The Black Rose

- Mrs Michigan's Story -

'Oh darling! I wish that you could stay here with me forever!' cried Barbara Michigan as she watched her only son turn his heels and climb into his long-awaited taxi. He waved her a last farewell, the engine roared and he disappeared down Lattimore Street without as much as a honk of the horn.

Barbara stood alone on the asphalt, the gentle summer breeze nipping at her ears and blowing her rough grey hair out of her rough grey face. She looked forlorn; a part of her had left. She was not going to be the same ever again, she was never going to see her son the same again. But she knew nothing of the events that were to unfold.

The poor widow cried tears of pain, of sadness, but of somewhat joy. She was happy that her son was to study something that he loved. She was happy that her son was leaving the house, and was to make a neat little life for himself and not call on her until it was perfect. She was sad that her son was leaving the house; she was sad that he would make a life for himself and leave her out until everything was perfect. She wanted to be involved when things got tough, she wanted so dearly for her boy to run up and give her hug, but she had to wait until everything was perfect. And she knew, better than anyone, that Jonah shouldn't disturbed when he had set his mind to doing something.

Barbara finally turned away from the kerb and hobbled back into her cosy bungalow. She pulled the door back with a slam to prevent the wind from passing through the house and smashing the glass door to the conservatory. She shuffled into her poky little hallway of her poky little house, it smelt of Jonah. His musky, shaving foam and clean underwear smell that couldn't be ignored filled her nostrils.

This little house, stood in the centre of Lattimore Street, a quiet neighbourhood, where even the slightest ruffle of feathers would disturb all the residents. Mrs Michigan moved there with her son Jonah, when her husband died of cancer two years ago and since then, they had lived a quiet and content existence. Soon after their arrival, Barbara re-painted the outer walls to give the dull off-white a sparkling new rosy pink. As well as a lick of paint, Barbara and Jonah planted many different types of plant, from geraniums to daisies, sunflowers to pansies. You name it; they'd planted it.

Barbara now entered her kitchen, and was met with piles of dishes, pots, wooden spoons and pans from where she and Jonah were baking cakes the previous night to celebrate his leaving. Their small private party was undisturbed and as perfect as could be. Barbara had cried then as well, she never wanted their time together to end. The next morning, the boy had packed his bags and his teddy and he was ready to go, before Barbara could say otherwise. She didn't even get to say 'I love you'.

Many different emotions flooded her mind at once. Barbara was smothered by loss, pain, joy and anger, she never wanted this for Jonah. Ridiculous as it sounds, she felt that he should stay at home with his mother forever and never be let out of the house. She wanted to keep him to herself, hide him away from the nasty people of the world, protect him when things got rocky. She thought she knew that no-one could love Jonah because of what he was. At the age of eighteen; he'd never had a girlfriend. Or even a real friend for that matter.

Months passed and the 'loss' of Jonah never subsided. The loneliness and heartache would never cease, and Barbara found herself in pits of despair. She even resorted to purchasing a small dog, just for company. He was a sweet little fellow with dark-grey fur and little sparkling brown eyes. She named it Gerald.

Every day Barbara would set a plate for Jonah at breakfast, lunch and dinner. She made believe that he would return and eat his sprouts and green beans like a good boy. Obviously he never did. He was at least a hundred miles away from home.
Gerald never once left his mistress's side, and his loyalty till death was a common pleasure of Barbara's. Everywhere she would go, Gerald was sure to follow. When the old woman ran out of milk, the dog would escort her to the post-office, when Barbara went for a walk, the dog trotted along beside her and would constantly gaze lovingly up at her. Even when she took a bath, Gerald would sit on the mat and would stare at Mrs Michigan's naked body and tilt his head towards her so that she could pat him on his curly little head.

Gradually, Barbara began to accept that Jonah was a grown man and could make his own decisions, but deep down she still longed for his return. The dog, however, was as bouncy and lollopy as he ever was and filled Barbara's heart with joy and meaning. They became the closest friends, Gerald became less of an annoyance to her, and more like a companion. A trustworthy friend who shared her food and tolerated her 'down days'. They were in love, as it were, not like a love that a man and a woman could share, because Gerald was a dog, but more like a deep friendship. One that could not be shaken by the harshest storm or the coldest winter. They were inseparable.

It was November time, about a year after Jonah left, when Barbara received a letter from her son telling her that he would be coming home for Christmas. She was overjoyed and began to clean the bungalow from top to bottom. Every nook and cranny was polished and every surface shone when in contact with light. Gerald gathered that the old woman was in high spirits and grew even more daring and adventurous than ever. He raced around the small house with tinsel wrapped around his little neck. Numbers cannot count how many times Barbara had to free the little fellow from the Christmas tree!

Preparations for Jonah's return were completed before the evening of the letter was out. Barbara slept well that night.

Soon after, in December, the decorations were becoming a burden to Barbara. She was impatient for her son's arrival and spent most of the day slumped in her old leather armchair with Gerald on her lap.

She sat, staring into space for days on end until finally, Barbara heard the humming of an engine. She sat bolt upright in her chair, awaiting the knock of cold hands on her door. Snow lathered the driveway and the flowers had withered but Barbara was warm. fueled by a loving rush of heat that warmed her from head to toe, the dog picked up on her feelings and began barking. the most irritating yap filled the household and Barbara had no alternative than to let the tiny beast out into the conservatory. She hoped that it would drown the squeaking and the yapping of Gerald.

It seemed like a millenium for Jonah to knock on the front door. But it happened. The old woman raced to the door when she heard and flung it wide open, revealing her son. he stood at least a head and shoulders above her, his ginger hair was concealed by a grey woolly cap that covered his ears, his cheeks flushed red and his face broke into a smile when he set eyes on his mother. Tears streamed down both faces when they embraced, a warm loving hug that touched them both in the depths of their hearts. They were both content once more.

Winter turned to spring and memories of Jonah's visit began to fade. The old woman did not mourn her son as she had before, but was happy that he'd left.