Mrs Hanning never let anyone near her rose bushes, especially kids. She particularly did not like the boy kind. I just so happen to be of that stock and well, let’s just say, I was the worst kind of boy.
I remember one winter; it was bitterly cold. I was watching my dad try to get the thick layer of frost off the windscreen before taking me to school. That morning it just would not give. As he slowly poured the water over the frigid glass looking for any sign of surrender, I peered off to Mrs Hannings’ garden.
Everyone was always in awe of how she could turn seeds and compost into what I could only describe back then as a wonderland. She had taken a sizable, yet dull, piece of lawn and given it life. On the east corner, closest to her kitchen window were an assortment of delicate flowers flushed with pink and orange petals and skirted off with fat waxy-leaved bushes. From there a stone path curved gently across the stretch of immaculately mowed grass. I had never seen anyone come to cut it on a hot Saturday afternoon so I could only assume she cut it by moonlight with a pair of nail scissors to accomplish such precision.
The path led to a quaint little pond that was home to two little fish that seemed not to mind their limited lifestyle. Day in and day out they would wade through the water, occasionally daring to swim underneath the light trickle that came from the top tier of the water feature. I guess it made their lives exciting, at least for about 3 seconds.
But all this was extremely pedestrian when it came to a suburban garden. It was what lay past the rose bushes that I wanted to explore. The rose bushes themselves seemed to always be in full bloom except they weren’t your average pale pink, yellow or deep red roses. They were an odd dusty grey. They looked as if a thin layer of ash from an active volcano had come to settle on their petals. However, that was not the only peculiar aspect of their appearance. Each strong stem sported at least half a dozen blue thorns. They glimmered a cobalt blue and seemed to tempt your touch. I had asked my dad about them before and he murmured an uninformed guess as to why they looked the way they did.
I started coming up with my own ideas. I believed for a whole week that Mrs Hanning was pouring grape juice or something similar into the soil to make them change colour but after observing the contents of her watering can (tap water and a rather large spider) I eliminated that conclusion.
I was stumped until that morning when I was staring at those bushes. Right then and there I knew that the only way to quench my curiosity was to cross that thorny threshold and see what was on the other side. This task was not as easy as it seemed. Mrs Hanning kept a close watch on the ins and outs of her garden and if people even came within 5 metres of these roses she would quickly, yet politely, shoo them into the opposite direction. The other neighbours all took it with a pinch of old-lady salt, but I could see a secret behind her eyes. I was burning with every curious bone in my body to know what that secret was.