A rose for isabel
Rosencrantz “Rose” Davenport is a writer – sort of. His talent in undeniable, but fear has kept him from seeking publication. Instead, he gave up writing altogether. Until he meets Isabel, a lovely woman who owns a small bookstore in the city. She reads, he writes, a match made in heaven.
However, Rose’s father, Magnus, has other plans. He’s a powerful businessman set on global domination in the midst of a merger with his only competitor, John DuPont.
The catch – to ensure the future of their companies, both parties have agreed on a marriage pact between Rose and John’s daughter, Jennifer DuPont, and Magnus is not going to let Isabel get in the way.
He fancied himself a writer despite never publishing a single word. It was a conversation piece, especially with the ladies. When asked if they might have read anything he wrote, his charming wit would reply,
“You don’t strike me as the reading type.”
They’d push or punch him with a defensive laugh, clearly smitten, and he’d once again escape having to admit to himself, or anyone else, that he is a fraud.
It wasn’t always this way. His fear of rejection kept him from submitting his work, but the pen used to move quite fluidly, almost rhythmically on the page, like a fine-tipped waltz. That was before, back when his choices were simple. Whiskey or beer tonight? He’d smile, knowing the answer was both. There was something about liquor and ink that felt like home. Time would pass, or did it stand still? He couldn’t tell the difference. It was not love, oh no, it was much more intense. It was cold-blooded murder. The man who woke up the next morning was not the same as the night before. The only proof of his existence were empty bottles, some pens, and a new chapter of his latest work that he’d be excited to read, as if for the first time.
But it was time to shit-or-get-off-the-pot as they say. Either get published or give up. He couldn’t bear only writing for himself any longer. There was always some excuse why he couldn’t contact an agent. “I just need to revise this part one more time. I’ll mail them tomorrow.” But tomorrow turned tomorrow and tomorrow again until his ink ran out the last time and he didn’t buy a new pen. It wouldn’t be long before his drafts became placemats for TV dinners and other stuff, eventually getting lost under mounds of unopened mail.
Drinking was a way to pass the time. Binging was to forget it altogether. When he finally realized he was in a hole, he had dug too deep to climb out. Pride wouldn’t ask for help, so he did the only thing he could; pretend to like it there. He went out at night and socialized, convincing those around him of his bliss. Some envied his freedom and wished they could live the life of a writer.
“What I would give to be able to sip expensive whiskey by the fire while working on my latest novel.” They’d say.
“Yeah, life is pretty grand.” He’d reply, momentarily believing it to be true. The problem with moments is they end. Eventually, he’d go home and see that he didn’t even have a fireplace. The novel was long gone, and the whiskey was some cheap knock-off brand.
“This” he quietly said aloud, “This is the life of a writer.”
The vibration from his phone woke him. He slowly opened one eye and groaned at the room. It was dark except for what was lit by the phone’s incoming call. He reached over and answered, putting the phone on speaker. It was loud, but the moment the voice came through he remembered everything.
“Rose?! You there?!” The female voice was not happy.
He let out a quiet grunt, as he mentally prepared for the fallout.
“Where the fuck are you?” The loud voice caused Rose to squint his already closed eyes.
“I’m at home.” He said, his voice raspy from a night of fun.
“You’re at home?! Why the fuck-” Rose hung up. He sat up in bed, still drunk, and wiped his eyes while they adjusted to the room. His phone vibrated again, but he ignored it.
It was bound to end sometime. He thought as he glanced at the digital clock on the microwave in the kitchen section of his studio apartment.
I must have just fallen asleep. The phone vibrated again. Rose stared at the screen and recalled the evening.
He sat next to Jennifer at the bar, drinking and chatting with strangers more interesting than her. He was already half in the bag by the time the hostess arrived to let them know their table was ready.
“Here we are, your server will be over shortly.” She said, placing two drink menus on the table.
“Thank you,” Rose said, taking his suit jacket off before sitting.
“I can’t believe you brought me here. Must be a special occasion.” Jennifer said, singing the last word.
“Pretty special. I was hungry and craving their duck à l’orange.” Rose said, looking down at the menu.
“Okay, I’ll play along. I won’t ruin the surprise.” Jennifer said, widening her eyes and lowering her voice a few octaves.
