Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pink Roses, Pink Roses, Red Valentine's Day

Emille Elizabeth Prescott held back her black dress with a pinch of her white-gloved hand as February threatened to deluge the cemetery with an early spring shower. She glanced away from her husband’s gravestone to the other graves and gauged how the other visitors reacted to the intimidating gusts and increasingly measurable spikes of cold rain. So far, none of the eight or nine visitors left. She watched as an elderly woman struggled to bend down on her knees and adjust old plastic flowers in the sod. Another elderly woman belatedly realized what her friend or sister was doing and walked over to her with a mild scolding.
Emille Elizabeth Prescott read her husband’s gravestone again, aloud, as she had done a dozen times this Valentine’s afternoon; as she had done dozens of times on every Valentine’s Day for the last twenty five years.
“In Memory of Roger Ennis Prescott, Beloved Son, Brother, and Husband, Born 1913, Died 1935.”
She pinched her dress back again as the naked, dark forest behind the cemetery fence cracked and knocked against their skeletons. Yet, no gust ever came.
“In Memory of Roger Ennis Prescott, Beloved Son, Brother, and Husband, Born 1913, Died 1935.”
She read her husband’s gravestone again, aloud, and then read the poem engraved in the center of the granite marker from memory as she watched the elderly women nearby carefully lay a wreath against the gravestone.
“Pink roses, pink roses, pink Wedding Day
Red roses, red roses, red Valentine’s Day”
The elderly women started to bicker, though trivial and curt from such distance. Emille Elizabeth Prescott looked down at her husband’s marker and thought to remove the twigs piled against it like a nasty sprite’s nest. She thought to wipe away the greenish black moss or lichen from the face that covered her half of the marker.
“Over there. Get up.”
She heard one of the elderly women demand. Emille Elizabeth Prescott sighed and bent down near the gravestone and, at first hesitating as she took in the whiteness of her gloves, rubbed her hand against the stone to wipe away the moss.
“Pink roses, pink roses, pink Wedding Day…” She whispered, watched for her name to appear on the marker. “Red roses, red roses, red –“
“There. That's his stone. I told you, Marta, he was by the cedars. How embarrassing.”
“I never claimed differently. We were looking for the bushes, remember? We both lost our bearings, Sissy. Where are the rose bushes?”
Emille Elizabeth Prescott ignored the two ladies as they walked up to her husband’s grave and stood there looking down at her husband’s marker as if she were a stranger or a fan. She now recognized them though, unlike her, they appeared to strangely age with every Valentine’s Day visit to the cemetery. She wiped the down the marker again, this time looking at her glove and expecting it to now be green with moss; greenish-black with moss or lichen. But, her glove was white.
“They must have…well they yanked them right up, Marta. The only good thing she ever did was plant those pink tea roses.”
“Those weren’t tea roses, Sissy. She only liked Lincoln Souvenirs.”
“Apothecaries, and I’m sure of it. Yes, that’s his marker. Oh, dear; look at that.”
 “Coupe de hebe rose.” She corrected the ladies, but they ignored her.
A gust of rain beat against the ground and then blew in sideways like a wedding dress sweeping across the floor on the first dance. Emille Elizabeth Prescott did not feel the rain. The large cedar bushes must have blocked her from the gust. She wiped her hand once more against the stone marker now wet and darkening, and she read the words aloud, indifferent to the elderly ladies who now stood beside her.
“In Memory of Emille Elizabeth Prescott, Beloved Daughter, Sister, and Wife, Born 1911.”
“Disgusting. She had no right to put her name on his –“
“Enough, Marta. We don’t need to mention it every time we visit. I only wish we would have gone through with it. I told you I had the money to change the registry for another stone.”
Emille Elizabeth Prescott leaned against the stone and could not help but listen in on her husband’s miserable sisters. Another stone?
“I sold Levi’s property in Sacramento. I sent you those company brochures. The O’Dells even offered to --”
“—To hell with the O'Dells and their schemes. And I told you not to sell anything until Gerald talked to that bitch’s little brother –“
“—Marta! For goodness sake, woman. You have always had the sourest language. Your tongue could skin a cat.”
“If I can’t call a murderer a bitch, then what could I call her? She pushed him out that window as sure as it’s raining. Twenty eight years ago to this day, she—”
“—Enough Marta. Never had any proof either way, and we did all we could do. You know Little Ennis was hardly the marrying kind. He drove them all mad.”
“Sissy! How could you even think of such a thing?”
“Oh for goodness sake, now look what you’ve done. You left the wreath on that other grave. And it’s raining curtains. Of course, you left the umbrella in --”
“—Let’s say our prayers and go, Sissy. Let’s…say our prayers.”
Emille Elizabeth Prescott pushed herself up from the wet grass, smoothed out the front of her black dress with the back of her gloved hand. She thought to say something to her miserable sisters-in-law, but what could she say? Marta always suspected something was amiss. Nothing Emille Elizabeth Prescott said or did could ever shillyshally Marta out of that knowing stare. At all the family functions…that knowing, glowering, speculating stare. And Marta knew, too, that Ennis; that her Roger Ennis Prescott was not the marrying kind. Sissy was right. Sissy was often right. Roger Ennis Prescott was a sprite. A sprite. Had he sent the proper roses to her room on that fateful Valentine’s Day years ago, then Emille Elizabeth Prescott would have forgiven her husband’s latest fling across the city.
“Miss Davis.” She whispered, holding her thin elbows. "Miss Davis. Miss Haynes the month before."
Had her husband sent the pink roses and not the red ones; then Emille Elizabeth Prescott might have remained the blameless wife, the obedient wife; the movie star's obedient and blameless wife…and not the murderous wife.
Emille Elizabeth Prescott watched the women walk arm in arm to their car parked at the cemetery’s grand fountain and cathedral arched gates. And when they drove off, the rain shot down from the sky even harder and thicker and a more silvery incandescence like a lovely silver curtain lowered above the stage on cue. How she loved the rain, especially this rain. Rain helped explain why her husband had to shut the opened window at the Hollywood Gardens Hotel. Rain helped explain how her husband slipped from the iron guardrail and fell from their eight story room. Rain helped to wash away her blood streaked red across the broken panes of the French door when her husband struggled and tried to pull her down with him. Rain shot down, too, like a lovely silver curtain, as if on cue, like it had on that red Valentine’s Day.
Emille Elizabeth Prescott clasped her right hand over her left and felt the deep cuts; but she saw only the white of her gloves. Like the police that night; only the white of her white-gloved hands. She bent down to read the gravestone once again.
"In Memory of Emille Elizabeth Prescott, Beloved Daughter, Sister, and Wife, Born 1911, Died 1960."
Pink roses, pink roses, pink Wedding Day
Emille Elizabeth Prescott’s wedding was all in Coupe de hebe; and white was her wedding dress, and pink were all her roses. The least her husband could do was send her a proper Valentine’s like she asked, like she needed; to remember that day, to forgive that man, to remind her of his promise made that day, but never forgive red…red roses; never red roses, red Valentine’s Day.

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