tagMatureGrace's Rose Garden

Grace's Rose Garden

byrebel_code©

A knock on the door roused Allen from his quiet work. Usually delivery drivers and such rang the bell instead; a knock was more likely to be someone from the neighborhood. He sluggishly got up to answer and the knock sounded again. He was being too slow.

"Just a moment," he called, walking through the house that he kept mostly shuttered against the daylight when he was working, to avoid distraction.

He opened the door to a blaze of late March sunlight framing a head of long chestnut hair that belonged to Rosa, from next door.

"Hello, Allen," she said. "I was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by to see how you're doing."

"In the neighborhood? You live here."

"Oh, you don't know yet. Not anymore, I'm afraid. I broke up with Mike a few days ago. I just came back for the rest of my things."

"Oh, no! I'm so sorry, Rosa."

She shrugged. "It's been coming for a while. I'm more relieved than anything else. But how goes it with you?"

"Please, come in," he said, avoiding having to answer her immediately.

She was in her mid-twenties and had been living with Mike next door since Mike's parents had downsized to a condo and rented the old house to their son for a nominal price, two years ago. He had brought in two other housemates around the same age to split the rent.

Allen had her sit down in the living room while he poured them coffee, which he always had ready during his working hours. He brought it to her and sat with her on the sofa, stopping on the way to roll up a blind on the front window and introduce some light. Her deep brown eyes, as always, seemed to hold secrets beyond her years. Now they also looked at him with genuine concern.

"I'm okay, I guess," he said, in belated answer to her question. "It's been four months. I suppose you could turn that around and say it's only been four months. Either way, I won't ever be the same, but I'm getting through each day. Each one is a little easier. I have work to focus on, and that helps."

"How are your children?"

"They seem to be doing all right. Either Tom or Eric calls me almost every day to check up on me. They don't tell me that's what they're doing, of course. It's all about what they are up to themselves, letting me know they're okay. They always tell me how much they miss their Mom."

His face was downcast, betraying a deep sadness. Rosa was moved to slide next to him and lay a hand on his shoulder.

"I miss her too. She was always friendly to us, treated us like neighbors. She said one time that it was good to have younger people in the neighborhood, that it made it more like the real world. Even if we did sometimes have parties and play loud music."

Allen had to smile at this.

"For what it's worth, I agreed with her on that," he said. "So I'm sorry that you're leaving."

"The others will still be here, probably rowdier than ever. I was the moderate in that house."

"I'm sure I can deal with that somehow."

"Is there anything I can do to help, Allen? I have some spare time now and I'm not too far away. I could come over and help you with the house. It must be a lot to keep up with by yourself."

He thought for a second. It was early spring. The yard—

"Now that you mention it, there is something. Would you be able to look after the garden a little? I've seen you before planting flowers next door. I don't know much about such things myself."

"Oh, wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I loved Grace's rose garden. I'd be happy to take care of it."

"I could pay you for your time."

"Oh no, I won't hear of it. It will be my pleasure, seriously. We're friends, aren't we?"

"Of course."

He led her from the darkened house into the bright back yard, where the dew had been dried by the late-morning sun, and showed her where the tools and supplies were kept, in the tiny shed next to the garden. The daffodils along the fence were already in bloom, painting the fence-line in yellow. The rose bushes were there in their rows, almost bare, but starting to show green leaves. They would need care soon for their blooming to come later.

"Anything you need that's not here, just let me know," he said. "I'll get it for you. I'll leave this unlocked. You can come by and work on it any time you want. You don't have to let me know you're here."

"It's all right if I pop in to say hello sometimes, isn't it?"

"Well, sure. You're always welcome, Rosa."

"Everyone in the neighborhood is thinking of you. And I am, too. Well, I'd better go, I have work in an hour. Take care of yourself, Allen." And she held out her arms, offering a hug.

Allen accepted it, opening his arms to her. Hers went around his neck, and then her young body was against his, the light scent she wore wafting into his head. He hugged her back, pressing her warmth to himself for one more moment before he released her.

"Thank you, I will," he said. She gave him her wide smile, eyes sparkling above high cheekbones.

