Tradition of Roses
Naruto could never take his godfather seriously. It wasn't that he wasn't a good man; Jiraiya had always been an idealist. It was because his vices often overshadowed his virtues. He also had the worst luck with women, which was unusual considering his occupation. Naruto always took the things his godfather said with a grain of salt and thought the smutty romance novels he wrote were boring as hell. Despite all of the philanthropic endeavors the man funded, Naruto could only see him as a perverted letch.
But as much of a pervert as Jiraiya was, Naruto could tell that there was only one woman in his heart. Every year on the last day in August he would buy a dozen roses and walk them over to her house trying to greet her with a hug and a kiss. Every year he would return with a bruised ego and a black eye. Naruto had told him to give-up, but the one lesson that Naruto actually absorbed from the old man was to never quit.
"Naruto my boy, this year will be the year. I can feel it."
The fifteen-year old nodded his head. "Yeah, yeah. That's what you said last year and the year before that."
"It'll be different this year," Jiraiya said before whispering under his breath, "it has to be."
"Are you hoping she'll change her mind?"
"Well, your mother eventually did when I encouraged your father to do this."
"Did Mom ever give Dad a black eye?"
Jiraiya scratched his head in thought. "I don't think she did."
"Then why have you bothered with the same woman year after year when all she does is punch you in the face?"
"A few reasons. One, she never married. Two, she always accepts my flowers before she punches me. And three, if she really wanted to get rid of me, she would have gotten a restraining order on me a long time ago."
"Great. So what's so special about today anyway?"
"It's our anniversary."
"It's the day we first met." Jiraiya smiled down at the bundle of roses in his hands. "It's been ages, but you never forget the day when you fall in love with the girl of your dreams. She may not have realized it at the time, but I knew she was the only girl for me."
"Which is why you've become a perverted old fart who still chases after women?"
"Damnit Naruto, when will you ever show me some respect? And I was being serious here." Jiraiya shook his fist in the air. "Just because I admire and partake in the beauty that surrounds me everyday doesn't mean I care any less for her. I think giving her a rose for each year I've know her is a sure sign of love."
"So you'd you stop at a dozen, getting cheap?"
Jiraiya frowned as he glowered at the teen.
Naruto smiled. "You know I just like pulling your leg. But go get your annual beating. And pick up some ramen on your way back, we're running low."
A few hours later, Jiraiya came stumbling back to the house with a bruised lip and a bag filled with instant ramen packets.
"No black eye this time? You must finally be wearing her down," Naruto said as he headed towards the kitchen with ramen in tow.
Jiraiya sat down, a goofy smile on his face. "She smiled at me and gave me a hug this time Naruto. And she told me to have a safe trip when I told her about heading to Rain Country for some charity work."
"That's good. Better than telling you to get lost like she usually does. So how did you get the bloody lip?"
Jiraiya's grin morphed into a perverted smirk. "I couldn't leave without getting a good-bye kiss, could I?"
There were several valuable lessons that Naruto had learned from his godfather. Important things like valuing friendship, helping other people and following your heart. Then there were the unspoken lessons that Naruto learned through observation, such as how not to woo a woman, because Jiraiya was the textbook example of failure.
Naruto always had a constant in his life. Jiraiya was that constant. But his godfather was a great man who had many obligations. One of those obligations sent him off to war-torn Rain Country for charity work while Naruto stayed with his surrogate brother, Iruka. Iruka was the only man Jiraiya trusted to take care of Naruto and keep him in line. Naruto teased him to the same extent as his godfather, but also respected and revered him.
But Naruto didn't, and couldn't, anticipate a change that would disrupt his routine life. Instead of Iruka leaving in a few months like he usually did upon Jiraiya's return, he stayed. It wasn't because Iruka wanted to overstay his welcome; it was more a sense of duty, because Jiraiya, Naruto's main constant, never returned from Rain Country.
There were no remains to bury. It was impossible to retrieve his body in the lake. Naruto's only solace was that when Jiraiya drowned, he had done it while saving the lives of three orphaned children. The perverted old man had always wanted to go down in a blaze of glory. Unfortunately, he got his wish.
