Roses for Winter ( a short story needing feedback)
Winter Montgomery had always seemed odd. Some people say she was insane. But in all the ten or so years I lived next door to her, I had never seen anything but beauty come from her house. Each day she lived in routine: she’d go out walking early in the morning, then bake cookies, which at the end of the day she’d feed to the birds. After her cookies were made she’d go out in her garden, where she spent most of the time collecting fallen rose petals.
All Winter’s clothes were handmade in the style of the 30’s and she grew all her own vegetables and fruits. In the neighborhood she was generally considered crazy because of her clothes and her long, white, flowing hair. Most people tried to avoid her, because once you entered into a conversation with her it was impossible to end it. But then there were “bad” days where Winter would spend all day in her garden smelling sunflowers and refusing to speak to any of the few people that were polite enough to give a quick “good morning.” In her last year Winter was eighty-eight years old. And in her life something had always seemed to me to be missing. Something had a hold on her and was keeping her alive and working. I often wondered if the reason Winter kept to such a rigid routine was because she needed to work, she needed to avoid facing something. She needed to keep her mind from going to painful places rooted in the past. And I suspected once she went there she would never come back.
When the first rose came it awoke the gossips of the neighborhood. Many of us followed the mailman to her house. Winter, who often sat by the window sewing and watching for any visitors, saw the procession and came out of her white Cape Cod to meet the mailman. When she reached the street she blinked back a tear and said in a low voice “Is that flower for me?”
“Yes” the man replied “it was sitting outside the office door this morning”. He showed her the tab around the rose with the simple 6 letters neatly printed on it “Winter”.
“Thank you for bringing it by” Winter spoke quietly. She then gently took the flower as though the minute she touched it, it would shatter into millions of pieces and the last trace of something more precious than life would be gone.
The group surrounding the mailman slowly began to disperse; as I turned to leave I looked back over my shoulder and saw Winter slowly climbing the stairs, I saw the sadness in her eyes. Of all the time I’d known her she only now began to look her age.
The second rose came the next day. And though few people followed the mailman, curiosity continued to grow. Everyone wanted to know why Winter was receiving roses, who was sending them, and what did this mean? And Winter wasn’t leaving her house. She didn’t go out to her garden or for her morning walk. When the mailman arrived no words were spoken, he handed her the rose and she nodded once accepting it. I saw, even from the second story window of my neighboring house, her pain.
That afternoon I went by Winter’s house. When I got to the door I heard a1930’s record of a song called “Memories Of You”. When I knocked the world immediately became silent. Winter let me in after some slight persuading. When we sat down for tea I asked “Winter, what do these roses mean?” She stared at me hard, and then with a sigh produced an old black and white picture of a young man with his arm around the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. “Is this you?” I asked, without looking up. “You were beautiful” I said, now tearing my eyes away from those of young Winters.
“So was he” she said, her voice shaking slightly.
“What happened?” I asked looking down at the beautiful faces. “Our parents wouldn’t let us marry. They said he wasn’t good enough for me, too low class.” I saw one soft tear gently roll down her cheek and land on the two roses in her hand. “We used to write letters to each other, he’d always fill the envelope with rose petals” she paused “ one day the letters stopped coming, about a year later he was married.” She took a deep breath and weakly smiled at me. “He told me his parents forced him into it. He promised he’d occasionally write me but his wife wouldn’t allow it. I told him I couldn’t live not knowing, for sure, that he was alright.” She smiled briefly at her own words not spoken for so many years. “He told me he would have it arranged that if he was ever in danger I would be sent a red rose everyday until he was either safe again or…” she choked back tears. “When he was well again he would send me a white rose…otherwise there would be no more roses.” I sat with Winter for two hours as she told me all about the beautiful boy.
The next day I was relieved to see a red rose go to Winters door. The third rose. The last time I ever saw Winter Montgomery was when she came out that morning to the mailman. I saw a far off look, and I knew that was when she left us, not the next morning when she shot herself, but then. That’s when she went back to 1935 to live with her beautiful boy.
The morning we found her she was lying on her bed surrounded by rose petals. She looked peaceful with her three red roses in one hand, soaked in blood, and the revolver in the other. No flower came that day.
After the news of Winter’s suicide spread there was a rumor going around that she had been seen near the post office, late the night before each of the roses were sent. I never have believed it though. I think even now Winters somewhere dancing to “Memories Of You” with her young man, both as beautiful as ever.