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Stolen Roses

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Roses. Always white roses. Deep green branches creeping up and over iron bars, black in moonlight. Each thorn blushing pink like skinned knees, thin stems coiling needle-edges like half-forgotten nightmares around fingers that linger too long and close. Greedily, they drink up the blood as it wells, wick it away like water in soil.

A girl. Always the same. Kneeling at their foot, fingers tender below the blossoms. She folds as in prayer, but her head never bows, her lips soft and still. In the space between breaths, the sound of Time winds through in silence, undulating like a serpent. Tenderly, she bends a bloom to her cheek and lets silken petals kiss her face, even as its branches bite her hand.

Eyes. Never hers. Infinity etched in obsidian, observing intricacies: moments like drops in a black ocean, stretching into the grey horizon. They watch as seconds tick into eternity, as years stretch and collapse into this singular scene, a girl of ten—twelve—sixteen—nineteen—twenty-five—kneeling in a garden of white roses.

This place does not smell of blossoms warm in the sunshine, heavy and honeyed, swaying drunk in a breeze like leaden bees. Each satin bloom scents drops of jasmine and white wax, subtle traces of spermaceti and sweet almond. The aroma is a memory, carefully captured and pressed between each petal, like pages in a book. When it begins to fade from her mind, she comes here, where every touch is as a gentle bid goodnight, every breath the illusion of beloved presence.

Water flows upward here, tears disappearing from cheeks before they fall. She always stays until every one is gone, dropped into the sky.

A boy of fifteen—seventeen—twenty—three hundred—four thousand—coalesces behind her, then, waiting patiently for her sharp gaze, crystallized blood amber, empty of grief. He offers a hand for damaged fingers, and she takes it every time, crimson in thin rivulets smearing his palm. He remembers how it should feel, the burning sting like each break in skin is alive with its own mind, crawling, crying out. But her face never changes, as though the pain is no consequence, not even when he grips her small hand tight to his chest.

Moments into years, seconds ticking backward, time flowing both directions.

Roses, white roses, leaf-edges dipped in russet shades, stems curling over iron lattice, thorns like gentle teeth, scent lingering on the air like tears leaving their ocean-salt on skin; eyes that remember, with hands clasped tight, memories the heart grasps and holds until they fracture, fragment, can’t let go, won’t let go, don’t let go…

Children, together in a garden of lament.