The Dark Secret of Ms. Lily’s Roses

The Dark Secret of Ms. Lily’s Roses

A Story by TKBickel

The Dark Secret of Ms. Lily’s Roses


From a darkened bedroom, Alice Holt peered nervously through the cracked window blinds at the pristine two-story white house across the street. Her mind could practically see through the house to its backyard containing a greenhouse and an extensive garden of exotic roses.

            It was late but her growing anxiety made it difficult for her to sleep. She had only three more days before leaving her quiet urban hometown. This was her senior year at NYU and a perfect excuse to get far away from her neighbor, Ms. Lily also that rose garden across the street.

Alice had known Ms. Lily for years. In her preteen years, she even played tea parties in Ms. Lily's backyard, amongst those roses. She had a nagging feeling those roses could be the death of her.

            Her stomach knotted thinking about what she could have been so close too. Alice's hand rubbed over her tummy trying to sooth it's twists and flips. "Three days, three days is all I have left." Those whispered words had been the theme of her entire day.

With a squeak she jumped back from the window. Did she see Ms. Lily's window curtain move? "It's just your imagination playing tricks on you. That's what it is, that's what it all is... your imagination."

            Even though the verbal words comfort herself, she still couldn't convince herself that it was her imagination and quietly crawled back into the safety of her bed. Blankets pulled tightly under her chin in hopes that they would shield her from the nightmare. Slowly, Alice relaxed and drifted asleep, allowing the nightmare to begin.


            It was such a beautiful evening on the street she lived on. The big orange sun began teasing the horizon as Alice decided to take a stroll amongst the ancient Oak trees and white picket fences lining the streets of her neighborhood. Every once in a while a breeze would rush by to cartwheel a renegade leaf and tussle her hair. Lost in her own world as she walked, she listened to a distant dog yap. She wasn’t ready to let go of the summer but it was time for her to return to school.

Alice was one of the rare people of her age group that liked living in the small town. It wasn't boring but comfortable and safe. Everyone knew everyone in her neighborhood and was willing to lend a helping hand if somebody needed it. This is where she planned to live the rest of her life.

            As she returned back, Alice was across the street from her house. She stopped at Ms. Lily’s white fence to catch a whiff of the perfumed roses in her backyard. Ms. Lily's roses were the best she’d ever seen. They were huge with richer colors and a fragrance that you would not believe existed outside of a perfume bottle. Ms. Lily always said she had a secret way to how she raised and fed her roses. At times, classical music could be heard drifting from the back yard and Alice would imagine the roses having a magical ball, swaying and dancing.

            Taking a deep breath, Alice could not pick up the roses delicate scent. Many of the roses were still in full bloom and she hoped to catch a whiff of them. Opening a side gate, she helped herself into Ms. Lily's backyard. The green grass was manicured to the right height, making each step feel like walking on a plush green carpet. As she rounded the side of the house to the back, the glassed greenhouse came into view, along with the prize winning rose garden.

The greenhouse’s top was open to vent out the building heat of the day. Alice peered closely through its glass but she didn’t see Ms. Lily frolicking among the greenery. She called out Ms. Lily’s name anyway and scared the birds out of the bird bath, centered in the midst of all the fragile blooms. Continuing toward the roses, she couldn’t help but smile at the beauty before her.

Alice stood in front of a hand sized open bloom that beckoned for her to touch it. Both hands cupped gingerly around the buttery-yellow petals, soft and creamy to the touch. Determined to bury her nose in the middle of the exquisite bud, she dropped to one knee into the rich soil and dove in. The lovely aroma she searched for exploded in her nose.

Now that her craving was satisfied, she rose and dusted the dirt from her knee. A little glimmer of some barely exposed metal caught her attention in the divot left behind. She noticed the dark earth, speckled with white, had been recently tilled up. Ms Lily must have added her secret compound into the soil fairly recent. No one is allowed in the back when Ms Lily did her ‘Top Secret’ work on the roses and she would be in so much trouble if she was caught back here.

Alice knew she should leave but curiosity had a tight hold on her now. Squatting for a closer look, she noticed the soil had a funny smell she’d ever smelt before. Fingers sunk into the soft earth to fluff up the crater and filter out the shiny object. Dirt fell away and she could tell it was a ring…on something. It didn’t take much dusting of the soil to figure out what laid in the palm of her hand. Alice’s brain broadcast ‘drop it, drop it’ but the shock froze her muscles and the scream gurgling in her throat. Alice stared at the big sliver ring and the finger that still wore it.

Shaking hands started to steady as she realized she knew this ring. There was no denying it was Mr. Bing’s fraternity ring. When you were around Mr. Bing, there was no escaping the flash of his pride and joy ring or his old crazy Frat stories.

