissing girls.”
“But he is kissing a girl.”  Now, he looked away.  “Henry.” He refused to look at her.  “They did kiss.  Didn’t they?”  He stared up at the ceiling.  “Henry!”
“Are you going to eat that damn sandwich?”
“No. Only Jacob likes it like that.”
“Well, if you’re not, I am,” but as he moved away from her, he continued to keep his back to the wall.  “I didn’t eat today.”
“You left early.  Where’d you go?”
“Out.”  She made a face at him.  “I went to the diner with Fred.”
“So, you did eat.”
“We had coffee and talked about…”  He now tapped his fingers against the counter, eyeing the sandwich.  “We talked about her.”
“Henry, you can’t be serious.  You know what she did.  You know what she put us through.”
“I have not forgotten, Lu, and I have not spoken to her.  But she’s around, and Fred is spending time with her.”
“Good for Fred.  She’s not allowed back in this house.”
“I know that.”
“So, what?”
“Are you going to eat that?”
“I’m debating on it.  Why? You want to make me a regular tuna sandwich?”
“You could make it yourself.  With one hand.”  She crossed her arms over her chest.  “Should be interesting to watch.”
“What am I?  A magician?”
“No. You’re not a magician, Henry.  You just have a private boys’ club with Jacob. I don’t know what happened.  We used to be so close, and then I don’t know.” She threw her arms up in the air. “What did I do wrong?”
“Lu.” He approached her, laying a hand on her shoulder.  “He grew up.” She looked at him.  “He’s not even a boy.  He’s a man.”
“He’s fourteen.  He’s a boy, and he should stay that way.  At least, for another couple of years or so.”
“You can’t cuddle him.  You’ll make him soft.”
“Like you?”  He snorted at that.  “You don’t fool me, Henry Langston,” and she poked him in his belly.  “You don’t fool me one bit.”
“And I still love you.”  He leaned down and kissed her lips.
“And I love you too.”  Her face was inches from his, and she held his gaze.  “Now, are you going to give me those damn roses, or are am I going to have to take them from you?”
“You want to try?”
“You’ll lose,” and he kissed her again.  “You’ll still lose,” she laughed.
“He didn’t forget.”  He handed her the roses.  Now, she saw the little, white card inside the plastic.  “The card’s from him.  I didn’t read it.  I just picked up the roses.  Do we have a vase?”
“In the dining room.”  She smelled the roses.  “You still hungry?”  He nodded.  “Fine. I’ll make you that damn sandwich.” He laughed as she laid the roses and card gently on the counter.  “Hurry up before the roses die,” and he quickly hurried out of the kitchen.
She opened the fridge.  She reached inside and grabbed a bowl of tuna fish.  She glanced at the peanut butter on the shelf and grimaced before closing the refrigerator door.  She then opened the bread drawer and reached inside for the rye bread.  She turned toward the counter, and the bread slipped from her fingers.  She fell against the counter, trying to catch her breath, feeling a bit dizzy.  She almost stepped on the bread.
“You okay?”
“Yeah.”  She looked at Henry.  “Clumsy me,” and she forced a laugh.  “I nearly crushed the bread,” and she reached down to pick it up from the floor.  The plastic wasn’t torn, and the bread was safe inside.  “Just give me a minute.”
“Take your time.”  He moved toward the sink and filled the vase with water.  “You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine, Henry.  Just fine. Now, come on.  Let’s eat.  I’m hungry too,” but she took her time carrying the plates filled with tuna fish sandwiches over to the table.  “What are you staring at?”
“Nothing,” and he forced a smile.  “Just you.”
“Well, stop staring,” and Henry turned away to place the roses in the vase. “We should go outside afterward.” He looked at her.  “It’s a beautiful day.”
“Yes. Yes, it is.”
Henry looked at the countertop.  It was empty except for new roses wrapped in plastic.  He looked at the table, half expecting her to be sitting there, waiting for him.  The table was empty.  He stared at it not seeing Jacob enter the kitchen until he stood beside him.
“Jacob?  Sorry. I…  I was lost in thought.”
“What’s the roses for?”  He followed his father’s gaze over to the roses.
“They’re for her.  I’m leaving them at her grave.”  He grabbed the roses and hurried over toward the door.
“Son, don’t you know what today is?”  Jacob shook his head.  “You’re going to be sixteen.  Time to get your head out of the clouds.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry.”  He stared down at the roses in his hand.  “It’s Mother’s Day.”  He looked back at Jacob.  “You coming?”
“Yes,” and Jacob hurried past him and out the door, but his father remained, staring at the kitchen table.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Lu,” and the door closed behind him.