His funeral was a madhouse. Jiraiya had had many friends and colleagues. The media had to be there since he was also a famous novelist. Naruto had been given condolences from everyone at the funeral. He zoned most of it out like everything else after he had heard the news of Jiraiya's death. Iruka was the only one who seemed to get through to him, but even he wasn't enough. The man who raised him was now being buried next to the parents whom he never got a chance to know.
The gentle touch of a woman's hand on his shoulder finally roused him from his stupor.
"You must be Naruto."
Naruto nodded his head slightly, barely taking in the appearance of the woman.
"I'm sorry for your loss. Your godfather was . . . he was a good friend. It must be very hard on you."
Naruto didn't answer, but the hollow look on his face was enough of an affirmative answer.
"He told me all about you, Jiraiya that is. I know how much he must have meant to you. I want you to know that if you ever need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate to reach me," the woman said putting a business card in his hand.
The name "Tsunade Senju" was embossed in black on the card. Naruto looked up to see that the woman had moved down the line and was talking to Iruka. Naruto pocketed the card in his dress slacks, forgetting all about it. The card never made it out of his pocket before getting sent through the wash.
They say that time heals all wounds, for Naruto it would take more than time to heal the emotional anguish from Jiraiya's passing. Iruka was the rock that kept him from completely losing himself. His friends were also a welcome distraction. Sasuke had all but threatened to pull his head out of his ass for him if he didn't. Naruto knew it must have been pretty bad when even lazy Shikamaru told him he needed to return to his usual self because a depressed Naruto was too "troublesome."
Eventually, Naruto regained normalcy. There were times when he would be reminded of his late godfather and the melancholy would set in. But then Naruto would remember that he was meant to surpass Jiraiya in his greatness and wallowing around in an emotional shithole wasn't going to get him there.
At sixteen, Naruto had unfocused energy that was waiting to be channeled. Iruka was sometimes hard-pressed to keep Naruto busy enough to stay out of trouble. Luckily for the teen, Jiraiya was a meticulous planner, even after death. All of Naruto's martial arts classes had been paid for until Naruto turned eighteen. Out of obligation and because Naruto loved karate, he kept physically active. Jiraiya had even put a word in with the high school soccer coach, Kakashi Hatake, to recruit Naruto. Once Sasuke told him he was on the team, Naruto had to join.
It took some months for Naruto to appreciate all of the advanced planning Jiraiya did. Just when Naruto thought that the old geezer had finished any other meddling in his life, something new would come up, like the time he had pre-arranged for Naruto to volunteer at an orphanage of speak at a charity function. As annoying as these tasks were, Naruto couldn't wait to see what else Jiraiya had up his sleeve. Even in death the man was an insufferable bastard. Naruto didn't have to wait long.
It was near the end of summer and on his way out the door, he saw Iruka standing in the foyer holding a manila envelope. Usually that meant that there was another item in Jiraiya's Will dictating what Naruto needed to do next.
"Alright, what does the perverted old man want me to do?"
"He wants you to head towards the Yamanaka florist to pick-up a dozen roses and then deliver them to the address in the letter," Iruka said as he handed Naruto the envelope.
"A dozen roses? What does he want me to do with a dozen roses? It's not even Valentine's Day or anything."
Iruka shrugged. "The letter says that it's something that you need to continue for him. Oh, and there's a letter that the recipient of the roses is supposed to open. I'm sure you'll understand it all once you've completed your task."
"Well, time's a wasting. I better get this over and done with before I head to soccer practice."
"Don't worry too much. I called Kakashi in advance to let him know the situation so take your time."
"Thanks Iruka, you're the best!"
The trip to the florist was easy. Inoichi Yamanaka was expecting Naruto and already had the bouquet ready. Like with all of the other tasks that Jiraiya had planned out for him, the roses had already been paid for in advance. Making his way towards the address listed in the letter, Naruto wondered who the flowers were meant to go to. The only person Naruto had ever seen Jiraiya give flowers to was the woman who gave him a black eye. Then it hit him and checking his digital watch, Naruto finally registered the date. It was August 31st, the day that Jiraiya made his annual visit to his lady-love.
