Death by Roses, she thought, Death by Roses. What kind of a name for a perfume was that anyway?!
She reigned in her thoughts and tried to focus on the array before her. It didn’t help that the rows upon rows of delicate little bottles stood behind locked glass doors. She strained to see the names and brands, but ‘Death by Roses’ continued to elude her.
Exasperated, she finally decided to ask someone. If she didn’t get the right one, Heaven help her! What would be a minor catastrophe for most, would become a major catastrophe for her sister. Drama queen! she raged internally, while externally, she smiled, and asked the overly quiffed, but pleasant enough looking sales assistant, for, well…assistance.
“It’s right over here,” the girl indicated, with a sweep of her carefully painted fingernails.
Following her, the girl reached for a key attached to a stretchy chain on her pants.
“We have to keep these cabinets locked,” she stated apologetically, “you know, for the, um, shoplifters.” She lowered her voice as she uttered the last word, unnecessarily, as surely, the shoplifters wouldn’t care.
She picked up a small, blush coloured bottle. It was elaborately shaped into a rose; quite exquisite really. However, in contrast to the pretty pale glass was a black, thorned stem that wrapped around the bottle, culminating in a large thorn that formed the cap. How had she missed it? she wondered. It was altogether, a grotesque juxtaposition of a bottle. And aptly named. The black stem appeared to be choking the rose.
“It’s one of our most popular fragrances,” the sales assistance continued, “would you like to try it?”
“Er, no, thanks. It’s a gift.”
The girl beamed, “Oh wonderful! A present! Shall I have it gift wrapped for you then?”
“Yes please,” she replied, feeling grateful that she didn’t have to attend to that tedious task as well. Her sister would appreciate the professional touch, rather than her own clumsy fingers struggling with sticky tape and awkwardly presenting the perfume in a misshapen, mess of wrapping paper.
Finally making an exit from the crowded shopping mall, she breathed a sigh of relief that the last of her Christmas shopping was done.
Until, she realised she couldn’t remember which entrance she had parked her car. Dammit! she cursed. Why hadn’t she been paying attention?
She began trawling through her memory; trying to recall landmarks, colours, shops, anything that would help her. She walked and walked, row after row. She was positive it was in this area. Maybe it had been stolen, she thought, dreading the idea.
Frustrated, and not knowing what else to do, she went to the concierge desk to ask for help.
“Have you checked the other levels?” the young man suggested, “this happens quite a bit, you know.”
Of course! Stupid!
“No. I’ll do that now, thank you,” she replied sheepishly.
At this rate, she would miss her family’s Christmas Eve celebrations altogether! Starting to panic a little, she trekked to the floor above, and searched the car park once more. Still, no car.
However, on the third level, there it was. She sighed. Her trusty, red sedan, was patiently waiting, right where she had left it.
Tossing her packages in the back, she opened the door and jumped in. She hastily put the key in the ignition, threw the car into reverse and hurried out of the car park. She winced as her tyres screeched on the glossy grey concrete.
“You’re late!” her sister pointed out as she opened the door.
“Nice to see you too, sis,” she retorted sarcastically. “Sorry, it’s been a day. You know?”
“Yes, I know,” her sister conceded, “Christmas Eve is always crazy. I don’t know why you leave these things to the last minute!”
Because I work two jobs and only get one day off a fortnight, she thought, through gritted teeth. Deciding to ignore the admonishment, she laughed nervously, said nothing and walked through the door, to join the rest of her family.
The minute she saw her mother, father, grandparents and brother, she immediately relaxed. They rushed to greet her and as they hugged and kissed, she thought, what a prickly rose her sister was. Indeed, it was a fitting choice for her perfume.
They had waited for her, and hadn’t eaten yet, so the family convened to the table, said grace and commenced their Christmas Eve traditions. They ate roast turkey, complete with all the trimmings, drank lots of wine and all pretended they couldn’t possibly fit in dessert, before giving into protestations from the host. They talked and talked and caught up on all that was news in each other’s lives. They reminisced and spoke of friends and family no longer here. They spoke of good times and of bad, but also how they’d banded together to get through. This is what Christmas is about, she thought happily.
Next, they moved to the lounge room for the family Kris Kringle. As they started to give and receive gifts, butterflies began to dance in her stomach. She hoped her sister would be pleased. She held her breath as her sister grasped the small package in her hands.
“What beautiful wrapping!” she exclaimed. “Did you do this yourself?”
“Yes,” she found herself lying. She hated how her sister knew that she hadn’t.
“Ooooooh! Death by Roses!!!” she squealed excitedly. “How did you know?”
Rolling her eyes, she gave her mother a look, and smiled, “Just a hunch. Glad you like it.”
Her sister quickly extracted the thorn covered bottle and uncapped the lid. She squirted and sprayed liberally, her wrists and neck, before rushing around the room and spraying everyone else.
“Isn’t this scent divine? Just to die for!” she gushed.
Feeling pleased her sister loved her gift, she didn’t notice at first. It was subtle. A rushing of red to her face, and quickening of her pulse. She thought it may be the wine.
But then the coughing started, and the tightening of her throat. Just like when she was younger. Her eyes began to swell and bug in her face. Her lips began to tingle, and welts appeared on her skin.
She heard her mother scream, and then someone else say, “I thought she’d grown out of her anaphylaxis!”
Just before the world went black, she had one last fleeting thought…
Death by Roses, she thought, Death by Roses.
By Sarah ©2017