July 7, 2008

Rosette's Ruby

I have two quick stories I want to post at some point during the day, and I'll explain them both later. For right now, let me say that I feel like a strange mix of Angela Carter, Bob Dylan, and Col. Stinkmeaner from Boondocks....


The tight embrace of Winter was loosening and Spring gradually shook the cold off her back, the snow which had draped her trees and flowers for far too long now shrinking in her growing radiance.

“Despite the looks of things,” Father had said, “she will crawl on her hands and knees to make it this year.”

And so Spring inched in ever so slowly, not with her usual boisterousness. The hard weather had drained her spirits from last year but a fine season it was regardless. The garden was in full, spectacular bloom as ever, the wild lilies intertwining with fresh grass and early morning dew in Rosette’s room every morning. The sweet smell intoxicated her so much that she often didn’t want to leave her room, instead basking in the warm glow and sweet scents; Spring will crawl indeed, this year she was as victorious as she’d ever been, if not more so!

Two weeks into May, Father had taken his axe and gone to hunt with the other men of the village. They would return to the women and children before dusk to eat but until then, the village was saturated with the sounds of washing, chatter, and laughter.

Rosette was dreamily reclining in front of her window when Mother called.

“Rosette,” Mother called, strong but quiet. “Come in here, I have something important to show you.”

Rosette entered Mother’s room; the woman was sitting on the bed in her apron, her supple legs forming an X beneath her, lean and elegant arms tapering into delicate hands and long fingers which held a long hunting knife with a wooden handle that was covered in precious gems.

“Rosette, I have something to give you. Bring me that tray.”

Rosette looked to her right and saw a silver serving tray on the dresser. She brought the tray over and watched as her mother carefully balanced it on the edge of the bed, took the ceremonial knife and drew a straight line down her arm. The blood began to gush, curled around her wrist like a serpent and then began to harden, and the drops that the tray caught tinkled and chimed like windpipes, not splattering against the surface like a liquid should. The blood pooled in the tray and cooled, solidified into one ruby as big as Rosette’s palm.

“This is the most precious jewel you will ever have,” Mother said, her voice softer now. “It was given to me by my mother, and her mother before her, and so on for generations I can’t bare to count. And now it is yours.”

“Mother, whatever shall I do with it?”

“Keep it safe. Protect it, and pass it to your daughter so that she may pass it to her daughter. Most importantly, keep it safe from the men; they only wish to destroy it because they fear it.”

“Mother, does every girl get a precious jewel as this?” Rosette fawned over her new possession, cradling it in her hands and examining it in the sunlight. The ruby cast gentle crimson shadows on her pale face and she marveled at the smoothness of the jewel. She noticed her mother had gone silent and was now lying on the bed, looking paler than she had before.

“Why do the men fear it?” Rosette whispered softly, laying on her mother’s stomach. The coarseness of the apron did not deter her for she knew the feather-soft stomach that lay beneath it was trembling.

“They fear it because they don’t understand it. They can’t possess it so it angers them. It threatens them so they will destroy it.”

“Even father?”

“Even father.”

That night, Father came home and ate supper with them. Rosette went to bed on the instruction that she never tell Father about her precious ruby. Father eyed the scar on Mother’s arm, and as soon as he knew the whole village would be asleep, he took Mother out to the woods and chopped her head off with his axe. Defiantly, she did not scream and so no one knew what became of her.

After the funeral, Rosette was permitted to walk in the woods alone for the first time. She took Mother’s ceremonial knife for protection and took her ruby and traveled deeper into the woods than she had ever gone before, even farther than the hunters. All that lied beyond their hunting grounds was what they called “dead woodland”; nothing but carnivores and rotting trees, with mold and algae spiraling up their diseased trunks like staircases for dwarves. Rosette laughed to see such tiny furnishings and sat on a petrified log.

She unpacked the bread and cheese she had brought from home in a white handkerchief and began eating. She heard crickets in the woods and was surprised to hear such lively chirping, as if they were playing a special tune for her alone. It wasn’t nearly as scary as Father had made it out to be, exaggerating the jaws of a wolf with his broad hands in an attempt to dissuade her. She laughed at him then and she laughed at him now, a cheerful melody echoing in the forest to accompany the orchestra of crickets, grasshoppers, and now frogs.

One of the frogs that had chosen not to sing hopped right to her handkerchief but politely did not encroach on her meal. Rosette looked down at the creature and it smiled up at her. The frog attempted to croak a couple of times but his voice caught in his throat at the sight behind his hostess. Rosette turned around quickly and saw a wolf—sleek and grey with wide yellow eyes—darting deftly between the trees with a rabbit in its jaws. Rosette saw the surprised expression on the frog’s face but merely laughed.

“Don’t worry my friend, he won’t harm you.”

From a patch under her dress Rosette pulled out her ruby and, with some effort, managed to swallow it whole; her stomach rebelled violently against the intrusion but subsided after a moment; Rosette smiled at her frog friend, who was now smiling back. She tucked the handkerchief under her skirts for a moment. When she removed it, she displayed its bloody contents to the frog who finally croaked excitedly.

“Come see me again next year, you’ll see then. But for now, its time for me to go; the sun is setting.”

The frog hopped off the log and Rosette wrapped up the remains of her lunch with the cloth. She exited the dead woodlands with ease, the ceremonial knife tucked back into her waistband, her jewel safely secured inside her. She returned home and waited patiently for Father to return from the hunt and when he finally bounded into the house, Rosette proudly stood in front of him and displayed her bloodied handkerchief.

“Father, today I’m no longer a girl. I understand now; you have no restraints on me and you won’t conquer me. You’ll never own me again!”

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