Naruto pursed his lips in annoyance. It would be his luck that Jiraiya's crush would start to give him a black eye. The teen hoped that the woman wouldn't take things the wrong way when he arrived on her doorstep instead of his godfather. As long as the woman wasn't a Mrs. Robinson archetype he should be fine, but there was no telling what Jiraiya may have put in the letter to her. He wouldn't put it past the old lech to have something in his Will where he had to visit a brothel on his eighteenth birthday.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto rang the doorbell and prayed to whatever deity was listening that he would come out of this situation unscathed. What Naruto didn't expect was for the door to be opened by a pink-haired beauty around his age looking up at him curiously with a gorgeous set of jade eyes.
"Yes, can I help you?"
Naruto didn't know what to say at first. He was partly frozen in fear that this girl was the one Jiraiya had been courting. The years certainly had been kind. She looked like one of those fairytale princesses that lived in a high castle surrounded by a moat with a fearsome dragon guarding her. And here he was without a sword or shield.
"Um, Hi. I was sent by Jiraiya to deliver these," Naruto said as he held out the bouquet and letter.
The girl blushed as she took the bouquet. "Oh, these must be for Ms. Senju. Please come in while I go get her."
Naruto didn't need to be told twice as he entered the house. He watched the pink-haired girl walk into another room and noticed for the first time what she was wearing. The white suit jacket and skirt meant only one thing: she attended Konoha All Girls Academy. Naruto frowned. Not only was the girl super-smart to be able to attend that school, but she was also well-to-do. There were two types of girls who attended Konoha All Girls Academy; those who grew-up to marry rich men or those who became self-made women who were too busy in their success for marriage. In other words; this girl was out of his league.
Naruto turned towards the voice to see a woman staring at him wildly from the hallway. The woman looked like one of those golden-age movie actresses who appeared forever young and beautiful. Only the hint of gray in her hair and the look in her eyes gave away her age. The bouquet and letter hung limply from her well-manicured hands. Naruto finally understood why his godfather had been devoted to the woman.
"You're his godson, Naruto, aren't you?"
Naruto nodded. "And you're the one who's been giving him a black eye every year."
The woman laughed. "I'm glad that you've perked up if your attitude is any suggestion. I was worried for a while when you never called, but I guess you didn't really know who I was."
"Called?" Naruto asked confused.
"We've met before. It was at Jiraiya's funeral," the woman paused. "You probably don't remember me very well. It must have been a hard day for you so I can understand."
"I'm sorry that I don't remember you. But I think you were the woman who gave me a card, right? I think I put it away somewhere and forgot all about it," Naruto said aplomb with embarrassment. "I don't think I even know your name."
"I'm Tsunade Senju. I gave you my card in case you needed someone to talk to. I got worried when you never called, but after speaking to your guardian, Iruka . . . well, he told me the things that Jiraiya had put in his Will."
Naruto smiled. "Yeah, he somehow found a way to annoy me from beyond the grave."
A teacup was placed in front of him as he turned to stare into the face of the cute girl who answered the door.
"Would you like some milk or sugar?"
"Um, I'm fine, thanks. I'm Naruto by the way, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze," Naruto said as he held his hand out.
"Sakura Haruno. Pleased to meet you." The girl smiled as she took his hand.
The moment between the pair was broken as Naruto felt someone smack him in the back of the head. He nearly dropped his tea and turned to face an angry Tsunade.
"You little brat, you didn't even give me a proper introduction or shake my hand. I thought since Jiraiya raised you he never taught you anything, but you have the gall to be polite to my niece?"
"Me? Polite? I'm not the one smacking people over the head the first time they meet."
"Just be glad I'm not going to give you the same treatment I gave Jiraiya," Tsunade said as she cracked her knuckles.
"Auntie! Don't pick on the poor boy," Sakura said.
"Yeah, listen to your niece. No wonder you never got married. No man except Jiraiya would want someone who's as violent as you, you Old Bag!"
As Naruto watched the fury grow on Tsunade's face. He never saw the right hook coming from Sakura.
"What did you call my Aunt!"
