People always look at me funny when I walk into Flora’s Flower Shop. Today is no different. They also gave me the stink eye when I placed a headstone for a man when there wasn’t even a body. My husband disappeared over three years ago, though. Even if I did order the headstone a year after his disappearance, it was more for closure. I also wanted a place that I could lay flowers down for him. Not in memorial, but in hope. I think that if people can, then they will judge you for just about anything and everything you do. Unfortunately, I am judged quite a lot.
Before my husband, Peter, disappeared, he used to buy me a dozen red roses the first of every month. So, in honor of him and hopeful he’ll return, every month I buy a dozen red roses and place them at his headstone. I know there’s no body or ashes there, so talking to a headstone without anything there would be, different. So, instead I pray. I pray Peter is safe and alive. I pray he will return home one day. I also pray for strength to get me through each day I am without him.
I don’t know what happened to Peter. He was a healthy twenty-seven-year-old man with a bright future ahead. I like to tell myself that he just got scared and ran away. It’s better than the alternative of thinking he’s dead. I know that’s what everyone thinks, but I can’t. I won’t. Not only for my sanity, but also giving our daughter hope that her father will one day return home, flowers in hand.
As I stand here in front of my husband’s headstone, I wonder where he could possibly be. I wonder if he misses us as much as we miss him. I see so much of him in our daughter, April. His beautiful blue eyes, cute button nose and even his smile. I’m scared that one day she’ll ask where her daddy is, and I won’t know how to answer that. I place the dozen red roses I purchased earlier today, at my husband’s headstone, say a quick prayer, and walk away. I’ll visit again next month.
On our wedding anniversary, I decided to leave April with my parents and visit Washington, DC. The cherry blossom trees are beautiful there around this time. Only a four-hour drive, yet I haven’t made this trip since Peter disappeared. We used to visit every year and take pictures under the cherry blossom trees. However, on this trip, I never expected to find my lost love. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I even shook my head a bit, thinking I must be dreaming. It was real! I walked closer and reached out to touch his arm. As he turned around to face me, I saw another woman holding his other hand.
I believe he was just as shocked as I was. I wanted to say something, but the other woman spoke first. She called him ‘James’, which just so happens to be his middle name. I tried to convince her that his name was ‘Peter’, and he is my husband, but she insisted that he was her husband. Hearing those words caused my heart to instantly drop to my stomach. I couldn’t think of anything to convince her or to snap him out of it. They started to walk away. That is when I told him I named our daughter April. April James. The man who now calls himself James turned around and smiled. Our wedding was under the cherry blossom trees in April and Peter’s middle name is James. The woman looked confused. Honestly, that made two of us.
After countless hours of coffee and conversation, Peter had what he called a difficult decision to make. Either the love he left three years ago or the woman he left her for. Peter sat there looking back and forth at two women who loved him unconditionally. Suddenly, a thought entered my mind. As much as I wanted April to have her father back, I wanted him to come back on his own. I also wanted it to be easy, not this back-and-forth difficult decision. If he truly loved me, loved us, it would be the easiest choice ever. So, instead of waiting for him, I answered the question that would decide our future forever myself.
Leaving that diner alone and not looking back was easier than I had thought. I had always imagined finding Peter, returning home with him and we would live happily ever after. But this is real life, not a fairy tale. Which is something I had to repeat to myself a few times on the drive back home.
I never told a soul that I saw Peter that day. Not my parents, who asked constantly what happened when I went to Washington, D.C., because I came back acting different. Different good, according to them. Not the police, who still think Peter ran away. They’re not wrong, but I’m not going to be the one to tell them that. And not my job, who wonders why I decided to quit after Peter disappeared but begged for my job back three years later after a trip to D.C. Nope. Not a single soul. Maybe one day I’ll tell April, if she asks. But, then again, maybe it’s best she just doesn’t know. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t.
I no longer buy flowers for Peter’s headstone. People are starting to judge me because I’m now not buying red roses. Funny how things have flipped. After learning the truth though, I realize Peter doesn’t deserve my love. Even if it was in the form of flowers on a headstone every month. So instead of expecting him to walk through the front door with a bouquet of a dozen red roses in hand, I water the plants in my front yard and watch April play with her toys beside me. I smile and for the first time in three years, flowers are not on my mind.