New Thing, 8
I’d managed to remember to put my toothbrush and hairbrush in my knapsack (with my laptop and iPad) but . . . I wondered, staring into the depths of the very full van, that’s very full, that’s, maybe, very very very full, if I had any chance of finding a plastic bag that had underwear and a t shirt in it. Of course I should have thought of this before. I should have thought of a lot of things. I should have hired a larger van.
Meanwhile, I could put the rose-bush on the porch (in the absence of ponies. In my horse-mad, living-from-one-summer-horse-camp-to-the-next youth, I had learned that ponies will eat most things, including hamburgers. I was sure a broad-minded pony could eat a rose-bush). It could catch some rays tomorrow morning.
It was odd about the rose-bush . . .
I’d had no intention of bringing live plants to Cold Valley. In the first place, the roof garden had been one of the features in the sale brochure, and was part of the deal with the new owner. (Yes, there was a sales brochure. Gelasio isn’t on the Forbes 400 list, but give him another decade.) Some minion of the new owner’s lawyer had already been through with a (digital) clipboard and a magnifying glass, noting the damage done by the movers (‘one black smudge mark easily the size of a bisected flea, one chip of paint visible only through a 3x lens’) and I was sure he’d not merely checked the plants against a master list, but counted every leaf, bud, twig and the depth of the dirt in the various pots and timber-walled beds.
But the evening of the day I’d opened my atlas and stuck a pin in a place called Cold Valley I’d bought myself a half-bottle of prosecco and put it and a water glass, being fresh out of champagne flutes for some reason, in the freezer. When they were so cold they hurt I took a glass of fizz out onto the roof. It was too early in the season to hang around outdoors and the air was bitter. Everything about me was icy: my hands, my body, my heart, my future. But it wasn’t like I was going to see another summer here. Now or never.
The problem with the Upper West Side is that you don’t get to see the sunset over Central Park. And I wasn’t much of a dawn person. Well, occasionally from the wrong end. Usually when there was a deadline looming, under which circumstances I wasn’t much in the mood for natural beauty.
Except for the bougainvillea the garden was pretty art house. Our gardener had ambitions. He’d even made the bougainvillea look sort of tortured and eloquent. When Gelasio had hired him, however, he wanted the work and was more tractable than he became. Which is why Gelasio got his bougainvillea. And I got my roses.
I know nothing about growing roses. I just like the way they smell. So when Ford asked me about my ‘vision’ of the garden, I said, “I don’t know. But I would like roses, please.”
He wrote down ‘roses’, probably grinding his teeth. Another damned soggy female with a rose fetish appeared in a thought bubble over his head, although only I saw it. Gelasio and I had only been together about a year at that point. Gelasio grabbed my hand and squeezed it. His thought bubble said: Roses. How romantic.
Ford was a mean man with a pair of secateurs. This time of year the roses were still tiny stubs, although the first leaves had cautiously unrolled and were testing the air. I sipped my fizz and shivered. And had another stupid idea. “You know,” I said to the rose-bush standing next to me, “Maybe I could take one of you with me. Mr Diamond-Studded Shoelaces won’t miss one of you.”
The night was absolutely clear and absolutely calm. There was therefore no reason why there was a sudden wild shudder of air—which, furthermore, seemed only to affect the rose-bushes—and a murmur as if a lot of people in the next room had said meeeee. I looked at my glass. No, this was my first one, and it was only about half empty.
I looked up again. “Sorry, guys,” I said. “But Mr Diamond-Studded Shoelaces’ gardener will take good care of you. You get to see sunrise over Central Park every day and your barnyard fertilizer will only be from pedigree chickens. The gallant heroine who comes with me will probably die in the first raid. And I’ll have this one,” I said, turning back to the rose-bush standing next to me in her pot, “because she’s the smallest.” Nothing like small enough when I was wrestling her into and out of the freight elevator, and hoisting her into the back of the van.
Nonetheless. Here she was. I bent to embrace her, staggered to the porch and set her down. This was obviously a lucky thing to have done, because when I went back to the van a plastic bag had fallen out of its cranny onto the spot where the rose had been sitting, and the bag contained two t shirts, three pairs of underwear and four pairs of socks.
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