Naruto nursed the bruise forming on his face as he saw the incredibly cute girl who was so sweet to him turn into a towering form emitting a violent aura. Sakura scowled with the same ferocity as Tsunade. If Naruto wanted to live a long life, he knew that he had to tread carefully around these two women.
"Ah, what I mean is, that, um, well . . . Ms. Senju is such a strong woman she must not have met a man who could compliment her, yeah, something like that."
Both women nodded at him, satisfied that he had corrected the error in his words.
"That's much better," Sakura said before storming out of the room.
Naruto sulked as he watched her leave the room. It was just his luck that he had to make a bad impression on their first meeting.
"I know what you're thinking and if you're anything like your godfather, you can forget about it," Tsunade said.
Those weren't exactly the most encouraging words that he had ever heard. But if there was anything that his godfather had taught him, it was to never give-up. And Naruto knew that he had to have another chance to see Sakura. There was something about her that he found highly attractive. Maybe it was the pretty pink shade of her hair or the way her lips curled up into a smile, but Naruto was determined to get to know her better. He had a goal now. He was going to make sure that Sakura Haruno knew everything about him and he her.
She was a highly successful doctor. Her skills were known far and wide. She had graduated at the top of her class and earned enough in income to live comfortably for the rest of her life. But despite all of her success, she was miserable. Whoever had said that money could lead to happiness was crock full of shit.
At a young age, she had fallen in love and almost got married, but then her fiancé Dan joined the military and was killed in action. In that moment her world fell apart. There was nothing that could keep her going except pouring her heart into work. That was what lead her to where she was now, but at a cost. There wasn't a man to share her dreams with; she never gave anyone the chance. In retrospect, Jiraiya could have been that man if she had opened up to him.
She never realized how blindingly devoted he had been until she met his godson. Naruto reminded her of him in so many ways it was heart-wrenching. Tsunade had long forgotten how endearing Jiraiya was once she got past his lecherous façade. The fact that the old geezer had thought to continue giving her a dozen roses even after his death was telling. She should have known that he had wormed his way into her heart when the news of his death affected her as much as hearing that Dan had died.
It was so easy to look back and see all of the mistakes she had made in her life, including her treatment of Jiraiya. She fantasized about all of the different scenarios that could have unfolded if she had only said 'yes,' just once. But it was far too late to think about those things, not when she was watching with ironic amusement as Naruto tried to court her niece.
Sakura, Tsunade's pride and joy. She was everything she would have wanted in a daughter and more. She practically raised her as her own flesh and blood when Sakura's parents passed away when the girl was eight. Sakura had the looks, the brains and a right hook that rivaled hers. She was even in the top of her class at the same school Tsunade had attended. Jiraiya had fondly called her mini-Tsunade when he first met her as a child. Seeing Naruto pine after her niece made it even more blatant that Sakura was like her. They both attracted the most annoyingly loyal admirers.
The sound of a door slamming shut followed by a stifled scream indicated that Sakura was back home.
"I cannot believe that boy. Do you know what he did to me today?"
Tsunade sighed. "What did he do this time?"
Sakura blushed momentarily before anger flashed in her eyes. "He brought a huge poster with my name on it to my match."
"I don't see anything wrong with that."
"Well, that wasn't too bad, but then he starting taunting my opponents. The chief referee nearly gave me a penalty for that. Honestly, doesn't he know anything about rules of etiquette?"
Tsunade laughed. "Sounds like something Jiraiya's godson would do. Did you know that he's finally started talking to me on the phone?"
The older woman smiled as she stared straight into her niece's eyes. "You."
"Me?" Sakura blushed. "Why me?"
"You should know of all people how that boy seems to be completely infatuated with you. In fact, I was the one who suggested that he cheer for you at your tennis match today."
"Don't give me that look. You can't hide the fact that you enjoy the attention he's been giving you."
Sakura pouted. "He's still annoying."
"You haven't even known him for a full year. Give him time and he'll grow on you like a fungus."
"That doesn't really sound very appealing."
"It wasn't meant to be. Like you, I find him to be annoying as hell," Tsunade said before softening her features. "But he has a lot of heart and I respect that in a man."
Sakura nodded. "He certainly doesn't know when to give-up."