He watched her walk away, her long hair tied behind her and swaying with her movements. She was wearing running pants and a simple top over her slim figure. Her look reminded him of Grace in their younger days, giving him a pang of loneliness.

Then she turned briefly and waved, as if she had known he was watching.

He waved back, smiling.




Standing at the kitchen window while preparing food or washing dishes, he would often catch sight of Rosa coming to tend the garden. She came mostly in the late morning, having an afternoon to shift at her job. He would sometimes stop and watch her prune the bushes, water, or put down plant food.

Once it had been Grace who knelt there, nurturing her beloved roses. His thoughts at times carried him back helplessly to their last months: the time of hospitals, the journey to sit beside her that was the center of each day, the machines to which she was tethered that tracked the pulse and breath of her life. He remembered the ups and downs, the cycle of hope, relapse, renewed hope, and finally, the loss of hope.

To shake his remembrances, he would bring Rosa a cold drink and sit with her on the wooden bench overlooking the garden. He would praise her work and convey whatever little bits of family news he had. She would explain what she was doing that day and why, point out the different varieties of roses that were growing there, and share a little of her own personal news. No one new in her life yet. She was up for a promotion at work.

The spring grew warm, and she would now appear in shorts and short sleeves. Her smooth limbs, the color of desert sand, awakened old longings in Allen. Her skin glowed with perspiration as she worked. Her shirt grew damp and clung to the outline of her young breasts, nestled in a sports bra. When he was out in the yard when she arrived, he would greet her, wishing it were a new, thirty years younger version of himself bidding her good morning. He wondered if she noticed a difference in his attention.

He studied himself in the mirror after a shower, already knowing what was there to see. His graying hair, starting to become thin on top. The bags under his pale blue eyes, and the skin on his throat starting to loosen. The stubborn twenty pounds around his middle that refused to go, however closely he adhered to his diet and walking regimen. I'm falling apart, he thought, little by little, but it's starting.

He wondered what he could do with the rest of his life. With Grace taken from him, there wasn't much left of his old ways. Should he try to find new friends? Probably, but it would be a hard slog as it had always been for him. A new career? That was laughable. At his age, opportunities were few, and if you had a job you stayed in it or risked becoming unemployable. He had a vision of himself just fading away, an old man who once meant something to the world but who had increasingly become irrelevant. He searched himself for something that would let him avoid that fate, but couldn't see it. Just taking each day for what pleasure might be in it was what he had now, but it could not be enough forever.




On a morning in late April, with the sun emerging from the clouds of an early rain shower, he became aware of voices being raised in the back yard. He left his keyboard and went to the kitchen window.

It was Mike, not at work today for some reason, who was standing in his yard having a dispute with Rosa across the chain-link fence that separated the properties. He was gesticulating angrily as he spoke, and Rosa was answering him back heatedly, but Allen could not make out the words through the closed window. He opened the kitchen door and stepped outside.

"—and I don't understand why you just happen to be there. What are you doing, spying on me? Or are you just there to taunt me? What is it, bitch?"

"You should be so lucky," Rosa retorted angrily. "You think I ever wanted to see your face again? You think I'd be here if I didn't think you'd be at work like you're supposed to be?"

"Hey now, what's going on here?" Allen interjected, having closed half the distance over the wet grass from the door to the fence. He had discerned the answer but asked the question to take charge of the situation.

"Hi Allen," said Mike, toning down his voice considerably. "Tell me please, why is she in your yard?"

"Well, Mike, she is here taking care of the rose bushes. You know, the ones you like to look at and that you've complimented us on before."

Some of the fire was taken out of Mike, but he pressed on. "But why her?"

"Uh, because she asked me if there was anything she could help me with, now that I'm alone." He emphasized the last words slightly, playing his trump card. He wasn't proud to do it, but it was the tool at hand.

Silence. Allen used the opening to drive his point home.

"And she loves flowers and is very good with them, as you should know. Now, I'm really sorry you two broke up, and I don't want to know the details. But I think that you could at least be civil. This isn't that kind of neighborhood. She has my permission to be here. Seems to me if you can't deal with that, it's your problem, not hers."

