James H. Smith

THE ROSE BOX

The Rose BoxThe day was full of sun and bright skies. The old castle stood silent watching. It’s back wall facing out onto a small glen. It had seen much over the years; the man here now, was no stranger.

He came through a door in the wall, carrying a small wooden box in his hands as if it were the most precious thing in the world. Slowly he walks across the glen and sits down under a large old oak tree, for a moment he watches the small stream running through the middle of the glen. Remembering a time when he and a young lady had grown up and played here.

Next to him the head stone on a grave. A lady’s name is carved on the stone and a date that was not yet a year old. The stone, he had carved himself for his wife. A second stone stands nearby, for their daughter who had died so young. Her stone he had also carved several years before.

He sat head bowed, looking old and defeated. Although only fifty-six, in counting by years, he felt old in soul and heart. Riches of land, power, and gold had always been his to control.

But riches could not compare to the lady who had stood by him, she had been his life. Now he had lost her. He thought, “less than a year has passed since she went away to walk with Angels.

Now all my riches, I would gladly give for only one hour more to spend with her.” They had been born within a month of each other; born to close friends, always together they had been friends and more. Now she was gone, he had never felt more alone, for today was her Birthday. Aloud he said “Happy Birthday Anna, Happy Birthday my beautiful lady.”

In his hand is the small wooden box: about three hands long, two deep, and two wide – handmade with care from an oak burl. It had a single rose carved on the lid. The box he had made himself, many years ago as a gift.

While still in his teens, he had gone into the forest and found a log. The log he brought to the master Woodsmith and asked for help in building the box. He did all the work and carving himself asking only for guidance in how it should be done. Then on her fifteenth birthday he had given it to her as a gift.

It had always sat close to her bed. She called it her rose box, saying it was her special place to remember him. She had asked him never to open it. Then one day she told him, “If I should die before you, you may open the rose box but only on my birthday. It will bring me closer to you. But if you should go first it will forever keep you near to me.” He had never opened the box, but one or two times over the years he had walked in when she was sitting alone with the box open. She would quickly close the box and put it away. He had said nothing to her, but one day as she closed the box, he saw her wipe a tear from her cheek as she turned to put the box away.

Now here he sits, his own tears unashamedly falling on the lid of the box. Slowly he removes the lid and for the first time since he made the box looks inside. Three things that he can see lay in the box. When he looks at them, for a moment he cannot see, his eyes fill so with tears.

On top was a dried white rose. He had spent days looking for this rose. Most he had found had only single or double rows of petals. The bush on which this one had grown had roses with rows of petals three. Then on the day he and his lady were married, he went early to the field and picked the rose, only for her. Tears fill his eyes as he remembers part of the vow he made as he handed her the rose. He spoke out loud as he lay the rose aside, “all these years Malady you kept the rose.”

His hand starts to shake as he removes the next item from the box. For a moment he holds it against his cheek, a scarf dirty and yellowed with age, he had carried the scarf with him many times and many times it had brought him comfort.

The scarf at one time had been white. It was made from silk and had been one of her most treasured possessions. It had come from a trading ship that had brought it from a land far away. It was said the thread in the scarf was made by a small worm and that’s what made the cloth so smooth.

In his life there had been several times he had gone away to war. The first time he had gone, she had come to him and tied the white scarf around his arm. She said, “Keep it close it will take you there and always bring you home to me.” Each time when he returned home she would put the scarf away. When he had to leave again, she would give him the scarf and say, “Always keep this close; it will bring you home and back to me again.

He holds the scarf in his hand as he reaches into the box and removes the last item – a folded yellow paper. As he unfolds it he begins to sob and dry his tears with the old scarf. A letter, a poem he had written to her.

He had been away at war and things had not been going well. He realized it was her birthday and wanted to tell her how much he would have liked to be with her, on her special day. But in his heart he didn’t know if he would live many more days. So by candle light, holding her scarf in one hand, he wrote her a birthday letter. He never knew she kept it all these years. He thought, “How fitting I should read this today she knows, she always knows me so well.” And so to himself, after so many years, he reads the letter.