"Just like his godfather." Tsunade paused for a moment looking thoughtfully at her niece. "Sakura, have I ever told you about Jiraiya?"
"Not much. Only that he always sent you a dozen roses on the last day in August and he was a huge pervert."
"I guess I haven't said much about him. Jiraiya was one of my childhood friends. He and I had a very odd relationship to say the least. He was head-over-heals in love with me and I couldn't have cared less about him." Tsunade smirked. "I beat him up on more than a few occasions."
"I remember you mentioned that when you were teaching me how to throw a punch."
Tsunade pat Sakura's head. "I really have rubbed off on you, haven't I?"
Sakura nodded proudly.
"I was afraid of that."
Confused, Sakura shook her head. "I don't understand Auntie. I thought that you wanted me to be a successful, independent woman who can take care of herself."
"I do. Don't get me wrong, those are good goals to have and I hope you do become a successful woman, but . . ."
"There's always a 'but.'"
"But there's more to living a fulfilling life than simply being successful."
"What else is there?"
Sakura furrowed her brow. "But, I thought you were happy."
"I am, to a certain extent. But there were decisions I've made in my past and actions that I've done that made it so I could never be truly happy. You know of Dan, my first love. I was extremely distraught after that. I should have moved on, but I decided not to so I shut my heart off from anyone else. That was foolish of me because I could have moved on if I had given him a chance."
"Jiraiya," Sakura whispered.
Tsunade nodded. "Sakura, don't ever make the same mistake that I did. I may be successful, but I'm not truly happy."
The younger girl took her Aunt's advice to heart. Sakura complained less about Naruto's antics and he was sounding even more optimistic over the phone. In fact, it had gotten to the point where Naruto started calling Sakura and the pair would chat on the phone for several hours. Tsunade was bemused by the situation. Though the woman didn't encourage Sakura to develop feelings for Naruto, she never exactly discouraged it either. Tsunade wanted only the best for her niece and making sure that Sakura didn't live a life of regret was only right.
It had been nearly a year since she met him. Her first impression of the boy was that he looked pretty cute. Jiraiya had told her about his godson many times and how he was around her age. The man had even hinted at introducing him to her one day, but then he went to Rain Country and died saving the lives of three orphans. Sakura hadn't thought much about what Jiraiya's godson was like, but she knew that he had to have been kind-hearted like his godfather. What she never expected was that when she finally met Naruto, he would irritate her as much as Jiraiya had irritated her Aunt. Fruit never fell far from the tree.
Given what she knew about Jiraiya, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Naruto would try to woo her and do everything possible to be a part of her life. She hated his constant interruptions at first, but had gotten used to him after a few months. Now it was natural to see him cheering her on at her tennis matches or even for her to go to a few of his soccer games or karate tournaments.
They started talking on the phone as friends. She learned that they had a lot in common with each other. Both of them had lost their parents to drunk drivers at a young age. Because of that, both of them were members of their school's, Students Against Drunk Driving. Naruto was even the club President. They both had a competitive streak, which really shone through when they tried to see who could think of the most pirate jokes on the phone one night. That had been the dumbest, longest and most hilarious phone conversation Sakura had ever had; and she loved every minute of it.
So when August 31stcame around, Naruto arrived on her doorstep as expected with a bouquet for Tsunade. What she didn't expect was to see him arrive dressed in some khakis and a nice button-down shirt. He cleaned up nicely.
"Wow, you look good," Sakura said as she let him inside the house.
"Thanks. Hold on one minute while I get these to Tsunade." Naruto bowed politely as he handed off the bouquet to the older woman. "For you Madame."
"Thank you Naruto," Tsunade said as she took the flowers. "I'll leave you two so you can chat. Oh, and Sakura?"
"You're to be back home before ten tonight," Tsunade said as she left the room.
Sakura looked perplexed at her Aunt. She hadn't mentioned anything about going out tonight and hadn't had any plans. Then she turned to Naruto to see the surprise of her life. In his hand was a single red rose. He was bowing in the same manner that he had with her Aunt, but this time with a flirtatious smile on his face.
"A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady."
