“LEARN TO DRIVE YOU FUCKING CUNT.”
David screamed while grabbing the steering wheel with both hands and swerving at the last minute, just narrowly avoiding a head on collision with the bright red sports car that had overtaken his lane. His heart beat at a frenetic pace, his eyes darted from side to side as he inspected the roadway looking for a safe place to stop. He attempted to wipe away the sweat that now poured down his forehead before slowing and eventually pulling onto the shoulder of the road to gather his thoughts. However this would not calm him at all instead it only did more to fuel his animosity toward the Volunteer State.
The move to Tennessee didn’t sit very well with him as it was, the last thing he needed was to add more to his growing frustration with the unsettling predicament he had found himself in. The truth of the matter was, he did not want to leave all his friends and family behind in New Orleans but it was either transfer to a new location or find another job. At this point in his life he really couldn’t afford a career change so he opted to move on, to hopefully, greener pastures. Although he wasn’t married he did have someone special back in New Orleans, but unfortunately for him the passion he felt for her wasn’t reciprocated.
David laid his weary head on the steering wheel and clasped his hands behind his head.
“Lord, why are doing this to me.”
He whispered to himself.
“I’ve led a fairly good life and done right for the most part. When am I ever going to get a break? That’s all I ask for, when is it my turn to bask in the warm glow of happiness and good fortune. I’ve been relegated to sitting on the sidelines and watching as all my friends find the girl of their dreams and eventually marry them, have kids and live happily ever after. I ain’t asking for a fairy tale, I just want someone to love me as much as I love them.”
David took a deep breath and gathered his composure as he pulled back out onto the highway and set forth to his new home. From what the realtor had told him, the house had just recently been put back on the market. The previous tenants had moved out in a hurry, and without notice, leaving some of their furniture and personal belongings behind. David was given the choice to keep the furniture, which according to the realtor was in good condition or the realtor would have someone move it within the next week or so. Since he had shared a tiny apartment back in New Orleans with 2 roommates he would more than likely keep the furniture, no matter the condition.
Before long David slowly pulled into the driveway of his new digs. At first glance the property seemed to be in really good condition, in fact it was much nicer than the house David grew up in. The lawn was freshly cut and the outside looked like it had just been painted. For the price he was paying out for rent David just knew there had to be something wrong with the place. Maybe the outside was redone just to get your attention. David hoped the inside of the house was as meticulously done as the outside had been, but with his luck he figured the inside was more than likely trashed, especially since the previous tenants left in such a rush. The realtor, a wiry looking man with a horrible 70’s style moustache exited the house and greeted David in the driveway.
“Well, hello there.” He spoke boisterously.
“You must be David, I’m Troy, we spoke on the phone earlier.”
David hesitantly got out of his car and moved closer to the man. The overpowering stench of cheap cologne caught him off guard and did quite a number on his allergies.
The realtor took a step back as to avoid the fine mist that shot forth from David’s mouth.
“Sorry about that”. David exclaimed.
He shrugged his shoulders then offered Troy a handshake.
Troy spoke in an uneasy voice as he extended his hand toward David.
“Well, if you have bad allergies you’re probably not going to like what’s in the backyard.”
David stared at the man with a puzzled look on his face.
“There are a couple of rose bushes out back that the previous tenants planted. Without my permission I might add. But they add a certain sophistication to the property so I left them…….but we can have them removed if you wish.”
The two men began walking to the backyard as David continued inspecting the house. As far as he could tell the house was fairly new or had recently been renovated. The bottom of the house was done in brick and the top half was vinyl siding, that meant no tedious painting was required which was one of the things David didn’t want to trouble himself with. He already had enough on his plate with moving to a new town and starting from scratch, the addition of keeping up the outside of a house would have been a little too much for him to handle at this point.
David admired the intricate brickwork and all weather siding as they rounded the corner of the house and made their way through the tall wooden gate and into the backyard. David took one look at the backyard and instantly knew that no matter what the inside looked like he would take the house regardless. The “couple” of rose bushes turned out to be an army of roses that lined the entire back wall of the property. Lavish red roses grew up and onto the wooden fence. A solitary multi colored bush seemed to be the centerpiece of the picturesque rose garden.
The petals were a vivid mix of orange and red, the colors blended so well together, almost like a flame. David was taken aback by the beauty of the rose bushes, especially the “fire bush” as he called it in his head.
“Troy, let me tell you something.”
