The Rose Maker

Lucy once sold perfume behind a counter in Von Mauer. I kept this in mind when the time came to kiss her cheek near her ear, and when I washed my hands with the soap in her kitchen before I cooked us something elegant. That soap was lemon-scented, with notes of bergamot and detergent. Lucy herself always smelled at first like clean laundry. She assured me that this was also the effect of a perfume she'd been testing.

"Now they make perfumes that smell like dirt, or grass, or chocolate and honey. Flowers have become almost obsolete," she told me. "Sometimes a new designer tries to use roses, but they're so tentative about it. Apologetic."

"Rose would a pretty difficult scent to hide," I say. She had rose body wash in her shower. Once, I used it; scrubbed between my toes with it. I smelled like roses for the entire morning, which meant I smelled the way Lucy did beyond the clean laundry.

"We need a good, old-fashioned rose perfume. I'm going to make it one day, I've decided. I mean, your grandmother's rose," she said, reminding us both not of a particular grandmother, but of the particular absence of one. She had that glint, that faraway glint that cast frailty and hunger all over her little face. Lucy had silvery paper eyelids, like leaves on money trees, and the kind of perfectly lucid dreams where dead people she still loved opened their mouths to speak and out bloomed hearts and vibrant flowers, like clay animations.

She once sold perfume behind a counter, but nothing ever came of it. Being the youngest, newest, freshest counter girl, she was the first to be laid off when the store had a terrible Christmas. Secretly, this suited me. I hated to go see her into her department, which reeked sourly of green tea, amid the tacky designs of the bottles she touted with a nauseated smile, among the snobby blue-hairs who ignored both Lucy and their own tentative, apologetic customers. Her uniform had been Amish black, and her make-up had been severely drawn, but she hated to lose that job--

Her scent-lust was heartfelt, and difficult to hide. Beneath the roses, she used to smell like sweet first success: the kind of concoction of smoky powder and sweaty champagne that begins to separate itself in the bottle if not used in a year or two--

Beneath that she just smelled like steam, which is too private of a scent to describe.

About the author:

Ben Cenapold currently lives in England and is at work on a novel about Indianapolis.