“Surprise?” Rose asked as he scrolled through his mental calendar for important dates.
“Yeah, we’ve been together for two years now; our families have been pressuring us; you had me get dressed up and took me to La Voile and I’m supposed to believe you took me here just because you were hungry for duck? Okay, I’ll play along.” Jennifer said with a wink.
“Well, it’s really good duck, and it’s a nice place, so I didn’t want us to look like we don’t belong here,” Rose said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Luckily, the server arrived. A dark-skinned woman that somehow made the server uniform look sexy. She wore form-fitting black pants, a white dress shirt under a black vest, and a tie. She flashed her perfect teeth as she arrived at the table and began her script.
“Good evening folks, my name is Naomi and I’ll be your server today; can I get you started with a couple of drinks?”
“Gin Rickey for me and a glass of your finest Pinot Noir for the lady,” Rose said, looking over at Jennifer. “It goes perfect with their duck à l’orange.”
“Oh my god, enough about the stupid duck!” Jennifer snapped in an angry whisper.
“I’ll get those right out to you,” Naomi said, sensing the tension at the table.
“Thank you,” Rose said with a smirk, making eye contact with Naomi. She smiled back and wished him luck with her eyes before walking away.
“What was that?” Jennifer demanded.
“What was what?” Rose responded.
“That look. Were you seriously just flirting with the waitress right in front of me?”
“That wasn’t flirting,” Rose said, placing his elbows on the table and positioning his hands together in front of his mouth. He lowered his voice but still spoke aloud. “It was a cry for help.”
“Excuse me?” Jennifer asked, leaning her head in while raising her eyebrows. “Now, you listen to me,” She pointed a stern finger, “I’m not going to just sit here while you eye-fuck the trashy waitress.”
“This is a nice restaurant Jen, I don’t think they hire trashy girls,” Rose said, resiting a smile.
“You’re unbelievable!” Jennifer said loud enough for the nearby tables to notice. Realizing her volume, she looked around the room, then took a deep inhale through her nose and brought her voice back down to a normal level. “I’m going to go freshen up,” Jennifer stated as she stood, “When I come back, there’d better be a glass of wine waiting for me and a new server. I don’t want to see her again.”
Rose stared blankly at her empty seat for a minute when Naomi arrived with the drinks.
“I have wine for the lady,” She said, placing the glass where Jen was sitting, “and a Gin Rickey for the gentleman. I have to admit, I had to look it up.”
“And they let you work here?” Rose said with a grin.
“I know, right? It’s only a matter of time before they find out that I don’t know what half the menu even says.” She locked eyes with Rose.
“Well thank you for that bode of confidence before I place my order.” Rose glanced down at her lips, then back up to her eyes.
“Are you ready to order now, or are we waiting for your… lady friend?” Naomi asked gesturing to the empty seat.
“My lady friend? Uh-oh, she was right about you.” Rose said, leaning back in his chair with a devilish grin.
“Oh? And what did she say about me?” Naomi said with a guilty smile.
“Oh no, it’s far too fancy in here for that type of language.” Rose leaned forward, then lowered his voice, “Look, she’s going to be a little while, how about we take a smoke break and I’ll tell you all about it.”
“I don’t know, It’s pretty busy here, I could get in trouble,” Naomi said looking around.
“You’re already in trouble, you can’t read the menu,” Rose said with a laugh. He stood up, “Besides, my lady friend wants a different server, preferably one less-” He looked her up and down. “You.” He took a big gulp of his drink and walked out. As soon as he got outside, he told the valet to get his car, then leaned against the wall. Just as he predicted, Naomi walked through the door. She shook her head with an open-mouthed smile as she approached Rose.
“I thought you were coming out here to have a smoke?” She asked.
“It looks like the menu isn’t the only thing you can’t read. I don’t smoke.” Rose said, placing his left hand on his face and stroking his beard stubble. “Naomi, right?” He asked, then extended his hand. “Rose. Rose Davenport.” He said.
“Nice to meet you. I’ve never met a guy named Rose before.” Naomi replied as she shook his hand.
“Well, it’s short for Rosencrantz.” He said, placing his hands in his pocket.
“Well, I’ve never met a guy named Rosencrantz before either.” She replied with a grin.