The realtor looked on intently, figuring this would be the breaking point seeing as how David violently sneezed upon exiting his car. He began thinking to himself. Damn it, I knew I should have gotten rid of those fucking plants. They’re about to cost me a whole lot of money…and they’re a freakin eyesore anyway.
“These rose bushes are absolutely fantastic; I love them, especially that one in the center, the “fire bush”. It’s captivating, there’s something about it that just draws my attention. I don’t know what it is but I REALLY like the bushes.”
Troy let out a sigh of relief as David said the words he had hoped to hear.
“Sold my man, you’ve got yourself a deal. I’ll take it.”
“But you haven’t even viewed the inside of the house yet. I know you are excited and all but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t show you everything the house has to offer, the good as well as the bad.”
At this point David was already intent on making this his new home but to humor the realtor, Troy he decided to go along with the tour.
Upon entering the house Troy made note of the various plastic bags that had been placed by the front door.
“Don’t worry about those. Someone should be coming by today to pick them up. Mostly women’s clothes and a few knick knacky type items, we’re donating them to the local women’s shelter. They need all the help they can get and they’re really lucking out this time too. There’s some pretty expensive looking stuff in there and it hardly looks like it’s been used at all.”
David continued to look throughout the house and admire all the work that had been done to the place. As David casually strolled through the kitchen he ran his hand along the countertops.
“Yeah, those are new, 100% granite countertops. The previous tenants did a lot of work to the house; they even re-carpeted the entire place. That’s why it’s so perplexing to me that they would just up and leave so suddenly, all they left for me was a crappy note on the counter saying sorry but things just weren't working out, will send for stuff after things get settled. Doesn’t make sense to me but then again, to each his own I suppose.”
David continued admiring the granite countertops but couldn’t quite get the fire bush out of his mind. Just something about it resonated with him, so much that every time he passed by a window he had to stop and admire the roses again and again. Troy followed David through the kitchen like a little puppy wagging its tail as it follows its master. He wanted the sale but he also wanted full disclosure in regards to the house and the property.
“Ok, before you even ask and so I don’t feel like the shady real estate guy we are all made out to be, the reason the countertop looks kind of weird is because one of the corners broke off or something and we decided just to round it off instead of replacing it. Although the others are more or less squared off this one is round, you can hardly notice it but at some point I’m sure you would have and called me about it. Better to get it all out in the open from the get go, am I right?”
David tore himself away from admiring the roses to nod in agreement.
“Uh….yeah. That sounds great. So when can I move in. The hotel I’m staying at, The Kingsport Inn is great but I’d rather sleep in my own bed, if ya know what I mean?”
Troy’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas.
“Well my friend, you are in luck because, like I said on the phone, the place is pretty much furnished and that includes a King size bedroom set, complete with lamps, dressers and nightstands. I mean, if you want to keep them of course. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever you don’t want to keep will be donated to the women’s shelter.”
“No, no, I’m sure it’s fine. So can I get the keys today or what?”
Troy had never had a client that was so intent on moving in as soon as possible. Most want to go over all the details with a fine toothed comb but he knew David didn’t really have anywhere else to go except back to the hotel so he agreed to hand over the keys and let David stay.
“You can come by the office anytime and sign the rest of the papers. You have my card with my cell number on it in case you change your mind or something comes up. Don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’m always available for my clients, without them I am nothing.”
The men shook hands again and David began unloading his belongings from the car and making the space “His”.
Over the next few days David unpacked his belongings then called back home to let everyone know he was doing fine. After dialing the number and waiting all he got was the answering machine.
“Hey mom, how’s it going? I’ve settled into the new place. I’m just calling to let you know everything is ok and I still have a few days until I start at the new office. Have you heard anything about Kitty? She hasn’t answered my calls and I was kinda worried about her. Call me when you get this message, I could use hearing a familiar voice right about now. Bye, I love you; tell dad I miss him too.”
David slumped down into the chair and dozed off for a few minutes. Although he had been running on all four cylinders for the last few days and really needed the rest his naptime was cut short by a loud clattering sound in the dining room. David bolted upright and peered in the direction of the noise almost expecting someone or something to be standing there. He slowly eased himself out of the chair and headed toward the dining room, cautiously scanning the room for any intruders.
The coldness of the tile floor on his bare feet quickly brought him back to reality, dream time was officially over. As he crossed the chilly floor the faint smell of vanilla wafted through the air and danced in his nostrils like a graceful ballerina. He quickly flipped on the dining room light and peered throughout the room. It was empty, except for the table and chairs that set just as he had left them hours ago. The only out of place thing was his keys which laid upon the floor directly in front of the sliding glass door.
