tagNonHumanNine Roses for Ramona

Nine Roses for Ramona

bySSobotkaJr©

~ The Southend Apartments, Greenwich Village, NYC, Feb. 14th... ~

Amid a crash of thunder from outside the brownstone building, the doors to the foyer opened, allowing the haggard form of Ramona Yarborough to stumble inside.

Her appearance at that was far from the fashionable, attractive woman she was known to be. Caught in the torrential downpour of rain, the lithe woman was soaked from the top of her head, right down to her stylish pumps: one of which had snapped off its heel when she tromped through a puddle, hiding a storm grate. Her light overcoat had been scant protection against the wet, and her dress suit and blouse underneath were waterlogged through and through.

"Jesus," she sighed heavily, her pale complexion coloring with a flush of anger, as she shrugged to keep her purse from slipping off one shoulder, while balancing one, equally wet package and a bag of groceries in her other arm. "You'd think the weatherman would be a tad more reliable!" she muttered, limping across the tile floor of the lobby to the elevator. "It's bad enough today was a total bitch to get through at the boutique, too!" She paused to press her elbow on the up-button, while she wiggled her hand into the side pocket of her purse, fishing for her apartment keys. While she struggled to get her keychain out, the doors to the elevator slid open with a soft ping, allowing her only seconds to shuffle inside.

"God, I hate being wet like this," she said crossly, before she pulled out her keys, only to have the broken end of her shoe tumble out onto the floor in the process. "Ooo, but I just HATE when THAT happens!" She stooped to pick up the offending heel, only to accidentally fling her apartment keys away from her grasp. They clattered on the lobby floor, laying just a yard beyond the elevator entrance. With a growl, she leaned out with her hand outstretched to snag them by the key fob... just as the doors started to shut around her middle.

"Ah, damnit... wait, one, MINUTE!" she shouted sharply, lunging to hook the keys on one finger. She pulled them into her fist, only just able to pull her body back in before it got pinched between the two heavy doors.

Inside the elevator cab, she leaned against the wall on one shoulder, breathing deeply as she tried to gather her frazzled nerves together. With a shudder racing along her frame, as a trickle of cold air from the overhead vent on the ceiling above her hitting behind her exposed neck, she said, "On top of this, every one's been bustling about, getting their Valentine's gifts... and they're just happy about it." She shifted her grip on her bag, punching the brass button with her floor number on it. With an upward bump, the cab slowly rose, taking her further away from the wet, dismal world outside.

"I shouldn't be so... well, down about this," she told herself. "It's bad enough when you have to cater to every moon-eyed fellow and lady, looking for that perfect gift for their significant other... I just wish mine wasn't involved in that World Poker gig right now." Running her free hand through her wet, auburn hair, Ramona sighed gustily. "I guess I shouldn't be mad at him... that's how he makes his living, outside of his work for Mr. Piccoli, that is. I mean, pro gambler or hotel dick... he's not some jobless bum..."

Frowning softly, Ramona added, "Though, he'd be here if he was jobless. I'd hope..."

She left that thought to idle for a bit, as the elevator slowly ground to a stop; the floor indicator emitting a ping-ping sound as the doors slid open. Juggling her purse, package and bag, she limped across the threshold into the hallway. "God, will the day ever end... damnit!" she cursed, as her purse slipped off her shoulder once more, followed by the clatter of her keys...

# # #

Twisting the doorknob to shut the door behind her, Ramona closed her eyes for a moment, before opening them to take in the in the dim-lit apartment around her. "Swell... Sasha must've left the lights off when she left for [name]," she muttered crossly. Staggering across the floor towards the small kitchen, she kicked her shoes off before she fell over something. Inside, she plopped the armload of her daily belongings on the counter with a grunt.

"Just as well Sasha's not here," she admitted. "I'd have given her what for, after the day I've had!" Leaning on her arms against the cool countertop, she dropped her head and sighed once more. "Man, I SO need a bath and something to eat!" Reaching up, she turned around and reached for the pull cord for the overhead light...

*CLICK!*

Blinking in the sudden illumination, Ramona's amber eyes widened at the sight in front of her: dangling from the light switch cord, tied with a ribbon of silk, was a single yellow rose!