“Hm, good point,” Rose said as the valet pulled up in a brand new black Porsche 911. The evening lights reflected off the car’s metallic paint.
“Here you are, sir. I left the key fob in the center cup holder.” The valet said as he exited the vehicle and walked towards Rose.
“Thank you,” Rose said, handing over a tip. He looked at Naomi. “You want to get out of here?”
“Are you serious? I told my boss I was taking a 10-minute break. He’s expecting me back soon.”
“Do you want to go back in there, or would you rather go on an adventure with me?”
She glanced at the car, then back at Rose. “What about your lady friend?”
“She’ll be fine. Besides, we both know you don’t really care about her.” Rose said, getting into the car. He rolled down the window. “You coming?”
Naomi thought for a moment, though she already knew the answer. “Fuck it!” she said aloud and opened the passenger door. “Nice car. What do you do?” She asked as she got in.
“I’m a writer.” He said.
“A writer? What do you write to afford a car like this?”
He chuckled, put the car in drive, and headed into the night.
A knock at the door woke Rose. He had fallen back asleep while sitting at his writing desk. He lifted his head and stretched his sore neck. The next knock was louder.
“Come on Rose, I know you’re in there. My car is parked out front. If that’s what you call parking.”
Rose opened the door. It was Gil, leaning against the wall in a royal blue suit. He always looked dapper, a gentleman from humble beginnings, Gil dressed the part when he made his fortune. Money certainly changed him, but only in how he expressed himself. He stayed genuine where it counts.
“And what did you do last night?” Gil said with a wide grin.
“Nothing, why?” Rose said, rubbing the tired from his eyes.
“Jennifer called me.”
“Oh. We uh, decided to see other people.” Rose said.
“We, huh?” Gil said sarcastically. “Get dressed, let’s go get some coffee, I want to talk to you.”
“Can I throw some jeans on or do I also have to look like I’m going to the Oscars?”
“Oscars?” Gil sucked his teeth, “Man, this is my “I didn’t feel like getting dressed today” suit.”
“Yeah whatever, you Idris Elba looking mother fucker. Come in.”
“Don’t be mad that I’m tall, dark, and handsome, and you’re pasty ass can’t even tan without burning.” They both laughed as Gil entered the apartment. He looked around while fiddling with his cuff link, “I uhh- like what you’ve done with the place.” Gil said.
“I know, I know, I’ve been meaning to clean it,” Rose said while grabbing a pair of jeans off the floor.
Gil walked over to Rose’s writing desk. He looked down and saw a piece of paper on top of the pile that looked fresh. He picked it up and read the few lines of handwritten poetry.
Flowers and Blood Showers
Beauty and Pain
The Redder the Better
For Rose and for Rain
As he was about to put it back down, Gil noticed an envelope on the desk. It said “Rose” across it in beautiful penmanship and Gil remembered when the lawyers gave it to Rose after his mother passed away. He couldn’t believe it was still unopened.
“Have you written anything lately?” Gil asked as he placed the paper down back over the envelope.
Rose just finished getting dressed, jeans and a T-shirt, “No. I have a few ideas floating around in my head, but nothing that excites me, ya know? What’s new with you?”
“You know me, business as usual. The company is doing well. It practically runs itself now, which gives me more time to…pursue other interests. That’s what I want to talk to you about.” Gil’s response stopped Rose in his tracks.
“I don’t want any handouts, Gil, we’ve talked about this,” Rose said.
“Not a handout, and investment. They’re different things.” Gil said, sensing the direction they were headed.
“Look, I appreciate the thought, I do, but I’m doing fine on my own. I don’t need any help.” Rose replied.
“Come on, look around you. You might have everyone else fooled, but not me. This-” Gil pointed around the messy room. “This isn’t you. This isn’t happy. And this-” He pointed to the empty bottles scattered on the floor around the writing desk. “This isn’t sustainable.”
“I’m fine Gil, now can we talk about something else? I don’t want to have this conversation every time I see you. I barely do as it is. Let’s go have some fun.” Rose said, smiling to change the mood.
Gil let out a sigh, then put a smile on too. “Alright, but I’m driving. Give me my keys.”
“Oh come on, I love that Porsche.”
“From what I hear, so did the waitress,” Gil said with a chuckle.
“They always do,” Rose replied.
