A Rose Afraid of Thorns

I purse my lips, careful not to drip the poison. It coats my mouth in a viscous balm, threatening to take me should any slip inside.

She’s lying in our bed awake, sort of. Rose hasn’t really been awake in this world for some time. I haven’t seen life in her eyes for years. She’s just a beautiful shell, drifting away from everything she promised me.

We met just before she turned sixteen. I went riding in the forest and that’s where she lived at the time. I saw her twirling about and daydreaming, not like she daydreams now though. She wasn’t trying to escape anything. Rose was dreaming about me. Or, the possibility of someone like me, I assume. Her blonde curls looked spun of gold, swaying around her shoulders and reflecting off the sun. She was dancing around with some squirrels when I snuck up on her and charmed her with some footwork of my own. Her bare feet, stained green from the soft grass we danced on, clumsily grazed mine. She had no proper training but it only made her more endearing. Surrounded by drooping willows and a still pond, it was quite romantic. We told each other everything we wanted to hear.

“You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream,” she had said. It sounds kind of crazy, she always talks like that, but I really did love her in that moment.

I felt quite lucky when she invited me to her cottage that night. To my disappointment she had a roommate. I didn’t realize they were celebrating until a cake was brought out, likely because the decorations were quite unconventional. They had weaved weeds and sticks into streamers that hung from their doorways, furs and feathers were pinned to the walls, and candles lit by green flame were casting eerie shadows. Apparently Rose was moving. Her roommate, a fairy, wasn’t very happy about it, but they had plans to stay in touch. Rose was to return home to her kingdom. I knew then that we were destined because she was a princess.

We were married not long after. She didn’t adjust to our life in the castle well. I would often awake reaching for her in our bed, only to find she was curled up on the floor, next to the wide-open window. I tried to lift her spirits. We had balls with dancing, we had plays and poets visit, and she was finally with her family again. After some time though, she became restless. Rose wanted to live in the woods, she wanted to travel further and take up strange hobbies like knife throwing and jerky butchering. I suggested she try spinning instead as I had a room full of spindles for her. She wouldn’t go near it; A rose afraid of thorns.

Worst of all though, she was barren and we were broken. Without an heir, our kingdom will be lost to my petulant cousin. Rose grew distant and mute. I didn’t know what else to do. She was wasting her life and so now I’m pausing it.

I’ve sat beside her on the bed. She doesn’t look at me. Rose blinks slowly, the only evidence she isn’t a porcelain doll. I lean towards her, she’s unphased.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

My lips touch hers and for a moment she’s more awake than I’ve seen in years. Her eyes widen, she stares at me as her heart slows, her hands clench at my collar. And then those lids slide over her realization and she’s falling back onto the bed. The bed bounces along with her long curls. I arranged those golden locks to splay around her, like her head is resting in a bed of straw.

I pull out a handkerchief and wipe the rest of the poison from my lips. I’m paranoid and spit.

The fairies flutter in.

“Is it done?” one asks me. I can’t really tell the difference between the three. I can’t even really see their features clearly, beyond their cloud of magic. Their haze sparkles, they’re small, frail, and pointy. They have elongated ears and horns, freckles and spots, crowns and claws. The fairies are draped in moss, bark and have little streams falling from them into eternity. They look like deer that have been stretched into children.

“Yes.” They can see that is.

“Good,” they say in unison. They’re a cold species. They had invested in Rose the day she was born, given her gifts like beauty, kindness, song, and grace. They could have given her a sense of humor, in my opinion. Fairies are fascinated by pure beauty, untampered and not yet blooming. They’ve been tending to Rose, preparing her for her rule, but I think they’ve ruined her. If only she’d listened to me. But Rose was drawn to them, to their strangeness.

The chill of their power and unpredictability trickles a tickle down my spine.

“Leave us,” they command.

I look to Rose as I leave and she looks more at ease than before. I realize I should have arranged more than just her hair. Her arm is bent at the elbow, draped across the bed, and she has one foot dangling off the edge while the other is tangled in sheets.

The news will be out soon. They’ll spin a tale of her suspended life to preserve our kingdom, a valiant sacrifice for a princess who cannot bare an heir instead. They’ll paint and plaster my resting beauty across the city. She’ll be awoken when I die, to continue our family’s rule.

There’s a crow, perching on the windowsill in the hallway. It’s been watching me. I leap for the bird, but it’s gone already and I know exactly to whom. I rush to the armory. My role now is to defend Rose, and the biggest threat to our plan was the fairy who shared her cabin in the woods. I know that woodland witch is out there, that great green fairy, Maleficent.