“I could have sworn I shut these curtains.” David silently mumbled to himself.
He glanced out the glass door and inspected the back yard. There was nothing there, except a single light, possibly from the street lamps that shone brightly on the “fire bush” accentuating the orange and red hue. David stood at the door and stared in amazement at the rose bush. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he never wanted that feeling to go away. Even though winter was coming he vowed to protect and nurture the bush for as long as humanly possible. The flowers seemed to speak out to him. He couldn’t understand what they were saying but he knew the two were meant to be together.
“Holy shitballs. I’m falling in love with a rose bush.”
It sounded weird when he said it out loud but the fact was, even though he had only been there a short amount of time, he and the rose bush indeed shared a unique bond. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was lonely and missed talking to his “friend” Kitty and his desire for her had manifested itself onto the rose bush or if he was going batshit crazy.
“Fuck my life.”
Over the next few weeks David began spending more and more time pruning and shaping the rose bushes outside, paying special attention to the fire bush. He was drawn to the bush like moths to a flame. He spent almost all of his free time tending to the bush, either trimming the branches or readying them for the upcoming winter storm. He didn’t put forth much effort to make new friends at work and even began ignoring his phone calls, which upset his mother. But she was miles away and could nothing about it. David was fascinated by the rose bushes and nothing could tear him away from its allure.
Now that he had settled in and had the house arranged just the way he wanted, which took forever because every time he neared an open window there was the rose bush staring back at him, almost calling out to him, drawing him closer and closer to its’ thorny side.
The nights he spent at the house alone seemed to be the longest nights of his life. He tried watching movies, playing computer games, anything to take his mind off the rose bush. But nothing seemed to work; eventually he would be drawn to the dining room and to the plate glass window. Where he would admire the bush, sometimes for hours on end and when he did finally get to sleep he was haunted by the same dream, night after night. A woman running through a grassy field trying to escape an unknown force, she was panting furiously, almost out of breath. She would run and scream but no sound came out, a look of agonizing terror always on her face, like she was being chased by a demon or some other malevolent force. Then from out of nowhere a tall dark figure would loom ominously to the side. Never moving, just standing its ground shaking its head from side to side as if to say NO, NO, NO.
Just as the dark figure would give chase David would wake up, sweating profusely and out of breath himself. The dreams were always the same and always ended just as the previous night. He was lucky if he got an hour of sleep at night. The insomnia inducing nightmares continued for days, and then weeks until one day they abruptly stopped altogether.
After a rough day at work David went home and went through the usual routine, place his keys and wallet in the basket by the door, make dinner then go out and tend to the rose bush. Every day he did this, just like clockwork. And every day his keys would come up missing, only to be found the next day, in front of the glass door on the dining room floor. David had called the police numerous times about an intruder but they never found any evidence to support his claims so they too finally stopped coming.
One night as David was heavily sleeping he dreamed of a woman, a woman with bright red hair and pale white skin. Her piercing green eyes captivated David; he would do whatever she wanted him to do. On this night she only wanted him, the same way a man wants a woman on their wedding night. The dream was so graphic, it felt so real that in the morning David had to remove the sheets from his bed and put them in the wash. That day he felt rejuvenated, like he had been reborn and now had a purpose in life. His “dream girl” had arrived and she was everything Kitty was not and would never be.
The woman in the dream never spoke a word, but the way she used her body spoke volumes and David was extremely thankful for that fact. He would even brag to his co-workers that he had met his soul mate. He never once told them she was just a figment of his imagination, they wouldn’t understand anyway. David continued to tend to the rose bushes outside even when the temperature dropped. He even went so far as to take some of the clothes he kept from the bags the previous tenants left and wrap the roots of the bushes to keep them warm. In his mind everything was perfect. He had a nice girl, a nice house and he was finally happy. Until one dark and dreary evening while he slept the night away he was awoken mid coitus with his dream girl. As his eyes opened she was there, on top of him still grinding her pelvis into his.
Am I awake or still sleeping, this has got to be a dream. He thought to himself.
But the stark reality was, this was no dream. He began to rub his hand up and down the length of her arm while whispering sweet nothings into her ear. He ran his fingers across her tiny bosom and gently caressed the nipple. The woman let out a passionate sigh, arching her back and loudly panting. Taking her cue he then thrust himself deep into her and began pumping furiously. The two entwined themselves together as if they were one. Moaning and panting as they swapped bodily fluids.
