She'd never seen a rose that shade of red before.
"Lovely isn't it?" the florist startled her.
"Yes, it's so deep. It's like velvet."
"Red is for love you know."
"Roses. The color rose you give is symbolic of your feelings. Yellow is for friendship. White is purity. Red is love. I created this deep red to try and capture that feeling of everlasting love."
"You created this color?"
"Well, sort of. Crossbreeding. That's how we get different colors and even shapes. Crossbreeding between various strains. This was the result of 10 years of work."
She laughed, "I would say that is deep and everlasting love for sure."
"It's not just a job, it's an obsession."
She laughed again. "Well what do tulips represent? My mother loves tulips and that's what I was hoping to get today."
"Tulips represent spring, hope, optimism and new beginnings. It's a good choice for a gift for your mother. How many would you like?"
She wrapped up her business with the florist and was on her way.
As she drove to her mother's place she thought of the florist and the red roses. What would be something she would be willing to put 10 years of work in to? The perfect recipe maybe? She loved to cook and could imagine having one perfect dish should could serve that would always be a hit. But 10 years to perfect it? No, probably not. A song? If she wrote music maybe a song. But, again, for 10 years?
Maybe it helped to do things incrementally. Like the deep red must have come from trial and error and each step of the way presented something unique. That might keep her interested. But again, she didn't think she would have kept trying if that was the case. After all a few shades lighter, just a touch less deep and that red rose would still be something beautiful to see. Why keep going? Why keep trying to make it better when it was good enough?
She pulled into the driveway at the assisted living facility her mother had moved in to last month. Or more accurately been moved in to. She had not been happy about it at all. She seemed to be starting to settle in, finally, a little at least. Hopefully it wouldn't take her 10 years to fully accept it. As soon as she had the thought she gasped, she hadn't meant that she hoped her mother didn't last 10 years! She knocked on her dashboard and called it wood as the feeling of guilt flooded her. Which she knew was ridiculous. She knew that wasn't what she had meant, she hadn't said it out loud. There was no reason for the heart racing, panic she was feeling. But the guilt over dragging her mother out of her own home and in to this horrible death's waiting room (her mother's description) was real.
She probably should have asked the florist what color flowers were for guilt. She looked at the bouquet of tulips and realized it was mixed. She laughed again. That actually worked. Mixed. That was her right now. She knew this is where her mother needed to be. She wasn't able to live on her own anymore, and she couldn't live with her. Nobody was at the house full time. She had work and the kids and it was all just too much. But moving her out of the house she had lived in for 40 years, the house she had raised her family, loved her husband, lost her husband? The guilt was real.
She took a deep breath and walked in the front doors bracing herself for the smell of cleaning supplies, old people, and cafeteria food that seemed to permeate the air. She showed her ID and signed in at the front desk. They were starting to recognize her but the procedure was always the same anyway. Show your ID, sign in on the visitor's sheet while they checked you against the authorized visitor list.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Rancine. Your mother is in the rec room with your brother."
"With my brother?"
"Yes, he got here about an hour ago."
She started to walk down the hallway, faster than a stroll but not running. She didn't want to call attention to herself. Her brother? He was on the authorized list, her mother had insisted on it, but he hadn't been to visit her in at least a decade. Why in the world would he be here now? And for an hour?
She stopped at the doorway of the rec room and scanned for them. They were sitting over by the window. James was talking to her mother while he patted her knee over and over again. Patronizing. She tried not to think things like that. It was a knee pat, how could it be patronizing. But it was the only way she could think to describe it. To describe James.
"James, this is a surprise. Mom, these are for you." She leaned over and gave her mother a kiss on the cheek while handing her the flowers.
"Sis, Mom said you might stop by."
She tried not to look as annoyed as she felt, "Yes. I come a few times a week to check in." She looked at her mother who was staring at her with a blank expression on her face. "Mom? You okay?"
James reached out and patted her mother's knee again, "She's good. Probably just tired. We have been visiting for awhile. Did you want to go back to your room and get some rest?"
"I just got here, James, I would like to spend some time with Mom as well..."
"Now, now, Sis, don't be selfish, Mom needs her rest."
She could feel the anger rising in her chest. How dare he try to tell her what their mother needed. She had been the one taking care of her all of these years. She had been the one to handle everything. And now he wanted to tell her what she needed? She took a deep breath and tried to calm down.
"Mom? Is that what you want? To go back to your room and rest?"
Her mother nodded her head slowly. "Okay, I'll help you get settled. James, why don't you wait here for me and we can visit for awhile?"
