Finding Rose

By Jane Jacobs

It was dark.

It was dark, but it wasn't silent.

Aside from tree branches scrabbling against the walls of the abandoned building, there were the sounds of people and cars, and every few minutes, a wailing police siren.

A cold breeze blew through the open window at the top of the stairs. I shivered, and drew my tattered blanket closer to my body. It didn't help that the entire concrete floor was covered in frigid, filthy, garbage filled water.

It was impossible to fall asleep. I sat up, placing my back against the peeling paint and bubbling plaster of the wall. I think the paint used to be yellow.

Now it was rusty brown, and covered in rust streaks from three pipes that had been stuck in the wall. Graffiti covered everything.

A sign sticking out of the muck I had shoveled against the wall jabbed me painfully in the back. I shifted myself over to the bottom step of the stairs.

It had been a long time since I had lived anywhere else but here. I've been alone since I was seven, so I've had no other choice.

I don't even know how I ended up here. I've met loads of other kids living on the streets, but they always go home after a few days.

I lay down, using my arm as a headrest. I might as well get some sleep, or try to.

"You're coming with me."

I was roughly shoved into the backseat of the police car while everyone from inside the convenience store gathered around to gawk. Some parents were lecturing their kids, while others glared disapprovingly.

Like they hadn't seen someone shoplift before.

It wasn't like I took anything valuable. I was hungry; I had no money, so I grabbed a loaf of bread. They didn't have to call the freaking cops on me. I sneered at the crowd.

"What's your name kid?" the policeman asked me as he pulled out of the parking lot. "You know that you're in a lot of trouble."

"Mmph," I mumbled.

"No last name?"

"None that I can remember."

The policeman; Officer O'Malley, according to his nametag, sighed. "We're still gonna have to take you to the station. For interrogation," he said, fingering his moustache, almost as if he were afraid it would fall off if he didn't push the roots back in.

I froze. If they asked me questions they would find out I have no family, and then I would be sent to an orphanage. I've heard stories; trust me. I frantically tried to open the rear door, but was locked.

I swore under my breath. Even if the door did open, we were going pretty fast. I'd be a smear on over a mile of pavement.

There was nothing I could do.

I sat down on the hard wooden chair by a small table. O'Malley sat down in the chair at the opposite end of me. I lounged back, balancing the back legs of the chair.

There wasn't much to see. The entire room was pure white, as if a group of obsessive maids constantly patrolled the area. The only decoration was a sad light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

"Okay, buddy," O'Malley said, taking out a pen. "No last name, huh?"

I shook my head.

"Stubborn?"

"I can't remember it."

"Tell the truth, buddy, I know you're lying."

"I told you, I can't remember!" I shouted, sitting up. The chair crashed to the floor.

"Well then, I'm just going to ask you some questions about yourself," O'Malley calmly said, ignoring my outburst. "Where do you live?"

I shrugged.

"Uh huh," he mumbled, as if my answer made sense, scribbling on the paper attached to the clipboard. "Got any friends?"

This continued for a while; O'Malley asking a question, and me doing my keeping my responses down to one word.

O'Malley slouched back in his chair. He sighed. "One last question, bud, and then you can leave," he said, almost relieved. "Where is your mother?"

I felt a pang go through me. My mother. The words seemed alien. I couldn't even remember her face; only a blurry shape and a faint memory that reminded me of roses.

I opened my mouth to answer O'Malley's question, but something wouldn't let me.

I calmly stood up from my chair, and tried the door. It was unlocked.

"Hey, where are you going?" O'Malley asked, alarmed. "I'm not done with you yet!"

Something must have snapped, because the next thing I knew, I was yelling.

"I don't have a mom, okay!" I shouted. "I don't have a house, I don't have friends, I don't have anything!"

Officer O'Malley stared at me, a surprised look on his face. I stormed out of the door, and slammed into a woman. A tower of packaged paper crashed to the ground.

"Oh, sorry!" the woman cried, picking up the packages. "I didn't see you!"

"It's my fault," I countered. "I wasn't looking. Here, let me help."

We both managed to get all the packages into the woman's arms without suffering any mishaps.

"Thank you," the woman said, smiling. Her face was tired, but she looked friendly. "Why are you here, anyway?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," I answered, shrugging.

The woman put her packages down by a doorway. "Well, my workday's over. How about some donuts? I made some yesterday, and I don't want them to go to waste."

"Okay," I said eagerly. My stomach growled at the thought of food. I hadn't eaten all day, thanks to O'Malley.

She began to walk towards the exit. I followed her, trying not to look clingy.

"Who are you, anyway?" I asked. "I'm J.J." I held out my hand.

The woman smiled sadly. "I'm Miss Jeffri, but you can call me Rose," she answered, taking my hand in hers and shaking it.

Rose's last name made me remember something but I just...couldn't...place it. It was the same with her perfume. It was light and flowery, and it made me feel sad.

There was something familiar about Rose Jeffri.

"Oh man, these are amazing!" I exclaimed with my mouth full of donut. I began to hungrily tear at the next piece.

Rose had just taken the donuts out of the microwave, so they were soft and warm, and the chocolate she had slathered on was a perfectly delicious topping for the sweet donut. It was all butter and sugar and love as I blanked out for a moment, cherishing the sensation of the warm pastry.

Rose smiled as I cleaned the plate. I barely prevented myself from licking off all the tiny remnants. She picked up the platter and loaded it into the dish washer.

"I'm guessing you liked it?" she laughed as she mixed two cups of hot cocoa.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. The sensation of warm food and the warmth of Rose's apartment was almost a holy experience. I almost fell asleep, but I jerked awake when Rose asked me how many marshmallows I wanted with my cocoa.

"Um...three with a sprinkle of cinnamon, please" I answered.

Rose's eyes welled up with tears when I replied. She set down the packet of marshmallows, sat down on her worn couch, and began to cry.

"Did I say something?" I asked, bewildered. I sat down next to Rose and put my arm around her heaving shoulders.

"No, it wasn't you." she sobbed, her face in her hands, "it's just...you remind me so much of my son. His name was Jason, and...he disappeared five years ago, right after my husband died. I was so distraught...I thought he would come back, but...it's been so long...everything reminds me of him. I'm sorry; Jason loved cinnamon."

Rose eventually stopped sobbing, but continued to sniffle a bit.

"The only thing," she said suddenly, "that I haven't seen in all the kids that the officers have brought to the station is an S shaped scar," she said shakily. "He got it when he was three."

A memory stirred inside me. I looked at the back of my hand. A faint scar jumped out at me. I examined it.

It was shaped like an S.

Rose saw it as well. Her eyes widened, and I feared that they would pop out of her skull. She shifted her gaze so that her blue eyes found my brown ones.

Her eyes welled up with tears, but her mouth was smiling. She held up her hand, and put it on the shoulder of my ragged grey hoodie. Before I knew what was happening, Rose was hugging me and touching my matted brown hair as she cried.

My mind froze.

I found her. I found the figure in my memory. I realized that what I remembered wasn't the smell of a rose; it was the name Rose.

But it didn't matter. Because I had found what I had been looking for. And for the first time in five years, everything was silent.

Did You Know

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