In today's story, Yellow Roses, a gift of roses has deeper meaning
Today's prompt is in honor of my mom, who died 34 years ago and loved yellow roses. Freewriting is a great way to exercise creativity. It can also be a good way to explore deep emotion.
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More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 83 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Yellow Roses.
Today’s prompt is in honor of my mom, who died 34 years ago, on the day before Valentine’s Day. She was only 48. She loved horses, chocolate pecan turtles, and yellow roses. I miss her very much,
As you may know, my process here is to write from a prompt with no planning and very little editing. I write whatever comes to mind and share it without making changes beyond cleaning up a few typos or odd words here and there. Freewriting like that is a great way to exercise your creativity. It can also be a good way to process deeper feelings.
The stories I share here come in many moods and styles. With my mom on my mind today, I’m not surprised that this story came out as one of love and longing.
And here it is:
Rosebushes grew on the side of the porch. The roses were yellow, vining up a suspended trellis and providing a hint of privacy for those on the wooden porch swing. The blooms were a blushing yellow. Golden in the sun. Not the delicate, pale blossoms sold in town. The ones that came wrapped in green paper and nestled within clouds of baby’s breath.
Carol’s yellow roses were wild and imperfect. Tattered by the wind and nibbled by Japanese beetles when Carol wasn’t fast enough with the soapy water and insecticides. Yet they were beautiful and abundant with a soft tea-rose scent that drifted in through the dining room windows on warm summer days.
Cut roses were rarely brought inside. Carol gave them to the neighbors instead. To the young girls who drew rainbows and unicorns in sidewalk chalk. To the widower who shared his home-baked bread. Sometimes, she bundled a few stems and left them at the blue house up the street.
The woman who lived there had caught Carol once, as she tried to quietly slip away. It was early in the morning. Early enough that Carol hadn’t expected anyone to be awake. But just as her foot left the bottom porch step, the front door opened and a voice called out, “Oh, you’re the one bringing the roses!”
Carol had frozen in place, knowing she needed to turn and smile and say something friendly. The intent was there but her body wasn’t responding. She’d never seen the woman who lived in the blue house now. Not up close at least. Only from a distance as she hustled three small kids into a minivan or went out to collect their mail.
“They’re beautiful,” the woman said graciously. “And a lovely surprise each time, though I’ve wondered if they were meant for someone else?”
The curiosity in her voice was clear and Carol winced. Did she know or was she trying to find out? Carol knew the neighbors talked. They probably all knew what she was doing. Talked about it over coffee and nodded about the sadness of it all.
The moment stretched and the woman waited. Carol could feel her watching. She waited another breath and when she didn’t hear the front door close, she turned to the woman with a smile pasted to her face.
“Just being neighborly,” she said brightly. “I have too many roses and like to spread them around. Random acts of kindness!”
The woman smiled in return, liking the idea of a neighbor who would quietly leave roses at different houses simply to spread a little joy. Carol liked that idea as well, though she knew it wasn’t true. She knew she only left roses at this blue house with the stained-glass transom and flagstone path. Both features she’d helped install many years ago. Long before this woman and her family moved in.
“Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?” the woman offered, her smile fading as she saw Carol turn white and take a quick step back.
“Thank you, no. I should get home. Sorry to have bothered you.”
Carol hurried down the flagstone path, ignoring the woman’s gentle plea for her to wait. As she turned down the sidewalk, she heard the woman say, “I’m Laura, by the way.” Though she pretended not to have heard. She didn’t want the woman to have a name. She didn’t want the woman to be living in the blue house at all.
That was going to be the last time Carol left roses at the blue house. It was a silly thing to do anyway. Sentimental. But a week later, the trellis was heavy with roses and Carol thought of the woman in the blue house as she snipped stem after stem.
She had handled that meeting badly. Probably upset the woman. Laura. Which she hadn’t meant to do. This time, Carol waited until the minivan drove out of sight. She knew Laura was on her own with her kids. No husband or wife to help. Though she didn’t know the story behind that.
Allan, the widower, could have told her. He knew everything about all the neighbors. But Carol had stopped him when the subject of the new family in the blue house had first come up, and he was kind enough to let it drop. She couldn’t very well ask him now. It was one thing to politely listen to his stories and another to show her interest by asking direct questions.
Instead, she lingered in her front yard one morning, fussing with the petunias that grew around her mailbox, until she saw Laura pack up the kids and drive away. She hurried up the street then, glancing this way and that for any onlookers, but hoping it would seem like she was simply out for a walk.
She had started to write Laura a note. Something to leave with the flowers this time. An explanation for her strange behavior. But when she’d sat to write a few words, too many flowed out. She’d crumpled the stationery and left it in her kitchen trash.
For several days after that flower delivery, Carol stayed far from the blue house. She drove out the other end of the street to get groceries, though it meant a longer route. She kept her eyes averted as she picked up her mail. She avoided walks through the neighborhood and spent afternoons idling on her porch swing.
She was on her side porch, daydreaming as she looked through the rose-laden trellis, when Laura appeared with a wrapped loaf of banana bread.
“So, this is where the flowers grow,” she said lightly, after making a small noise to alert Carol to her presence. “I know a random act of kindness doesn’t require a gift in return, but I like to be neighborly, too.”
She held out the banana bread with a friendly smile and a twinkle in her eye. It was the twinkle that sent the porch spinning beneath Carol’s feet. She grabbed for the trellis, pricking her hand on a thorny stem, and stumbled as she pulled away.
Laura caught Carol’s arm, steadying her, and gently guiding her to the porch swing.
“Are you okay?”
Carol brushed away the concern, staring at the banana bread in Laura’s lap.
“Heather made banana bread.” The words slipped out before Carol knew what she was saying.
Laura’s eyes were gentle as she listened, waiting for Carol to say more.
“Heather was my daughter,” Carol said. “She lived in your blue house before she—”
Carol’s words choked to a halt and Laura took a shaky breath, filling in the rest.
Laura placed a hand on Carol’s arm and said, “I’d like to hear about Heather, if you want to talk about her.”
Tears gathered in Carol’s eyes, at odds with the smile that lit up her face.
“I’d like that,” she said.
Thanks for joining me for today’s story. I never know what I will write until the story unfolds on the page. Sometimes it’s fanciful or silly, sometimes it’s a little sad. You can listen to past stories in any order and maybe even be inspired to write a few of your own.
If you enjoy Freely Written, please tell your friends and leave a review wherever you listen. Beyond this podcast, I write novels and am currently writing the third book in a young adult series. You can learn more about my books by visiting my website: SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]