She loved her garden, and tended it faithfully every day. Flowers of every color bloomed in it. There were lilies and daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, violets, carnations, daisies, and magnolias. A great deal of sunshine and love went into her garden. She loved all her flowers, but she especially valued her prize-winning roses.
And in two days would be the flower judging. It was to be the first judging in the new century. Imagine what it would be like to start off the year 1900 by winning the rose competition, she thought to herself. Her roses would be famous!
* * *
Jillie knocked quietly on the door. Inside she could hear the doctor talking to her momma. She hear several big words, but the only one that caught her attention was influenza. That word sounded funny. There was a faint whisper,
"Come in." And Jillie slipped into the room. There lay her beautiful mother with her long hair all pulled back in a braid so as not to bother her. Jillie thought her momma looked very white, somewhat like a ghostie.
"Now, Caroline you know better than to let her in here," voiced the doctor.
"Doctor, please I need to spend a little time with my baby."
"Oh, well, alright. But just for a little while. I'll be back tomorrow."
"Momma, it's me, Jillie. Are you all better yet?"
Caroline smiled at her little strawberry-blonde ragamuffin who looked up at her with big green eyes full of love and concern. Her precious little girl seemed much older than her five years.
"No, Jillie, I'm not yet. But you, my little sunshine, sure do give me hope that I'll get over this soon," her mother panted.
"Momma what's ifflunza?" questioned Jillie.
"It's just a sickness that's kind of taking a vacation in my body. That's all," smiled Caroline at her curious little child.
"Is there sumpin' I can get you, Momma?"
"No, sweetie. There's nothing you can get me. I just wish this room wasn't so dreary."
"I know Momma. I'm gonna make you feel better, you'll see. I'll be back in a li'l bit."
Jillie knew what she had to do. She hurried out of the room, and down the stairs. She ran over to the house next-door, the lady's house. She knocked on the big door. A young, rather tired-looking maid answered, "May I help you? Oh, Jill, what is it now?"
"Sara, I gotta ask the lady sumpin'!"
"Jill, run along home now. You know she's very busy with her garden this time of year. Go along, scoot!"
"Alright Sara, 'bye."
As soon as the door was shut, Jillie scampered back to the garden. When she reached the gate, she stopped and sighed at all the beautiful colors. Jillie loved looking at the lady's garden. She called out, "Miss Lady, can I have, I mean, may I have one small rose for my sick momma. Your roses are so pretty, and I think that's just what my momma needs to make her all better."
The lady pretended to ignore Jillie. She had no time to deal with children, and she certainly couldn't afford to lose one of her precious roses just because some child's mother had a sniffle.
"Miss Lady, did ya hear me?"
"I heard you, but I'm afraid I can't help you Jill. You see I need all my roses to enter in the judging. But after the judging, I'll give you a leftover rose, alright?"
"But my momma needs it now, Miss Lady!" pleaded Jillie.
"I'm sorry, Jill. Next week."
"Yes ma'am. 'Bye," mumbled the broken-hearted Jillie.
* * *
As the evening wore on Caroline became sicker and sicker. By the next morning she was so exhausted, her body could not fight anymore.
The lady's old quivering hands tended the garden with extraordinary care that morning. She spoke gently to all her flowers, completely unaware that Caroline had died that morning. It was the day before the flower judging. In the afternoon the lady spent the rest of the day in the city preparing her booth and getting her last minute errands done. She did her own shopping for she was sure she would need many desserts for her celebration party for her roses. That night she blew a special kiss to her roses.
"I'll see you little beauties tomorrow. Sleep well."
She looked at Caroline's old house, and muttered to herself about the nerve of that child demanding a rose right before the contest. How ridiculous, she thought to herself.
* * *
The lady stepped outside and smiled at the sun shining brightly on the day of her judging. She strode quickly to her back gate and started to open it when she gasped for breath. Her flowers had all disappeared! There were no flowers, no petals, no stems or leaves, nothing. The ground was covered with plain grass. It looked like anybody's ordinary backyard. Frantically she searched the yard to see if someone was playing a practical joke on her. As she neared the corner of her yard she stopped and stared. There under a pine tree one flower stood. One flower that had never been there before. Out of that dark corner had grown one rose, as black as night.
As the lady felt her body go numb, something drew her eye over to Caroline's yard. There under a tree sat Jillie, with her knees pulled up to her chest she sat there and rocked back and forth. Quiet, almost inaudible tears broke the silence. In that moment the lady knew what had happened as a result of her selfishness. And she sank to her knees beside the black rose and rocked.
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