Young Annie, of only five years of age, sat in the basement of her house, painting a picture. It was quite obviously the work of Annie’s age, not exceeding in the intricacy five years of life. What she was drawing was quite recognizable however: Annie herself, drawn with exaggerated features and nothing more than lines for limbs stared back at the young painter from the once blank canvas. From the room, which Annie sat and painted, occasional shouts could be heard. There were two distinct voices, and the shouts came from a man or woman, anger or fear, dominance or frailty. Annie was not distracted by these shouts however, and remained focused on her work. Seldom, yet still apparent, were occasional signs that the argument had exceeded that of mere words.
Suddenly, Annie heard a series of “thuds”, increasing in amplification, which were shortly followed one by another. They traveled across the ceiling above her, progressing from one side to the other. The thudding ceased, and Annie now heard the sound of a doorknob being quickly operated. The door to the basement could be heard flying open, and slammed shut, followed by aggressive slams upon it, and finally its locking. Annie could now hear footsteps frantically descending the old wooden stairs, and questioned as to who may be creating such clamor. Then, she could tell simply by the sound of exhausted gasping who it was, and from behind the wall separating Annie from the stairs, stepped her suspicion. Annie’s mother, Laurie, still retaining her natural beauty through a beaten complexion, stumbled towards Annie and collapsed onto a small wooden chair.
Lauren Jackson, referred to as Laurie by her family and friends, was the fatigued woman across from young Annie. She had given birth to Annie at an age considered young by most, and was now only 26. She had always been very beautiful, and even in her current physical condition held a complexion that would almost certainly induce sympathy by even the most critical man. She was very specific in her desires, yet also was rather understanding if they were not met. This understanding proved to be a flaw however, for she was easily deceived. She was also an extremist in regard to the concept of self-blame, and was unable to look at most situations realistically because of this trait dominating her judgment.
“What are you doing down here, sweetie?” Laurie asked her daughter.
“I’m painting a picture!” Answered Annie, with extreme pride.
“Oh, can I see?” Asked Laurie, slowly rising from her seat.
Annie scooted back, and turned the painting towards her mother.
“That’s beautiful! Is that you?” asked the weary woman.
“Yeah! It is!” Annie said, flattered.
Laurie had now risen from her chair, and walked over to the bed Annie was on. She took a seat next to her, hugged her tightly, and kissed her head.
“I wanted to paint upstairs, but you and Daddy were being too loud!” Said Annie with her usual light-hearted tone.
“Aw, I’m sorry sweetie. You see, Daddy isn’t in a very good mood today.” Laurie replied, attempting to remain positive along with her daughter.
“I feel so sorry for Daddy, he’s never in a good mood. Why can’t he be happy?” Annie asked.
Joseph Jackson, a 36-year-old office manager, was the man being spoken of. He did not undergo an instant emotional change, but was not the same man now as he was before. He was once a man of intellect, of creativity, and love, but now he was intellectually drained, dull, and brutish. He married Lauren when he was 25, and in the early days of their marriage he was everything she desired in a husband. Throughout the course of their marriage, however, he lost his generous personality, even more so when Annie entered the world. He did not resent Annie, but was frustrated by his daughter’s individualistic personality and disobedience. She could extract only the truth from him, and the young girl spotted any lies easily.
“Well, when he doesn’t get what he wants, he gets very upset, and sometimes he asks too much of Mommy.” Laurie asked sadly.
“Oh, so its his fault?” asked Annie.
“Sometimes sweetie. Sometimes. Sometimes though, its mommy’s fault.” Laurie answered, losing her optimism.
“But if daddy asks for something that you don’t want to give him, why does he get so sad?” Annie asked.
“I don’t know sweetheart. He just does.” Laurie answers, frustrated that she cannot give Annie a more definitive answer.
Annie sits still, trying to comprehend the confusing answer. She brushes it aside however, not finding a purpose. She looks at her mother, and gives a confused frown.
