by Leona Writer
The tale of an ugly orphaned little girl who makes a magical discovery
|Once upon a time… no that’s not right… Somewhere in a far of place in a distant… ugh… that’s no good either. Well let me cut to the chase already then. I’m no princess sitting on her duff waiting for prince charming to save her from a witch or even a wicked stepmother, though probably not unlike most girls I’ve dreamed of just such a fantasy my entire life, knowing however, that it could never be possible. If you’re looking for such story then this is not the one for you. Though I’ve had many different adventures in my lifetime none of them seemed to have ended in me finding prince charming to rescue me… not that in most cases I needed rescuing. But don’t start skipping pages just yet. Let me tell you how it all started before you criticize the life I ended up with.
It all began when I was a baby I was found buried in a rose bush crying my head off like any other baby would if they had brambles and thorns sticking into their soft tender skin. If you’re looking for a well-known fairytale to compare me to, at this moment the ugly duckling is the one most seem to choose. Well, just the ugly part anyway. I’m not ashamed of it I’d been told it soo many times “Ugly” became like my name. I was slim, wrinkled, and tan skinned, but one of my uncanny green eyes was much bigger than the other. I was an “Ugly Duckling”. No wonder my parents had thrown me out, probably hoping that the beautiful rose bushes that I was so willy-nilly tossed into would bring upon me some beauty, but that hope obviously failed.
So that’s how my life began, as an ugly baby. Everyone’s first notion of me was to toss me back into the rose bush from whence I came, but most human beings have a strong sense of compassion for children and an honor for life. The old woman who found me had both of these despite my ugliness and the compelling sensation to just leave me be she wrinkled up her nose at me and wrapped me in blanket. From that point on I’ve grown up in the orphanage off Main Street in some country town called Little England to which the keeper, Auntie Norma named me Rose. How did I get such a pretty flower’s name and have been such an ugly baby? Norma’s excuse was that a closed bud was what I truly was and when I bloomed I’d be the most beautiful one of all. Now that’s an uplifting part of the story.
Norma was the only mother like figure I’d ever known. She was a very wise and jolly older woman who became my only friend because I was too ugly to be friends with the other kids. Therefore, Auntie Norma put my other natural talents to good use. I had a way with words. I could make even the most disgusting little bug sound and even appear like the most elegant of creatures. I was often instructed to tell the little ones stories to help them sleep at night. The babies and toddlers were the only ones who comforted me in my ugliness. Aunt Norma claims that ever sense I’d been able to talk there hasn’t been a single nightmare in the place.
Children are blessed with innocence and therefore they see the world through angel eyes. They do not see beauty like most do, beauty to them remains in the heart. Sadly, however, children seem to grow out of their innocence. Though more often than not, the younger ones were adopted first. So, slowly but surely my young friends would disappear one by one before they would have the chance to decide whether or not to disregard their innocent gift. For me, I don’t know why, but I’ve never lost my sight. In mind and body I know I can no longer proclaim my innocence and most of my actions prove this true, because with age comes knowledge and often times knowledge can destroy innocence. However, at heart I know I am forever a child. I will always love climbing trees, spinning so fast that my sun dress poufs outward about me. I will forever love running bare foot through the grass and building forts near the woods, my fortress of solitude… to dream, to love, to laugh. If only life were really as simple as children make it out to be.
My other talents, however, revolve around the garden. Norma had a brown thumb as she often said. She proved this on many occasion as withering plants could be spotted in windows dying in a beam of sunlight as if they had been burnt to a crisp. Myself, on the other hand, I have been declared green thumbed. The flowers seem to spring to life when I pass, Norma admired one day and therefore I was given the chore of providing a garden filled with the very life of the rainbow.
“A garden will bring life to this place of such sadness.” Norma said when she told me to go plant her garden. “Bring happiness and faith to us again, Rose.”
My favorite and most envied of all the flowers I had planted was of course the rose. I took the greatest care with this particular plant because I felt I owed them penance for my ugliness having been granted such a beautiful name. I spent the majority of my time when I was living in the orphanage in the garden. To me the flowers seemed to understand me more than any human could. They’d turn in my direction when I passed and almost seemed to fight each other for my touch. My garden was attached to me more than I was to it. If I was sad the plants would wither, the flowers lose their petals. The flowers even seemed to moan and cry unseen tears, although when I was happy the garden was the most spectacular sight of all rejoicing with ecstatic cheers. The very essence of the rainbow truly did exist within my sanctuary.