 

—–

 

My briar rose, they’ve made her nothing more than a sleeping beauty. Taken her away and holed her up in a concrete castle, boxed her into their rituals and pastimes. Such frivolity. Don’t they know what treasure they collected from me? I think of her voice, how she’d sing melodies that even the toads could harmonize with. We’d dance about the cottage, smoking jerky and throwing knives. We’d weave weeds into each other’s hair and domesticate the wildest of creatures. She was so fearless, after a bit of convincing that is.

And now that they’re displeased with their molding of her, they’re trying to start over. They’re changing her narrative by taking her out of it. Couldn’t they have just given her back to me? I resist the dragon roaring inside of me. I am livid and my anger breathes emerald fire.

I can’t waste any more time. I let the beast take over and then I’m soaring. Wings and wind and I’m made wicked. I launch out of the forest and cross the kingdom. I spot the town messengers, news of Rose’s sleeping spell swarms the villages. I resist the urge to burn them all down. I don’t want her to wake angry at me. I halt before the castle. Those damned fairies have charmed it. They’ve wrapped her resting place in thorns, how typically poetic of them. They knew I’d arrive as a dragon.

And so I shove the beast down, like swallowing the pit of a peach. I stalk under the enlarged thorn bush, and up to the castle threshold. The prince steps out to greet me then.

“I trusted her to you,” I say, lethally calm.

“I did my best,” he says. He’s got a long sword in his hand.

“Liar. You did what was easy. You let them drain her away to nothing,” I say.

“She let them do it too. And where were you while all this happened?”

I hiss at him, that fire leaks from my nostrils. “I wasn’t allowed to interfere,” I say tightly. Buffoon. He’s just making excuses now.

There’s no sun left to light our standoff. Storm clouds move in, invited by the nights events.

“Let me take her,” I offer him one chance.

“I can’t do that.”

He keeps talking as I release some of my magic, green light bounces shadows off his face. They mock him; make his cheeks less sharp, his eyes less determined.

“It’s not just me playing this game. The other fairies, they’re really behind it all,” he rambles.

I don’t bother with replies. I’ve circled him into a dining chamber.

“She never liked living with you,” he’s wielding words now, stabbing me with sentences.
I scoff. But he’s wounded me. I know there’s truth to that. I know my ways weren’t natural to her.

“Why do you think she never wrote back? She was glad to get away.”

I believe him. Really, it only took a handsome prince and promise of a fairytale for her to leave. What could I have offered her anyways?

I still don’t have words for him, nothing that he couldn’t see through, at least. I should’ve sharpened this weapon too.

I’m within arms reach now. He swings his sword, it gashes me open, but I don’t spill any blood.

“You failed her,” I whisper to him. “Worse than I ever did.”

He doesn’t argue. And at first, he doesn’t scream as I set fire to him.

I’m a swirl of cloak and fire as I ascend to her bedchamber. I sense them before I see them. The three little fairies are outside her door.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” they say.

“Move.”

They start swaying, blue and pink dust fills the room. I can feel it reach inside my throat. A dry and full dust that tries to pry oxygen from my lungs, but it doesn’t work. With a wave of my hand it’s dissipated.

Their eyes are full of such anger that it transforms their small figures. They’re hideous. Horns are pointed and teeth elongated, they sprout weeds and their streams dry up. But these fairies aren’t designed for combat. They know they have no chance against me.

“You’ll ruin her,” they say.

“You already have,” I say.

The fairies value self-preservation over all else and so they move aside. Smarter than the prince, and yet I’m more inclined to kill them for not putting up a fight.

`           I’m through her door a heartbeat later.

And there she is, my Briar Rose.

 

——–

 

I’m dreaming but all of it’s real. I’m stuck in the loop of my life. That bastard betrayed me. I gave up everything for him; I gave up my life with Maleficent for some pipe dream of a prince. I suppose I loved him, in the way I was supposed to. We never knew how to love each other well. We were in love with who we thought the other was, while both pretending to be someone else. My prince hated the fairies and their magic and yet, the hypocritical bastard has leagued with them to envenom me.

I feel languid as I’m drawn into a memory. The cottage, on the day I first stayed. I was just a child when my parents gave me to Maleficent. They had promised her their first born, in exchange for the ability to conceive one at all. My family line notoriously struggled to produce heirs. Their bargain was temporary, I could return to them when I was sixteen if I still desired to. My fairy caretaker was determined to convince me that I wouldn’t.

