“Meet me in the rose garden.”
That voice. I knew it so well.
They said a new resident moved in today. But I didn’t know it was him. He wore a simple black mask, tied around his strong-boned face. He had always been the handsomest man in the room, the life of every party.
He winked, and disappeared into the crowd of swirling chiffon and lace. A sultry jazz tune drifted from the speakers in the crowded dining room, transformed into a glittering ballroom just for tonight.
I stole out to the garden. Moonlight bathed the manicured grounds in a silver glow. I followed the scent of the roses to the gate, and heard his footsteps trailing behind.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d stayed with him. If I hadn’t chosen practicality and stability over passion.
I’d raised three children with another man. But I always kept up with news on James, especially after my husband passed away.
“You look beautiful tonight, Eve.” His hand was on the gate behind me. His breath sent shivers of memories dancing over my skin. “Do you remember the first night we met?”
“How could I forget?” I turned, looking up at him. My hand drifted self-consciously to my frizzy white curls. “In my uncle’s rose garden. You guessed my favorite flower on the first try.”
“Lavender roses.” He plucked one from the vine, the petals rustling in the wind as he slipped it behind my ear.
Sixty years of marriage. I couldn’t remember the last time a man had tucked a flower in my hair. “How did you know it was me?”
“I saw you dancing.” His hazel eyes held a hint of mischief. “You can still move your hips better than any woman in the room.”
I skimmed a palm down the skirt of my pink dress. “I had one replaced. I haven’t danced much lately.”
“Maybe you could show me the scar later.”
He wiggled his eyebrows and I laughed, remembering how easy life was when we were teenagers. How simple life was before marriage, mortgages, children. He held out his hand. “Dance with me.”
I hesitated. I felt compelled to show him what lay beneath the mask, the years that had etched lines into my once beautiful face. My arthritic fingers toyed with the ribbon and I let it fall away. I let him look at me, at the lines, at the scar where Susie’s swing had caught me above the eye. I’d worn the mask of motherhood, wife, cook, chauffeur, teacher, counselor for so long; it was my portrait now. “This is me.”
He traced a thumb tenderly over the deep lines fanning out from my eyes—my laugh lines. “I think,” he murmured, “there’s still room for a few more.”
This piece was written for Meg McNulty's (@charitygirlblog) Twelth Night Masquerade Flash Fiction Contest. Rose Petal Masquerade is 467 words. I'd love to hear what you think!