James smiled, "That would be fine."
She helped her mother back to her room. She fluffed the pillows on her bed and helped her get settled in for a nap. She noticed a smear of black on the side of mother's hand. "Mom? What is this?"
For the first time since she had arrived her mother spoke to her, "James had some papers for me to sign. He said he knew you were doing your best but I really need a man to take care of things."
She felt the panic rising again, what had he done? She finished getting her mother situated and even took the time to put her flowers in a vase before heading back out to the rec room to talk to James about just what exactly he had had their mother sign.
He was nowhere to be found.
"THAT SON OF A BITCH!" She yelled as soon as she made it back out to her car. Then the irony of the statement washed over her and she laughed, just a bit hysterically. She had been there, had taken care of everything, had made all of the sacrifices and he had swooped in and had her mother sign over...who knows what all she signed away. The house probably, maybe a whole new will or power of attorney. She couldn't believe the asshole had done it. She had worked so hard to protect them all from him and his greedy ways and he waltzed back in and undid it all in a moment.
The next day the extent of the damage was starting to be felt. The nursing home called to let her know that her brother was trying to to have their mother moved to a new facility. A less expensive one. The broker for her mother's house called to let her know that James wanted to take over the selling of her parent's place and putting it on the market right away instead of waiting to finish sorting the contents. By the third phone call of things James was trying to do she had reached out to her own lawyer to see if there was anything she could do to stop him. If he had paperwork that gave him power of attorney that was dated after hers she might now. Though she could fight in court to prove her mother was not capable of making an informed choice right now.
She finally reached James and he agreed to meet her at their mother's house. She found him in the backyard looking at her mother's rose garden. She started talking as soon as she saw him.
"The home is the best in the state. Moving her isn't a good idea. She needs stability. She needs the care they are able to provide."
"That care is expensive, Sis, it's eating through her savings. There won't be anything left within a few short years if she isn't moved."
"If she is moved she won't be here in a few short years. She needs that care. She started wandering. She doesn't remember to feed herself. She doesn't remember to take her medication. She needs that level of care."
"Sorry, it's just too expensive. I wouldn't expect you to be able to understand."
"How do you think you could understand? You haven't been here. You haven't had anything to do with any of us since Dad died. And even then you only showed up for the funeral and left."
"I did more than just show up and leave. I wasn't here for a funeral."
"I checked on the will. Seems he had left everything to her, so there was no reason to stick around. And she was planning on leaving it all to you. Can you believe that? I mean, I'm the oldest. I'm the one who should be incharge of all of this. Not you."
"You've been gone. You weren't the most responsible of people when you were here. You haven't taken care of anything. And like you said, there isn't going to be much to be incharge of. The house proceeds will go toward her care as well. She needs this money. She needs this level of care."
"She's an old woman who is dying anyway."
"She's your MOTHER."
"It's been a long time since I needed my mother. You should have tried growing up as well. It would have done you a lot of good."
Suddenly she was filled with rage. Rage for all of the years growing up that he had only thought of himself. The problems he had put their parents through. The drug abuse. The forged checks. The shame of seeing their oldest child serve time in jail. He was her brother, but she could find no love for him in her. And now he dared to come back to try and rip her mother off one last time? He'd been gone a decade. Ever since their father had died. Ten years.
She started to laugh then.
"What is so funny?"
"Just yesterday I was trying to think of something I would be willing to work on for 10 years. I just realized that I have spent the last 10 years forgetting what an absolute asshole you are."
"I'm glad you find that amusing."
"I do. Because I also spent the last 10 years learning not to be afraid of you."
"Oh real..." was all he was able to get out before the shovel she had picked up hit him in the back of the head.
She didn't feel guilty. Not about this. She searched his rental car and found the paperwork he had had her mother sign and burned it. She went through his wallet and his luggage and then his cell phone. Nobody listed as an emergency contact. She would just have to see what would come of that, when, if he was missed. For now she calmly sat down in the backyard on her mother's porch and called the home, the realtor and her lawyer. They were all very glad that she and her brother had reached an understanding about what was best for her mother.
She would have to figure out what to do with the body. She thought about it, how long would it take to dissolve into nothing here in her mother's garden? Ten years? Was she willing to hold on to the house for that long? She could sell her own and move in here. The kids would love the school district. Ten years, she had found what she would be willing to work on for ten years. Protecting her mother. Protecting herself.
She went to the back of the garden to start to dig. Stopping to look at the roses she noticed a spray of blood, she was going to have to wash that away. She'd never seen a rose that shade of red before.