“Here you are fellas, can I get you anything else?” The waitress asked after placing two cups of coffee on the table.
“No, thank you,” Gil said with a smile. She smiled back and left.
“The sun feels nice. Good idea getting a table outside.” Rose said.
“Yeah. When are you going to stop with the bullshit and publish something?” Gil said.
“This again?” Rose replied.
“I’m a businessman Rose; a damn good one. Which means a few things. One, I don’t give up, and two, I don’t like bullshit. You’re bullshitting me with your excuses. We both know you’re extremely talented. What’s with you man? It’s like you want to suffer.” Gil said, frustrated.
“Who said I’m suffering?” Rose asked defensively.
“I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant you could have so much more.” Gil looks at his car parked nearby. “Like one of those.”
Rose stared at the Porsche. He couldn’t deny his desire to have one for himself.
“I mean, I do love that car,” Rose said with a smirk.
“So, what do you say? Let me help you.” Gil said.
“I don’t know Gil, it feels too easy. I don’t want anyone to say I made it because of charity. I get enough of that from my dad as it is.” Rose said.
“No one makes it alone Rose. Do you think I didn’t have help? If it weren’t for my partners, my sales team, my brilliant marketing team, and a list full of others, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. There’s no such thing as a self-made man. That’s an illusion brother.” Gil said.
Rose stared off into the distance, trying to find a hole in Gil’s logic.
“What? No quippy remark? No sarcastic joke? I’m surprised, Rose. You have an answer for everything.” Gil said, grinning in victory.
“Hold on, it’ll come to me. I just haven’t had my coffee yet.” Rose replied.
“Oh, excuse me. Please, take all the time you need. We both know I’m right.” Gil said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms.
“I got it! Jesus. Jesus was self-made.” Rose said with his finger pointed to the sky.
“That’s what you’re coming with? Jesus?” Gil asked.
“Yeah. Jesus is supposedly the embodiment of God, therefore God made himself into Jesus, which is the very definition of self-made! And, God himself is self-made, since he’s the creator of everything. I’ll toss that one in for free. That’s two examples of self-made men.” Rose said with his eyebrows raised as he also leaned back in his chair.
“That’s two examples of the same guy. So that’s only one. And are you comparing yourself to God? You think you-” Gil pointed at Rose with both hands, “and God-” he points both hands to the sky, “are going to be the two beings in existence that are self-made?” Gil said, concerned that Rose believed it.
Rose didn’t respond, he just nodded slightly while slowly scanning the sky with his eyes.
“Tell you what, I have a lot more free time these days. Why don’t you call me when you get your head out of your ass. Don’t wait too long though Rose, you know I will eventually get into something else. Unlike you, I need to keep busy.” Gil stood up and started walking to his car. He only took a few steps before Rose called out,
“Hey! I thought this was on you? I didn’t bring my wallet!”
“You don’t like handouts, remember?” Gil said without turning around or stopping. He got in his car and left.
Rose sat there, shrugged his shoulders, and continued drinking his coffee.
“Isabel, take a break. Go enjoy the beautiful weather. Lord knows you don’t get much of it around here.” María said as she came from the backroom to see her daughter sweeping.
“I’m fine mamá,” Isabel said. “You and papá worry too much,” Isabel said.
“You’re never going to find a husband if you don’t ever leave this store,” María said.
“Mamá, I don’t need a husband. I am happy with my life, and with my books.” Isabel said.
“Your books aren’t going to bring me grandchildren,” María said looking around the room.
Isabel rolled her eyes. “I can’t afford to take a break, who is going to run my store?”
“Isa, I can sweep for you. There hasn’t been a single customer all day. Why you would open a book store today, I’ll never know. Everyone uses the Internet for shopping now. Go get some sun, you look like a gringo.” María said with a smile.
“Okay okay, I’ll go, let me just grab my book,” Isabel said, reaching for the book on the counter. Her mother slapped her hand. “Ow!”
“No, you read enough books, you won’t find a man with your nose in a book,” María said.
“Mamá, I told you, I don’t -” María interrupted,
Isabel scoffed as she left the store. She was immediately comforted by warmth on her face as she closed her eyes and looked up, basking in the light. After a few deep breaths, she leveled her head and looked around, wondering which way to walk. She remembered a nice little cafe just a few blocks away.
