The box was as long as the kitchen table. Sophie drew near to it and bent over to read the lettering: "NATALIE'S Flowers for Every Occasion." The rich smell of roses engulfed her. She closed her eyes and took slower breaths, imagining yellow roses. Joe had always chosen yellow."To my sunshine," he would say, presenting the extravagant bouquet. He would laugh delightedly, kiss her on the forehead, then take her hands in his and sing to her "You Are my Sunshine."
It was five o'clock when Mrs. Mason knocked at Sophie's front door. Sophie was still at the kitchen table. The flower box was now open though, and she held the roses on her lap, swaying slightly and stroking the delicate yellow petals. Mrs. Mason knocked again, but Sophie did not hear her, and after several minutes the neighbor left.
Sophie rose a little while later, laying the flowers on the kitchen table. Her cheeks were flushed. She dragged a stepstool across the kitchen floor and lifted a white porcelain vase from the top corner cabinet. Using a drinking glass, she filled the vase with water, then tenderly arranged the roses and greens, and carried them into the sitting room.,
She was smiling as she reached the middle of the room. She turned slightly and began to dip and twirl in small circles. She stepped lightly, gracefully, around the sitting room, into the kitchen, down the hall, back again. She danced till her knees grew weak, and then she dropped into the armchair and slept.
At a quarter past six, Sophie awoke with a start. Someone was knocking on the back door this time. It was Mrs. Mason.
"Hello, Sophie," Mrs. Mason said. "How are you? I knocked at five and was a little worried when you didn't come. Were you napping?" She chattered as she wiped her snowy boots on the welcome mat and stepped inside. "I just hate snow, don't you? The radio says we might have six inches by midnight, but you can never trust them, you know. Do you remember last winter when they predicted four inches and we had twenty-one? Twenty-one! And they said we'd have a mild winter this year. Ha! I don't think it's been over zero in weeks. Do you know my oil bill was ? last month? For my little house!"
Sophie was only half-listening. She had remembered the roses suddenly and was turning hot with shame. The empty flower box was behind her on the kitchen table. What would she say to Mrs. Mason?
"I don't know how much longer I can keep paying the bills. If only Alfred, God bless him, had been as careful with money as your Joseph. Joseph! Oh, good heavens! I almost forgot about the roses."
Sophie's cheeks burned. She began to stammer an apology, stepping aside to reveal the empty box.
"Oh, good," Mrs. Mason interrupted. "You put the roses in water. Then you saw the card. I hope it didn't startle you to see Joseph's handwriting. Joseph had asked me to bring you the roses the first year, so I could explain for him. He didn't want to alarm you. His Rose Trust,' I think he called it. He arranged it with the florist last April. Such a good man, your Joseph "
But Sophie had stopped listening. Her heart was pounded as she picked up the small white envelope she had missed earlier. It had been lying beside the flower box all the time. With trembling hands, she removed the card.
"To my sunshine," it said. "I love you with all my heart. Try to be happy when you think of me. Love, Joe."
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