…the nature of human longing and how an individual’s life is shaped by such dreams.
Text: Adolescence by P.K. Page
He gave me a rose every night. A white rose; each petal ever so delicate and pristine. He would stand below my balcony, pacing about the garden, quoting verses upon verses of poetry. After a time, a faint blush would kiss his cheeks and a shy smile would form across his face. He would beckon me to join him in the garden, a white rose dangling from his fingers. In my silk robe, I would float down the stairs and into his arms, the smell of earth and rain clinging to his weathered skin. Beneath the moonlight, he gave me the rose. “I could give you a million white roses and you would still not begin to fathom how much I love you, for you are the most beautiful, Juliette.”
We would disappear into the night, roaming the dimly lit streets and traipsing through the woods, before we reached our meadow. There, the long grass would tickle our toes as we danced with the fireflies, and the swans would glide through the pond to eat out bread crumbs out of my hand. When thunder cracked across the sky and the heavens opened wide, we would laugh and dance before hiding beneath the weeping willows; our smiles dissolving into chattering teeth. As we would wait for the rain to cease, he would hold me close to his chest, providing me warmth through his embrace. Hours would pass before the storm had transformed into a soft drizzle. He kissed me deeply, and then moaned in dismay. “I must leave you now, but wait for me again tonight. I could give you a million white roses and you would still not begin to fathom how much I love you, for you are the most beautiful, Juliette.”
Just like every night, I returned home before the dawn could paint over the night. My wild curls and muddied blouse aroused lingering stares from the staff, but my father was thankfully asleep on the chaise. Wait for me. His sweet voice rang through my ears and my heart leaped with joy at the thought of seeing him again. I loved him. My father would see it as nothing more than foolish and promiscuous if he were ever to find out, but I knew it was love. It had to be. Love was the reason why my breath became trapped in my throat as I stared into his ocean blue eyes; love was the reason why white roses drifted in and out of my dreams. He was all I desired, for his love became intoxicating. I longed for his affection and adoration, both in the day and the night. My fantasies of marriage and children consumed my thoughts; I wanted more from him than the white roses.
Waiting till midnight to see him filled my heart with deep sorrow and impatience. I had to see him now; I had to tell him of my desires. The brisk morning air offered me the opportunity to take out my mare; my father was far more inclined to let his daughter partake in equestrian activities when the weather was “perfect.” I recalled a time in the meadow where he once described to me his home in the village. With this in mind, I rode off into the town. After inquiring around, some villagers pointed me towards the house of a gardener who did work for the manors. I came upon a wooden cottage, the laundry line blowing in the breeze. A silk dress hung from the line. Trudging up to the door, I could hear a voice inside. A woman’s voice. The cry of a baby interrupted her, and he spoke up. Through the window, I could see him holding a child; a woman caressed his arm, her wedding ring glinted in the early morning light. “I could give you the world and you would still not begin to fathom how much I love you, for you are the most beautiful, Elizabeth.”
I desperately raced home, the wind throwing my curls into disarray, like my thoughts. Anger and sorrow washed over me but it was bitterness that consumed my soul. Without him, my entire world was dark. I gazed into my mirror, transfixed at the abyss in my eyes where wonder and love once twinkled. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the white roses in a vase. The once delicate and pristine flowers were nothing more than thorns and wilted petals, except for one. It was the rose he had given me the night before. With tears blurring my vision, I crushed the white rose in my hands, watching blood trickle from my palm as the thorns cut into my flesh. Yet that pain was bearable compared to the piercing agony of my broken heart; the shattered pieces falling to the floor like the dying rose petals. A knock at my door caused me to drop the flower. My father peered inside my bedroom, taking in his disheveled, tear-stained daughter and the black roses. We sat down on the bed, my head lying in his lap for a moment before he began to speak quietly.
“Juliette, I have seen the eyes of a person in love, just as I have seen the eyes of a person in grief. Over the past several weeks, I have seen both in you.” He kissed my forehead before continuing. “When you love someone, you long for that love to remain true forever. Every human does. You spend your whole life clinging to a fallacy of romance and connection with another, and when you fail to achieve this desire, you become distraught. If you let your naive dreams of love shape your future, you will never be truly happy. One day, real love will find you, my dear. It will be composed of respect, and truth, and loyalty. Long for that kind of love, my darling. For that love is more than just a dream; more than just a white rose.”