Tuesday, February 14, 2012

White Roses

“I’m sorry I’m late.”

“It’s alright.”

Noah is busy adjusting the lens of his camera. His back is facing Karen, who arrived fifteen minutes late. She’s upset. It’s not usual for her to be late especially in business appointments. And who can blame her? Her boss just asked her to drive all the way from the city to his rest house which is practically located in the middle of a forest.

Now, she’s standing here in her boss’ safe haven surrounded by trees which are approximately fifty feet tall. She watches him take pictures of leaves and flowers and insects and so much more. The trees around her scare her a little. But the place is peaceful…very peaceful and she likes it.

Noah turns around to face her, “Do you have it?”

“Yes,” she answers, showing him a white folder.

Noah covers his camera lens, packs it in his bag and says, “Come with me.”

He immediately makes his way through the thick forest.

Are you serious? Karen says to herself. Is there any living person on earth who would actually sign a document in a forest? She adds.

Nevertheless, she follows Noah. As she makes her first step into the forest she finds herself entering a different world. The tall trees still scare her but she tries her best not to be bothered by them.

Noah and Karen can smell the fresh scent of nature and the only sound that they can hear is the music made by the serene voices of the trees. It gets cooler as they continue to make their way into the forest. They step on moist ground where wild grasses grow. They step on dry leaves, on twigs, on small stones. Karen is just glad that she’s wearing flats today.

Noah keeps his eyes straight but his thoughts are with the woman behind him. He has seen the look on her face when he told her to come with him. He smiles with the thought of it. He hopes she’s not scared or displeased.

“Are you okay?”he asks.


After a few minutes of walking inside the forest, Karen feels better. She realizes that she needs that particular moment, that moment of peace.

“We’re close…”

“Okay…”Karen replies.

It’s funny how two people who used to be friends suddenly feel cold about each other or perhaps pretend to be cold for some reason.

This time, Karen can see a colorful lawn ahead of them. She’s excited to see what it is. A few more steps and they reach the place.

“We’re here,” Noah says.

Karen is speechless. She is now looking at a small circular meadow surrounded by trees. She can see roses of different colors. She has never seen such gorgeous roses like these, right at the heart of the forest.

“You’ve grown all of them?”she asks.

Noah smiles and nods.

Of course, she tells herself. Noah was good in growing different kinds of roses.

“I’ll show you something,” Noah says.

Noah leads her closer to the roses and shows her the only white rose planted in the middle of the other colored roses.

“Why, she’s alone,” Karen says.

“She’s the only survivor among the other white roses that I planted. I never thought growing white roses would be that difficult.”

“She must be special to you.”

“She is.”

Suddenly, there is silence. Both of them are looking at the only white rose in that garden. They both know how Karen loves white roses so much. She could place dozens of white roses in her flower vase if only she could spend a fortune for them every day. And Noah used to give her white roses too, not just once but many, many times.

Karen was sixteen. She was walking on the streets of Liliw, Laguna holding a basket of white roses. It was her birthday. She was wearing her favorite yellow dress and white shoes. She was so happy that she has bought all the white roses available at Adelina’s flower shop at a discounted price. She was excited to go home and place the white roses on her vase.

She was peacefully walking until a group of young college boys appeared. They were enjoying themselves in a bicycle race. She knew some of them. They were her neighbors. She walks toward the side of the street to be safe. Unfortunately, one of the boys lost his balance and accidentally crashed into her. Karen lost her balance too and threw her basket of white roses. Suddenly, Karen found her dress soiled and her white roses ruined.

She stood angrily and shouted at the boy wearing faded blue jeans and white t-shirt.

“Look what you’ve just done!”

            “I’m sorry miss… it was my fault,” the boy said in an apologetic and sincere way.

            “Of course! Who else’s is it?” Karen was seriously irritated.

            “I will buy you another bunch of roses…” The boy looked concerned.

            “I’ve bought all the white roses in the market today, just to let you know!”

         She was close to tears. Before teardrops could flow down her cheeks, she ran away leaving her basket and her ruined white roses.

            The other boys were just smiling, feeling like they were watching a scene in a movie of some kind.

            “Who is she?” the boy asked.

            They replied in chorus, “Karen.”

         It was already four in the afternoon. Karen was sitting on a rocking chair on their veranda holding Paolo, her favorite teddy bear. Her eyes were still sore after hours of crying and weeping. She couldn’t forget her white roses.

            Everybody was busy preparing a hearty dinner for her birthday. But she has lost all excitement since that boy on the street murdered her lovely roses. She was sitting comfortably when she noticed a boy waving his hand behind their wooden gate.

            She went to see who it was. When she drew closer, she recognized that it was the boy who crashed his bicycle into her on the street this morning. She opened the gate and snarled, “What are you doing here?”

            “I came to give you these roses in exchange for the ones I damaged this morning,” he said in a humble voice.

