Stealing Roses

Sofia I Martinez, The Beginning of a Lie. Acrylic and Gesso paint on Canvas, 2024.


By Tracy Schrader

        Judy stood outside the neat hedgerows of Steven’s house. Her hands shook and brushed down her skirt over and over again. Her head was pounding with the weight of what she was about to do. 

        She opened the little metal gate, hoping it wouldn’t squeak and give her away. The house was dome-shaped with shiny red doors and a garden of metal flowers. Judy almost laughed. Steven was never much of a florist, but he loved the way a front garden looked. 

        “Reheatable, reusable dinner plates!” 

        Judy looked around furtively before realizing the overly peppy voice was coming from Steven’s television and through his open window. She could just catch a glimpse of the top of Steven’s head over his spaceship-shaped couch. 

        “Perfect for TV dinners–and combustible in outer space!” the voice chanted. A flash of green light came from the television along with the sound of bubbly laughter. 

        Judy ignored the commercial and continued down Steven’s path made of old, broken rocket parts. He had gotten in quite a few rocket crashes, but he insisted none of them were his fault. Judy touched the scar above her eye, remembering the painful collision. She didn’t know why he would ever want to be full of terrible reminders every time he walked up to his house. 

        Maybe she didn’t know a lot about Steven. 

        “Susie May, are you going to walk out on me?” a deep voice said. 

        Jonah, a character from Susie May and Company: The Show, was dancing to the music of a string quartet on the screen. June pulled her eyes up to the star-bright heavens. The nearby planet of Drantia, her home, shone brightly overhead. 

        “Jonah, Jonah, I don’t want to leave you!” Susie May said, sobbing. Steven laughed coldly, and Judy froze. 

        Get it together, she ordered herself. One foot in front of the other. She continued down the path until she was bending in front of the metal roses. 

        “Then stay, Susie May!” Jonah said dramatically. 

        Judy knelt in the flowerbed. She stroked the sharp petals, then pulled her hand away. She much preferred regular flowers to these metal ones. Didn’t Steven notice that they were like razors planted in the dirt? 

        “If you would stop shouting at me, I could bear to stay,” the flat, flickering Susie May said with a gasp. 

        Judy tried to block her out, but the knowledge that Steven was watching made her almost delirious. Steven was a giant star to her–bright, overpowering, and always drawing her in. Why else would Judy, the innocent young lady from apartment twenty-three, be taking what didn’t belong to her from her old fiance’s front yard? She was a helpless bit of cosmic dust drawn inexplicably toward Steven. 

        “Susie May, I love you!” The tinny music drew to a crescendo, and Steven laughed without feeling again.

        Judy shuddered when Steven changed the channel, causing a flash of light. She sank her hands into the wet dirt, reminding herself that she was stronger than anyone thought – especially Steven. Something as simple as light and laughter wouldn’t tear her from her mission, even if Steven never noticed what she took. 

        “Tune in to the New Seramini Show!” another shrill voice called from inside the television. “Intergalactical crime, romance, and murder, all in one twelve-minute episode! Tomorrow night at eight o’clock.” 

        Judy grabbed the stem of one rose, carefully avoiding the metal thorns. She pulled up and the dirt around it crumbled, revealing the clean metal stem. She nestled the flower in her arms and stood up.

        “Pesticides! Deadly strong and guaranteed to kill all your garden pests!” 

        Judy carefully stepped out of the metal flowers, trying not to scrape her ankles. Her skirt was splattered with mud. She wondered if Steven would consider her a garden pest. 

        “Call us today to get a free consultation! We are available throughout the galaxy, except for on gaseous planets…”

        Judy snuck back down the path. She watched the tears in the silk of her thin shoes grow as they scraped against the glass and metal of his path. The television droned on behind her. 

        “Feed your children Odyssey Cereal for them to grow big and strong! Odyssey Cereal eaters are future galaxy explorers in the making!” 

        Judy stopped at the gate and opened it slowly. 

        “Hi, my name is Judy Kalatian.” 

        She froze. 

        It was the commercial she’d filmed two years ago, back when she wanted to be a starlet. Was it really still on air?

        “Garden Alien Store and Show is my favorite place to shop!” Her voice sounded odd. She was so young, so happy. “It can be yours, too!” 

        Judy shivered. She was out on the street now, violet light pooling around her. 

        “Stop by soon and see the real magic. That’s all for now!” 

        The commercial ended, the gate slammed closed, and Judy ran, the metal rose cutting her hands and arms. 

        She thought she could hear the faraway sound of Steven’s soft crying.