Stories & Excerpts

The Rosebush – a story of implied murder

This short story was written in September 2015. The idea was born out of talking to an old lady who told me that she was forced into cutting down an old rosebush. Her neighbour complained that the rosebush dropped leaves on his lawn and was threatening to report her to the city council. She told me she was going to write the neighbour a letter and try  to make him understand how much the rosebush meant to her.

I don’t know it all ended, but this is my take on it. I hope you enjoy the read!

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 21, 2015

Dear Mrs. Everett,

I write to inform you that a rosebush growing on your side of the old fence facing the cemetery is becoming something of a nuisance. We have gotten several complaints about the leaves and flower petals it sheds over the new graves and headstones.

I walked down there yesterday to take a look, and it does seem as if the bush is rather lopsided. If you could be so kind as to cut it down to a more manageable size that would be greatly appreciated.

Yours Sincerely,
Vicar Thomas Potts

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 22, 2015

Dear Vicar,

I was delighted to receive your letter. They are such a rare thing these days with all the young people talking on the phone all the time. People don’t take the time to sit down and write proper letters any more. I suppose it is a sign that the times has moved on and we are stuck in the past, you and I. As for my rosebush, I admit that it is rather lopsided as you called it. But who isn’t these days?

Did you know that it was my dear Henry that planted it on our wedding day? I had told him about the roses my mother grew when we lived in London. The house and the garden was lost during the Blitz, and I don’t think my mother ever recovered. It was the roses, you see. Her mother had brought them with her when she moved down from Scotland. They were quite irreplaceable. But that’s life, I suppose… We lose that we think we can’t live without, and discover to our horror that we go on living. Heartbroken and half-mad by grief, but living all the same. And as time passes we discover the little things that reminds us of those we lost. My rose is that, a reminder of the ones I have loved and lost over the years.

As for cutting it down, I am afraid it is out of the question. Once it has bloomed, I will prune it of course, but it is still much too early in the season. I would lose most of the buds if I pruned it now and we simply can’t have that, can we, dear Vicar. Besides, I have always thought that leaves and petals on graves look rather romantic. Much nicer than these boring little shrubs people insist on having nowadays. But fear not, once the rose has bloomed and before the frost sets in, I will prune it, like I always do.

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. Violet Everett

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 27, 2015

Dear Mrs. Everett,

I didn’t know your late husband had planted the bush, and of course I understand that it holds a certain sentimental value for you. Still, it needs to be cut down. The leaves cause trouble for those tending the graves. People just doesn’t have the time to brush and sweep the headstones and grave sites anymore. They want the graves of their loved ones to be as easy and hassle free to manage as possible. As for the flowers, it is a shame to lose them. They are pretty indeed, but I am afraid that they will simply have to go. Surely they will come back next year.

Yours Sincerely,
Vicar Thomas Potts

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 29, 2015

My Dear Vicar,

I am an old woman. I might not have a next year to look forward to. And what is this about people not having time to tend to the graves of their loved ones? Perhaps they should take the time! They could take the opportunity to enjoy the roses while they are at it. People are always in such a rush nowadays. I thought all the phones and computers were suppose to give people more time, not less. I fear, I shall never understand it.

I called my niece the other day. She lives in America and works as an attorney. Though they make do without the wigs and such over there. I’ve always liked the wigs. It makes the whole deal with court look so grand and formal. In any case, she never has the time to talk. She is rushed off here feet, the poor thing. I keep telling her that she should take a vacation but she says she doesn’t have the time. I worry that when she finally have the time she will be as old as I am now and will simply have run out of time all together!

As for the rosebush, I simply cannot do any pruning at all until it has flowered, which I think it will do sometime in early July. It’s a Constance Spry, you see, and an unusually late one at that. My dear Henry always called it ‘our shy Constance’. She cannot be rushed, Vicar, and nor should she. You, and those who have taken offence by her shedding, will simply have to wait.

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. Violet Everett

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 6, 2015

Mrs. Everett,

I am afraid I have to insist. The bush has to be cut down. We simply can’t have leaves gathering on the new headstones. People are complaining. They think it looks untidy. You are a reasonable woman, Mrs. Everett, I am sure you understand and will take action as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Vicar Thomas Potts

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 8, 2015

Dear Vicar,

It is I who must insist. Shy Constance will remain as she is until she has graced us with her roses, whenever that may be.

I wish you a good day.

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. Violet Everett

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 17, 2015

Mrs. Everett

I regret to inform you that your last letter has left me with no other choice but to inform you that there are laws regulating how far bushes are allowed to trespass onto land not belonging to the owner of said bush.

Please, Mrs Everett, I ask you one last time to cut down your rose bush so that it is at a level with the fence separating your garden from the cemetery. If you refuse I see no other way to resolve the matter but to make a formal complaint.

Sincerely,
Vicar Thomas Potts

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 20, 2015

Dear Vicar,

Surely there is no need to make threats. It’s just a rosebush after all. Is it really that much trouble to sweep the leaves off the headstones? As you no doubt remember, the grave sites of both my dear Henry and our daughter Charlotte can be found in the old parts of the cemetery, and if I, an 81 year old woman, can brush a couple of handful of leaves off two headstones, anyone can.

