“Fine!” The door slammed and the wood flooring creaked without sympathy for the two feet that stomped carelessly and heavily across the porch and down the stairs. The steps seemed steeper this time, like they were ready to trip him at the slightest misstep. How extraordinary, that simple stairs that he usually bounded up in excitement, the small stairs that did little to slow his energetic quest to be inside the house and with its inhabitants could seem so hostile and inconvenient. Carey never realized that they were truly steep steps until he was forced to notice anything but her.
Carey’s shoes slapped the ground rhythmically as he walked aimlessly away from her house. Every step, he made a valiant attempt to punish the ground for his own misfortune. Every car that passed by had at least two eyes watching him. Every glance was a glare and every glare accused him of his fault.
He reached into his memory for something encouraging to promise him a place to land his feet upon, for he knew he was falling. He had not considered that every thought and recollection he could grasp were all filled with her. The warmth he was searching for to console himself with was the very thing that hurt him. The full circle to which his mind had brought him exhausted Carey and tainted memories and feelings with one another until he could not navigate his own mind and heart.
With little else to do and nowhere else to go, he walked home. Each step was less convicted and more pained. His pace slowed and his feet dragged, more and more with each step. The contempt that was building inside his chest was growing steadily, and it was for no one but himself. The misery that grew from this was beyond anything he had felt before, because he had never before lost so much at one time.
His hand grabbed the rail along the staircase to his porch. The small creak the first step made when he stepped made him whince. So often that sound meant she was coming to see him. He was careful this time not to let that memory become infected with his growing bitterness. It was simple, it was sweet, and it was still his. Opening the door, he shuffled into his home, and, closing the door, he shut out the world that was doing its best to hurt him.
Carey fell into his bed and felt his feet thank him for putting his weight elsewhere. He felt exhausted and drained but his mind still felt it had much bitterness in which to indulge itself. He felt the pull to consider her imperfections, and finally begin to try her for the faults and defects in a way he had never before allowed himself. Surely, if he could find enough shortcomings and errors in her character, he would have an easier time justifying and absolving his own.
The noisy battlefield of every conflict in his mind suddenly became silent, and the realization of what he had known all along struck him firmly in his conscious. She had no faults, not in his eyes. No excuse of her imperfect humanity could be made, because her humanity was perfect to him. Every fault was a virtue and every virtue was an angelic quality. The earth could not behold a more flawless article to his eyes than Kate. His Kate.
Carey was reserved, and he knew this. He did not talk much, but from the start she managed to pull full words and sentences from him like no one else could. He was not overly fond of being touched, but Kate was able to take his hand at any time without him minding. She even made him like it. Playfully poking him or even attempting to tickle him, two actions that he would not tolerate under any circumstances for anyone else, were things she could get away with and would even put a crack of a smile on his face. Kate held a place in his affection and his heart that no one else could fill. No one else would know how. Carey did not know how, but Kate did.
This realization was his guiding light, and it sorted his troubled mind back into place. Thoughts of Kate’s enthusiastic laughter flooded in through the threshold of his feelings, pushing away the useless thoughts of her upsetting words. He became thirsty for the beautiful memories; the ones he took for granted. The throbbing contempt he briefly held for that wonderful girl relieved itself of the facade and revealed its true existence: an earnest yearning to be with her once again. The truth of things like this is often similar. The anger and hatred one feels toward any person is often, in truth, merely the vain and prideful pain of being separated. Carey began to understand, and he had the honesty to preserve his happiness rather than fuel his pride.
Scenes, glimpses, and portraits of his short life with her overwhelmed him. They were the gifts he was missing and failing to share with Kate. They were the golden thoughts that could be treasured for all of time, but too often they were used and forgotten, thrown away because their value was not recognized. Carey never thought himself sentimental, but he did not need to be sentimental to cherish life worth cherishing. He could not forget Kate. He could never be ignorant of her value.
