A/N- This all came to me today from out of nowhere. I'm not exactly sure where this story will go in the future, but I have a vague idea. It's a little disjointed, but that's okay. At least with me. Read and Review, per favore.
Also, I was not in the mood to make a good title, so I just named it the first thing that came to mind. It'll probably change.
THE THORNS SURVIVE
My mother had an extraordinary rose garden. She humbly gave my father the credit, though it was clearly her labor of love. Mother informed me matter-of-factly that the exquisite display of flowers had been there long before they had even laid eyes on one another, and that they held a sacred place in my father's heart. She always said this with a mischievous sparkle in her brown eyes, whilst Father wore an embarrassed smile. 'It's because of those roses that we met,' Mother would continue on archly, playfully elbowing him as he grew increasingly disconcerted. I would inquire curiously after the nature of their first meeting, but Father was quick to inform me that was another story for another day. And Mother would just laugh her lovely girlish laugh. 'He's embarrassed,' she whispered to me, with a perfunctory roll of her eyes. 'He thinks that I haven't forgiven him yet. It doesn't matter how often I tell him that I have.'
I always thought that my parents were quite odd. Not individually, but as a couple. My mother was young, vivacious, and beautiful. Not in the way that they draw princesses in fairy tale books, though. She had thick umber tresses that she constantly complained were 'impossible', lively brown eyes, and a sweet and pleasant face that was always freckled. ('I'm not going to stay out of the sun just so I can be alabaster white, thank you!') Father, on the other hand, was… He was not old, per se, as I referred to him tactlessly when I was little. He was older than her. He was not wrinkled and decrepit, simply a little worn. As if his life had dealt him a difficult hand or something. But he was handsome and usually kind, which I imagine made up for any gap in age that might have been between them. He had ruddy, disheveled hair and gentle gray-green eyes, and he was tall and sinewy. He had something of a temperamental disposition, though. Occasionally he got into an introverted mood where he had to be alone in his study, and at which time we were strictly forbidden to bother him. Other times he had a flare of temper, especially when my brothers misbehaved, to which my mother would angrily admonish, 'You're being a real beast, you know!' For some reason, that promptly calmed him down.
The rose garden was my mother's favorite place to be in the world. She often conducted our lessons there, pausing every now and then to enjoy the fragrance, which my brothers complained was overbearing. I liked the gardens very much, though I doubt my fondness for them could ever reach the depth of my mother's. My eldest brother Lucien grumbled that we ought to get rid of the flower gardens altogether and replace them with a menagerie of mystical, fearsome beasts that he could spar with if he felt so inclined. Donovan, the second oldest, proposed that we uproot the roses and plant more trees for climbing there, and my younger brother Helios sighed that he would highly prefer some pools for swimming in. I liked the rose gardens well enough and could not think of anything extravagant enough to match the silly requests of my brothers, so I announced that I would be happy if they remained unaltered. Mother pronounced me her favorite and glared in exaggerated hatred at my brothers.
"Feh," she muttered bitterly under her breath. "You just don't want to admit how much you adore them."
"Flowers are for girls," Lucien retorted with a haughty look in his hazel eyes. "And they're boring. I don't get the attraction."
"Father likes them," Helios acknowledged grudgingly, shrugging a shoulder. "I don't know why, but--"
"He just pretends, I think," Donovan interrupted, nodding his head of auburn hair confidently. "Because Mother loves them so much."
"That's not true," Mother rejoined indignantly. "When Grandpa took one of his roses, he was furious. Grandpa was terrified by how angry he was. I think he was two seconds away from a heart attack! The roses were the most precious things to Father then."
"Because he didn't know you yet," I sighed dreamily. "I'm sure they don't mean as much anymore."
Mother ruffled my hair and smiled warmly. "Of course they do! If anything, they're more important. They're symbolic—if you know what that means—of everything we've endured."
I was only seven then, and did not really know what she meant. Neither did Helios, who was scarcely six. Lucien and Donovan, however, being twelve and ten respectively, groaned that Mother was always carrying on with her 'romantic rambling'.
When we asked Father his opinions on any changes to the rose garden, his answer was a firm no.
"The roses are—You wouldn't understand. They're not just roses. They're much more than that," he told us, impatiently and cryptically.
"Are they magical?" Helios asked eagerly.
"Can you make wishes on them?" I chimed in, smiling enthusiastically.
Lucien's eyes flashed mischievously, and he resembled Mother almost eerily. "If that's the case, I'll wish for a pet dragon!"
"Can I ask for a magic sword? A great one, like Excalibur!" Donovan nearly shouted. "Well, I'm going to. Which ones are magical? If there's only one, then I call it!"
"That's not fair," Lucien sulked, convinced that the number of magical roses had plummeted to one simply because Donovan introduced the idea. "I'm the oldest. I think it should be mine. I'll wish for more wishes, and then we all can have as many as we want."
Father stared at us with a vacant expression before shaking his head wearily.
"They're not magical," he informed us hesitantly, dashing all our outlandish hopes. He smirked a little and continued. "They're magical to your Mother, though."
"So, if she made a wish…?" Helios looked hopeful.
"They're magical to her, not for her," Lucien told him harshly. "And I thought there might be something worthwhile about them after all."
My brothers sulked away, but I remained by my father.
"Why are they so special?" I asked him peevishly, frustrated with the enigmatic answers my parents always gave.
He smiled an aloof smile and shook his head. "Your Mother will tell you when you're older, Selene. For now…"
I let out a theatric sigh and stomped off. At least she'll tell me someday, I thought.
