This piece was prompted by and written for dear @queenofthecon. Thank you for the inspiration and your endless support, my love. I can't say how much I appreciate you.
I'll write the prompt words in the end notes.
Rose’s sudden yelp awakened John. He jerked upside, worried that Rose was living through a nightmare. He searched for her form next to him, his worry escalating twofold when his hand only touched the still warm bed sheets.
He heard rushed steps and muttered curses in the hallway, and he followed the noise. There, next to the door, the lights were on, painting his wife’s crouched form on the floor sepia-yellow.
Much to his surprise, she was putting on her raincoat and her pink wellies, her movements fast but clumsy.
John stepped closer to Rose, placing an arm around her upper back gently. He was afraid that she was reacting to a nightmare, running away from the horrors of her previous life that still haunted her after sundown sometimes, and so his movements were slow, non-threatening, his voice quiet.
It was barely audible in the howling of the rainstorm outside.
“Rose? You okay, love? It’s me, John. You’re okay, you’re safe now, no one will hurt you,” he soothed, running his palms over her back in circles.
It was a routine of sorts for them both. On the nights when it was Rose who jumped awake, crying or shouting for help, John would hold her close, carding his fingers through her hair, murmuring reassurances and stories about his travels around the world. They would cuddle until Rose’s breath evened out and she calmed enough to fall back to sleep in his arms.
Rose would be there for him during his darkest moments, too. John wasn’t prone to hugging and having a heart to heart after reliving the days of the army in his nightmares, but he found it comforting to have Rose being in the same room or in bed next to him, reading by his side. He always insisted on her going back to sleep, but she refused, stubborn thing, and kept her watch over him until he gave up and started his day early or fell asleep, soothed by her balmy voice reading or soft humming.
John wondered if it was the sound of the rain violently thumping the windows or the wind’s ominous howling that sparked the nightmares for Rose that night. It wasn’t the worst storm they’d weathered through together, of course, but he had to agree that it was a rather violent and an eerie one after a lovely, warm, sunlight-filled day.
Mother Nature had her own plans about the night’s weather, however.
“It’s alright, Rose. I’m here, there’s no need to run. Come back to bed, love,” John implored her, hugging her half-standing form from behind.
Suddenly, Rose turned to him, confusion written all over her face.
“What are you talking about? My flowers! My hibiscus, the one my grandma gave for our wedding, I put it outside this afternoon!” she exclaimed as she walked to the front door. John hooked his arm through Rose’s elbow, preventing her from escaping into the deluge outside.
“John, it’ll die out there! If it already hasn't…God, how could I forget! I left it on the porch because there was so much sun today, and it looked so sad, and the plant guide said about it needing plenty of sunlight…,” Rose explained, noticeably out of breath, while struggling with John’s hold over her. “I won’t be a moment, I promise.”
His shoulders sagged in relief when he realised that she wasn’t running away because of a bad dream, and that the only reason for the devastated expression on her face was that stupid, capricious plant that gave no flowers. Rose, however, seemed to love the bloody thing dearly even without the promised pink petals, talking to it as if it was alive, caring for its needs strictly in accordance to what the botanical books said.
Why would she bother, he had no…
John was the bloody flowerless plant, loved by Rose dearly for some reason!
It was a miserable truth, however, and it kept John awake at night with Rose snoring quietly into the pillow next to him. He had no idea why Rose loved him. A young, brilliant, warm-like-the-summer-sun girl like Rose, what business did she have with him by her side? With him as her husband?
He’d never give her children, they both knew it. He wasn’t the funniest person to be around, nor was he the most outgoing one. John was old, prickly, picky and grumpy even on his best days, bringing no beauty into Rose’s life.
And yet, she loved him. She loved him, and she stayed with him year after year, pouring her love over the still-bleeding wounds of his past life, letting him bask in her warmth, not asking anything in return, content with him loving her in his own strange way, satisfied by his presence in her life.
John sighed and rubbed his eyes with his fingers wearily. It looked like the bloody plant and him were on the same side, playing for the same team.
Both were rather worthless, but somehow deserving of Rose’s love.
He reached to take her raincoat off.
“What?...” Rose asked indignantly, fighting his hands off. “John, it’ll die out there, that poor thing in that blasted rain!”
He found strength to smile at her picking up some of his mannerisms over the course of their life together.
“I’ll go get it. You wait here,” he ordered softly, stepping into his trusty shoes and taking his coat off the hanger before braving the stormy weather.
Naturally, the houseplant was standing where Rose left it. John actually felt pity prickle his heart at the depressed state of the hibiscus with its leaves burdened by the rainwater and shaken by the wind.
He could easily imagine himself in the very same state, alone, unloved and entirely Rose-less mere years ago.
Cursing as he slipped and nearly fell as he was walking to the plant, John picked the pot and carried it back inside, his path brightened by the same yellow light of the hall.
Only this time Rose’s silhouette was darkening the entrance, anxiously awaiting him.
And the plant.
Once inside, John placed the pot where Rose indicated. He then was assaulted by his wife’s diligent care, toweled off and wrapped in a clean bathrobe with a cup of tea in his hands while Rose fussed over the plant, drying its leaves off with paper towels, arranging it out of the draught’s way.
John couldn’t find it in him to hate on it anymore. They were very much alike, after all.
Fifteen minutes later he was herded back to bed and wrapped in blankets by Rose, soon falling asleep warmed by her body cuddled to him, settled by her sweet singing, with the rain and the wind forgotten about entirely.
They both slept peacefully that night.
Three and a half weeks later, John was awakened on a late Sunday morning by Rose’s excited shrieks.
“John! The hibiscus! It bloomed!” she shouted, running to their bedroom’s doorway giddily. “I knew it just needed some love! Come see it, come on!” and she was out of the door again.
John welcomed that Sunday morning with a sincere smile.