Briar Rose was perched in a tree, watching her Aunt Fauna work in the garden. Aunt Merryweather was arguing with Aunt Flora about what she ought to pick up in the market.
Aunt Merryweather was the only one of Rose's aunts who seemed to know how to cook, though Aunt Flora could follow a recipe. Aunt Flora was also the one who knew the prices of things in the market, and so when Merryweather wanted to make something special, Flora sometimes refused to purchase the items in market.
Eventually, Fauna intervened, and Flora agreed to buy a few special items for Merryweather, as was happening in that moment.
Rose leaned forward. This was the moment that would make or break everything.
Aunt Fauna frowned as she suddenly realized Rose was missing. "Rose?" she called, and slipped inside the house. Aunt Merryweather followed her.
Aunt Flora began searching the back of the cart, but when she didn't find Rose, snapped the whip above the lone horse's head, and off she went.
Rose dropped from the tree and darted after the cart. A thin and wiry seven year-old, she was full of boundless energy, which she used to quickly catch up with the cart, which was none to difficult, as the horse was only moving at a trot.
Grabbing hold of the back of the cart's bed, she hauled herself up, and laid down flat. She could hear Merryweather and Fauna calling for her in the distance, but she decided she wasn't breaking any rules, as she was with her dear Aunt Fauna.
The back of the cart was uncomfortable, but Rose didn't make a sound. For the first time, she was going to the capital city! She would see market, the castle, and the people she'd only heard stories of. She grinned, her soft pink lips stretched wide. Her violet eyes reflected the beauty of the azure sky and the clouds passing by.
When she heard the sounds of the town, she rolled over and crawled to the front of the cart. She peered over the seat, her head just next to Aunt Flora's backside. Her eyes were wide with all that she saw, and unable to help herself, she gasped. The castle! It was just as gorgeous up close as it was far away.
"Rose!" Aunt Flora shrieked. "What are you doing here?"
Rose grimaced and pulled herself onto the seat, her ringlets of hair bouncing. "Hello, Aunt Flora." As she sat next to her, she adjusted her knee-length, crème-colored frock primly. The perfect ladylike image was marred by the bits of straw sticking out of her hair.
"Does Fauna know you're here?" Aunt Flora asked. Rose shook her head, and Flora sighed. "I suppose Merryweather hasn't a clue, either."
"No," Rose said delicately. She proceeded to ignore her aunt's lecture as she gazed around the city. She knew essentially what her aunt was saying – it's too dangerous, you might be troubled by a stranger, so on and so forth. It just didn't make sense to Rose. Why shouldn't she come to the city? After all, she wasn't a baby anymore. She was seven years old! And anyway, how were you ever supposed to meet anyone new if you never spoke to strangers?
"Yes, Aunt Flora," she said, pretending to be contrite. Aunt Flora never seemed to notice if her words lacked conviction – only Aunt Merryweather seemed to see that.
Aunt Flora harrumphed, and then pulled the cart over. "If you're here, you may as well make yourself useful. Stay with the cart. I'll be back in a little while."
Rose nodded, but then why wouldn't she have agreed? She observed the people walking by on the streets. Humming to herself slightly, she got down from the cart and rubbed the horse's side instead.
"Hey, there, sweetie," she murmured, moving forward to embrace the horse's head and neck. The horse – named Maudlin by Fauna – nickered and nuzzled the girl slightly, causing her to giggle. She released Maudlin and turned around. She continued to pet him, but focused all of her attention on the city and the castle. "It's so lovely, Maudlin. Look at everyone. They're so—"
"Your horse's name is Maudlin?"
Rose started and jerked her head to the right to observe a boy, a few years older than her—perhaps eleven?—standing there, a single eyebrow raised.
Rose frowned. "Yes. My Aunt Fauna named him."
"That's a stupid name for a horse."
"I suppose you have a better name." Rose asked. If one thing could be said for the mischievous young lady, it was that she was precocious.
"Of course! When I have my own horse, I'll name it Samson."
"Yeah! The strongest man to ever exist."
Ah, that Samson. Rose knew that story. Her aunts were quite insistent that she learned how to read, and had used the Bible to teach her.
Rose rolled her eyes. "There are other kinds of strength."
"Like Maudlin—emotional strength."
"That's not what Maudlin means!"
"It's close enough," she responded immediately. "It means 'tearfully sentimental', after all. Who's stronger than the man who feels no shame when he cries?"
"Samson is, that's who," the boy responded defiantly.
