This story is a response to a writing prompt set by fellow Asylum member Mat Danaher. The prompt he set was “a rose by any other name”, and you can read more about it here.
If asked, Jean Butterman would tell people that she had one great passion in life – gardening, and especially roses. She could tell Whiskey Macs from White Diamonds, Cardinal Richelieus from Brother Cadfaels , and Dusty Springfields from Jacqueline du Pres. She had an embarrassment of rosettes from the WI on the wall of her shed to show for her rose-growing efforts, along with a smattering from local and regional horticultural shows.
Her sister Cecile, could never get her head round it, preferring the Trafford Centre, or Meadowhall to the variegated delights of the garden centre. And more recently she had launched herself as a local politician, embarking on a career as a district councillor. Cecile had always aspired towards being a society hostess, even if that society was limited to local dignitaries and members of the constituency Conservative party.
She had not been thrilled to turn sixty, but now that she was unable to coy about her age since it had become a matter of public record when she was elected, had decided to throw a large garden party to commemorate the fact. Amongst her friends, members of her husband’s golf club and, of course, members of the local council (well, the Tory members anyway) gathered in the garden, was Jean.
Cecile had thrown her hands up in exasperation when she had arrived, wearing a mid-calf denim skirt, floral blouse and Dr Scholl sandals. “Darling, you promised you’d dress up! Our MP has said he might drop in later,” she said with a frown on her face.
Jean looked down at what she was wearing. “Oh, what’s the matter, have I spilt something?” she said examining her blouse.
“Oh, I suppose you’ll do. Now, who can I introduce you to…?”
Cecile had tried to deposit Jean with Cllr Lambert, a rather large man who ironically had been placed in charge of the council’s parks and leisure centres, but her progress across the garden was stopped by her husband, keen to show his birthday present for Cecile off to Jean.
“Do you see anything new in the garden?” he asked, thrusting a glass of Prosecco into her hand. Her eyes wandered over rockery and the raised flower beds.
“Is it the bench?”
“Well, yes, that is new. But look over there – I found a rose bush named after Cecile and bought it for her!”
Jean smiled and complimented him on the idea, although its pink bloom was a touch bright for her own tastes and she wasn’t sure if it had been placed in too much shade to properly flourish.
“It’s very clever of him, don’t you think,” said Cecile, taking her sister over to Cllr Lambert who was stuffing his face with sandwiches. He appeared to have been beached in a corner of the garden on his own, probably because most of his colleagues found him incredibly boring. Cecile introduced them, and they soon fell into a conversation about the council’s parks, Jean criticising the lack of variety of the rose bushes in the walled memorial garden the council maintained.
“So you’re a bit green fingered then are you?” he asked.
“Oh yes. Gardening is my great passion in life, and especially roses.”
“Perhaps you can help me then. What kind of rose is that, do you think?”
He pointed across the garden.
“Oh, I’d say it was a Cecile – large, pink and climbing.”
“I meant the rose,” he said, horrified.
“So did I,” protested Jean, with a small twinkle in her eye, “so did I!”