There was not much Mike could say to counter that. Finally, he said, "All right Allen, I get your point. I guess I was being kind of harsh."

"Why don't you apologize to her, then?"

He looked sheepish, but turned to her. "I'm sorry Rosa, I had a bad reaction to seeing you here. I was out of line. I won't bother you anymore."

"Okay, I accept," she said. "Understand, I'm not here to be in your face."

Mike nodded, then turned and walked back to his back door.

When he was inside, Rosa grabbed Allen's arm with both hands.

"Thank you," she said softly.

"You could have taken him," he joked. "He's gotten skinny. I just wanted to save you the trouble."

She blinked. Then reared back and dissolved into laughter, from relief as much as his wit. She made a fist and fake-slugged him on the arm.

"Oh, you tease!" she cried.

He was laughing with her, the best feeling he had had in weeks.




They were sitting on the bench together, admiring her work once again on a fine day in June. The sweet scent of the new blooms spiked the air with memories. Birds were passing the word of the day over the tree-to-tree telegraph.

"It looks as good as it ever did," Allen said. "You are a wonderful gardener."

"Thank you. My mother had roses. That's how I learned."

"Do you know the name of that one?" He pointed to a group of blooms so intensely pink that they seemed to glow internally.

"That's called Morden Centennial. They do well in our climate."

"Wonderful," he repeated. A rare honeybee was wandering around the flowers, looking for one to its liking.

"Allen," she said after half a minute's silence, "Have you thought yet about dating again? I worry about you sometimes. You spend so much time alone."

"Oh, don't worry about me, Rosa. I'm doing all right. Anyway, I'm not sure I'm ready for all that yet."

"I just think it would be good for you to have someone to talk to. I mean besides me. Your boys live so far away. You even work alone, online. What is it you do again?"

"Software. They let me work here because I have seniority. I got to the point where I couldn't stand the commute anymore. I do go in every couple of weeks for meetings and such."

"Yeah. Forgive me if I'm pressing it too hard, but I know more than one woman around your age who'd be happy to meet you. You do have a lot to offer."

She was looking up at him, drawing his eyes to hers.

"Thank you for that," he said. "Ask me again later, I might say yes."

That night as he was waiting to drift off to sleep, the vision of her came into his mind. Sitting there on the bench, her lithe young body next to him. The scent of the roses. She looking into his eyes. Those umber eyes that seemed to hold some secret knowledge. She leaned in closer to him.

Allen felt an old stirring deep inside him. His cock began to grow and stiffen.

Then the scene changed. They were in another place. Indoors, in this bedroom! They were kissing, and Allen imagined he felt the softness of her lips on his. Then he was undressing her, and she was undressing him. They fell onto this very bed together, naked.

Allen's erection was now full and insistent. He pulled down the boxers he habitually slept in and grasped it. A wave of pleasure washed over him, as the vision continued and he and Rosa did wild, unspeakable things to each other's bodies. Then he was inside her, thrusting, possessing her, and she was moaning, thrusting back at him, begging him for more. His stroking of his hard cock was in time with his thrusts.

Then Rosa came, mouth wide, calling his name as she thrashed beneath him. He followed, over the cliff, his cock erupting and filling her warm, wet center.

He came back to reality and found that he had left a wet, sticky trail all the way up to his chest. He was holding his still pulsing cock, feeling the last waves of release. It had been the first time since Grace was alive that he had felt that desire.




It was a week later, a day that had started out sunny but now had clouds threatening rain soon. The breeze played with Rosa's hair, sending it this way and that, exposing different parts of her face as she spoke.

"Have you thought any more about what I offered before?" she said.

"What was that again?"

"I could introduce you to someone. An older woman friend of mine who I think would like you."

"Oh. I guess the main problem I have with that is I've been a little insecure. I can't imagine why your friend would find me attractive."

"Oh no, Allen, that's just wrong. You have so much going for you."

"Could you tell me some? Maybe that would help."

"Okay. First, you're tall. Nearly all women like that."

"I suppose."

"You're very intelligent, but you're modest about it."

"If you say so."

"I do. And you have a sense of humor. I remember it, and it's coming back. Once you get into the mix, it'll be back full force."