Rose laughed, and the boy's eyes widened – it was a delightful sound. But then he frowned—girls were gross, especially girls who were clearly much younger than he.
"Samson is a fine name," she said after she'd stopped laughing, and then she proceeded to look away from him, observing the city some more. "This is a beautiful place," she commented. "Do you live here?"
"No," he said, "I'm just visiting with my father. We live in the next kingdom."
"How far is that?" Rose asked with interest.
"About a day's ride."
"I thought you didn't have a horse."
"Not one of my own. I ride in the carriage with my father, anyway. So it takes a bit longer to arrive."
"You came a long way just to visit. But the city is magical, isn't it?"
The boy frowned. Honestly, what was with this girl? She was acting like she'd never seen the place before. "We're here visiting family friends. Father says distance doesn't matter when it comes to friendship."
"He sounds lovely," Rose said genuinely.
"Prince Phillip! There you are."
The boy groaned as a man rushed toward him.
"Your father insisted you not run away from your guards," the man said, irritated.
"You're a prince?" Rose gasped, immediately dropping into a curtsey.
Phillip scowled. He rather liked not being known as a prince. "I didn't want this to happen," he said, gesturing toward Rose. He sighed. "Very well, let's return to the palace."
The guard nodded, and guided the boy away. Phillip glanced back at the young girl. She was standing up straight now, and observing him with interest. She smiled when she saw him looking back, and lifted her hand into a small wave.
He grinned and waved back.
She would forever be the first girl he loved.
As for Rose, she was a seven year-old girl, and he was really the first boy she'd ever interacted with, and so she felt nothing more for him than a vague sense of fondness. Well, fondness and intrigue. She'd be conversing with a prince, and had been completely unaware! From all the stories Aunt Flora told her, she knew about princes, princesses, kings and queens, and she knew the qualities they were supposed to have – honor, kindness, chivalry, gentleness, grace. Still, when presented with an actual prince, she hadn't known he was one. That was terribly interesting, and caused her to wonder if she was so accustomed to royal qualities – she thought her aunts possessed them all – or just lacking a comparison with another boy his age.
She shrugged the thoughts off, as seven year-olds are wont to do, and returned her gaze to the city, as all the people bustled around her.
She eventually climbed up to sit on Maudlin, for a better vantage point. It was there that her aunt found her.
Flora frowned. "Get down from there, you silly girl."
She slid down with ease, and asked, "Where are we going? What are we going to do?"
"Mm? Mostly we'll be buying food. Now don't think you're not going to get punished for breaking the rules, dear. We've told you countless times that we don't want you to leave the forest."
"Why not?" Rose asked, and she meant it sincerely.
"It isn't safe. Now come," Flora said, but she sounded more flustered than she ought to have been.
Rose didn't worry about it, though, and climbed back into the seat of the cart. "Let's go, then!"
Flora frowned. "We'll be in thick crowds. You must stay on the cart, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Aunt Flora," Rose said dismissively.
Flora sighed. She and her sisters really would have to do a better job at teaching the girl manners. It did a kingdom no good to have a bratty princess, after all. Unfortunately, the three adored the girl, and enjoyed doting on her more than scolding her. Well, today showed that would have to change.
Grudgingly, Flora admitted to herself that Rose was perfectly well behaved the entire time they rode through market, and so when they passed a vendor selling small mosaics of the King Stephan and Queen Leah holding their daughter – a baby in the image – she purchased one for Rose.
Rose stared at the thing, as she held it carefully in front of her face. It just fit in the palms of both of her hands. "Queen Leah is beautiful," she said softly.
Aunt Flora looked at her adopted niece, and smiled sadly.
"One day," she said gently, "You'll be just as beautiful."
With a single finger, Rose traced the image of the woman. "I hope so," she whispered.
When they returned home, Merryweather gave Rose a spanking, and Flora had her pull every single weed from the garden.
Rose didn't care though. The stinging in her backside would recede, and the garden would soon be emptied of weeds. She would return to the capital city as soon as she had the opportunity.
A/N: To regular readers, I'm sorry! I know I haven't updated in a while, and I promise I will. But I figured since this just flowed out of me and is finished, I'd go ahead an publish it. This is sort of just a one-shot, but I think it will probably end up a collection of one-shots that explore Briar Rose/Aurora's life as she grows up, since she's a princess we have to create ourselves.
Sorry if it's a bit rough!
Drop a review, if you feel so inclined.