Rose finished his coffee. He put his elbows on the table, cupping his hands, contemplating whether or not to run out on the bill. He looked around for the best escape route. That’s when he saw her. The way the sun’s rays seemed to outline only her, made her look like an angel in heaven’s spotlight, turning the city sidewalk into a runway. Her tan skin glistened, but it was the way her dress silhouetted her body in the gentle breeze that caused a hummingbird to take flight in Rose’s chest. Confusion swept over his mind. What is this I’m feeling? He couldn’t understand why his palms were slick, or why his face was flushed. He hadn’t even approached her yet but he was nervous. He took a deep breath. He didn’t like that he couldn’t control his trembling hands, but it was also good to feel…something. These weren’t symptoms of arousal, but he couldn’t quite place it.
Isabel sat at a nearby table and ordered a coffee. Without having a book to read, she looked around, admiring the elegance in the simplicity of the cafe. There were just a handful of tables in an area enclosed by a short black metal flat-top fence, with fresh flowers accentuating the season on top of it. As her eyes scanned her surroundings, she noticed a man staring in her direction. Is he smiling at me? She thought, trying not to look directly at him. When she couldn’t resist any longer, she locked eyes with him and the world ceased to exist around them. His hair and eyes reminded her of the beach at dawn back home in Mexico. She could practically smell the ocean breeze and feel the golden sand under her toes. She smiled back at him and he waved, mouthing the word Hi. Isabel waved back. The man stood up, and her heart fluttered as he walked in her direction.
I don’t know what to say. Rose thought. It was too late, his legs were already in motion. I always know what to say. Panic settled in with each step. You better not say something stupid. Rose threatened himself as he arrived at the woman’s table.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hello,” she responded, looking up at the handsome young man.
“I was uh-” he pointed back at his table. “just over there and I saw you walking this way, and I have to admit, I was kinda hoping you didn’t stop here.”
She looked left and right, then back at him, “Why not?”
“Because there was no way I wasn’t going to talk to you if you did, and clearly, I’m having a hard time talking to you,” Rose said, wishing he’d just shut up.
Isabel smiled, “Why are you having a hard time talking to me?”
“I don’t know,” Rose said, smiling and shaking his head.
The silence felt like years, but it was just a few seconds.
“Isabel.” She said.
“What?” Rose asked, snapping out of the chaotic whirlwind inside his head.
“My name is Isabel.”
“Oh! I’m Rose, sorry,” he replied, as his cheeks warmed.
“Rose? Like the flower?” Isabel asked, tilting her head.
“Sort of, it’s uh, short for Rosencrantz.” He said.
“Oh, like Hamlet! I love that book!” her eyes lit up as she jumped in her seat.
“Yeah, exactly! Not too many people get that these days.” Rose said, his mouth wide.
“Well, I’m sort of a book nerd. I own a book store just up the street.” Isabel said, pointing towards her shop.
“No kidding?” Rose said, looking in the direction she pointed, “Though I can’t imagine why anyone would open a book store these days…you know, with the internet and all.”
“Ugh, that’s what my mother says. You both just don’t get it.” Isabel said, looking down, deflated.
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I love book stores. I’m just saying, it must be tough.” Rose said, hoping to recover.
“Well, when you love something, you make it work, no matter how tough. I love books and book stores. There’s no better feeling than walking through a bookstore, scanning the shelves until you find that perfect one…the one that feels like it was written just for you.” Isabel said staring off into her favorite memory with a joyful smile. She rejoined the present, her smile fled and she looked at Rose, “ You can’t do that on the internet.”
“Well when you put it like that, it sounds…perfect. I haven’t browsed a bookstore in a long time. I’d love to check out yours,” said Rose.
“You should.” Isabel said, “And tell everyone you know to come buy some books too!”
Rose laughed. “I will do that. It was nice to meet you, Isabel.”
“It was nice to meet you too, Rosencrantz,” Isabel replied.
Their eyes met again and lingered for a moment before Rose tapped the table twice and walked off. The waitress arrived at the table with Isabel’s coffee.
“Do you know that guy?” She asked.
“No, we just met,” Isabel said as she lifted the coffee cup for a sip.
“He didn’t pay his bill…prick.” The waitress said, glaring at Rose as he disappeared into the crowd.