Maleficent left me to sleep in the stable that first week, so that I would learn to appreciate her meager luxuries. There was an arthritic bed and feeble quilt, the walls decorated as if the whole cottage was an armory, and no mirrors. I caught my reflection in one of the axes. My drugged mind has made it horrifying. My eyes are drooping into my cheeks, I have only a few strands of stringy hair stretching from my head and my skin is spotted. I try to scream. Well, I try to, but my voice doesn’t work here. I try to tell myself it’s only a dream.

“We mustn’t make a brat out of you. Or else I’ll be inclined to keep you forever.” Maleficent is watching me examine my new home. She was cold and distant at first, or maybe I was. We didn’t really speak for quite some time. It was even longer until she showed me her magic. And just like that the thought takes me to the moment.

We were walking in the forest, my toes were forever green and my heels were black. I’d long since stopped wearing shoes. I asked her why they called her a fairy if she didn’t have any magic.

“I do have magic,” she said.

I didn’t buy it, so she showed me. She pointed out a squirrel, scavenging in a nearby pine. I didn’t hesitate in chucking my knife through its skull, just as she’d taught me. Maleficent plucked the squirrel front the tree I’d pinned it to. She held it with such care that I thought she was going to breathe life back into the creature. Instead she blew green flames that disintegrated the animal instantly. I was enamored. I hadn’t felt first time wonder quite like that until I fell in love.

I’m dancing in my forest. It’s the day before I returned home. She’s sent me out to collect berries to top the cake she’s making. It was the first time she had spoken to me since I told her I didn’t want to stay. I was dancing for the last time in the forest when he snuck up on me. I was daydreaming of someone just like him. He was everything I thought he was supposed to be. He was tall and strapping, with a heroic voice and a big sword. We married almost immediately. He was handsome and charming. And boring. He told bad jokes and had uninteresting interests. I had wanted something new without realizing what I had was more exciting.

The fairies were as close to magic as I could get. Their power was subtle and manipulating, where Maleficent’s was brute and sensational. They were cunning and scheming with shrouded intentions. They were teaching me to use my own charms and secrets to wield power. I was too consumed by that potential to look closer at why.

I’m sitting at my armoire, turned away from the mirror. They’re discussing my slow progress, my fatigue from their lessons, and my inability to be energized by anything else in my life.

“We need more time,” they hissed to themselves. I’m watching this happen again and seeing how obvious it all was.

Screw them all. I’m done being their pretty plaything to pull and fight over, to dress and mold and train. I’m done being a pawn everyone else’s game. My induced fever dreams continue to show me all the reasons I now clench the knife.

 

——-

She’s tucked into bed like a child’s toy. She’s been made up and arranged and for a moment I feel as if I’m staring into her casket. But her chest rises, unnaturally slow. I kneel next to bed and stroke her cheek. It’s nearly translucent. Her hair is too fine, well brushed and devoid of our weeds. They’ve colored her lips, likely to hide the residue of the poison. Her pout will forever be pigmented black.

I lift her hand, devoid of its once sun kissed tint. I pull out my spindle and prick her finger. I wait for her to awake.

Her eyes don’t flutter open, she doesn’t gaze at me like her hero, her hand doesn’t reach for mine. Instead, Rose gasps and shoots upward, she’s pulled a knife from under her pillow and thrusts it hilt deep into my heart.

“Checkmate,” she whispers. My emerald flames drift from my mouth with my last breath. She breathes it in and her eyes glow with the power she’s stolen from me.

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Piñata

I swore off piñatas after my sixth birthday. This is a tale of betrayal.

It was a sunny spring day in the Maryland suburbs. The twirling Tweety Bird held secrets and promises. It was the uniting force of the party. Our common enemy and collective victory. Friends from all avenues of my life gathered. Sunday school homies, the obligatory neighborhood friends, soccer teammates, even the kids from my homeschoolers bowling league.

After they celebrated me in song, and we feasted upon sugar, we finally took to the hunt. We took turns swinging at the giant bird. Vanquishing did not come easy. Paper feathers fluttered to the ground as we beat the piñata in rage, demanding our prize. Finally, an orange taloned foot split. Our energy surged, each wanting the chance to deliver the final blow.

One lucky knight did just that, and suddenly it was raining gold. Smarties, Now & Laters, Lollipops and Double Bubble gum were snatched from blades of grass. No one wasted time reveling in the victory, but went straight to devouring.

I was organizing my plunder when my comrades turned on me. I was admiring my treasure and savoring the gathered wholeness. When suddenly, a battle cry, “MORE CANDY.” They’d spotted my stash. They came running, they snatched and scavenged. I was in shock. Clearly this was my loot, had they not enough of their own? Did they not know I was the birthday girl? Ruler of party and celebrated individual that brought them here. I was left with nothing but a single strawberry sucker.

