Six dozen roses and the delivery man has gone back out for more. Seven dozen. Eight dozen. How much did he spend?
They don't all fit in her office. She doesn't even have an office. She's a receptionist, for God's sake. She sits at the front desk. She can't see out from behind all the roses. She feels like Sleeping Beauty behind a thorny wall. She thinks she could stay there for a hundred years, until the only memories of her were the whispered stories of old crones. She won't. She parts the
Gary, her boss, emerges from his glass-walled office, sneezing. "What the hell is this?"
"I didn't expect this," she says. "Don't worry, I'll deal with it."
It's only half a lie. She has bruises on her upper arms where Tripp grabbed her last night, a scrape on her hip where she hit the rail of the staircase. She spent the night at Susan's house and she knew twelve hours was enough time for him to lapse into melancholy and order penance. Forgive me, florist, for I have sinned. She just hadn't expected this many.
Six months ago, Gary hired a goateed designer to "defoliate" the office, trucking out all the ficus trees and spanish moss to make room for curved sheets of fiberglass and, as he called it, "negative space." Now, her voice echos off the concrete floors. She sits at a clear desk with a bluetooth earpiece and a keyboard projected onto the glass in front of her. She doesn't even have any pens.
She picks up the first vase, along with her keys and her own, hopelessly-dated cell phone.
Susan answers on the first ring. "Did he send roses?"
"I suppose a hundred would have been going overboard."
"I'm leaving him," she says. At the moment, she means it.
On the third trip,
He nods. "Do you need anything? Can I help?"
She looks toward her car, to where water has leaked onto the passenger seat and the flowers are already starting to wilt in the August sun. "Let's defoliate," she says.
Together, they fling ninety-six roses into the dumpster. They fly, she thinks, like hearts skewered on the tips of darts. And, poised against the wide blue sky, they are beautiful.
BIO: Jennifer Tatroe lives near Seattle with her husband and eight-year-old son.
MOTIVATION: I spent a year volunteering for a domestic violence safehouse in Colorado. Starting over after an abusive relationship requires incredible strength and a solid support system. More often than not, these women end up returning to their abusers until someone or something helps them to break the cycle.
Photo by: Glenda Otero