Beyond the Thorns

She sat looking at the roses, memories trembling like a reflection in water beneath the surface of their burgundy petals.
Teeth flashing as laughter bubbled up from joyful souls, rosy cheeks ruddy from working under a sweating sun. She stared at the green leaves pressing down against their stems in the wind, and the breeze brought the scent of growing things. She felt a twinge deep inside as a memory of two people talking jarred inside her, the scent of nature thronging around them as they sat and looked at the hills. He had leaned toward her when she spoke of her love of the outdoors, and smiled like the world was his when she laughed at his words.
Another memory rudely clashed with this fond embrace of the past, sending ice trickling into her stomach.
Blood. A cold storm of tears and anger. The empty feeling inside her grew as she stared at the roses, as they mocked her with ghosts of the past.
His eyes had glittered when he asked her, roses in hand, to wait for him. To wait until after he returned from the trip, from his mission to save the world. She sighed. He always had loved superheroes in their valiant comic books.
He always had loved reading them next to her while she studied, and sometimes she’d glance over at him and relish the awe in his eyes, the excitement, the anguish.
The anguish that paralleled so beautifully now this echoing void that was consuming her from the inside.
He used to catch her looking sometimes, and smile crookedly, and tell her he loved her eyes. And she’d bat him away and beam into her hands and try not to feel sick from the butterflies squirming in her stomach.
The roses nodded their heads at her, sympathizing. They weaved sadly, like they knew, like they could possibly understand.
Granite slabs flashed in her mind. Cold stone and empty shades of black. She was unaware of how cold it was, of the icy dew on the grass around her. Her eyes stared unseeing at the flower bush. Her mind had commandeered her vision, spinning memories in front of her eyes like a black parade of pain.
Meaningless words from friends and family formed in blurry, pale faces. Tears of agony shared with his mother as they wept for what had been lost. A smooth oak coffin carved with a simple rose on the top.

Her eyes clicked back to reality with the engraved rose emblem hovering in her mind. She stared at the flowers, their petals so graceful, so perfect. Something snapped inside.
The girl began to feel again as pain swept in and threatened to consume her.
She screamed, with agony, with this raw pain, and her cold fingers tore at the roses. No thought was given to what she was doing. Pure rage fed her hatred for those picturesque flowers. She ripped them from their stems, shredded their petals, snatched at them in random spasms of anger as torturous pain surged through her veins in the guise of strength. As suddenly as it had come, the strength vanished, and left behind only a warm, teary feeling behind her eyes. Her lips twitched. She stared in silence at the tips of thorns in her flesh, at the ragged green swathes in her palms. Dark blood seeped under the cuts, trying to fight its way out from under the torn barriers.
She stared at her hands and cried.
The empty feeling inside morphed into a sharp, bitter longing that clawed at her being. She wanted him back. She wanted him back more than anything. Agony tore into her soul and she sobbed against the pain. She fell sideways and hugged her arms, smearing blood, wanting him there to hold her instead. She cried for a long time – until the empty feeling receded into a dull ache.
She stared sideways at the remnants of the roses, lilting brokenly in the increasing breeze. Breath faded in and out of her lungs. One stem was snapped with its rose hanging limply askew.
As she stared at it, her mind empty, the rose fell. It fell beyond her sight into the dirt below. But where it had been swinging, where her eyes had been fixed; the branches beyond this spot were adorned with a swelling bud. Green, growing. It had been late to bloom – burgundy petals still closed up tight in a little packet of promise. She stared.
The girl drew herself up, eyes wide, staring at the bud. It swayed with the wind. Somehow it had survived her enraged tirade.
She held out dirty fingers to touch it, expectant, afraid. It was rough with texture and soft with hope.
The pain inside her curbed into a bittersweet knowledge. He was gone. He was gone for now.
He had been her perfect other half, her best friend, the one she wanted to be with in this life. And they had enjoyed many years together, of friendship, of promise.
He was gone now.
Gone, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t see him again.
She stared at the bud.
New life, she thought. New. New beginning. Eternal hope.
And she stood. With her mind struggling to accept a future without him and her heart thankful for a King to show her the way.
“You understand more than anyone, don’t you?” She whispered to the sky. The very God who had crafted her, the one who had given her this boy in the first place, the one who had blessed her over and over again – this very same God had built this rose bush from nothing. He knew the bud inside and out. He knew when it needed to be there to be seen by her grieving eyes, and he knew to let it be late to bloom. Not only this did he know, but he knew the world and all its agonies. He KNEW. His very own son had walked in this world of darkness and hung from a ragged cross with thorns in his own flesh. He knew the pain. And he wouldn’t leave her alone to suffer in it.
Even if she tore herself apart in grief, he’d always plant new hope in her life. He would always walk alongside and strengthen her in the dark, pull the thorns from her flesh, brush her off and tell her quietly to keep going. When her own strength was fleeting, he would carry her. The pain would bloom into a new testimony, into new hope, into something necessary to show the world His grace. It was never the end.
Only new beginnings.