Mom came over to check on her tough girl, my shoulders hunched and eyes pinched. “They. Stole. My. Candy,” I said in short breathes of anger. “Off with their heads!” I declared to her. How could children be so cruel?

Mom, my wisest advisor, had a different solution. I was both grateful and mortified as she asked the children to each give me some of their candy. The thieves formed a line and ushered forward in solemn shame. I avoided eye contact as the traitors mumbled apologies and reluctantly dropped candy into my bag. We sent them home with a parting gift, one last token to prove my worthy right to rule this day. I sent them home with what I hoped was guilt.

Since then I’ve detested the bulging cardboard dream crushers. How awful an idea to have children battle each other for food? In years to come I sometimes participate in the initial ritual, blasting on the thing in resentful anger, increasingly frustrated as my impacts make no damage. Then I step back and watch as they scramble for scraps. Pity their need and foolish instincts. Sworn to never again indulge in the gold that makes monsters of men.

lovebirds

Lovebirds are made from love and a whole bunch of time, spent or used or taken into a substance they sell in the stories on the screens and in the pages. You can glimpse it being created in a chapel, next to the chapel where they read stars and next to the chapel where they preach fates and give it to you for a price. Just follow the lovebirds. You can’t miss the lovebirds they soar up high.

I saw them when we met. They followed the sun as it set.

I chased them. I chased their idea. I went to the chapel to buy my fate, they read my stars and I followed the lovebirds.

Their name stems from the parrots’ strong monogamous bonding and the long periods which paired birds spend sitting together.

We sat together the night we met. And many night after that.

What Killed the Dinosaurs

The air is thick and my older sister drank all the Fiji water. We are nearing our last stop on the film location tour and it’s the only one I really care about. The soundtrack plays in my head, dun nuh naah nuh nuh duh nah nuh nuh nuh duh nah nuhhhh.

“And this is where iconic scenes from Jurassic Park were shot,” our tour guide says over the radio speaker. He parks the tour jeep and theatrically brandishes his hand across the scape of tropical fields.

I fumble with my seatbelt in excitement, pull my hat out of my pocket and speed out into the tall grass.

“Sam, is this Paris-freaking-France? Take off that damn beret,” my sister says, catching up with me.

“Language!” Mom yells, trumping through the ferns after her.

Riley looks up from taking a picture of on her phone to roll her eyes.

“Honey, the hat looks nice on you,” my mom says distracted by the tour guides spiel.

“Well, you can’t be in my selfie with that on,” Riley snides for half a second before her jaw drops into an excited smile for the photo. The wooden sign with the Jurassic Park logo on it is in the background.

I pull my hat down lower, using it as a shield…from the heat.

It’s really bright here, this far up on the islands peak. I take a picture on my Polaroid, my sister says I shouldn’t try so hard to be retro but I just like that you get the picture right away. I shake the photo as it develops.

“Although Hawaii is fairly new geologically and didn’t exist until years after dinosaurs went extinct, it’s tropic temperament and destructive nature are similar to Earth’s conditions at that time,” I think our tour guides name is Jerry, yeah Jerry says this and it’s really interesting to me.

“Now, there’s still 80% of Kauai you’ve been missing out on, viewable only by air with our helicopter tour,” Jerry’s sold me already, “This is the only way to see our infamous Jurassic Park waterfall.”

I spin to the lady, “Mom! 80%?!”

My mom faithfully goes to ask him about pricing and I remember the photo in my hand.

“Aw, blast,” I say annoyed.

“What are those streaks of light?” Riley asks, leaning over my shoulder.

The treetops are over exposed; bright lines of red-white light blur the top of the photo. “This things faulty,” I complain.

“You probably did it wrong,” Riley says.

I shrug and ready an insult when suddenly I’m staggering. I grab my sister’s hand and she yanks it away as soon as we’re steady again.

“Just some mild volcanic activity likely, we can start heading back, looks like the sun’s coming down,” The guide doesn’t look anyone in the eyes as he starts herding us back.

I catch a flash of bright light from the corner of my eye and twist to see what looks like a falling sun disappearing behind the mountain.

“What was that?” I ask my sister, she’s looking at her phone again.

“Y-you heard him, volcanic—-“ the shaking ground stops her sentence short.

I look up at the sky, the sun still in its place.

People don’t know if they should be panicking and move quickly back to the paved path and the Jeeps.

“No! Look!” I tell my sister, pointing at sky.

The stars, they were falling upon us. I could see power lines swaying and trees shudder.