“What happened to your face mommy?” Annie asked, confused.
“Wh-When I tried to go down the stairs earlier, I forgot to tie my shoe, and I slipped and fell!” Laurie answered nervously.
Annie looked at her mother as if she had been told animals could speak.
“That’s not why Mommy.” she said with confidence.
Laurie sighed, knowing she could not put on a false expression in the presence of her honest daughter.
“You’re right sweetie. Mommy lied. What really happened is, well, Daddy did this,” she answered shyly.
“Oh, that’s it! I believe you now. Daddy does that a lot, doesn’t he?”
Laurie looked at her daughter using all possible self-control not to erupt into a sea of tears.
“Yes Annie, he does.” She answered, her eyes emitting a shine from the tears, which created a reflective cover on her deep blue eyes.
“Why does he do that, Mommy?” Annie asked, sympathetically.
“Well, when he gets upset he likes to blame Mommy for it. Whether or not it’s my fault, he likes to.” Laurie answered, angry at simply thinking of him.
“Why?” Annie asked.
Laurie paused for a moment, thinking. Indecisive, she decided to change the subject slightly.
“Do you want to hear a story, Annie?” She asked, in an attempt to lighten the mood of the conversation.
“Oh, yes, yes, yes!” Annie replied, bursting with excitement.
“Ok! Well when Mommy and Daddy were younger, we used to get each other gifts on random days because we loved each other,” she started.
Annie snuggled up against her mother, laying her head on her lap.
“And one day, your Daddy came up to me with a big red rose in his hand! I knew he was going to give it to me, so I got really happy! He walked up to me, and held the rose out. He said ‘I give this rose to you, because I love you. I give this rose to you because, I always will.’ I got those stomach butterflies you get when you get a good present, and kissed Daddy. Then, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was so happy I could just scream, but I stayed as calm as I could. I said yes, and then Daddy and I got married the next year!” Laurie continued.
Annie smiled at the story.
“Is that why you love Daddy?” She asked happily.
“Yes Annie, that’s why I love Daddy.” Laurie answered, finally smiling.
Annie sat still for a moment, smiling at her mother’s response, until suddenly she became very serious, and sat up and looked at Laurie, confused.
“But why?” She asked.
“Why what Annie?” Laurie asked, confused.
“Why do you still love Daddy? He gave you that rose a long, long time ago, and now he gets upset and is mean to you. Why do you still love him?”
Laurie was, once again, extremely close to tears.
“Well, when Daddy’s mean to me, I like to think about that rose he gave me. When I think about it, I feel better. I feel like Daddy can get better. I still have it, and sometimes I like to look at it. It reminds me of how he used to be!” Laurie responded.
“Mommy, that’s silly.” Annie said confidently.
“How’s that silly, Annie?” Laurie responded, quite confused.
“Daddy isn’t like that anymore. Why would you still love Daddy if he isn’t like that anymore? That’s why I don’t love Daddy.”
Crying quietly, Laurie stood up and walked across the room. She pulled out a small shoebox from behind the shelves. She walked back to Annie, and sat down next to her. She opened the box, and pulled out an old, withered and decayed rose. The petals that were once of a rich scarlet color, were now shriveled and decayed. The stem was flimsy and deformed, not resembling the natural green of most flowers.
“When I look at this flower, I feel like Daddy still loves me. He said he would always love me, and I believed him. If I keep showing him I love him back, he’ll stop being so mean to me and he’ll be nice again. Maybe I should show him this flower, you know? Maybe it’ll remind him of how he felt. I think it would help him. This rose will remind him of how he really feels.” Laurie said with hope.
“But Mommy,” Annie began
“Yes sweetie?” Laurie replied
“Mommy, this rose is dead.” Annie said.
Laurie’s tears were now flowing from her eyes, trickling down her face slowly. She had known, yet forced herself to forget.
“You’re right Annie, you’re right. This rose is dead.”
(by Zac Willging)