Til the Last Petal Falls: Elizabeth Rose
Would you change your entire life and live among strangers in order to lead your life in a different direction? Would you take a chance and live among strangers of many different backgrounds and work for a man who seemed tormented, cold and controlling? Jolee Bellissa lived with her father and was about to change her life forever. Hoping to create that one perfect invention, her father Moe, never quite makes the grade. Living in Highlands Ranch, Colorado she is pursued by Gage Aristade on a regular basis. Thinking he is the only game in town and her main hope for a suitor he finds himself showing up at odd times at the job at the Tattered Cover, at parties that she attends and constantly making overtures to her that she rebuffs. A listing for a job for a literature and poetry tutor caught her eye and without giving it much thought, she sent her resume and hoped for a response. The monthly salary of 4000 dollars was a strong draw but just who was this mystery client, what was behind his reason for living in seclusion and what about these people who were on his staff, just who were they and what was really happening there remains to be seen. Taking the four-hour drive with her father he becomes quite leery about her surroundings and the job in general. Accepting the position almost sight unseen might be quite radical to most people but to Jolee it would mean financial freedom and security. Leaving her father to return home alone and not informing her best friend Babette about her decision, Jolee remains in what appears to be a mansion filled with many deep and dark secrets about to unfold.
First impressions can often mean more than you think as two staff members awaken Jolee, helped to dress and make a good impression and then meets the rest. But, things change during the breakfast as Adam Emile, her employer arrives, annoyed at the noise and not being made aware of her presence. Not known to back down and finding herself definitely attracted to this handsome 33-year-old artist, she is almost mesmerized by him until her starts to speak. Angered, annoyed and rude to not only her but also the staff you might wonder why she even agreed to remain and being working with her student that day. Her role as a tutor required lessons in poetry and literature and their confrontation, although, tense would not deter her goal. The first encounter tense the first lesson quite profound as Jolee prepares a lesson using a poem by Robert Frost and a dark poem by Neit Gaitman that reads: Recited by Jolee when asked by Adam to define love:
“I don’t think that I’ve been in love as such,
Although I liked a few folk pretty well.
Love must be vaster than my smiles or touch,
For brave men died and empires rose and fell
For love: girls followed boys to foreign lands
And men have followed women into Hell.
In plays and poems someone understands
There’s something makes us more than blood and bone
And more than biological demands…
For me, love’s like the wind, unseen, unknown.
I see the trees are bending where it’s been,
I know that it leaves wreckage where it’s blown.
I really don’t know what ‘I love you’ means.
I think it means ‘Don’t leave me here alone.’
The words alone mystified Adam Emile and at that moment a bond formed between student and tutor. Cast aside by his wealthy father, forced to live in isolation in the mountains, not specific identity that mattered, this talented artist presents a cold exterior within a broken and fragile heart. The beauty of the garden made her forget where she was as she looked at each petal, each flower and created her own story giving each one its own personality. But, when her mind drifted and she connected with a hedge what happens next would deter anyone from remaining as the truth behind Adam’s isolation is revealed, the fear in her eyes when she realizes what is doing to himself and the reasons behind his self-mutilation. Scarred emotionally and physically Jolee has to decide the right course to take to help him but can she? Enlisting the help of her best friend Babette she hopes to find a way to mend his heart and undo his fears. Some might say that this is the story of Beauty and the Beast in a strange or macabre way or you might say it is the story of a man so tormented by his appearance that the only way to deal with his deformities was to create a shield or barrier that would protect him from others and hopefully causing them to wilt like the final petals of a flower before the last one falls and the flower is no longer alive.
A garden whose message is so vivid and whose beauty creates many images within the mind of Adam, Jolee and for the reader to decide where the wilting blooms lie and where the beauty remains. As he tries to disfigure himself even more so does he begin to understand the destruction of such beauty as the author shares with readers and Adam the poem, “ Bryant’s Mutation.” But, things change when Jolee decides to seek out Chip and enters a room that would reveal the real Adam to her in a way that would send fear down her spine, give her much pause for thought unleash the wrath of a man so deranged, delusional and ill it would rock her whole world. With Chip’s help she would understand the meaning of the paintings that she saw within a room so defiled, pictures so filled with harsh realties of Adam’s anger, fear and destructive nature that we wonder if her father’s initial reservations to her taking this job correct. Added in Gage is constantly messaging her on facebook worried about her safety. Could they both be right after what she experiences with Adam within the confines of a room filled with paintings that would make anyone cringe?
Looking at a man’s true past is hard but not facing the harsh realities of it could cost her more than just the people that care for her. Thinking that she is really helping Adam overcome his illness she learns the hard way that she is not. Hurting himself more outwardly, using her as an outlet for his anger Jolee needs to face the fact that she cannot alone cannot be his salvation. When Babette and Gage show up at the mansion another truth is revealed and her life takes another turn. With the support of several staff members but to the chagrin of the head maid she calls Granny, Jolee needs to face Adam’s illnesses without turning a blind eye before it’s too late.
Just why did Babette and Gage come to the mansion and feel she needed to be rescued? What was the secret hidden for so long and just who did Adam love? What about his relationship with Chip his nurse and why would Chip sacrifice it all for Adam? Why wouldn’t Jolee understand that he was mentally ill, destructive and abused his brother all of his life? Why would anyone fight for him and not understand the pain he caused others? An ending that will change the lives of many and one man whose loyalty would cost him the ultimate price. What happens when Adam finally snaps, reacts to Jolee thinking she wants to leave, lashes out at her and others causing pain and suffering. What is the final result for Granny, Sarah, Renee and Chip those who really cared for Adam? What about Lee and Mr. Kron? A staff so conditioned and loyal to a man sent away at 18 and living in this mansion for 15 years under the strict supervision of a loyal staff so afraid of his every word and move that no one could forestall or did foresee what would happen when the final petal falls and the final flower withers and you put your trust in love” until the final petal falls.” Characters that are so vividly depicted and scenes so graphically created that you can see the destruction, smell the blood and feel the cuts one by one inflicted by so many in more ways as one young man finds solace in his own pain caused by the one person who was to protect him from harm. Mentally ill people need to be helped by those that can care for them without endangering others. When you read Adam’s story you will learn what happens when one father casts aside his son in order to live his life without having to face his own failures and that of a son who really need to know that he was loved. This is one powerful story told through the voices of so many characters as Jolee comes to face her own isolation, loneliness and fears when trying to compensate with those of another. How far will you go to change you life, protect someone you love? Will you do it to the exclusion of yourself and those that truly care for you? Read : Til the Last Petal Falls to learn the harsh realities of mental illness. A definite must read.
Fran Lewis: reviewer