"I hope so. I could use a little of that."

"And you look...experienced. Like you've seen a lot of things, done a lot of things, collected some wisdom."

"If that's another way of saying I look old, I can buy it."

"No, that's not what I mean at all! Look, it's obvious you have a few years on me, but that's a good thing. I like it. It's like the seasoning on a cast iron skillet. It builds up over time, it might look a little funky, but it makes the pan cook better."

"That's a pretty good line. Mind if I steal it?"

"See, now you're getting it!"

"But what about this?" He patted his midsection, where he was convex. "Little out of shape, wouldn't you say?"

"That's easy to overlook, with everything else you have going. As long as you're healthy. Honestly, lots of women won't even care."

"I care. It bugs me."

"And, listen to me Allen, you're a good friend."

"Am I?"

"Yes. Take my word for it. I mean, look at all you've given me!"

She threw her arms wide, encompassing the rose garden and its explosion of color.

The rain took them by surprise, coming on suddenly, while she still held her gesture. It came in a torrent of large drops that would soak their clothes in seconds. They jumped up from the bench and raced to Allen's kitchen door, laughing. They were not fast enough to escape the brunt of the cloudburst.

Once inside, Allen went to get towels for them, dripping on the carpet. He returned to find Rosa drenched, her wet clothes plastered to her body, revealing every curve. She was still breathing fast and deeply from the sudden sprint. Her breasts, encased in their now-visible bra cups, rose and fell with each breath. His body reacted to the sensual sight, and he found himself tumescent, pushing out the front of his wet shorts.

Oh god, I'm caught! he thought. There's no way she doesn't see that.

He made to cover himself with his towel, but Rosa moved too quickly for him. In a moment she had her arms around his waist and crushed herself against him, pressing his erection against the front of her own sodden shorts.

"I'm sorry, Rosa—" he began.

"No," she whispered fiercely. "Don't be sorry, don't be ashamed. It's good. It means you're alive."

"You're alive!" she repeated.

Allen was stunned into silence.

"Isn't it time for you?" she went on, in a low but intense voice. "Time you felt a woman's touch again? Will you let me be the first?"

He found his voice. "Rosa, do you really want me?"

"Yes," she said. "Do you want me?"

His breath caught in his throat. "Yes," he admitted. Then, stronger, "Yes, I do."

She raised her face to his. He met her halfway and their lips joined. Hers were as warm and soft as they had been in his fantasy. He pulled her closer and kissed her hungrily. She was all sweetness and passion in one. It seemed to go on endlessly, but at last they separated.

"Let's get these wet things off and get dry," she breathed.

She worked at the buttons of his shirt. When she was half done, he collected himself enough to do the same for her. The shirts came off. Trouser buttons and zippers were next. Shoes were kicked off. They were left in their underwear: she in matching plum bra and panties, he in black cotton briefs featuring his prominent bulge. They patted each other dry with the towels, pausing to kiss again.

"Won't you show me your bedroom, Allen?" she asked.

He took her hand and led her there.

It was simply furnished. There was the queen-size bed, made up for summer with percale sheets and light bedspread only. Two bedside tables and a chest of drawers completed the inventory. Atop the chest was a vase containing a few roses Allen had taken from the garden the day before. Their scent perfumed the air.

Allen sat on the bed and reclined back. Rosa climbed on next to him and grasped his erection through his briefs, running her mouth along his neck and jaw line. Her smallish but plump golden breasts were tantalizing him from their cups, only inches from his face. Still, he felt unsettled, and realized why.

"Rosa," he said.

"Yes?"

"There's something I need to tell you."

"Go ahead." She continued to stroke him and kiss his neck.

"I was faithful to Grace for almost thirty years. We were comfortable together, but not...adventurous. I don't mean we didn't have passion—we did, but it was what you call today 'vanilla'. So with some things I'm going to be...rusty."

"What kind of things?" she asked. "You mean, like oral?"

"Well...yes. We never did that very much, and she wanted it less and less in the later years. Giving or receiving."

It felt strange to him to be revealing these intimate details about himself and his late wife, but Rosa, as a new partner, needed to know.

She paused but continued to lightly squeeze him.

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