Norma proclaimed one day, that if she looked long enough she just might find a pot of gold somewhere beneath a bush. Her wrinkled face would crease into a creased smile and she would laugh shaking her great belly.
“The flowers are magic;” I use to tell Norma, “They have a sparkle each and every one. I see it when I touch them and feel it when I go by. Each one’s sparkle has a particular shape and brightness, and if you truly listen hard enough you can hear the magic as it sings each new flower into life.”
Norma laughed. “What a peculiar imagination you have my dear,” she’d wink then shake her head and carry on with whatever she was doing.
Life at the orphanage was the best it could have been, because it was all I had ever known. That was until one day in my eleventh year an old wizened man appeared in the earliest break of dawn one summer’s day. He was a dear friend of Aunt Norma’s; she had explained that they grew up together though he seemed to have been at least twenty years older. But by the way they had greeted each other it was evident that they had a history.
That night the flowers twitched and cooed in agitation and excitement. I sensed it, and their feelings were so strong that I caught onto their excitement too. I became so excited at one point that when I was instructed to give the younger children their bedtime story I couldn’t sit still to tell it.
“What has come over you child?!” Norma had inquired, “I’ve never seen you in such a state before.”
As Norma questioned this of me sweet fragranced words soared up into the nursery from the garden, somebody is coming, they whispered.
“Somebody is coming,” I repeated.
Norma was taken aback at this, “Who?” She spoke with shock.
“I- I don’t know,” I stuttered.
Norma just sighed, a sigh that sounded almost like relief. “Well, it’s off to bed with you girl.”
I obeyed without question though I didn’t sleep.
There was a loud knock at the door early the next morning and I darted down the stairs at once just in time to see Norma open it in her dressing gown as one of her great creased smiles spread all across her face, “Malcolm!” She had exclaimed as she threw her mass into a tall old thin wizened man’s arms.
Malcolm patted Norma’s massive back with one long slender hand, his brilliant blue eyes sparkling with a familiar strangeness in the early morning light, “Norma-Jean,” he’d said “My, it’s been a long time.” He added this with a pressed smile.
“Too long!” Norma exclaimed though worry and fear began to show evidence within her wrinkled and naturally jolly looking eyes. “What brings you here?”
“Norma,” Malcolm began, “It has begun again.”
Norma’s face went white and I thought she’d faint, but she just placed a hand over her heart as she took in two long and deep breaths.
What’s happening? I thought as the same sweet and fragranced words swirled in my mind WAR. I could feel the plants tremble down to their roots as I myself remained crouched on the stairs, the very wood of the steps under my feet shuddering at the mention of war.
War? I thought. What kind of war would a flower fear?
Only a war that involves them, a different voice pounded in my mind. The voice had a peculiar smell of ancient oak wood. I peaked down the steps to see the old man’s blue eyes piercing into mine. But like my plants I remained rooted to the spot starring back at this strange man, no indication of shock visible upon my face.
“It’s begun?” Norma question interrupted both of our thoughts, “But when? And how? But who?”
“All questions can and will be answered, but on your porch in the early shards of morning with inquiring ears is not the place for such a conversation,” Malcolm said this as Norma followed his gaze to the stairs where I remained locked to the spot.
She gave me a look of disapproval but Malcolm waved one slender finger in my direction and I immediately leapt down the stairs to where they stood.
“But Malcolm” Norma protested.
“Now, Norma,” Malcolm soothed, “She has a right to know why a stranger has happened upon her home in the early hours of the morning.”
Norma’s look became even more inquisitive but she said nothing as she allowed Malcolm to put one arm about my shoulders and lead me to the kitchen where he asked me to brew up a pot of tea, “I especially like the oak wood,” he said this as I hurried to please.
Norma slumped into a chair at the small table where only a few children ate. There had been fewer and fewer orphans in the recent years but three toddlers and me still remained. The youths were sure to be adopted quickly but I, I had already seen my destiny, I would forever remain at the orphanage.
As I set three cups filled with the dark brown liquid on the table Norma turned to me with a sad look in her eyes.
“Norma?” I asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Rose, did you ever know how special you are?”
I looked at her questioningly.
“Do you remember when I told you, you were like a budding flower?” She continued.
I nodded my head in reply.
“Well, Malcolm here is going help you bloom.”
My eyes turned to Malcolm confused and looking for some clearance but he just nodded his head his silver hair shimmering in the sunlight peaking through the small kitchen window.
