A chapter from a crime fiction piece: A Rose by Any Other Name (Inspired by The Collector by John Fowles)

A Rose by Any Other Name

 

11th Jan 1998

Her slippers still warm by the fire. I make her morning coffee, two sugars no milk and I leave it by her chair until it cools. She likes her toast with lashings of butter, the kind from down the market that comes in a silky packaging. I routinely position a fresh cut bouquet of striped carnations by the window so they can lean towards the midday sun. I fill her bath three quarters, just like she asks, with lavender salts and a towel on the radiator. I stare blankly at her absent side of the bed. It’s been 10 years.

 

The distinctive smell of deceased candles shifted under the small gap in the door. I had tried the handle numerous times to no avail. This place had countless rooms, many of them I assumed were locked, as I had tried the thick brassy handles, but they were reluctant to twist. The hallway was cloaked with thick shadows and a dim light illuminated several doors. Several exits? The sugary scent from an intricately painted vase of white lilies made my head pulse, a sudden dizziness that made me completely oblivious to the situation I was in. Trapped.

I pulled myself up onto the chair, it must have been about 8pm at this time because the sun was sinking from the sky quite quickly now, leaving a scarlet smudge staining the clouds. From the height of the room I could tell the house was quite extravagant. It was bordered by a substantial amount of skeletal trees, with no sin of life for miles. The descending sun cast a fiery luminosity through the last of the autumn leaves, making the whole room glow.

As I gazed out the window, a peculiar scraping noise broke me from stare. I turned my head swiftly and I just caught the door shutting, a strip of light cascading across my face momentarily. The hasty movement of the door had woken the dust from the numerous cloths draped over furniture. “WAIT! Come back…” My voice was surprisingly quiet and hoarse; I coughed into my jumper sleeve at an attempt to clear my throat. Glancing down at the door I noticed a strange wooden box with magnificent carvings of numerous flowers and a shiny brass clasp sealing the contents. I was reluctant to approach it, but how much harm could a box really do?

12th June 2003

I saw her today; she was sitting on the bench where we met. Her eyes were as beautiful as ever. Deep, observant and provoking. She always looked so beautiful this time of year, her freckles were just beginning to flourish and she wore dainty straw hats to shield her pallid complexion. Disobediently, her auburn hair flicked around her face whenever the wind picked up, she tried so desperately to tame it but I didn’t mind, it fascinated me. I didn’t dare to kiss her; it was like 1964 all over again. She used to blush whenever I called her ‘my little petal’, her cheeks would bunch at the side whenever she smiled that wide. Like our wedding day for example, despite the accident, she was still grinning at me as she walked down the aisle. Our talk the week before really improved her and it was easily enough to cover my corrections with a cardigan. I always took care of my Rose.

 

I clutched it in my hands and slowly lifted up the clap. Inside was a neatly folded piece of paper on which the name ‘Rose’ was elegantly inked. I was confused and whatever I had been given to get me here was wearing off. Gingerly, I unfolded the paper and read, “I just could not leave you exposed to the world; you might not survive this time, what happens if you’re not cared for? I have made your favourite meal. I know you think I’m a terrible cook but I got the recipe from your mother, she didn’t seem to mind. Make yourself up and come downstairs, your favourite dress is hanging behind the door, my little petal.”

It came back to me, a greying old man who beamed at me across the park. He waved his hand breathlessly and I gave him a smile. I thought nothing of it. He advanced towards me and I remember him complimenting my hair and telling me how happy he was to see me again. I just assumed I knew him from the community centre and continued to idly talk and exchange nods and smiles. He offered me some of the liquid from his flask because “dear you look cold, have a sip it’ll warm you up”. He was welcoming and harmless. The bitter taste engulfed my tongue and slithered down my throat, leaving a burning trail down my stomach. I recall the blurred slam of a white work van and a perspiring man gasping, leaning over me with his sunken eyes cradled by creases. His breath was warm against my numbed cheeks as I faded in and out of consciousness.

I throw the box across the room; it shatters into small wooden shards and crisp begonia petals. I sink to the floor and hug my knees in reflection, a sudden realisation that I’ve been kidnapped.

 

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