Wilted Petals

Just like this book about pressing flowers I found in Linden's library, I am wilted and barren; stripped of happiness and dried out.

My sister-wives are the same. Cecily is like a dried daisy — young, bright, and lively. Jenna is an iris — tall, solemn, yet elegant. I am a rose.

Correction, I am Rose. At least in Linden's eyes I am.

I am not "Rhine" next to him. He still thinks of me as Rose. In his sleep, he mutters her name over and over, as if, if he didn't do that, then she'd become erased from his memories.

I am a sister-wife to Jenna and Cecily.

One of Vaughn's numerous daughter-in-laws.

Blondie to the kitchen staff.

In fact, I don't believe I am Rhine to anyone in this mansion-like home.

Except for Gabriel. Gabriel — he's different. He isn't just an assistant to me; our relationship is more than that, deeper than that. I can trust him. He is about the only one I can trust here.

"Rhine?" a voice calls quietly. I quickly tuck the book under my pillow and clear my throat.

"Come in," I reply, anxious of whom it may be.

It is Gabriel. He has a silver platter in his hands, my breakfast on the tray. I am positive that somewhere in that meal is a hidden blue June Bean. Whether it is in the napkin, or between the pancakes, it is there.

He gives a brief smile and sets the tray on the nightstand beside my bed. Standing there, I motion for him to sit on the bed next to me. Gabriel hesitates, but then complies. The silence in the room is awkward and tense, although neither I, nor Gabriel makes any move to change it.

I clear my throat. "Want some?" I ask, my voice cracking. I offer one of the pancakes his way, but he shakes his head.

"No thank you." And then the room becomes silent once more. My eyes glance over at Gabriel, and he seems to be staring outside of my locked window, deep in thought.

His mouth opens, and I know he's going to say something. "What does the real world feel like?"

"You don't know?" I ask, shocked. Has he never been out in the world?

Gabriel shakes his head. "I can't remember; it's been so long."

Sighing, I say, "It's better than in here. You're open, free to do what you want, without worrying about someone watching you, or being paranoid." You're not dried out and wilted. I can be myself; not Rose.

He nods solemnly. "You aren't forced to be someone you don't want to be, or do something you don't want to do," Gabriel says, looking into my eyes with his own dark ones.

I blink, unaware of how close he's gotten. My throat dries and I lean away from Gabriel, to drink some of the orange juice on the tray. Gabriel reclines on the head of the bed, and the moment is forgotten.

"We could escape." I'm sure I have a bewildered expression on my face as I stare at him. His brown eyes are intense as he looks at me. "You and I. We could get out of this hellhole. Live in the real world."

How I wish his words were actually true. "Vaughn has us all on a tight leash; even Linden. We couldn't make it, without him knowing!" I say.

The brown glints. "Oh, so you want to live here, wasting your life away? Dying out as a sister-wife? Drying up on your deathbed, however comfortable it may be, withering away? Don't you want to see the real world before you die?" Gabriel bursts.

My voice rises slightly, and I try to keep it low. "You don't know how badly I want to get out of here and find my brother. You couldn't even imagine. So don't go making assumptions! We'll find a way out of here. But not now," I hiss, leaning towards him.

His eyes search mine, and he nods stiffly and curtly, getting off the bed. He collects the tray without looking at me.

I know I've lost him. For how long, I'm not sure. But I've lost him. My only friend in this mansion that I can trust, or actually talk to. "Gabriel."

Slowly, he turns to look at me, and I rush off the bed to his side, taking the tray from him, and giving him a hug. He's stiff, but slowly wraps his arms around me, allowing me to cry in his shoulder. "I'm sorry," I murmur.

Gabriel lightly kisses my forehead. "I know." And with that, he retrieves the tray and exits my room.

I collapse on my bed and silently cry.

I might as well die here.

Withered away.

Just like those petals in that book.