THE ROSE GARDEN
Dorothy Copper's neighbours were captured by envy as they stood in her garden. A peek around the high stone walls drew a person inside the towering iron gates to wander the floral paradise. In the early mornings, the petals glistened under silver dew and by , each flower stood proudly, face lifted to the sun. Gentle mauve sweet-peas, tumbling flocks of forget-me-nots, and sunny cosmos stood lining thick copses of trees that hid the high stone wall. They stood motionless protected from the breeze as though on guard for Dorothy's proudest possession : the rose garden.
White roses lined the shady driveway and a flurry of red petals ran alongside the narrow stream that meandered through the garden. Pink and honey coloured roses paraded in straight rows the length of the garden. The house, an expansive brick Tudor draped in ivy, nestled into the garden as though itself had risen from the earth.
Elizabeth Chandler strolled Dorothy's driveway, bending to inhale a sunlit yellow rose and as she did, she turned her head towards the house resting at the far end of the driveway. The sprinkler ticked from the back garden and bees hummed from each direction. She and Dorothy had been friends for fifteen years and each Monday morning, such as this, they met at Dorothy's house for coffee and chitchat to discuss the week's gossip. The custom had been interrupted for the past two weeks and last night on the phone, Dorothy cancelled their get-together again.
"Yoo-hoo, Dorothy," she called out as she walked onto the back patio, "Dorothy, it's me; Elizabeth." The back garden mirrored the front; stately eucalyptus trees sat beyond the rose garden hiding the high stone wall. A heady floral fragrance mixed with the thick aroma of mint and rosemary lingered in the air.
She halted at the top; the dark hallway drew ahead into a sunlit study. She stopped and started along the hall as though she were a condemned prisoner taking her last steps. She reached the hallway's end and scuttled into the sunlit room. Dorothy lay sprawled on an oversized pink armchair; half her body tumbled onto the plush green carpet caught in a timeless fall. One hand hung onto the faded seat-cover as though poised to crawl back into the chair. Her eyes, wide open, sparkled a deep blue in the sun; her skin was a lily white under the crimson blood trickling down her face onto the carpet. "Oh my god,"
She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and paced towards the fire place and back to the window. Crazy people everywhere, raping and killing women like me and Dorothy. She pulled a silk handkerchief from her purse and wiped her eyes and nose again. The killer is somewhere on the property. I have to act like I didn't see her and run home and call the police.
She stopped abruptly and bent to pick up a thick banded silver watch protruding from a cluster of yellow roses. As she did, a flock of sparrows rushed through the eucalyptus grove into the sky. She stared at the birds clouding the tree tops and her heart fluttered erratically. An ice-cold sliver ran down her spine and she threw up; her vomit sprayed the roses at her feet and the smell of eggs and stomach fluid mushroomed from their sunny upturned faces.
Oh my God. He's back there and watching me. He knows I know. She staggered towards the house and pinched her arm's fleshy underside. Pull yourself together or else it's over. From the patio, the garden swayed in the wind like an ocean swell before a storm; she held onto the railing to steady herself.
"Ok, Dorothy, if you're upstairs, I left a note for you on the counter," she called out.
She slid around the corner towards the front. She ran across the patio and took the stone stairs two by two down to the driveway; the large iron gates stood open against the stone walls at the driveway's far end. Behind her, the thicket of trees rustled and the buzz of the garden rose in a nauseating cacophony. She darted to her right into the rose garden and fell to her knees with a soft thud landing between two rows of pink and honey rose bushes that spanned the width of the garden. She crouched down; the roses towered over her. She looked at the stone wall that surrounded Dorothy's garden; wiry brown vines snaked over the walls holding the property hostage.
I'll hide here. I can't make it all the way down the driveway if he's right behind me. The only way I will make it out is keeping close to the ground. An ant ran over
She writhed through the bushes, breaking through and falling onto the next path. She lay low to the ground; the flowers leaned over sheltering her. Her cheek pressed into the moist earth, her heart fluttered, and her breath caught in chokes. Keep going
She pushed herself onto her elbows and scuttled down the row as though on an obstacle course. Halfway down, she saw a narrow gap in the flowers and crawled into them towards the next row. Thorns attacked her from both sides, pulling her hair, catching her skin. She heard her pants rip and the bushes gripped her bare knee.
The next morning, Dorothy's sister Ellen arrived. Walking up the driveway, she watched a murder of crows flutter upwards in a disturbed dissonance towards the grey sky landing on the stone wall to watch over their feast - a bloody body stretched out from the rose garden. Minutes later, Ellen found her lifeless sister in the study. Detective Cutler arrived on the scene within the hour. The following morning, he read the autopsy reports with bewilderment; Dorothy's death followed a massive stroke leading to head injuries; Elizabeth Chandler death was proclaimed suicide.