Monday, October 14, 2013

The Rose Bush (fairy tale)

This is a fairy tale I've been working on.
It's still rough, but I wanted to have something
to share with you.

The Rose Bush

There once was a young orphan girl, who grew up with a step mother who tried her best to care for her. The step mother's heart was not filled with wickedness, but pure ice. A shield of love lost and burned, the step mother declared no one would harm her heart again. In time it grew so cold that the heart had frozen, any love trapped in the icy prison.

So came the orphan girl into the step mother's life, the sole heiress and a promise of great beauty. Where she once knew warmth, she knew only cold. The step mother taught her that the world would destroy any who did not have a heart of ice. She only needed to love herself--it would be enough. But the orphan girl realized one day that with a frozen heart, the step mother wasn't capable of even loving herself.

Over the years, the young girl's heart began to freeze as well. She had no knowledge of love, beyond a vague sense, so she did not know what it meant to love, neither herself or another. She grew up to be a beautiful young woman. Every suitor who came calling, and they ventured across land and sea to find her, was turned away. They came with lust in their hearts and greed on their minds. She fell into despair, believing that the men were incapable of loving her because of her cold heart.

Even when the orphan woman tried to love one of the men, one who sought only her happiness and promised her a world of love, her frozen heart prevented a love connection from forming. The man did not want a bride with a heart of ice. With his rejection, the woman shut her heart away completely, not knowing she further encased it in ice. Her world became one of darkness.

When some years passed, the young woman gave up on ever finding love and the warmth she knew from her childhood. She had a wisp of a memory of that warmth of love. It suffused every inch of her from head to toes. Or at least that's what she told herself, as the details were like smoke in the wind.

One day while sitting in the local gardens, she saw a man tending one of the rose bushes. Fascinated she watched him, with his carefully honed craft. She saw the man cut off some of the beginning buds. Frowning, she compared herself to those roses, the ones that would never have a chance to fully grow. The man glanced her way, realizing she was staring at him. He gave her a friendly wave and went along his way, tending to other plants.

She returned a few days later, once again people watching in the garden. There was the man again, pruning yet more tiny buds from the rose bush. The young woman began to believe that the man didn't know what he was doing. There would be none that would bloom if he kept removing them. The man once again saw her watching and gave her another wave. This time she noticed the smile he flashed as he waved, and she couldn't help returning the smile. It was the first smile that graced her lips in many years. Suddenly feeling a sharp ache within her, she returned home for the day to rest.

The next day, she went back to the gardens in hopes of seeing the gardener. She sat closer to the rose bush this time, on a stone bench across the path. She pretended to read the book she brought as the man came by to check on the roses. This time he did not remove any, but smiled. Confused, the woman peaked over the book to see what he was about. It was then that she saw the beauty and mastery of his skill. The roses that were blooming were quite large and breathtaking. There was only one or two per branch, and they flourished without sharing the space with the multitude of blooms that surely would have grown without the tending of the gardener.

The man caught her marveling over his work. He sat down next to her, introducing himself. She smiled and gave her name. She apologized for doubting his skill. When he looked confused she explained that it appeared as if he was harming the plant when it was clear he helped shape it to become its most beautiful. He took her hand and showed her around the rest of the gardens, pointing out the careful work he'd done to help each plant thrive.

Each day the lonely woman returned to the gardens to spend time with the careful gardener. She found herself enjoying his company, wishing regretfully that her heart was coated in ice. He was a man she believed she could have loved otherwise. Some days, she had to return home early as a pain would envelop from within. This continued on for a month, until one morning the pain was so intense that she couldn't move out of bed. There she stayed sleeping fitfully with strange dreams. Her gardener spent his free time by her bedside, reading to her from one of the books in her collection.

After a week had passed, she awoke feeling better than she could ever recall. As she opened her eyes, she saw the gardener by her side, sleeping in a chair with a book sprawled on his lap. She was softly smiling at him, unaware, as he woke. He was overjoyed to see her in better health and suggested a walk through the gardens for some fresh air. Overjoyed, she ran through the gardens even as he shouted for her to be careful. They spent the day amid the blooming and flowering plants. She stopped to smell whichever plant caught her interest. The young man had never seen her smile so much as he did that day.

As the sun was beginning to set, they stopped at the stone bench in front of the rose garden. Realizing he'd found his true love, the man knelt down before her and asked for her hand in marriage. He said since meeting her, he'd thought of no other. She made his world brighter. She was a flower that bloomed and he wanted to care for her the rest of their days.

The woman was stunned at his proposal. Then she began to cry into her hands, her misfortune of a frozen heart causing her worse pain than she could have ever imagined. Concerned, he asked what was the matter and she began telling the tale of her step mother's heart of ice as well as how hers came to the same misfortune. She begged him to tend to her like he did his flowers. Maybe with his skill he could chip away the ice surrounding her heart.

Unfortunately, he shook his head saying that there was nothing more he could do. She slipped to the ground and sobbed all the harder in her despair. Never had her body hurt this much before. She ached from her head to her toes. Deep within her, a burn began that fluttered around the edges of her memory. Strong hands gently grasped hers and wiped away her tears, explaining that he could only shape the plants to bring out their own individual beauty. The plants did all the hard work in growing to be something marvelous.

He kissed her then, and a warmth spread between them. She stared at him, uncomprehending what had occurred. She argued that her heart was ice. This warmth must be imagined. It was then that understanding dawned on her love's features. He asked when the aching began. She told the story in full, and how it began here in the gardens. Laughing, he picked her up and swung her about. He said that being around the flowers must have helped the ice melt from around her heart. It must have been what caused her week of illness. Now she was free to love.

Still confused, but too happy and in love to question his guess further in that moment, she agreed to marry the gardener that had changed her world. Every day at his behest she would spend hours in the gardens, watching as he worked. A year after their wedding and a child swelling within her, she pondered over the mystery of her now unfrozen heart. It was while watching him prune this year's roses that the truth became clear. It was the man, not the flowers, who had unfrozen her heart. Her curiosity and his tenderness had warmed all that had been cold.

She rushed over to her marvelous husband and kissed him passionately. He looked down upon her, pleasantly baffled by her strange behavior. He gently caressed the side of her face. Smiling up, she said to her love, "Thank you for tending the roses."

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