Before I explain why those innocent-looking, sweet-smelling roses on your desk or nightstand could drive you to homicide, I have to set the record straight.
When I was too young to know better, I thought all roses were, in the words of kid detective Flossie Bobbsey, bee-yoo-tiful. Each year my mom designed four enormous rose gardens and I got to weed my way through every single one of them, carefully avoiding razor-sharp thorns and fuzzy, lurking bumblebees. Five cents per weed-filled grocery bag was hardly a fortune made, but it did beat dusting. And my floral charges presented themselves in a dizzying color wheel of enticing hues: reds, pinks, peaches, creams, and whites. The cheery yellow roses were my favorite. And they all smelled nice.
But eventually I learned a few things about roses. Like the demanding Flower in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, they can be selfish, vain, and scheming beneath those silky, dewy petals. They murmur barely-audible nothings to those who think they own them, and taunt the less fortunate who desire them from afar. This is especially true around the middle of the cruelest month. No, not April. That would be February, when the roses wield their true colors.
Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. But everyone loves roses, right? And really, what’s better than receiving them once in a while?
Sadly, no fabulous bouquets ever came my way, even on Valentine’s Day, for more years (okay, decades) than I cared to count. None of my Prince Charmings believed in floral displays of affection. And that was perfectly okay with me.
Because…well, expensive. And archaic. And boring. And over-rated. And maybe even vaguely sexist. Plus, there was always the daunting task of keeping them alive, at all costs.
And what could be worse than receiving those garish, token arrangements at the office, where everyone would notice that telltale trail of rose petals leading straight from the reception area to your desk? Of course then you would have to act surprised and maybe you really were, if you had no idea who they were from. Which was even more intriguing, to you and every fellow employee across five departments who was so happy for you.
And then, one rainy Valentine’s day, it happened. I was the recipient of an enormous bunch of gorgeous roses. Please bear with me—this is where the murder part comes in.
My eyes filled with happy tears, which I quickly brushed away so no one could tell I was a 1-800-Flowers newbie. I was the princess today, the Cinderella who had always watched everyone else go off to the ball, and now could live Happily Ever After (Note: In the romance world, they call that “HEA.” In the mystery world, not so much.)
The spell was broken when a colleague sidled up behind me and glanced at the attached card. “Your boyfriend?”
I nodded, increasingly mesmerized by the low but very definite siren call emanating from the perfect buds nestled under their protective plastic wrap.
“They’re yellow,” she said, with a sniff. “That means friendship, or jealousy. Not love. Too bad.” Then she walked away.
What??!! You would have thought she was talking about yellow snow. And rose colors had actual meanings? I quickly looked it up, as the yellow-hearted traitors on my desk grew strangely silent. Yep, there it was, all laid out. Red meant love, and white was purity or unity, and peach denoted passion and yellow with red tips meant a growing relationship. Black-hued roses were apparently not good news. (Side note #2: There’s even a peachy-pink Miss Piggy rose. Who knows what that means.)
My colleague was right about the friendship-yellow. But how could she have been so rude and mean as to point that out? She’d ruined the most important moment of my entire romantic life. Correction: unromantic. “Kill her,” my new roses said, very loudly and clearly. “Kill her now.”
I glanced at the handy pair of scissors standing among the editing pencils in my desk mug. “You can do it,” the roses urged. “Kill, kill, kill!”
My hands closed on cool steel, just as my boyfriend called to see how much I loved the flowers. “You said yellow roses were your favorite, remember?” he said. “At the Steeplechase, last May. You know, where we met? They were on the champagne table.”
Reader, I married him. My bridal bouquet was made up of harmless hydrangeas–and yes, maybe a yellow rose or two.
Are you a secret (or not so secret) special-occasion floral fan–or should roses in particular be banned for the safety of the general public?