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A place under the roses

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A balmy wind started up as you went to the shed to retrieve the shovel. The air reeked of roses and Asiatic lilies. Petals fluttered in the air. Sunlight made dappled shadows through the trees. Pollen and dust motes flew up in a cloud as you dragged the shovel off the top self against the shed wall.

As you debated with yourself on where the digging would begin, the sun warmed your chilled skin. It was the sort of day that you loved to sit on the porch with your partner and listen to the sounds of the neighborhood. Both of you loved slow, hazy days like this. This made the task at hand even more difficult to consider. You look to the back porch. The box containing your partner's head was still there. Not a mirage, not a nightmare. The blood staining the wooden steps and cardboard was a little too real... Your hands trembled. But that was all.

You noted that you were remarkably calm and collected for someone who had opened a box containing your partner's head. Maybe a part of you had accepted that they could die at anytime. They worked in one of the many gangs in this city, death was not an if here but a when. Hence, why you tried to enjoy every minute, you got to spend with them.

It hadn't been enough. You should have held them tighter. Worked harder to show what you felt. Despite knowing this, you still felt terrible because this lack of response made you… Well, it made you remember your mother. And you hated her. Her sharp words, the purposeful crippling of your emotions. How she left a specter of her disapproval imprinted when you felt lacking. But you couldn't help it. When you had opened the package, on the best table linens no less, to find your lover's destroyed head. It had been too much for a moment. And your first instinct was to shut down.

'Did they really have to do that?' was your first thought. Then that gut deep guilt overwhelmed you. A part of you, still disgusted with yourself, made your face burn hot despite the cool wind. It was your mind reacting to the shock. The disgust and grief at your partner's mangled face making you go numb. They tore their jaw off, shreds of red muscle and teeth gleamed wet in the light. Their blind eyes bored into yours.

The second thought had been, how would their parents be able to bury them. It was the last coherent thought you had before breaking down into tears. A sight your mother would have beaten you for. You had wailed naturally; the sobs bellowing out of you. It was an ugly crying session, the sort your mother had hated.

The stark disbelief in their eyes made it harder to stop. But you couldn't help it; the grief had been overwhelming. How will you feel again? Who would care to break through your brittle shell? Despite their work, they had such love for you, the type that healed the scars in your heart and made you brave. It was the main reason you stayed with them. Being with them was like occupying a golden circle. Nothing could touch you when you had been in their arms. But now the circle was red. They broke it; they breached it. The blood had made it a plague circle, a mark that meant you were free to hunt. You had to run.

You cried for them until you remembered that their boss' son had been with them. You went cold. If you had gotten this package, God knows what the boss had gotten. But you were sure it wasn't good. It had to be pieces.

For a crazy moment, you had wanted to scream, "Pieces, Sir! They tore my love to pieces." But you bite it down. You had to think. And crying more would not solve this problem. There would be repercussions. There was no escape from that. This act would inspire a reaction and a mobster reaction always involved indiscriminate bloodshed.

A part of you wanted to call the police. Yet, you knew that option was not even viable. Everyone was corrupt here. The police more so. They stained their hands with the silver the gangs gave them. Besides, you knew they would sell you to the same people that sent you this package.

'Also let's not forget that the men who had done this knew your address! Who gave it to them?!' A hysterical voice inside your head had shrieked. You had to run. However, panic would not help you. You imagined your mother scolding you.

"Weak little thing. Pathetic little wimp. Why must you force me to take you in hand? But I will make you strong, child." The panic subsides. You thought of the escape plan as you looked out the window. The same plan you both had thought of. A necessity in their line of work. Get your money, get out of the city before dark. Bury them. Focus, think only of that plan.

You were calm, now. You thanked a childhood of being beaten for emotional outbursts for that. Mother had slapped you for less. You wondered if this was what trauma does, making you able to calmly decide that underneath the red-gold carnival roses were the best place to bury your partner's ruined head as blood soaked through the cardboard box onto the wooden steps.

Your mind was going in circles. Bury them, get money, run. Forget them. A sob threatens to bubble up and the garden blurs for a minute. You huff instead, make your spine steel child as your mother loved to say. The time for tears was over for now. You know your partner would have done the same for you. And your mother had raised you to not be weak like that. Bottle it inside. It is just a package now. It… is just a package. An ordinary package you had to get rid of.

You walked over to the carnival roses. Box in one hand, shovel in the other. Your terror giving you a surprising strength. It had seemed heavier when you first brought it outside. Setting it down gently, you dig. The ground is thankfully soft and before long; you have made a hole deep enough to bury their head. Red, yellow, and gold rose petals fall onto their face as you gently lower their head into the hole. A part of you wanted them to have one last look at something beautiful. You snap off a rose, not caring that a thorn has pricked your hand. Kneeling, your blood forming tears on their face, you prayed.

Or you tried to. Your faith seemed to run on empty these days. If God allowed these horrors and acts in His world, then nothing you said now would mean a thing. You doubted anything you said would change a thing.

And besides the only prayers that came to mind were: Please God, don't let this capo ventilate my head with a.45. Please protect me from the scary motherfucker that sent me my partner's head. And I beg of you, please lord let me have enough money and time to get out of this city before my doom jumps on me with both feet."

Nothing appropriate to say right now as you kneeled there. Finger bleeding and tears again welling up in your eyes. Besides, knowing your luck, He wasn't listening to you, anyway. You had entered this city with your savings in your pocket and tears on your face. It was regrettable that you would leave in the same fashion.

You threw the first bit of soil over their face. Their glazed over eyes were the last thing you saw as you filled the hole. When you finished, the shadows had already lengthened. It was close to sunset, and you knew you had to get going. Whatever revenge your partner's boss was putting in motion, you knew it would start soon. You go back inside, quickly washing the blood and dirt off of your hands. This was the last bit of them you would ever hold again. It washes off easily.

You get your wallet and some cash from your partner's side of the bed. You take nothing but that and a pistol. The same one they had taught you to use. You couldn't afford to be sentimental. All the souvenirs of your life together had to stay here. As you flee from the home you and your partner had built, you hope it was not too late to escape. You do not notice the car that follows you down the block.