“You will not die, I won’t allow it. I can’t.”
Rose ducked. Back pressed flat to the brick building when a voice spilled out an open window overhead. They shuffled about the room. And getting caught trespassing could be a stern warning, or immensely bad. But that bloody wrought iron fence wasn’t jumped for no reason.
“You’ve been through a lot,” he continued. “Summer, mid-July, forgotten on the windowsill. Hottest day; record high. No water. And you stuck through it.”
Windowsill? No water? Rose crinkled her nose quizzically. Is he reassuring a plant? She hefted the bag off her shoulders. Wondering, not for the first time, if she’d find it today. Withdrawing a magnet, she crawled, scanning it through the grass.
His exclamation shot her through and through. Cursing him for her near need to squeak, she sipped a deep lulling breath before proceeding.
“Frozen to the roots, but did you die of shock? No! You braved it.”
His voice cracking gave Rose reason to pause. Mouth parted she noted his breathing. Short gulping breaths that held back something more.
“So, I need you to be brave now.”
Glancing over her shoulder, a small browning plant is all she could make out from her vantage point... but his voice...
“Because... I can’t... I can’t lose anything else.”
Wet tears dripped from his words, tugging and tangling her heartstrings. Shifting back to the wall she felt, empathic as she was, his sorrow pouring into her veins.
“You’re so small, and you can’t understand, but... I lost someone today,” he quavered. “You probably remember them for their terrible puns.” He coughed, but it might have been a laugh. “They met you, said you’d grow taller, that they’d root for you.”
“They had open heart surgery yesterday... It didn’t... Mum didn’t...”
Her smile faded.
He inhaled a deep breath, speaking more through his nose, “please... don’t leave me too. Please.”
Rose returned that night, new supplies at hand. She trimmed dead leaves and branches off the plant to the best of her ability, only pausing when she heard the rustling of sheets.
He sleeps with the window open, apparently.
So she swept the blue pot under the windowsill, flashlight in hand to finish what she started. Silently rejoicing when she trimmed back to reveal a speck of green stem. Proper water, mixed in a cocktail of recommended chemicals, and the plant went back to its rightful place.
She collapsed that night in bed. A whole day at the gardeners. Hopefully she remembered the procedures correctly. Even now, as she runs it on a reassuring loop in her mind, she’s shocked she remembers anything. She’d never taken in this much information, not even for class. Speaking of which, is in an hour...