She blushed as she took the rose and tried to diffuse the situation with a laugh. "Who taught you such a cheesy line?"
"It was from one of my godfather's books. I thought for sure that girls went for that sort of stuff."
"Some girls maybe, but when it's you speaking it, well, it just doesn't work. But thank you for the flower. I wasn't really expecting one."
"I know. But I wanted to give you one."
"Any reason? Or just because?"
Naruto smiled. "Oh, I have a great reason. My godfather told me that long ago when he fell in love with the woman of his dreams, he decided that he was going to give her a red rose for each year that they knew each other. He gave them to her on the same day of each year, which happened to be the day that they met. Apparently my father did the same thing for my mother and now I'm doing this for you."
Sakura was speechless. He was practically confessing his undying love for her and here she was beet-red in the face from a mixture of infatuation and embarrassment. She didn't know what to say after that. But the rose smelled very sweet and the color happened to match the blouse she was wearing.
"Wow, Naruto. I really don't know what to say."
"Say that you'll go on a date with me. Right now."
Naruto nodded his head and held his hand out to her.
Sakura stared at his hand and hers, momentarily conflicted over what she should do. She made up her mind when her eyes landed on the rose. With a bright smile, she put her hand in his and let him take her on their first date.
"How was your date?"
"It was," Sakura paused with a smile, "nice."
"Okay, it was more than nice. Naruto was surprisingly sweet and paid for everything."
Tsunade nodded in approval. "Good. Where did he take you?"
"To this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that specialized in ramen. It was cozy but quaint and the food was really good."
"You'll have to take me there sometime," Tsunade said as she watched Sakura twirl the rose around her fingers. "Did you want to put that in some water?"
Sakura stopped playing with the rose and ran towards the kitchen. "Oh, of course!"
The teen hummed a tune as she rummaged through the kitchen, filling a vase with water. Her eyes softened as she ran her fingers through the soft petals of the rose. Placing it next to Tsunade's bouquet she remembered Naruto saying that he would give her one rose for each year that they knew each other. She studied Tsunade's bouquet with curiosity.
"Why do you only get a dozen roses? Didn't Jiraiya also give you one rose for each year he knew you?"
The older woman closed her eyes for a moment before answering. "He did."
"Why did he stop at a dozen?"
"It was around then that I had met Dan," Tsunade eyed the bouquet of roses. "I think Jiraiya knew that he didn't have a chance with me after that, but he still kept on giving me these roses. Dan wasn't too fond of him for that. They never got along. Jiraiya never sent me more than a dozen roses after Dan proposed."
Sakura stared at the bouquet and how it dwarfed her single red rose. She wondered if Naruto would ever stop at a dozen if she fell in love with another man. It sounded selfish, but Sakura didn't want Naruto to stop. She wanted more than a dozen; twenty, thirty or even fifty. She wanted to see her entire kitchen filled with roses. She wanted Naruto to add more roses each year for as long as she lived. A small part of her thought that she didn't want to fall in love with anyone other than Naruto, but she dismissed that thought as soon as she could. She was still too young to think about things like that, but it never hurt to dream.
This year he had four roses for her and a bouquet for her Aunt who could no longer appreciate them. Instead of greeting her with his usual playful smile, Naruto simply held her in his arms.
"Naruto," Sakura whimpered. He smelled nice like a mixture of sunshine and an ocean breeze. His scent always relaxed her somehow.
"It's okay Sakura, I'm here."
It had been too soon, her emotions were still raw. She wished she could say that she could be strong and would get over Tsunade's death, but it was only a month ago that she learned her Aunt's liver had been failing her. The funeral was two weeks ago and Naruto was there for her then as he was now.
"She was all that I had left."
"That's not true. You still have me."
"I couldn't get rid of you even if I tried," Sakura smiled, despite her tears.
"And you'll never have to try because I'll always be here. That's a promise."
Sakura pointed to her heart. "Right here?"
Naruto nodded. "Just like you're always right here," Naruto said as he mimicked her gesture.
The pair held each other until their tears subsided and they could both stand on their own two feet. She needed Naruto more than ever right now and he needed to make sure she didn't fall into the same sort of depression he had when Jiraiya passed away.