"What the-?" she gasped, looking around the kitchen out of reflex, but seeing nothing else out of the ordinary. "What's this doing... here?" Her question trailed off as she looked at the rose again, and spied a small, folded card attached to its stem. Her foul mood somewhat forgotten, she seized the card between two fingers and opened it... finding lines of printed, decorative script inside, which read:

"A joy to have the woman of the house, Home again from her daily labors... I Am a Message, Sent to Bring You to A Happy End. My Eight Fellows await your discovery...

The Second Is where the Notes of Harmony Rest, To Perform to Your Beck and Call!"

"Whoa," Ramona breathed, reading the card over again to absorb its meaning. "A Message, it says... eight others await my discovery?" She puzzled for a moment longer, then reached up and untied the rose and card from the pull cord. Forgetting about her packages, even her wet clothes for the moment, she left the kitchen while pondering the riddle in the words.

"...'where the Notes of Harmony Rest'," she murmured. "Harmony... music?" Reaching for the wall switch, she turned on the living room lights, filling the darkened apartment with more light...

As the soft glow lit the room up, her eyes slid over the decorative furnishings and furniture that made up her home. She came to rest where the modern stereo setup sat in a bookshelf on one wall. There she spied a flash of color, resting on the top of the tuner!

"A-hah!" she said, walking across the carpet towards it. There, she found another rose: this one a single, long-stemmed blossom with lavender petals.

"Well, this is a nice color," she mused, picking it up gingerly. Upon doing so, she spied another small card, tied with a matching ribbon on its stem. "Hm, another one..." She flipped the card over, and read another segment of script:

"Just Push Play."

"Just push... play?" Blinking, Ramona glanced at the stereo; down where the CD player sat underneath the tuner. The small digital readout presented her with the blinking letters "PAUSED", while a lighted triangle that indicated the Play button winked in tandem, like a waiting traffic light.

"Well, why not?" Without further comment, Ramona stabbed one fingernail out, touching the Play button firmly. The lights stopped winking, while the display switched to read "PLAY". At once, the speakers filled with the bluesy, soothing strains of a jazz quartette... one she recognized immediately.

"Oo... now, that's good," she said, pausing to let the music fill her mind, further banishing the sour thoughts of her day. She chuckled a bit, thinking this was a strange thing to have found in her home, but the little part of her that craved an adventure told her to go with the flow...

She almost got too into the music, when she turned her head to the small mini-bar over in the corner. There, another splash of color caught her eye, next to a tray that held a neat decanter and tumbler set, a small open ice bucket...

...and a pale, pink rose, in a crystal flute!

"Another one," she said, moving away from the stereo to step up to the bar. Putting the yellow and lavender roses down on the counter, she took in the sight of the ensemble seated on the tray. Eyeing the decanter, she recognized the amber liquid inside. "A-ha... rum!" She then noticed a small, portable cooler sitting just behind the bar top, where two small containers sat chilling in a bed of ice, next to a cluster of lime slices.

Without pause, she looked at the rose, and saw that this one also had a card affixed to its stem. With a chuckle, she plucked the bloom from the flute. "I'm sensing a pattern here." True enough, when she opened the card, more words were written inside:

"A Recipe for Sweetness: Mix Pineapple & Orange Juice Grenadine and Rum, over ice with a Lime Twist!

From Three to Four, Who Waits Where Purest Pleasures Are Collected to Ease Your Worries Away..."

A smile curled around her lips. "Hmm, a bit of sweet stuff and another riddle," she mused. "This is getting interesting, more and more..." Adding the pink rose to the other two, she opened the decanter, letting the heady aroma of spiced, thick rum fill her nose. "Mmm, lovely!" She poured some into the tumbler, adding ice and the rest of the items, using her finger to swirl the contents into her favorite drink. With a giggle, she sucked the remnants off her finger, relishing the tart-sweet taste left on her taste buds.

"Yum!" She picked up the glass, and the roses, turning away to ponder the new riddle. "Now... where 'Purest Pleasures' are collected," she pondered briefly, before her eyes lit up. "Hey, that should have been a no-brainer!" Stepping quickly across the living room, she left the stereo to play one while she headed towards the back of the apartment.

Ducking around the corner of the small connecting hallway to face the bathroom door, she grinned at her intuitiveness. "I'm getting good at this," she grinned, shifting the roses to her other hand as she opened the bathroom door slowly.