Roses. Within every recollection and every story that played itself through his head, roses recurred over and over. Roses were the constant in the love story of Carey and Kate; not the pillar on which it stood, but the steeple that completed its beauty and announced its supremacy. It was their crest. Kate loved roses. Roses were the evidence that Carey could pay attention to someone’s preferences and whims. Every special occasion, every holiday, every birthday, was crowned by a rose. Carey did not know the names of many flowers, but he knew a good rose when he saw one, and he never failed to present it to Kate whenever he happened upon one. Her smile was wonderful when he did that; wonderful as always, but, somehow, different.
Carey halted the thoughts. He did not need to be swayed any longer. He did not need a throbbing pain or desire to motivate him, a steady resolve had taken their place and resolve was always how Carey won his battles. In the morning, he decided, he would go and find the best roses that existed, and if better ones existed he resolved to be ignorant of them. No rose was allowed to better than the one or many he would give Kate in the morning. Then, Carey would tell her all the things he thought about the night before. He would promise to remember things the way they deserved being remembered. He would recognize what he had and never risk it for something so petty as an argument ever again. Carey shook his head; he could not even remember what they had argued about. Yes, he would tell her these things in the morning. Upon that resolve, Carey surrendered himself to his own exhaustion.
The next morning found Carey, once, again walking the city streets. His step was driven with significantly more bounce and worlds more purpose. He was looking for the perfect rose and very sure that he would find it. There was a flower shop where he would always get Kate’s roses and it was sure to be somewhere in there.
Upon entering, the searcher smiled a greeting to the store owner. The shopkeeper waved back, extremely familiar with the young romantic and the petaled vegetation that he so often required for his counterpart. Carey walked over to where he knew the roses would be, but he did not quite stroll. He seemed to be more so on a mission than a quest, if a distinction can be made.
To his disappointment and dismay, Carey found no roses. Upon asking the shopkeeper where they were, he received a very simple response.
“We’re all sold out today.” He stated, plainly. “It’s not a usual thing, but it happens.” The added statement seemed to tell Carey that the flowerman did not feel like explaining further.
Discouraged, Carey trudged down the streets once more. He would have to go to Kate with only his words. He always hated relying on his words; they never seemed to fully say what he wanted to say. When he brought flowers for Kate, they always seemed to fill in for the words he did not have. Now, he came to her without flowers when he needed them most.
Around the corner from her house, Carey saw something. He had never noticed it before, but then there were a great deal of things he did not notice. Resting upon a large clearing, there was a sprawl of wildflowers. He could not name any of them or even fully describe their color, but he noticed they were beautiful. They were not roses, but they were better than his words. Out of every flower, however, he could only find one sufficient to his needs. Complex and delicate, yet simply beautiful, it seemed the right flower for his flower. Carey was confused and almost repulsed at how symbolic of a choice he had just made, but he deemed it fitting for his experience in the last twenty-four hours.
Armed only with his flower and newfound convictions, Carey walked boldly up to the door. He did not know what he would say or what he would do or even what he hoped for her to say or do, he only knew he had not seen her face in what felt like years and that every moment without her added to that number. He knocked.
Hearing her footsteps approaching the door made his stomach turn. He felt he would see her very differently, even though he had seen her only the day before. In a strange way, he could not imagine her; he had no expectation or hope, only an eager need to be with her again.
The door opened, leaving only the screen between the two. Kate looked surprised, but hardly in a bad way. Neither said anything; they simply looked at one another, both ready to take a breath to speak, but never seeming to find the right moment. A smile crept to Kate’s lips and her gaze shifted down to the flower occupying Carey’s grasp. The smile gave Carey courage. He attempted a smile of his own and felt his eyes moisten.
“Kate, I-” he choked on his words with an emotion and physical reaction he was not extremely familiar with. Those unfamiliar tears emerged from his eyes for the first time in his memory. Kate felt a tear drop from her own eyes at the sight of her Carey. Seeing him experience that vulnerability found within her emotions of happiness and sorrow that she could not completely understand. Carey shook his head, ashamed of himself, in the attempt to rid himself of the treacherous tears. Kate laughed, and opened the screen door.