         Karen’s eyes brightened. The white roses in front of her looked beautiful…very beautiful and they looked fresh too, fresher than what she has bought this morning. She took them from his hand without any hesitation.

            “Thank you… Where did you get them?” she asked, unable to hide her fascination.

            “I grow them in our backyard…”

            “Oh, really!”

            The boy gave a sweet smile and extended his hand, “I’m Noah,” he said.

            Karen looked at him with gratitude in her eyes, extending her hand as well.

“I’m Karen.”

            She invited Noah to come in.

“Please stay until supper. My family is preparing a delicious dinner. It’s my birthday…”

            “Oh… Happy birthday…”


           Noah was twenty one. He was new in the neighborhood. He just lost both of his parents in an accident so he was left under his grandmother’s care. Noah and Karen became friends. They went out with their other friends and they rode bicycles together. Noah even taught Karen how to grow roses but she always failed, and when she finally decided to give up, she ended up receiving roses from Noah every time.

“She’s beautiful,” Karen says, almost in a whisper.

“Would you like me to take a picture of you with the roses?”

“No, thanks… it’s okay…”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Noah insists.

“Okay then…”

Noah takes a picture of Karen – the woman whom he had loved for many years. But they were so young then. Her parents didn’t approve and he couldn’t blame them. All parents feel responsible for the future of their children.

The camera flashes.

“Thanks,” Karen says.

Yes, she loved him. It has always been him. But she was scared – of love and of the future. He left and she never saw him ever again. Until that one Monday morning. A new IT head was assigned in their department. It was Noah. She was so surprised to see him, and happy, and excited. She felt so proud of him.

But they were never the same again. The friendship that they had was long lost, forgotten and left behind. Ten years have passed. Ten long years, and it was as if the long waiting, and pain, and regrets, and sorrow have swallowed everything that was left for them to be together.

“Oh, before I forget…” Karen hands him the folder in her hand.

“Let’s sit over there…”

They sit on a rock shaped like a perfect seat. Karen gives Noah a pen and he starts signing.

Has he brought her here too? Karen asks herself.

The first time she saw Marie, Noah’s fiancée, at the office, she felt her heart was being crushed by thousands and thousands of boulders. She couldn’t breathe. She wanted to shout. She wanted to tell Noah he was making a big mistake. That they belong together. That they should be together. She has cried for long nights. She got tired and beyond any doubt, she forced herself to understand and realize that the hope between her and Noah died after he left ten years ago.

Noah signs the last page and hands over the folder to Karen.

“Thank you,” she says, “I need to go.”

Karen quickly stands up wanting to run away from Noah, from the roses, from everything.

“Sit down,” Noah says in an authoritative voice.

Karen obeys. He is her boss.

“What’s wrong?” Noah asks looking at the woman beside him.

“Nothing…” Her eyes are on her lap.

He stares at her. She’s pretty, he says to himself. She has always been pretty. The truth is, the first time he saw her on the street holding her basket of white roses, he thought that she was the prettiest girl he has ever seen. He was enthralled by her beauty and that was probably the reason why he lost his balance that day.

Noah looks away to face the roses in front of them, “I saw you at church last Sunday.”

“Really?” Karen’s eyes are still on her lap. Her fingers are playing with the pen.

“I haven’t got the chance to thank you for bringing me to church ten years ago,” he says. “That day really turned my life big time.”

Karen smiles.

“I’m so glad you’ve finally reached your dreams...”

“Thanks…it wasn’t easy but it’s worth it.”

“How’s your Nanay Nita?”

“She died last year…”

Karen knows how Noah loves his grandmother so much.

“I know she’s proud of what you’ve become…”

Noah smiles as a reply and then there is silence again.

“Your roses really look good, you know… I mean, fabulous.”

He smiles again.

“Does she like roses too… Marie?” she asks.

“Hmmm… not really… but she appreciates them. She likes pets more than flowers.”

Karen gives a slight nod.

“So how is it going between you and Michael?” Noah asks.

“What?” Karen is surprised and a little confused with his question.

“I mean…”

“You think Michael and I are together, don’t you?”

“Aren’t you?”

Karen laughs.

“Michael and I are friends. We have been since college. He’s getting married this year.”


“I should be the one asking… how is it going between you and Marie?” Karen forces a smile.

“She broke off the engagement.”

Karen looks at him in astonishment.

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay… she deeply believes I’m in love with someone else.”

“Oh… so, is it true?”

“I haven’t faced that reality until she slapped it to my face.”

Karen keeps silent.

Noah stands up and makes his way to the roses. Then he comes back holding a white rose.

“You just picked the only white rose out there,” Karen says. “I thought she is special?”

“She is…but her worth won’t mean a thing if she’s not offered to someone who is more special than her…”

The rays of the sun beam on the quiet meadow illuminating everything that it touches. The trees sing their songs, the roses dance with joy and heaven looks down and smiles at the woman in a yellow dress and the man wearing faded blue jeans and white t-shirt. 

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