Just as he was about to climax he heard a powerful thump from outside, the noise was so loud it startled David and he stopped what he was doing. Out of breath and still clutching the woman in his arms he peered toward the curtains momentarily then back at the woman. David gazed deep into her dark green eyes and before he had time to react she let out a blood curdling scream, her eyes rolled into the back of her head as the pupil widened, enveloping them in a dark abyss. Her face twisted and contorted, the once pale white skin on her arms and body turned dark and began bubbling and rising. The sweet smell of vanilla and sex that permeated the air was now replaced by a smell so vile and disgusting David’s stomach began turning. The woman pointed toward the window and spoke the only words David had ever heard her speak.
Her voice trailed off as her hair lit up in a violent red and orange explosion of flames. She let out a final ear splitting shriek, still pointing to the window as she vanished in a thick cloud of black smoke. The stench of rotting flesh now filled the room and David’s stomach turned once more, this time expelling the cold pizza and beer he had for dinner all over the sheets and his lower body.
“What THE FUCK.” David screamed.
He had enjoyed his trysts with his “dream girl” but now he found himself at a crossroad. The dreams were one thing but this time he was awake. He was sure he had lost his mind for certain.
“Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.” He repeated over and over, trying to make sense of what had just happened as he rocked back and forth on the bed.
The noise from outside grew louder and louder. It sounded like someone beating a drum or hitting the side of a metal building. A continuous THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.
David wiped himself off with the sheet then wrapped up in a bathrobe before going to the window and checking out the thunderous noise. He gently pulled the curtains back and stared out the window, looking for something that he knew was not there. As his eyes adjusted he saw a dark figure, similar to the one from his nightmares walking toward the rose bushes.
David’s voice grew louder as he spoke to himself.
“He’s probably the one that’s been breaking in and fucking with my god damn keys. I’ll teach that son of a bitch a lesson. No one fucks with me. YOU HEAR THAT YOU MOTHERFUCKER, I’M COMIN FOR YA, YOU BETTER RUN BITCH. RUUUUUUUN. ”
David grabbed his only form of defense, an aluminum baseball bat from when he played on the company softball team last year.
He darted through the house huffing as he neared the glass door, the same door he viewed his beloved roses from every morning while enjoying a cup of coffee.
“I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch. Low down, dirty mother fucker. Come into my house will ya? Yeah I got something for ya bitch.”
David burst through the door and ran across the yard maliciously with the bat held high. As he approached the dark figure who was down on his knees he angrily growled.
“Ever been to Louisville motherfucker?”
The dark figure turned toward David, who immediately stopped dead in his tracks.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen like this.”
The dark figure spoke silently as tears streamed down his face.
“The fuck you talking about man?” David quizzed.
“My wife……..I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.”
David stood his ground but lowered the bat.
“Dude, The fuck man? What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry sir, I just had to come back. She was my life. I know I fucked up but I just had to come back and say goodbye to her one more time before it all ends.”
You’re not making a damn bit of sense, what happened? What do you mean before it all ends?”
The man stood up and began to weep openly. David didn’t know what to do. Should he comfort the man that trespassed on his property or should he bash his head in and let the police sort it out?
David’s mind began racing a mile a minute trying to make sense of not only what was going on now but what he had just been through in the house. It was all a bit overwhelming to him, David’s patience had worn thin dealing with the man but he wanted answers and he may be the only one that could provide them.
“Alright, ENOUGH. I’m tired of fucking around. If you’ve got something to say, say it before I lose my cool and show you why I was voted MVP of last years softball season. Capisce?”
The man wiped the tears from his eyes and tried to regain his composure long enough to give David the answers he sought.
“My wife, Rose and I used to live here.”
“So you’re the nimrod that moved off and left me all that rad furniture huh? Thanks dude.” David said with a smirk on his face.
“Please, let me finish. My wife and I used to live here. We had been having some problems and things just got out of hand. We had an argument you see and things escalated pretty quickly.”
The man started crying again, this time much more profusely.