“Come in, come in,” she ushered him inside, taking his hand. The gesture impressed Carey so much. This girl whom he had hurt, whom he had renounced in his own mind, whom he had thought about the entire night previous, and whom he intended to win back with his repentance and changed heart took his hand and comforted him like she would her lover. He could not have asked for this.
She led him to her living room, and what he saw amazed him. He smiled, slowly, and then he laughed.
“I have to say, I wasn’t expecting you,” she confessed. “I was about to call you, actually.” Carey glanced down and noticed that in the hand she was not using to hold his own was a phone. Looking into her eyes, back toward the living room, and then back to Kate, Carey’s grin grew. She laugh at him and hit him playfully on his chest. “Don’t embarrass me, Carey.”
“Don’t let me embarrass you,” Carey responded, shaking his head. “You don’t deserve that.” Kate cocked her head, looking up at him, questioning. The tears came back to his eyes as the meaning of his comment struck at his guilt and painful shame. “Kate, I’m so sorry.” Kate was already shaking her head.
“We have a lot to talk about, Carey. Come sit down.” She gestured toward the couch and the living room and attempted to pull him in that direction. He did not budge, however, and she looked back at him.
“No, I have to say something first.” He had her attention. He took the phone from her and put it on the counter top. Then, taking both of her hands in his, he looked directly into her eyes, something he had not yet had the boldness to do. Kate felt the flower she was now holding and her breathing sped slightly. “Kate,” he began. “You know I don’t have the proper words for anything, but I would like you to know something.” She nodded for him to continue. “Yesterday, I- I was a mess. I thought we were done. I looked for a way-” His voice broke, and she squeezed his hands, encouraging him to continue. “I looked for a way to blame you. I thought I could put this one on you. I looked, I did, but I couldn’t find anything.” His words were full of pauses, but he slowly made his way through his thoughts. “I remembered, as I looked, so many things.” He looked away, thinking it would help him. It did not, but he could not immediately. “I remembered meeting you, spending time with you, and just how much you mean to me. As I remembered everything that was important to us, I forgot the things that didn’t mean so much that were bothering me.” He recited his realizations that he had memorized on his soul searching walk to her house. The speech was not natural to him, but it was important nonetheless.
“I began to realize that the bad things I was feeling were not from being treated wrong, they were from treating you wrong. I was not seeing you for how amazing you are and how much I need you.” Each word he said, he struggled for, and he spoke them in a weighted staccato tone. Tears were flowing freely from her eyes now, and her growing smile pulled from him every thought that troubled him. “You are perfect to me, Kate, and I know that now. And, I guess, what I’m trying to say is,” Carey looked away from Kate and concentrated his gaze on the dozens of roses that occupied the living room. They were arranged beautifully, and they all seemed to be of similar perfection; Carey was sure if he had gotten to the flower shop before Kate, he too would have bought all them for her. Focusing once more on Kate, he was ready to finish his sentence. “I love you, Kate.”
Kate released his hands and flung her arms around his neck, almost jumping into his embrace. Carey caught her embrace, not missing a beat. She cried her happiness on his shoulder, and he hid his face in hers. He felt her hair falling down her hair onto her back, he felt her heartbeat against his chest, and he knew he would not ever take her for granted again. Lifting her face slightly, she whispered in his ear.
“I love you, Carey.” The sentence, the phrase, the confession, the breath in his ear all comforted Carey’s troubles and lifted him up in a way could never have asked for. He released her from his arms, and took her face between his hands. She smiled, and covered his hands with her own. Leaning down, he softly kissed her forehead.
“Thank you,” he said, in voice quieter than he intended. She, once again, took his hand in hers and led him to the garden of flowers sitting in the living room. In the midst of their flowers, their crowning steeple, their constant promise, they rekindled their love, in a more beautiful and true way.