Dropping the ringed finger, Alice pivoted in thought of checking on Mr. Bing. He just lived a few houses from her but quickly remembered he was gone on some kind of business trip. She would be long gone for school before he was to return. She glanced back at the wrinkly pasty white finger lying on the ground. She had to do something, tell someone.

Retrieving a white cell phone from her back jean pocket, Alice squeezed the side button to awake the phone. She stared at the filmy smudge left on the phone as she debated who to call. The police…but would they think it was a prank call from a kid? Her mom…but would her mom think she was imaging it?

An idea formed, she had a camera right in her hand. Alice smudged the phone some more looking for the camera app. As she thanked God just for the success of finding the app, Ms. Lily’s voice harshly sliced the air. “Alice, what are you doing? You should not be back here!”


Alice jerked awake, bolting upright and hugging her pillow. She was cold, sweaty and breathing like a deep sea diver breaking surface. Seeing the morning sun beaming through the window brought warmth and relief throughout her body. “Two days left,” was the new song of the day.

Bouncing out of the bed, she hurried to shower and dress. Since her father died five years ago, her mother worked long hours to keep the house and the life they were a custom too. Saturday mornings where special, it has always been designated as mother daughter time.

The smell of bacon coaxed her dangerously faster down the stairs, sounding like a buffalo stampede on the wooden steps. She latched onto the end of the banister to make a tight u-turn swing to bolt into the kitchen. Socked feet skid to a stop on the kitchen tile as a smile and cheerful “Good Morning Mom” was met with an unwanted surprise.

Alice’s mom carried a heaping plate of starchy goodness. Her mother briefly hesitated in passing to kiss her cheek. “Good Morning Dear, grab a plate and come sit with us.” Her smile tightened as her mother finished delivering the plate to the kitchen table…in front of Ms. Lily. “Look, Ms. Lily brought over a beautiful bouquet of roses for us to enjoy.”

“This looks lovely Helen. Thank you for inviting me to stay for breakfast. Eating alone can be very depressing at times.”

Helen slid into the seat across from Ms. Lily, behind an identical heaping plate. “I know what you mean. My dinners will become quiet again with Alice returning back to school. We should try to have a few together.”

Trying hard not to look anxious, Alice reluctantly filled a plate. Her appetite was the smartest one between the two of them and left but the last thing she wanted to do was leave her mom alone with a person she decided she really didn’t know.

Dragging feet, she made her way to the table and took a chair between the idle chatting women. The mixed aroma of roses and food created a knot in her throat and a burn in her stomach. She couldn’t look and the big yellow taunting roses. The only action she could manage was a slow gradual feed of bacon, passing her numbed lips. Alice hoped it would be enough to keep her out of the weather, current events and neighborhood gossip volleying back and forth.

Thirty minutes later, their breakfast survival looked promising…until her mother dropped an unsuspected bomb. “So tell us Ms. Lily…How’s the relationship going with Mr. Bing?”

A piece of food rode on the quick shocked gasp of air and lodged in Alice’s throat. Coughing and sputtering, she beat on her chest as her alarmed mother wacked on her back. “Alice, are you ok?” Tears spilled from her eyes as she'd nod a yes and grabbed a glass of water, sloshing its contents on the table. After a couple burning gulps, she convinced her mom she was fine and preceded to clean her plate in the sink.

Helen continued to inquire Ms. Lily. “Well now that excitement is over, you can tell me about your excitement. How are you and Mr. Bing getting along?” Alice busied her self wiping the counter top and eased-dropped, waiting anxiously for the answer.

“Helen, you know how hard it can be to read men…but I believe Bill and I have taken a real fancy to each other.” She leaned over the table, closer to Helen and lowered her voice. “Just maybe I’ll ask him if he would like to move in when he returns from his trip.”

The two giggled like teenage girls enjoying an inside joke. “Ms. Lily, I don’t think you will need to have any dinners with me.”

“Hmm, maybe so in the future…but for now I could use a dinner partner. I spoke with Bill last night and it seems his trip has been extended. I don’t know when he will get to come home. I tell you, the company he works for works him to death.”

The word death might as well been a lightening bolt zap. Alice flinched and a glass slipped through her fingers, shattering to jagged pieces in the sink. Red heat crawled up her neck and spread into her cheeks with embarrassment. Quickly, she tried to scoop the pieces up and sliced her palm. “Ouch!”