“It was an accident. I was making a sandwich in the kitchen, she wanted to argue some more but I had had enough. She was extremely jealous of other women and followed me everywhere I went just to check up on me. I couldn’t take seeing her at every corner; her jealousy was driving me insane. I didn’t want to argue anymore, I was tired of all the bullshit and tired of her being so possessive. I couldn’t do anything without her being two steps behind me. I just wanted a fucking sandwich for Gods’ sake. She wasn’t ready for the argument to end so she followed me into the kitchen and started in again, only this time I decided to put my foot down. I grabbed her by the arms and pulled her close to me. Something was on the floor, probably mustard, I’m a messy cook. That was one of her gripes against me, among others.”
David listened intently as the man spun his tale.
“She slipped and began to fall; I tried to pull her in closer so she wouldn’t end up on the floor.”
Now the man was blubbering uncontrollably. Tears streamed down his face as he howled.
“God, I miss her so much. You don’t even know.”
“Just get on with it man, it’s fucking freezing cold out here and I’m in nothing but a flimsy ass bathrobe.” David huffed.
“I’m sorry; I just can’t take much more of this. She was my life, my reason for living. Yeah, we had problems but……”
By now David had lost interest and was turning away, to go inside and call the police.
Let them deal with this psycho cuz I’m done. He thought to himself.
The man grabbed David by the arm with his left hand and pulled out a revolver with his right and pointed it at David’s chest. The cold night air mixing with his breath formed a fog as he slowly breathed in and out.
“Dude, WHAT THE FUCK!” David shouted.
“You will listen to my story and you will shut your fucking mouth when I’m speaking. You’re as bad as she was. DAMN.”
“I tried to grab her and prevent her from falling but she fell anyway. On the way down she hit her head on the counter.”
The man began weeping again. He sniffled then went on with his tale.
“She hit it so hard……so hard she broke off a chunk. A fucking granite countertop and she broke it with her fucking head man. Do you know how much pressure that takes? She fell and blood splattered everywhere. It got on me, my sandwich, the countertop and the floor. I let her fall to the ground and the blood…man. The blood, it was everywhere.”
David’s heart began racing uncontrollably, he could run but no one can outrun a bullet. The best thing for him to do was stay and listen.
“She…she…bled to death man, in my arms…..she bled to death.”
The man let go of David’s arm and dropped to his knees. David cautiously took a few steps from the man and stopped.
“Dude, I think you need help. You need some serious help.” David said.
“I did it, I killed her. I freaked out and thought I’d go to jail. I can’t go to jail man, I’m too pretty for jail, do you know what they do to guys like me in jail?”
David shook his head in agreement.
“I freaked out and buried her right here, right where this bush is growing. I felt guilty so I planted these roses in her honor. I come here all the time to check on her. These right here in the middle, those are my favorite, the red and orange ones. They remind me of her hair. She was perfect; she had such pretty long red hair. It’s like she’s growing into the bush. It’s beautiful.”
David didn’t know what to think at this point, was all this just another one of his fucked up nightmares or was it really happening? All he knew was that tonight had been one of the strangest nights he had ever been a part of. The cool night air began to pick up, the now familiar scent of vanilla swept through both men’s nostrils.
“She’s here…..She’s here and she’s coming for me.” The man yelped.
“When she finds someone she likes she latches on and never lets go. Even in death Rose won’t leave me be, she comes to me late at night while I’m sleeping. The dreams started out good, just me and her doing what we do best, but here lately they’ve taken an ominous turn, things have gotten bad…real bad. Instead of my dainty little rosebud she has blossomed into a full blown vengeful spirit that’s hell-bent on causing me pain, the same kind of pain and anguish I caused to her. I haven’t had a decent nights sleep in months because of her. I’m sorry honey, I love you….and now we can always be together.”
The man, who was now crying and shaking profusely, raised the barrel of the gun. David braced himself for what was coming next. The man waved the gun in the air a few times before placing the barrel directly in his mouth.
David screamed out.
The deafening boom rang out like a cannon, splattering the man’s brains all over the fire bush. David jumped at the sound then stared in horror as the man’s upper body plopped hard onto the ground right in front of the rose bushes. The blood from the massive hole in the back of the man’s head streamed down onto the ground, covering the orange and red rose petals in a shiny crimson glaze. There was nothing David could do but stand there and watch as the man’s life drained out onto the cold unforgiving ground.
David pulled the robe snug around his body and headed back toward the house. As he neared the residence he noticed a shadow in the dining room window staring back at him. It was her, Rose, standing triumphantly as if she’d just won the World Series. Her fire red hair shimmied and swayed in the wind. An ominous glare crosses her face as she puckers her lips tightly and blows David a kiss.