forget me not
suzanne snow
forget me not
suzanne snow, romantic fiction author

The Garden of Little Rose – Deleted Scene

Island of Alana, May 1915

May had always been her favourite month. Rose was in the new greenhouse in the walled garden, planting seeds for vegetables the house would enjoy later in the year. She stood the pots in trays of water and stepped outside, enjoying the cooler air drifting from the sea below. She bent to retrieve a fallen pot, smiling as her gaze went to the bucket of flowers she had cut for the house earlier. Hopefully when she returned there would be a letter from Archie waiting. He had been in France since March and everyday brought worse news of the war.

At home on Alana, bathed in sunlight and the glow of first love, Rose had at first refused to believe that such a calamity could reach their simple lives on the island. But when war had been declared on 4th August last year, she had prayed that Archie wouldn’t join up. And yet she’d always known that he would; it was in his very nature to serve. He shared her fears for their future and she was proud of his willingness to put himself in danger alongside the thousands of other young men with their lives still ahead of them.

He’d formally proposed a few days after the declaration, the year they’d turned eighteen. He had prepared a picnic with champagne, and asked Rose to marry him in the summerhouse where they had first kissed on her sixteenth birthday. Their families had been delighted and a small party had been held at Roisin to mark the occasion. Her older brother Donald, married and living in London, had made the long journey to the island with his new wife and they had stayed for three weeks. By then Archie’s father Rupert, the architect who had designed the house and garden for Rose’s father, was too ill to travel from his home in Edinburgh.

She and Archie had been natural playmates from the start, always together on his visits to the island with his father, and eventually he came alone. She’d loved the garden since its earliest days and her father had always encouraged her interest. Little Rose, he’d called fondly, and her middle name had stuck. So much so that the house he had built was named after her but given the Gaelic spelling, in honour of her mother’s Irish ancestry. He still called her Little Rose but to everyone else she was Rose, and it suited her.

She couldn’t remember a time when the three Lassiter boys hadn’t visited Alana, and as the eldest, Archie had been the one to whom she always gravitated. They’d grown up exploring the island and its coastline in her dinghy, sharing their love of books, music and nature. His love of sports and athletics in particular were a passion, and she’d long ago given up trying to beat him at tennis or bowl him out in cricket. She was a better croquet player, having more patience, and with all the determination that marked his character, he’d announced aged twelve that he was going to study Medicine and become a doctor.

Rose’s own love of the outdoors and her interest in plants had increased until she felt as though the garden had wound itself into her very essence. She loved drawing and painting too, and was determined that she would somehow use these gifts to create a means of earning her living. Archie had always encouraged her, and she loved to show him her sketches and share how she imagined the garden might progress into the future. Her father too, was supportive and brought home books from his travels, anything he had thought would be of interest and advance her knowledge of plants and botany.

Her sixteenth birthday fell just after midsummer in 1912 and that was the night everything between her and Archie changed. A party had been planned and they ate outside in glorious weather. They’d played games too; as an athlete he was excited about the Olympic Games and hoped to go to Sweden to watch some of the track and field competition. After the party, as her birthday was about to slip away into an ordinary day, they had made their way up to the little summerhouse at the top of the garden, their own secret place. There he’d kissed her and they’d promised to love one another always.

But in the years since then and especially since Archie had been sent to France after his nineteenth birthday, Rose felt as though time had somehow paused, holding her in an unreality she had never imagined. She wrote to him every day and waited impatiently for his replies, filling her letters with the love that was for him alone. She’d continued with her botany studies and her father had asked her to take over the management of the garden, understanding that she needed something to keep her active mind occupied from news of the war and worse.

She was thankful that the garden kept her busy. Three of the four skilled gardeners had joined up, and both labour and knowledge were scarce. She loved to get her hands dirty in the soil and had soon come to appreciate how difficult such a space was to manage between just two people. They worked as many hours as they could reasonably manage and she occasionally drafted in help from around the island.

She was still learning to live with Archie’s continued absence and the constant fear for him, which coiled in her stomach and left her unsettled and sometimes tearful. She knew too, that she was simply one of many thousands at home who worried and fretted about the fate of their loved ones, in danger from warfare and the cold, wet conditions that brought their own perils. She tried not to let it show and worry her parents too, who carried their own fears for Archie and others.

The island seemed smaller without him on it somehow, as though his lively presence and zest for exploration had rendered the land less exciting. He wrote regularly, sharing news, books they were reading and people he had met, anything he thought would interest her without worrying her. Neither of them dared to make plans beyond a tentative wedding date, which was set for the first of September.

His last letter had arrived five days ago and he’d assured her of his love as always in the brief lines he had sent, reminding her that their wedding day would soon be upon them. Sun was gradually lengthening days on the island and Rose was busier than ever in the garden, propagating, planning, and planting as much as possible and refusing to allow her mind to dwell on the unease that dominated the dark hours through the night when she couldn’t settle.

The bucket of flowers still in her arms, she smiled as she saw her father. He was walking slowly, not unusual these days, but only as he neared did she register the horror-struck expression on his face. All light seemed to have gone from his eyes and he appeared to have aged ten years in as many minutes. Fresh lines were sunk into the skin around his mouth and his lips parted as he tried to speak. His eyes were full of tears as he tried again, and her head began to shake even as her heartbeat thundered in her ears, the gesture a method of furious and desperate denial. He was only a couple of steps away now and she shook her head again as her tears fell too, skittering over her skin.

‘Oh, Rose,’ he whispered sorrowfully, the telegram in his hand fluttering to the ground as he moved to take hold of her, to steady her through the news about to shatter her. ‘My little Rose. I’m so very sorry, my dear. We all loved him so much.’

‘No,’ she whispered brokenly, the sound catching on a sob that slipped from her soul as the bucket crashed onto the path and spilled around her feet. ‘No. I don’t believe it. It can’t be true. He’s coming home. He promised he would. Whatever they say, it can’t be true. Our wedding…’

Her voice became a wail as she struggled to grasp the sudden new reality of the worst news and she stumbled into her father’s arms as he clutched her tightly. But it was all too real, a too-familiar truth for those waiting anxiously at home. Archie was gone, and her future had just ended.

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