Dried petals and stems standing in clouded water greeted him.
Never before had these rewards of his affection appeared less than perfectly tended.
She provided tending. Provided status, security. She cultivated his reputation and ambition.
In the beginning, he signified his passion with red roses. Then the bouquets arrived bigger, more elaborate, and overflowed with color, camouflaging the guilt. Each blossom signified devotion, but not fidelity. Well-tended consolation prizes.
Until she realized that a living rose bush, even with all its thorns, better reciprocated the life and beauty she craved, more than any short-lived bouquet