Do you remember Charlotte, Vicar? You were just Martha’s Thomas back then, a chubby little boy that was firmly tied your mother’s apron strings. You were a sweet little thing, but perhaps a tad too mollycoddled for your own good. All children need a dose of rebellion in their hearts. They are after all suppose to leave the nest and live their own lives.

Our Charlotte was headstrong and full of adventure and mischief. She had just gotten her degree in art when she got the diagnosis: Leukaemia.

It took nearly three years for the cancer to beat her. She was strong, our Charlotte, and stubborn. But in the end she lost. To tell you the truth, I was relieved to see her go. No mother should be forced to watch her child suffer as Charlotte suffered. It was late July and Shy Constance was shyer than usual. There were buds but even with all the sun and warmth none of them bloomed. It was there I got the phone call from the hospital telling me my Charlotte has finally given up. I remember sitting in the garden, not crying or even praying, just sitting there, numb and somehow empty. Waiting for the grief to kick in, I suppose.

Your predecessor, Vicar Graves, helped me with the funeral arrangements. And on the morning of the funeral, I stepped out into the garden and Shy Constance was in full bloom. Her branches so heavy with flowers it looked as if she was bowing. Somehow I knew that it was my Henry telling me that Charlotte was with him, healthy and happy again. I knew then that I could survive the grief and the loss and the longing. That there were still beautiful things in the world, things worth living for. Every year Shy Constance flowers, she reminds me of that.

So, Dear Vicar Potts, I will not remove any of the branches or cut her down. I will prune her as I have always done after the roses have bloomed. I like to think that some of the people visiting the new graves will take strength and comfort from Shy Constance as I do. I hope you can find it in your heart to understand just how much the rosebush means to me, or I will be forced to take steps to protect it from you and your formal complaints.

Yours Sincerely,
Mrs. Violet Everett

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 26, 2015

Vicar Potts,

I got a letter from the Town Council today informing me that I have ten days to cut down the rose bush or it will be forcibly removed from my garden. Is this really necessary? Perhaps we can come to a conclusion of some kind that doesn’t involve digging up Shy Constance? If you are free on Thursday perhaps you can come over so that we can discuss the matter? I will make my lemon cake and we can have tea and a jolly good chat as we used to say when I was young. And if I remember correctly, you had a special fondness for my lemon cake. The secret to its flavour is in the lemon curd. I add a pinch of ginger and about a tablespoon of my special ingredient to give it a bit more kick.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Violet Everett.

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

June 27, 2015

Dear Mrs Everett,

I am relieved that you have come to your senses. It is rather silly after all making such a big deal out of a bush, though your story was touching. I am sure we can come to an agreement of some kind, and I am looking forward to your delicious lemon cake.

Yours Sincerely,
Vicar Thomas Potts

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

July 1, 2015

Dear Mrs. Potts

I was very sorry to hear about your husband passing away so suddenly. It must have been something of a shock since he from what I understand was in excellent health. How strange to think that he was sitting in my salon having tea and cake just hours before he passed away… He was very fond of my lemon cake and complimented it several times. The secret is in the lemon curd, you see. I make it myself and add just a hint of ginger, and my secret ingredient of course.

As you no doubt know, Vicar Potts was well liked by the parish. From my exchange with him I knew him to be a very diligent man, some might even say stubborn.

Having lost a husband myself, I know just how hard it is. Perhaps you will find solace in nature, as I did back in 1989 when I lost my Henry. If you find yourself walking the paths of the cemetery, I hope you will make your way to the oldest parts. Though in truth, there is not much left after the renovation and removal of the old graves. But the rosebush is still there and in full bloom. Feel free to pick a bouquet either for yourself or for your dear husband’s grave. Perhaps the sight of the roses and their scent can ease some of your grief and longing as it did mine.

Yours Faithfully,
Mrs. Violet Everett

St Edward’s Church, c/o The Vicarage
Church Green
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 13, 2016

Mrs. Everett,

My name is Anthony Hawthorn, I am taking over the parish after Thomas Potts’ untimely death. I see that Vicar Potts was in touch with you last year about the rose bush growing in your garden. It seems it takes up a bit too much space. Its branches reaches well over the wall separating your garden from the cemetery and people are complaining about the leaves falling on the new headstones. I hope that by calling your attention to the issue, you will see to it at your earliest convenience. Hopefully before the bush starts dropping leaves and rose petals all over the place again.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Yours Faithfully,
Vicar Anthony Hawthorn

Tenner Cottage
Bay Tree Road
Burford
Oxfordshire

May 14, 2015

Dear Vicar Hawthorn,

If you have read the letters I sent poor Vicar Potts, you no doubt know the rosebush is very special to me. Perhaps you could come by for tea sometime so we can discuss the matter in person? I will make my special lemon cake. It was a favourite of Vicar Potts, and it won me a nice ribbon at last year’s Harvest Fair. The secret is in the lemon curd, you see. I add just a hint of ginger, and of course my special ingredient…

THE END.

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