Surprisingly, the light was already on inside, though the usual stark, white bulb had been replaced with a soft, pale one that filled the white-tiled space, illuminating the glass doors of her shower and tub with a warm, rich glow. Also, the usual smells of bathroom disinfectant, and vanity soap were replaced with the tantalizing, crisp scent of a light vanilla.

"Hmm, now what?" Ramona asked herself. She set the roses and the drink on the sink, before placing her hands on her kips as she scanned the room. There, on the closed seat of the toilet, a neatly-folded white bath towel sat... on top of which, was a sealed, glass bottle of an oil-like substance, and a single, white rose with it's own card.

"Ahhh... now, what's this one going to tell me?" Ramona reached own mad lifted both rose and bottle, giving the latter a cursorily sniff before grinning. "Lemon Grass!" Opening the card, not surprising to her by now, was a small list in fine print:

"One - Fill bathtub. Two - Mix in Oil of Lemon Grass; make bubbles. Three - Insert one (1) redhead. Four - Let simmer for two hours, and then remove from heat."

Chuckling, Ramona shook her head. "Oh, such an impeccable gourmet tastes." Replacing the rose, she hefted the glass bottle and stepped over to the wide-sided tub, sliding the shower door open with a single push. A deft twist of the faucets started the water, so she waited for a few moments, before uncorking the bottle to pour its contents into the running stream of hot water.

"Mmm, I would have done something like this... but, this seems a lot better now," she murmured. As the tub filled with sudsy water, she suddenly got the urge to get out of her damp clothes, right quick! Without decorum, she unbuttoned her dark suit coat and blouse, shimmying out of her dress skirt and panties in one sweep, before bending over to roll down the stockings on her long legs. A flick of the front clasp sent her lace-topped bra to the floor, just as the tub was filled to the proper level.

"Perfect!" she beamed, turning the water off. Naked, she turned back to retrieve her drink, before stepping over the side, into the aromatic steam issuing from the foam-topped water...

#

An hour or so later, Ramona had replaced her nearly empty drink on the shelf-side of the tub, humming contentedly to herself. "Yes," she sighed, feeling warm and relaxed from the still hot water surrounding her body. "Much... better!"

With a happy shiver, she craned her head up from where it rested against the back of the tub, looking to where a small shelf rested on the back of the shower wall. Someone had left a set of hurricane candles there; lit and slowly burning to fill the space of the bathroom with that light, vanilla scent.

It was there, she found yet another rose - this one a deeper pink than the one on the mini-bar - affixed with another, tiny-scripted note:

"This Fifth Rose, To Give Thanks to a Precious Woman, Who Will Find the Sixth, Guarding Your Evening Attire

Seek it Behind the White Door."

Ramona held the deep pink petals to her nose, sniffing the light scent with relish. "Mmmm... the Sixth rose, hm? Someone's gone through a lot of trouble to put this together," she said softly. A small smile flickered across her lips, as she rose to sit upright in the suds. "I'd almost want to call this out... but," she mused, another shiver of delight racing along her body. "Why not see what's at the end? After all, I've got four more to find!"

She turned to retrieve her drink, pushing up to stand in the middle of the tub, the sleek curves of her body covered with wet and trailing bubbles. Stepping out, she placed the glass and the new rose next to the other four, before snagging the bath towel to dry herself. Rubbing the cotton terry-cloth over her skin, she was soon glowing with a shade of freshly-washed pink, all over every inch of her skin.

As she rubbed her short, auburn locks dry, she pondered aloud, "Now, the sixth one... behind the 'white door' it said." She pulled the towel away, glancing at the still-open door of the bathroom. "Oh, brother! Considering it's the only white door in the whole place-!" She cut herself off, reaching out to pull the door shut...

"Oh... my!" she gasped. Hanging from the hook mounted on the top of the door -where her bathrobe usually was - was a wire clothes hanger. On which, a set of lingerie, made of sheer, pale coral silk and lace waited. She could see that it was something very chic... very sensual, from the cut of the silken panels... as well, it was something obviously meant to be seen, as well as worn!

Almost an afterthought, twined around the neck of the hanger was a coral-colored rose.

Lifting it from the hook, Ramona twirled it around, locating a matching set of panties and what appeared to be stockings, clipped to the back of the hanger. "Good Lord! Now... this is... ohm God!" She grinned wickedly to herself. "If this is what I think it's for..." Without another word, she dropped her damp towel and replaced the hanger on the hook, before removing the wisps of sheer white to begin putting them on.