“What is that?” Riley asks softly.

“Dinosaurrrrrs!” A kid roars from the pack of tourists.

“No, it’s what killed them,” I mutter.

The island shakes in pain as the meteors beat mercilessly into it. Our legs frantically shake down the hill as fast as our adrenaline tells them to. Mom’s right behind us, hands between our shoulder blades. Jerry’s hitting the gas just as Riley swings into her seat.

The car bounces over the aftershocks as space rocks come crashing down. We fly forward as the brakes slam to stop in front of a fallen tree.

Riley is in tears and mom murmurs promises of safety. A chorus of screaming erupts when another ball of fire crashes behind us. People flee the car and Jerry is no where to be found. We get out too, clinging to mom as she starts walking us back towards the island, yelling at other tourists to stick together and head for town. The heat and light is constant as the jungle around us catches fire.

Our jeep bursts into flames and I’m blinded, by light and smoke.
We run.

Three Sentence Story

At first I thought this was just a musical but apparently it’s a ballet because she’s spinning and spinning like children who want to see the world turned upside down and it’s like a spinning ceiling fan you wouldn’t dare touch, or like a blindfolded party guest trying to find the tail end of things, or like a snowflake that’s twirling down into a lack of individuality, or like a carousel with mirrors and I catch glimpses of myself but it takes a moment to recognize, or like how our car spun when that truck didn’t stop at the light.

Her leg stretches, inviting us.

It’s my turn and I rise from my seat in the mezzanine, their faces turn towards me in distress and I give my soliloquy.

Ten questions to ask a friend who just read your novel

letswritesomenovels:

tanya-posts:

Here are ten questions to ask that will not put your friend in a tough spot, but will still give you some useful input on your novel:

1. At what point did you feel like “Ah, now the story has really begun!”
2. What were the points where you found yourself skimming?
3. Which setting in the book was clearest to you as you were reading it? Which do you remember the best?
4. Which character would you most like to meet and get to know?
5. What was the most suspenseful moment in the book?
6. If you had to pick one character to get rid of, who would you axe?
7. Was there a situation in the novel that reminded you of something in your own life?
8. Where did you stop reading, the first time you cracked open the manuscript? (Can show you where your first dull part is, and help you fix your pacing.)
9. What was the last book you read, before this? And what did you think of it? (This can put their comments in context in surprising ways, when you find out what their general interests are. It might surprise you.)
10. Finish this sentence: “I kept reading because…”

Your friend is probably still going to tell you, “It was good!” However, if you can ask any specific questions, and read between the lines, you can still get some helpful information out of even the most well-meaning reader.

Source: Examiner

This is really useful advice, especially if the person you’ve shared your story with hasn’t had much/any experience critiquing.

It does a great job of asking for a balance of both positive and negative feedback in a way that’s comfortable for both the author and reader.

A Crime of Passion

Eyes meet, and glances dart
hearts beat, though we stand apart

I bite my lip
hoping he’ll take the hint

We exchange witty words
our chemistry absurd

 A new kind of biting
he feels like lightning

 Deeper I’m pulled into his crypt
no going back, I’ve become an addict

A homicide of my heart
together we become tragic art

By morning my body feels mangled
I watch him at a foreign angle

Fatal attraction
we burn to ashes

Love is blind, I can no longer see
and I know, that he will kill me

Dizzy Cups

Dad, let’s ride the Dizzy Cups
I begged him for this new experience
Let’s spin until my stomachs in my throat
Spin until I find new understanding

I begged him for new experience
I want more freedom for fun and to
spin until I find new understanding
The spinning stops when I find myself

I wanted freedom for fun
This tea party is mad
The spinning stopped when I found myself
Dad told me I did well

The tea party was mad
My path now sure
Dad told me I did well
We drink tea together

His path now unsure
The colors blur
We drank tea together
Dad, one last ride on the Dizzy Cups?

.

.

Afterword: This is purely a work of fiction. My personal life isn’t reflected by what is written. Keep in mind this is a fairly early draft, not award-winning by any means, and a first try at poetry. It’s a pantoum, a poetry style in which you reuse the first and third lines of one stanza as the second and last lines in the next, only allowing slight alterations. This one in particular parallels the Tea Cups ride at most theme parks, to life. Starts innocent new and excited, then in the same way the ride does, life gets faster and dizzier and then it’s over.The middle is meant to be a period of finding yourself in life, maybe rebelling against you parents as you do so, and then eventually growing up and being more certain in who you are, coming to a new understanding with your parents. And it ends, with the child’s father getting older, possibly sick, and they take one last ride together.