Sakura looked up at Naruto and brushed back a stray hair. "What should we do now?"
"What do you want to do?"
Sakura looked down at the roses. It was only right that she and Naruto delivered the last bouquet. "Let's go see Tsunade."
"Yeah, let's go see her."
They had been close; that was certain. She didn't think there were any parts of their bodies that they hadn't seen or felt. But it wasn't until they held each other in front of Tsunade's grave with the bouquet of red roses lying on the fresh soil did they touch each other's souls. They passed by Jiraiya's grave on their way out and Sakura left a picture of them from Naruto's Senior prom. It was only right for her to leave the man a memento of the night she realized her true feelings for Naruto. She was certain that he was smiling down on them along with Tsunade up in the heavens above.
Sakura had always wondered what her kitchen would look like filled with roses. She supposed that she should have put the ones Naruto got her last year in the kitchen, but like a fool she thought that they would look better in the living room since there were sixty. She wanted the roses to be the first thing all of her children and grandchildren saw when they came to visit. They all had been told countless time about the tradition that they knew it by heart. But today she sat in her bare kitchen while her youngest grandson ate his breakfast.
The living room was now filled with flowers. But none of them were red roses. They were all from those who were mourning his loss. Naruto had surpassed Jiraiya in fame and philanthropy and was loved by everyone. But she was no slouch as she had become a successful doctor and was able to grab onto true happiness. However, that happiness had passed on.
"Grandma, why are you sad?"
Sakura smoothed out the spiky-blond hair of the boy who looked so much like his grandfather. "I just miss your Grandpa, that's all."
"Today is when he would give you the roses, right?"
"Yes, today would have been that day. But he's in a better place now so I guess no more flowers."
The young boy sulked, but then brightened up with a thought. "Grandma, do you think that they have florist shops in heaven? Maybe grandpa ordered some flowers for you there?"
Sakura laughed. "I'm sure that if they did, then your grandpa would have gotten some."
The sound of the front door opening alerted the pair that family had arrived. "Oh, that must be your parents. Let's clean up and get ready for school."
"Okay grandma. Do you think I can have a picture of you and grandpa to show my friends?"
"Of course sweetie. Just put the dishes in the sink and I'll be right back."
Sakura walked to her bedroom and passed many photographs that hung on the wall. Some were of her children, some of her grandchildren. But there were plenty of family pictures cluttering the hallway showing her ever expanding family. Once she entered her bedroom, the only pictures she saw were of her and Naruto. The bedroom had been their sanctuary. There had always been an open door policy in their house with their children and grandchildren. She and Naruto relished in seeing them. But all of them knew that whenever they needed privacy or an escape from the chaos of family life, the bedroom was theirs.
Her heart warmed as she entered the bedroom. The room had bore witness to the many trials and tribulations of their relationship. It had seen the arguments, the make-ups and the many nights spent in each other's arms. On their tenth year of knowing each other, Naruto had decorated the bed with her roses. That was one of the many wonderful memories she had of him. Memories that were immortalized in the pictures she kept in her scrapbook. Opening the large book, she flipped through page after page of photographs. It was almost like watching her and Naruto get younger throughout the years. It wasn't until she passed all the pictures of them from high school that she found the perfect one to give her grandson.
It had been taken at one of those mall photo booths on their first date. Naruto had suggested it after seeing one on their way back to her house. He was all smiles in the picture and there were a few shots where she proudly tucked the red rose behind her ear. Sakura carefully removed the last one in the reel where she and Naruto were cheek-to-cheek with only the red rose separating them. Taking the picture into the kitchen, she didn't expect to see the sight before her. Laid out in several vases were sixty-one red roses on her kitchen table. Her children and grandchildren all smiled at her while she took in the sight.
Her eldest son, Minato answered. "Dad had everything prepared before he died. He told us that when he passed away, we would make sure to deliver you your roses."
Sakura shook her head and smiled. She should have known that Naruto would have done something like this.
Her youngest grandson tugged on her arm to get her attention. "See grandma, grandpa did order roses from heaven."
"Yes he did sweetie. Yes he did."