In minutes, Ramona finished dressing in the outfit, rolling up the thigh-high stockings into place on her legs. Rising to her full height, she admired the intricate lace patter on the stocking tops briefly, before turning to look at herself in the bathroom mirror. The entire ensemble consisted of the stockings, along with a pair of low-cut panties, which fitted her to a T, over which a pair of sheer panels of cloth formed a flirty mini-skirt, trimmed with matching accents of the same lace on the stockings. The top had been somewhat of a surprise, consisting of a long swath of the same coral cloth, which she soon discovered which was meant to wind around her breasts and chest like a modified halter, the ends of which tied around her neck with slim, silk ribbons. Accented with more lace, the top did little to hide her charms; by now, her nipples were hard not to miss, peeking through the fabric like beacons.

Turning this way and that, Ramona admired the outfit. "Mmm, now this is a nice little nightie," she smiled, her amber eyes half-closed with pleasure. This was something meant for pleasure, all right... and she was certain at this point who was behind this little treasure hunt.

That reminded her of the sixth rose, which she'd left on the hanger during all of her time getting dressed up! Turning, she gently unwound the rose... sure enough, another card was attached!

"Seven Guards Thy Boudoir Door, Enter There, For What It In Store!"

Ramona chuckled low, turning quickly to scoop the other roses up to join this one. "I think I've got a clue as to what's in store for me," she said knowingly. Pulling the bathroom door open, she stepped out into the hallway and turned towards the front of the apartment...

The strains of more smoky jazz continued to play from the stereo in the living room... but, the surprising thing was the lights were all dimmed; revealing the late hour outside from the added glow of the streetlights, filtering in through the nearly-closed blinds.

"Hmm, someone's been... busy, while I was in the bath," she murmured. Turning back down the hallway, she nearly floated down the last few steps that led her - past Sasha's room - to the doorway of her own room.

Another rose and card hung jauntily from the doorknob, this one a striking combination of yellow petals tipped with a touch of deep red. Looking closer, Ramona could see the stem was totally bare of thorns.

"Hmm, some guardian! This wouldn't even hurt a fly," she grinned. Lifting it away from the door, she turned both flower and card over to read what was written there:

"As I Fell in Lowe, So May You Do As Well... With What Awaits Within..."

"Aw, how sweet," she sighed, lifting the rose to place a light kiss on its petals. With that done, she added it to the others in her hand, and then she reached out and opened the door slowly...

Peering inside, the first thing Ramona noticed was the warm light glowing from dozens of candles, filling nearly every corner of the room. This highlighted the changes that struck her nearly speechless with awe... gone was the usual day-to-day clutter of clothes, shoes and personal items. The room had been swept tidy, and even the furniture was clean and gleaming with polish.

Leaving the door to swing wide open, Ramona gazed with wonder at it all... for, the icing on this cake was the state of her queen-sized bed; made up with dark, cotton sheets and a satin comforter. Over this, a decorative canopy of gossamer, black fabric hung from a thin, wooden framework, meant to suggest the appearance of a four-poster bed frame. A pile of plush pillows finished the overall effect.

Stepping inside the room, Ramona walked with barely-conscious thought towards the bed. Her eyes had fallen on a single spot of color, lying like a jewel in the center of the bed. Getting closer, she leaned over to reach out, her hand closing over the stem of single, bright red rose.

"I... should have guessed this," she whispered, not sure why she was trying to be not so loud. Searching, the rose revealed no card... which puzzled Ramona. This had to be the eighth rose, right? she thought to herself. So, where was the clue to lead her to the ninth?

She was about to start searching for it, when a low, warm voice said, "Turn around, Doll..."

The breath she'd been about to take stalled in her throat, colliding with her heart as she nearly jumped ten feet in surprise! In truth, she shouldn't have been... but, the tone in that voice - that oh-so familiar voice! - was like hot jazz, laced with spice that was meant to burn so good as it trickled down your spine!

Pivoting on her heel, Ramona turned slowly around... her eyes closing briefly, as if to prepare her for either a further surprise, or just anticipating the sight of the speaker. When she stopped, she opened her eyes... and nearly lost her breath again!

"Hiya," John Walker smiled, his dark eyes flashing with indigo fire as he greeted her.

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