Under the Rose Arch


by C.A. Campbell


Editor’s Pick


 

Under the Rose Arch

 

“Meet me under the rose arch,” she said it once, her brown eyes dancing in a challenge.

I’d never been the kind to back away from a challenge.

I found her the next morning, standing beneath the roses. A petal fluttered down, and her long, slender fingers caught the fragile thing gently. She was beautiful, but I told myself I didn’t notice.

We talked and teased each other for hours, but never dared to touch so that those who passed by would think we were only friends. That was what was expected of us. We were two girls, and we’d been told all our lives, in church pews and sex education and the rants of our families. Girls were just friends with girls.

But I saw the way she blushed even though she tried to hide in behind her curls. And my fingers ached to brush her hair back.

When the day ended, she would always say, “Meet me under the rose arch.”

Every day, I would.

We were, had always been, what we had never been meant to be. We tried to deny it. I chanted it to myself over and over. Just friends. Just friends. Just friends. But secretly, we knew better. Secretly, we didn’t care, as long as they didn’t know. Under the rose arch, we were safe. We were free to slowly drift into something more than friends, to end each meeting with “Meet me under the rose arch”.

We never meant for it to happen, but one moment, she was ranting passionately, her curls whipping about, and the next she was in my arms. I don’t remember how she got there, but I remember her lips brushing over mine. I remember the drum of her heart against my chest, and the smell of her skin mixing with that of the roses.

I remember her pulling away, saying, “We can’t do this.”

She didn’t say “Meet me under the rose arch” that night or the next day. And I missed her, like part of my heart was gone.

When I saw her on the street, I called her name. When she froze, I brought my lips to her ear. “Meet me at the rose arch.” I did not know if she would, but all that night, I prayed.

The sight of her beneath the roses made my heart race with joy. From that time, we continued to meet, but not as friends, as something we never should have been. I was too lost in her to care, and she in me.

She would whisper, “If they ever found out…” She would never finish. We both already knew.

One day, she whispered against my lips, “I can’t keep this hidden anymore.”

I begged her not to tell them, but she wouldn’t listen.

Last night, I got her text. Nothing more than: “Meet me under the rose arch.”

I came. I will always come.

Today, she stands beneath the rose arch, petals in her hair, a suitcase in her hand, and tears on her cheeks. She does not say a word, but kisses me and holds me tight. Then, with her suitcase in one hand and her hand in the other, I lead her from the rose arch and into the unknown.

 


C. A. Campbell lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and three ridiculously needy dogs. When she is not writing, she works as a pediatric nurse. She enjoys writing intense, emotional stories that hit hard on ethical issues, promote diversity and keep readers thinking long after the last page.