In the early days he sometimes bought her red roses. Sometimes one, from someone selling them table to table when they were out to dinner. Sometimes a bunch. Never so many that she would wonder what he had done wrong and was apologising for.
Once he arrived with one beautiful dark red rose, with a short ragged stem. Obviously picked from someone’s garden, and with blood on it. He had picked it by hand, and cut his hand on the thorns. She made him wash, then put some antiseptic on it. The thought of the story of the policeman who had been hurt by rosethorn and developed septicaemia , somewhere involved in the whole story of the early days of testing penecillin lurked in the back of her mind; she didn’t want him being poisoned by his thoughtful deed.
Their lives together were not perfect. Like many relationships they had their ups and downs. But somehow through it all ran a strong current of love, a connection neither could break.
They never married, but when middle age was past they mellowed enough to live together. It was a comfortable time. Both aware of their love, never speaking much of it. They bought the house together, a country cottage, with wooden windows that leaked cold air in winter, but that always seemed more friendly than the modern aluminium double-glazing other people had.
The week they moved in he came home one day with a little potted plant and gave it to her solemnly. “I think you need an African Violet”, he said, and kissed her gently on the cheek. The plant thrived for some time, then when they went away for a few weeks on holiday to some family who lived at the coast, the plant died. On the day of their return, he went to bed early, saying he was tired from the trip home. While doing the unpacking and washing their clothes, she also did some tidying up. She regretfully threw the plant out. Dead plants were bad luck, her mother had always said.
He never woke up again. Heart attack in his sleep, the doctor said.
In the weeks that followed, as she organised the funeral, contacted his family and friends she was always aware of the empty spot on the window sill where the violet he had given her has been. She moved ornaments around to fill the spot, yet it always seemed empty.
A year passed, then two.
Her life was not very lonely, she had friends and family nearby and at a distance. She was active in the garden in summer, and in a handiwork group in winter. Books and TV at night if she did not feel like going to visit, or having visitors.
Yet always, somewhere in the centre of her heart, was that empty spot. That was his place, the one she never admitted.
The previous Christmas, her friend Mary had given her a little white pot, filled with bath salts. They had been pleasant to use. She loved a nice long bath with a cup of tea and a book.
Spring, and she went to the garden centre to buy some seeds for the veggie patch, and some seedlings for her flowerbed. There were some potted plants for sale as well, and amongst them, African violets. Ther were pretty feminine pink ones, some white, so unexpected. And just one purple-blue one. She looked in her purse, there was enough to buy it.
At home she searched out the white pot, and placed the potted violet in it. Now where to put it?
Of course, the obvious place, the windowsill.
Suddenly he seemed not so far away any more.