The lightening bolt passed onto Alice’s mother as she leaped up and hurried to the sink. Panic rode in her voice after seeing an alarming amount of blood smeared all over the sink. “Alice, you ok?” She snatched the towel and enfolded Alice’s hand to soak up the blood. “Now let’s take a closer look at the damage.” Opening the towel and the palm of her hand, Helen dabbed around the flayed skin. “I’m not sure if you’re going to need stitches?”

Not realizing Ms. Lily had also left the table, Alice jumped again when she spoke up behind her. “My, my, accidents do happen. That is nasty but I think a few butterfly Band-Aids and a nice tight wrap should do the trick…unfortunately that will leave a scar...You need to be more careful dear or you might cut a finger off next time.”

The over supplied heat and blood drained from her face, causing another concern look from her mother. “Let’s get you to a chair incase you feel like passing out.”

“Mom, I’m fine…” She was lead by the mummified hand to the table.

Ms. Lily trailed behind, pushing her along with both hands on her shoulders. “I have the perfect bandages you can use. Listen to your mother and sit. I’ll be right back.”

Her mother eagerly accepted the help. “Thank you that will be great. We couldn’t have such a better neighbor that you.”

Ms. Lily paused at the back door and smiled back at Helen. “You know we widows need to stick together,” and walked out the door.

Only two days didn’t matter anymore. It was subtle but the threat was there. Alice was left with no choice. School will have to wait. Something had to be done now…but what?


The weekend’s sands of time trickled through its hour glass as Alice flipped through the ‘what if’s’ strategies. Monday morning arrived and she kissed her oblivious teary mother good-bye. With a smile and wave, she backed out of the drive-way and noticed Ms. Lily peeking out of her window. She slipped the gear into drive and patted the phone lying in her lap, “times up for you and your roses. No one threatens the Holt women.”

The road she took didn’t head out of town but to the center, straight to the police departments parking lot. Car parked and phone in hand, up the stairs she went with a set determination to make them see the truth.

1-2-3 was the magical count before her world changed again. Officer number one was polite and smiled, showing all signs of what she feared. He didn’t believe her but things began to swing to her favor with Detective number two. He listened and raised an eyebrow here and there with the tale of her short to the point story. Number three Mr. FBI Agent was the game changer. It seemed the FBI had an interest in Ms Lily.

A dark history, of boyfriends and husbands vanishing, followed Ms. Lily. The FBI where already here working on a stack of old open cases in connection to her when Mr. Bing’s employer called the police department to check on his house after he missed a couple appointments. Following a few inquires, the FBI connected Mr. Bing to Ms. Lily but lack the evidence, again, for a search warrant.

The Agent handed her a can of soda. “Are you sure it was a finger and Mr. Bing’s ring? Are you willing to testify to it in court?”

Alice popped the can open and allowed herself a long eager drink. The cold sugary syrup wetted her parched throat and eased her nerves. Setting the can down, she retrieved the white phone from her pocket. “Oh I am sure.” The phone awoke from its slumber with fingertip swipes here and there. Gingerly she placed it on the table, spun it around and shoved it forward to the Agent. Mr. FBI’s grin stretched ear to ear.

Within the moment when Ms. Lily call out her name, Alice managed to snap one perfect shot of the ringed finger, yellow roses and the fresh over-turned dirt. The only mistake was thinking Ms. Lily wouldn’t find the finger after she used the tip of her shoe to fling it deep into the roses.

“I’ll make a deal with you. You keep that crazy woman away from my mother and I’ll testify to all of it.”

“You have a deal Ms. Holt.” Still smiling like a fool, the Agent waved a ‘come hither’ at another suit outside the office that happen to look up. The office door opened to allow a head to pop-in. The FBI Agent proudly announced, “We need a warrant.”

© 2012 TKBickel

Author's Note

My writers group was prompted to write and share a short story about someone being in a place they shouldn’t have been.
I rather smash my thumb with a hammer than try to create a short story. I always have too much to say but here is my attempt.

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Oh... I so want to do my normal type of review. But do you know what? It's too bloody good. So I should tell you the truth. You make one Hell of a short story writer. Perfectly paced. Marvelous use of language and suspence. A truly terrific job.
Please note that I didn't use the word attempt.
It is the Dog's Bollocks.

Posted 8 Years Ago


8 Years Ago

*blush* I just don't know what to say.

8 Years Ago

Just agree. It's The Mutt's Nadgers
Very suspenseful! I like it!

Posted 8 Years Ago


8 Years Ago

thank you

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2 Reviews
Added on November 2, 2012
Last Updated on November 7, 2012
Tags: Roses, family, mystery, murder, neighbors, hometown




I am a bookworm that happens to love writing. Now I finally have the time to write a story that's been clawing its way out of my brain. God help me before my brain explodes. -The Forever Hunting Se.. more..


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