The Dawning rose.

Walking the dawning streets. It had become a habit, a ritual, really. It was a way to remind himself what he was, once, and how far he had gone since then. The taste of toothpaste and orange juice sour in his mouth, Jaq shrugged his black duster tighter about his shoulders and dug his hands deep into the pockets.

The winter sun’s pale tongue licked gently up the pavements; he half-strolled half-skipped down towards the market square. Squinting stoically against the rising glare, he smiled as snippets of music and voices rose along the snaking alleys of the settlement… Far away, he could hear the market salesmen warming their voices for the day. Growing closer, the sharp footsteps of a surly suit on the way to its other life. Jaq tried hard not to laugh as it barged past him and down the street, briefcase flailing with exertion. ‘It’s another today,’ he mused, wrinkling his nose as he passed a trash container.

She would probably be there already, waiting for him, in a way. He upped his pace a little and almost tripped on his way past the bakery; catching sight of a strange cloud. Almost the shape of a rose, almost. Brushing away a mesh of almond-blond hair, he slowed down a little and dared a glance up to admire dawn’s fading aquarelles against the morning sky. As he passed, the woolly rose, flickered and died in the wind. He could almost see the market, now; he pouted to whistle but decided against it, digging his hands further into his pockets, he skipped a few steps down the defrosting stones.

‘Hopscotch used to be a secret door to heaven,’ he smiled idly ‘now it is guarded by children and the banality of men.’ Deciding that there could be no better ward for heaven’s gate, he almost jogged the last few steps into the market, dodging the first few stalls as he searched her with his pale grey eyes. There she was, sat primly under a red tarpaulin, setting out her books. He stopped for a while, admiring the gentle curves, the intense gaze, the indecent way her fingers danced across the unprotected spines. He grinned despite himself, stealing a fresh rose from an old flower woman’s stall as he slalomed his way towards the café.

Once there, he sat down on the terrace and ordered a fresh cup of coffee, never letting his gaze drift from Her as he placed the rose softly on the table and waited, watching. Above the dead rose slowly bloomed into an angel ring, carved by the wind’s ageing fingers. Jaq whistled a snippet of ancient symphony, and ducked when she looked up; a little fearful, perhaps.

The waitress chose that time to bring him his coffee. “Yours, sir?” she asked with a slight smile. He made his best effort to smile back and took the tiny cup from her hand, handing her a coin in return. When he looked back at Her, she had left the books. Shocked, he searched through the growing market for her black-garbed form, she was nowhere to be seen. He half-stood up, hoping to catch a glimpse of her on the other side of the square; nothing. He swallowed a lump of disappointment and sat back down, the coffee cooler now. He ducked his face into its aroma and smiled as it filled his senses. ‘Maybe she hid in the coffee,’ he lifted the cup to take a sip and opened his eyes to see her sitting on the other side of the table.

“Why do you always come here?” The question could have been innocent, but it felt resentful, bitter. Jaq, swallowed back and tried to smile.

“Because…” he tried.

“Why do you always stare at me, do you think it’s funny?” She interrupted.

“No, it’s just that…” he tried again.

“Leave me alone, I’m not some freak for you to laugh at.” She interrupted bitterly, standing up again to leave.

“This is for you.” He threw, grabbing the dewy rose so quickly he cut himself on it’s thorns and handing it to her.

She paused and sat back down, taking the rose respectfully, as if it were some kind of offering. Examining it as if it was the rose itself, not the thought, that mattered; then she placed it back on the table and looked up at him, confused.

“Are you making fun of me?” She asked. And in that instant; he realised that very fibre of her being waited for his answer, that a yes or a no would spell out the Word. He suddenly realised that he shouldn’t, couldn’t, never wanted to hurt her. On an impulse, he reached his hand forward to brush hers, held tight against her body.

“No, no I’m not.” He replied, pleaded. “I like you, you’re different.”

“So now you’re calling me a freak.” She replied, but looking up, he saw a gentle smile crease her cheek. He pulled her unresisting hand up to his lips and smiled happily at her.

“Yes, I suppose I am. Is that such a bad thing to be?”