Blake’s mother only allowed herself very small moments of grief once she took her position at the resort’s conservatory. As she fed the roses, looking deeply at the veins in their petals and their yellowish white centers, she would remember the giant pink peonies that her husband brought her one May morning before he left for the war in France. He had cut a few blooms with a pocket knife from a neighbor’s bush. When he got home he placed them unceremoniously in an old milk bottle filled with tap water. Mary had thrown her arms around his neck and put the flowers in the middle of their kitchen table. Blake, only six at the time, kept pushing his face into the pink blooms and inhaling loudly, making his parents laugh.
The delicate white, yellow, and red roses so prized by the wealthy women who visited the resort seemed too fragile and needy to Mary. They were like boys who never grew into men, always needing the right amount of food and water, little trims here and there to keep them looking presentable. She longed for those stolen peonies.