But she didn't. Mother died a year later, when I was only eight years old. There were foreboding signs all about, and I blamed myself for not seeing them. I was too consumed with my happiness over the baby she was expecting to think of anything else. I wanted a little sister so badly; someone with whom I could do all the silly, girlish things that my brothers belittled. Even though Father said they were not magical, I made a wish on the roses that the baby would be a girl. I spent everyday imagining the things we would do, and how I would pretend that she was mine when Mother wasn't looking. I did not notice how very weak my mother appeared. She did not want us to know. Mother always tried to keep a brave and cheerful front.
"I'm fine," she told Father insistently all the time, though she looked pale and peaked. "I'm just a little older than I was for the others. That's all."
She did not spend any time in the garden anymore. A drought came that turned the silky, vibrant petals of her roses lifeless and dull. I did not see anything especially ominous about it. Father did. He was a wreck those months. He snapped at my brothers for no apparent reason, callously scolded the servants he had once treated as friends, and sent me brusquely away whenever I had a question about my lessons. For the first time in our lives, Mother entrusted our education to someone other than herself. We hated our ancient, dictatorial tutor, and selfishly blamed Mother for subjecting us to such torture.
"I don't know what's the matter with her," Lucien groused to Father one day, as Donovan, Helios, and I nodded in agreement. "Lady Mariette was pregnant, and she wasn't tired all the time."
Father, to our horror and astonishment, slapped my brother hard across the face. The terrible crack sound that resonated through the air and the small trail of blood from where his ring met my brother's face instantaneously provoked my tears. I had never seen my father hit anyone before in my life, much less one of my brothers! Lucien, summoning all his stubborn pride and bravado, did not cry. At least we did not see it. He mumbled some unrepeatable swear under his breath and stalked off, trembling noticeably as he put a hand to touch his face.
Helios cowered behind me, and Donovan stood rigidly in place. I just kept on crying, feeling indescribably miserable that Father could do such a thing.
"You didn't have to do that," Donovan chided shakily, his face growing red and his voice growing bolder. "He didn't mean anything bad. We all thought that. It's not his fault!"
Father blanched and stared at us in horror. His lips moved, but the words were inaudible. He looked from my brothers to me in a daze, and then to the corridor Lucien had fled to. And then he himself left. Donovan, Helios, and I did not move for some time. Things were not okay. There was no overlooking that.
No one mentioned the incident to Mother, but she knew something was wrong. Lucien would not sit with us for meals and refused to eat for days. Father did not look at my brothers or me. Helios was unnaturally quiet, and kept his eyes solely to his plate. Donovan looked only at Father with scathing glares. I cried inconsolably without any provocation. Mother's spirits, already low, plummeted further.
It was one month until the baby was to come, and I no longer felt happy. I did not care if it was a girl. I did not want it at all. I wanted everyone to be happy again.
The morning Eos was born, the sky seemed to be ablaze with astonishing shades of red. Adelaide, one of our most faithful servants, woke me early with wide, frightened eyes.
"Go to the gardens. Find your mother a rose," she instructed breathlessly, pulling me out of bed. "Hurry."
I rubbed my eyes groggily and yawned. "Is the baby--"
"No time," she interrupted, her round, ruddy face unusually pale. "Go, Selene. If you go, there will be one still alive. There is enchantment in this palace yet. Go."
I did not understand. "What do you mean, Adelaide?"
"No time! You can save her!" She shrieked, taking me harshly by the shoulders. "GO!"
So I did.
Barefoot and dressed in only a flimsy nightgown, I ran over the icy marble floors and through the Gothic styled halls, feeling an urgency that I could not at all understand. The emblazoned sky stood out starkly against the gray-brown flowers and skeleton trees of the gardens. Shivering, I tore through the dead and prickly bushes, disregarding the piercing sting of the razor-sharp thorns. The pain wouldn't matter if I found that rose. Even if I did not know my purpose, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. My mother's life was in my hands. That was what Adelaide had meant to say.
But there was no living rose to be found. Innumerable blossoms crumbled through my fingers, and still nothing.
Panting desperately, I searched and re-searched every rosebush there was to be found. Every flower was dead. There was no magic in any of them. Adelaide had lied to me. I collapsed into the dewy grass a failure, and buried my face into my bloody hands.
It was Father's voice. I did not look up, but hung my head in further shame.
"What happened? Your arms…"
The thorns had left me with innumerable cuts and terrible, stinging pain. It seemed inconsequential, however, in comparison to the sense of failure and self-loathing that consumed me.
I moved my hands away wretchedly and stared at him through bleary eyes. "I was trying to find the rose…"
"What rose?" He asked softly, kneeling beside me. "What are you talking about?"
"The one to save her! Adelaide told me," I replied, my face contorting as tears threatened to spill over. "I wanted to find it. I tried."
Father was silent, but there was a plaintive look in his sea-green eyes. "There is no such rose, Selene. Adelaide was silly to tell you that there was. Come, now. Your mother wants to see you."
"She's…?" Fine. My mother is fine.
"Alive. She's weak. She wants to see you," he repeated tersely, pulling me up from the ground. My legs were so weak that I could scarcely stand.
"What about the baby?" I asked, so softly that my voice was almost inaudible.
He closed his eyes for a moment and was silent, deep in painful contemplation.
"A girl. A large, healthy girl," Father said at last, in a cold and detached sort of way. "Eos. That's what she wants it to be called."
It? I stared at my father stupidly.
"Go on. I'm not going back there," he continued harshly.
I nodded, and tentatively turned towards the palace.
"Even if it didn't exist, I'm sorry that I could not find it," I heard myself saying penitently. "I thought I could."
"It would make no difference. You asked me why the roses were special. They're not. I thought they were. They mean nothing, though. They are nothing. They're an illusion. And the thorns…" His back was facing me, but I could see him clench his fists. "The thorns survive. The blooms can die, but the thorns are always there."
I looked at my bloodied arms and realized what he said was true.