I could hear the music of the flowers’ magic pulsing in that room as their words kept perfuming across my mind bloom, bloom, bloom. They chanted. Bloom Rose. For us Rose. Help us.
I did not know what they meant; all I knew was the urgency that I felt in their voices so I had to believe what was being said must be true. I must bloom. But How? I thought, I’m no flower.
I suddenly realized that it had been quiet for a long time as I contemplated the meaning of all this in my mind. I looked up to see Malcolm analyzing my every ugly feature. I looked away in embarrassment.
Then I thought, how can an ugly child be special?
Malcolm just laughed at my evidently so innocent thought. “Do you see this, Norma?” Malcolm pointed to a scar hidden beneath my blazing red bangs which hung low over my face as if to obscure the fact that I had one atrociously large earthly green eye. “Has she always had it?”
“Well,” Norma began as she wrinkled up her small nose, “Yes, I believe so.”
“It’s not a scar like you’d think… look at it again.” Malcolm’s wise voice reverberated in my head as two pairs of eyes focused in on me.
Norma turned her small beady brown eyes upon me and scrutinized the scar on my forehead. It was small, yes. I’d seen it many times.
“Yes, well I know it looks like a rose. But what does that- ” Malcolm cut her off quickly.
“It is only the mark of a simple enchantment… a spell if you will,” Malcolm said taking out from one of his many pockets within his brown cloak a small bag filled with a purple powder and he poured it into my tea, which by now had gone cold.
I did not question what it was, I only drank it because I knew he meant for me to. The man before me had an aura that compelled complete trust in which I honored.
As I emptied my cup a sensation came over me. I had a sudden rush of chills and then my whole body turned hot then warm and then… nothing.
Did it work? I wondered.
“Heavens me!” Norma breathed with a start, “she’s not an angel is she?”
I looked at my reflection in the tea kettle sitting before me. I saw flaming red hair and vividly colored green eyes… but wait! The eyes, they were… I ran to the entrance way mirror and gazed at my reflection. My hair was the same, vibrantly red as it snaked down my back. My hair was the only thing that had been pretty about me. My bangs had been angled down my face just long enough to slip behind my ear. My eyes were an engaging evergreen and they twinkled just like the old man’s had. I felt the joy of the garden as I rejoiced in my appearance in the mirror. My skin was still a brownish tan but no longer wrinkly but smooth and soft. I looked down at my fingers once stubby and fat and now long and slender. My nails had a gold tinge I realized as I looked down at my fingertips. At once little red rose vines appeared on each shinny nail. There was no evidence from my daily work in the gardens beneath any nail or hidden within any crevice of my hands they were perfect as if neither had seen any hardship ever before. But, as I looked in the life size mirror I saw something that I had never dreamed could be possible protruding from my shoulder blades… wings. They were long and thin as they lay against my back. My wings were like glass tinted with green and dotted with tiny golden stars. Am I a fairy? I thought as I exercised my wings feeling the air beat upon my arms and shoulders.
I began to feel all about the mirror making sure that my reflection was real and it wasn’t just a trick of the glass. I heard a hearty laugh from the kitchen and Malcolm called me back.
I sat back down in my seat a dazzled smile fermenting on my face as both Norma and Malcolm smiled down on me.
“You are obviously part wood nymph,” Malcolm explained. “You’re green thumb and extraordinary wings explain that, but you must also be part witch because nymphs are usually much smaller at least when they want to appear in human size… which makes one wonder.” Malcolm looked questioningly at Norma.
“Well, one thing is for certain,” Norma began, “She can’t stay here anymore, now that the protection spell has been lifted. Word will get out and then they will come looking for her.”
“That much is true” Malcolm nodded “and she must be prepared for her future. I must instruct her at once. She shall come with me. I will be her guardian.”
That day wasn’t much more than a blur to me. My things appeared packed at the snap of Norma’s fingers. Is she a witch too? I questioned myself. And if so, how come I never knew? Norma then pulled a greenwood cloak from some secret place within the hall closet and placed it upon my shoulders. It smelled of old trees and damp soil.
“It will keep you safe,” she said as I smiled.
I felt my garden friends celebrate with joy at my new found birth and cry with sadness as they knew I would be departing.
Then as I stepped out into the late afternoon sun Malcolm and I hurried along the dirt path that led to the little two story cabin that had been an orphanage, my home for so long. Sadness swept over me then, yet I was happy to see that the destiny I had seen myself perusing had suddenly taken a drastic turn in it’s course. Malcolm ushered me into the nearby woods and together we disappeared, the trees turning the day to night.