Three Yellow Roses

This is the ending of a story I started writing about a year ago. I haven’t finished it yet, but I hope to some day. It’s written in first person, with the narrator being the character named Kate. The story synopsis is this:

Ryan O’Neil is the richest guy in school, and he knows it. Kate Allen is from a middle-class, Southern family. Being a Christian, Kate tries to treat everyone with kindness. Ryan, however, is more interested in the coolest, richest kids in school, along with the people he can take advantage of or party with. No one else can stand him.

When Ryan becomes ill, however, his life begins to change dramatically. The doctor tells him he is dying, there is no cure for his illness, and he has three months to live. Determined to not end his life as an invalid, Ryan seeks out those he has called his friends, only to find that they have no interest in spending time with a dying person, no matter how rich he is. Lost and lonely, he turns to the only person who will spare him a moment: Kate. He finds her at the park feeding the birds and clad in a pink summer dress, and he begs her to spend three months as his friend. In payment, he’ll give her $500 and a yellow rose for every month she stays. Though she doesn’t really want anything to do with him, Kate agrees, since it’s summer and she has nothing to do.

Kate then sets out to show Ryan what he has been missing, but she finds that she has a few lessons of her own to learn. As God uses her to reveal himself to Ryan, He also uses Ryan to teach Kate a lesson she will never forget.

I still haven’t decided what illness Ryan should have, though I have narrowed it down a bit. Just have to do a little more research. In the meantime, here is the rough draft of the ending.

—–

“Ryan!” I exclaimed when I saw his pale, fragile form lying motionless on the couch. I dropped to my knees beside him. I just knew he had died in my absence.

Just then I saw him stir, and then his eyelids lifted and he turned to look at me. A weak smile crossed his pale lips.

“Hey…Sunshine,” he whispered.

“You look terrible,” I breathed, scanning his deathly pale features.

“That’s cruel,” he laughed, coughing slightly.

“No, that’s not what I meant. I just-.”

“I know,” he interrupted. “Just had to tease you…one last time.”

My eyes widened and I was about to protest when he said, “Could you…hand me that box on the coffee table?”

I picked up the little white container. I didn’t have to look at the label to know what it was. It had been exactly three months since I began to be his “friend”. I now felt much more than a bought friend, and was almost ashamed of myself for continuing to accept his payment.

I opened the box and lowered it toward him. Reverently he withdrew a yellow rose. I set the box aside.

“Three months,” he smiled, taking my hand and laying the flower in it. “Your contract is up. You’re free to go.”

“Forget there ever was such a thing,” I smiled gently. “I’m not just gonna leave you like that.”

He sighed contentedly, as though he had been burdened too long by a terrible fear and had at last found relief. Then he said, “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.”

What I did next was something that even now I question the motivation behind it. I guess it was the fact that I had begun to love the rascal, but one way or another, I stood, lifted him up, settled down at the end of the couch, and cradled him in my arms.

“Kate,” he whispered, looking up at me with a longing in his eyes, “thank you. These have been the best three months of my life. I never used to think of God, but I now see Him everywhere…especially in you. Before I die, I want you to know…I love you. You deserve all the happiness heaven and earth have to offer.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I replied, tears beginning to stream down my face. “You can’t die. I love you, too. So much! You’re all I need to be happy. Please, don’t die.”

“That’s not something I can control,” he said sadly. “But I’ll wait for you at the gate.”

“Here,” I said, almost oblivious to his words, “I’ll call an ambulance.”

“Wait,” he protested. “Please…lean forward.”

I did as I was bade and weakly he lifted his hand to touch my face. I grabbed him by the wrist before his hand could drop again. I leaned in and placed a kiss on his lips. They were frighteningly cold.

He smiled weakly. “What a way to go out, huh?”

I pressed my forehead to his as tears flowed down my face. Never had I imagined it would be this hard to say good-bye to the guy that most people at school couldn’t stand. I held him close to me, praying that God would work some sort of miracle and spare Ryan’s life.

“You’re…making me depressed,” he whispered, coughing. “Can’t you smile for me…while I’m here?”

I looked down into his eyes and I mustered a small smile.

“Good,” he said, “don’t you lose that smile. I’ll be looking for it later.”

He coughed again, breathed out, and then went motionless.

“Ryan?”

I checked for a pulse. There was none. I wrapped him up in my arms, but I couldn’t cry. A sudden peace had fallen upon me. I had lost a very dear friend here, but had I not gained an eternal friendship in its place? If I had turned away from Ryan when he asked me to be his friend for the last few months of his life, not only would I have missed a wonderful blessing but Ryan would probably have died alone, without any hope of a future. I thought of the story about Jairus’s daughter in the Bible, and how Jesus had said, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

Yes, Ryan was not gone forever. He would sleep until Christ came to take His faithful home. I would see him again some day.

Slowly I reached for the phone next to the couch. There was nothing else that I could do but pray that God would heal the emptiness in my heart.

“Good-bye, Ryan,” I whispered, stroking his hair before calling his parents. “I’ll see you when I get there.”

***

I suppose that it looked quite odd to the people at the funeral. There were Ryan’s parents, balling their eyes out, though I wasn’t sure if it was out of regret or for show. A lot of other people showed up, too. In regards to most of them, I wondered why they even bothered, seeing as how they hadn’t put any effort into being with Ryan when he was alive.

But what really must have looked funny to all these solemn figures was the little cluster of visitors standing off to the side. There was Mole, the caricature artist from the park, and Mr. Jim the fisherman and his two sons, and even Mark, the journalist from Boston. And there, in front of them all, was me. I wasn’t wearing black like all the other guests. Instead, I stood there in a pink summer dress, a set of three yellow roses in my hands.

A light breeze rustled the autumn leaves of the trees that surrounded us. I listened to the quiet weeping of the people surrounding me, but I couldn’t compel myself to join them. Instead, I thought about the trees. The leaves would fall soon and it would appear as though the trees were dead. But just as I knew that I would see the trees alive and full again after the long winter had passed, so I knew that, after my long winter of life on earth was over, and Christ came to take me to heaven, I would see Ryan again: alive and full of life.

***

It has been several years since I bade farewell to my dear friend. But some days, if you happen to pass by a little Texas cemetery on a clear summer day in July, and if you look closely, you might see, standing by a tombstone, a girl in a pink summer dress, three yellow roses in her hands.

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