My dearest Anna;

Happy Birthday!

I wish it were so that I could be with you, on this day.
But alas, I cannot cross the gulf of space and time between us.
I would barrow an angel’s wings and fly to your side, if I could but stay.
But I cannot, so my message comes by courier, a man I most trust.
Again your twenties, thirties are behind.
Now, forty puts you at the helm.
Once more: Happy Birthday on this special day.
Much wiser you now have entered a special realm.
How lucky, forty years since you came to earth for a stay.
So look now, in the magical mirror of life, it’s so plain to see.
You have never been more alive and beautiful than you are this day.
Some are old from the day they are born. It’s the only way they can be.
You’re one of the blessed, no matter the years, you forever young will stay.
Were I never in this life to lay eyes on you again
You shall remain a part of my heart and soul forever

Julian

For a long time after reading the letter, he just sits and looks at the empty box. He thought, “She always was right and again she has been.” The box had brought her closer to him. Although it had hurt him to open the box, it had been a good hurt for it had brought her to his side again, even if only in memory. He smiles as he remembers a small poem he had written her. How! He liked to remember her this way.

Anna, the morning sun streams through the open window there.
To dance and sparkle in your hair.
I gaze upon your sleeping face:
An Angel come to me, by Gods grace.
Love for you fills my heart and mind.
There has never been another so sweet, gentle and kind.

As he starts to return the items to the box he sees a small piece of paper sticking out from under the lining in the lid of the box. Slowly he removes it and unfolding it sees it is written by Anna’s hand. It was the vow he had spoken to her the day they were married, plus a small note at the end.

Milady I kneel now before you.
The reflection of my love I see in your eyes.
The love I have for you knows no bounds.
I pledge myself and my love to you, and to cherish you for all time.
I shall protect you from all harm real and imaginary now and forever.
My life is yours to do with as you please
I would gladly if asked, lay it at your feet.
For you are everything, the world and more to me.
With out you I could not go on, I would have no desire to live.
My sword and arm that hold it are yours to control, my lands we now share.
Today a white rose for you, will be added to my crest next to the red.
The swords shall now point down, to express the gentleness in you.
From today forward the crest shall depict us and shall be ours no longer just mine.
I do now pledge to love and protect you as my only love for now and through all times.
To stand by you in all you desire and do, my wish is to simply love you forever.
Take now my hand for in it you find my heart; please keep and cherish its love forever

My Dear Julian

If you are reading this alone, I must be gone.
I wrote it down all those years ago because it rang
so very true and it was so much like you to tell me
your feelings, if by chance I’m not sitting here, now remember
I am by your side and Love you always

Anna

Slowly he gently returns all the items to the box in the same order as they had been removed. He then gets up to leave, but before going bends to lay a single fresh white rose next to her head. Standing he says aloud: “Happy Birthday my Lady, before many more, I will again be where I belong, at your side.”

Slowly then with head bowed and the rose box in his hand he turns and walks away. Tears fill his eyes as he walks and he mumbles to himself, “Anna I will return soon for I cannot be long away from you. I will return: two roses in hand for the fairest Lady in all the land. One rose of white, for you and my love that will always remain true. The other rose of black, the way my heart has been since you went away. I will kneel and put the roses and my tears on the place where you lay. Then I’ll sit and talk to you awhile. With you is where I wish to be, that’s why I come and talk with you each and every day.

Even though I can’t see you when we talk, I know you hear and understand. You’re always near; I can feel you close at hand. I go now to return the rose box to its resting place, next to our bed on its stand.”

And as he walks away he stops and looks up smiling, again he speaks. “Anna this place and this stone to remember you by are only things. The you – the important thing does not stay here at this place. These are only things to remember you by. You walk with me always, no matter the time day or night I can feel you near.

But my dear, although I know you are always near, I find it hard to wait, until I can reach out and touch your hand once again.”

Happy Birthday Milady