Flowers in the Winter

I first published this flash fiction on my blog as part of the 2015 A-Z challenge. All those stories came down when my 2016 stories started going up. But when my friend Katharina Gerlach invited me to participate in her annual Advent Calendar again, which has a winter theme this year, I immediately remembered this story and decided to write something related. I’m reposting this here to give that one some context. For those who want to know what happens next in this tale, be sure to sign up for Advent Calendar alerts (the link is on the upper right) so you won’t miss any of the stories! Cat doesn’t send spam, and the list for this calendar only gets notifications about this calendar.

You can start opening your surprises on December 1st.

 

Flowers in the Winter

“Georgie, come inside.”

The red-haired girl frowned as her sister tugged on her arm. “Don’t wanna,” she said. “I want frowers!” She pulled her away and crossed her arms with a defiant harrumph.

“Flowers,” Beatrice corrected. “And you can’t have flowers right now. It’s winter. No flowers ’til spring. Nothing green. No colors. Just snow. That’s just the way it has to be.” The older girl’s voice had a tone of finality that Georgie knew meant business. “Remember what happened last time?”

Georgie didn’t want to remember, but she did. The Wardens came and there was lots of yelling. The men in their bright red coats almost took away father. Mother made Beatrice take her upstairs to hide. And it seemed a lot darker than it should have, like being in the wardrobe with a blanket over her head. The memory scared her, especially the words they used—magic and witch and evil. That’s what finally made her decide.

She frowned at her sister’s offered hand for a minute longer, just for good measure. Then she took it with her own and the two walked together down the snowy path and entered the solarium.

“Now,” said Beatrice, “if you’ll behave and just stay inside, I’ll go to the kitchen and get us some cookies.”

Georgie frowned a bit harder before she finally gave in. “Ok. But I want four,” she was emphatic. “The lemon ones. They’re the best.”

“If mother made them then that’s what I’ll bring. If not,” Beatrice shrugged, “it might have to be shortbread.” She tousled her sister’s hair. “Either way, I’ll also bring milk.”

Georgie sat on a bench in the sunroom that overlooked the back garden and pouted. She hated all the cold and ick of winter. She wanted pretty things. But father made her promise, no more flowers. No more colors. Nothing green… at least not until green started happening on its own. Just snow. Cold and wet and boring and ugly.

Swinging her feet impatiently as she waited for cookies, Georgie wondered if flowers were really the problem. Maybe it was just the colors. What had Beatrice said? Just snow.

“Just snow,” she said to herself as she jumped off the bench to smoosh her nose against the glass. “Nothing pink or purple or yellow. Just snow.”

iceflowersGeorgie was still standing with her face pressed against the window and her fingers tapping lightly on the pane when Beatrice came back with cookies and milk.

Beatrice put the tray down with a clink. “Lemon cookies, as requested,” she said. “And also some lavender short bread. And… Oh, Georgie! What have you done?”

“I didn’t make any colors,” said Georgie. “Nothing green. No frowers. Just pretty.”

“More than pretty,” said Beatrice, shaking her head. “It’s beautiful. But if the Wardens find out, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The girls stood side by side, staring at snow and ice that Georgie had transformed into delicate floral sculptures more detailed than any garden.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Essence – Blog Hop January 2016

lublin-712028_1920“Please, you can’t do this.”  Tara pulled against the binding on her wrists to no avail. “Please, you don’t understand!” The panic in her voice sounded shrill to her own ears, but seemed to have no effect on the man shoving her into the back of the transary.

She cried out again, louder this time. “Please!” It was almost a shriek. She wondered why the street seemed so empty.

This time, the man turned his head. Not enough to look at her. Not enough that he could see her, she was sure. But she knew he was listening.

“My magic,” Tara continued, her voice slightly more controlled. “It isn’t what you think,” she said. “It won’t do what you want.”

The big man grunted in a way that made his shoulders jerk. “It don’t matter. Tek tells me get a magic wielder, I gets one.”

“But I’m not even in the guild. How…”

“Better for me. Easy,” he said, cutting off her protest. “People know who ain’t guilded, and most don’t like you much. They point the way if you ask right over a pint.” He grinned with broken teeth over his shoulder at her. “Plus, you can’t access Essence much without the guilds. Less chance you’ll turn me in ta somethin’.”

“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you. The Essence. It…” She stopped talking again, breathless with fear as the big man put up a hand.

“Don’t matter,” he said. “Tek has all the Essence you could hope for. Just needs someone to shape it.” He glanced at her again. “You’ll do.”

Tara slumped back and screwed her eyes shut tight, whimpering at the thought of what might happen to her when they realized her gift was worse than useless.

It seemed like hours before she felt the momentum of their transary slow and then stop. Tara opened her eyes again only as the door lifted with a hiss and a large hand encircled her arm.

The man who had taken her was surprisingly gentle as he helped her from the transport and led her toward a low brick building. Tara thought it looked like a warehouse, but who would build a warehouse this far from the city?

The brute – had she really been kidnapped? – led Tara past a contingent of armed guards at the entrance. She could see several more farther down, she assumed at another entrance. More voices echoed from the surrounding hills. Each of the men she could see was tall, broad, and thickly muscled. Every one looked unobtrusive yet deadly in their plain brown uniforms.

Inside the warehouse she was hurried past crates labeled in a language she didn’t recognize. More guards watched as she was ushered through a door clad in unblemished copper.

Behind the door was an office where a smaller man sat behind a cluttered desk, his back to them. Tek, Tara thought, but her attention was drawn to a dully metallic device laid on the desk. She was sure it was magic, but could not imagine its use. Without Essence she couldn’t read magic. But with it…

The door banged shut, her head whipping around to see that her captor had left. Alone now with the other man, she turned back towards the desk to see green eyes staring at her. It took another moment for her to realize they belonged to a woman with close-cropped hair – not a man at all. That fact terrified her more than being kidnapped, Tara realized. She could not have said why.

A cold smile played across the woman’s features as she stood and leaned across the desk. Her eyes never left Tara as she reached down and lifted the metal object from the desk.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked, then continued before Tara could answer. “It’s an Essalyst. Once you power it for me, I’ll be able to use Essence for myself. No magic wielder required.”

Tara gasped, feeling a shudder of fear course down her spine. “I… I can’t,” Tara stammered.

“You will,” Tek responded. The woman reached under her desk and Tara heard a soft click. Tara felt a flush rise to her cheeks as Essence began to flood, unseen, into the room.

“You don’t have to do much,” Tek said. “Simply hold the essence and channel it here.” She indicated a dark receptor on the side of the device. “Even an untrained, unguilded wielder can do that much.” Her voice was crisp with disdain.

cat-746242_1920“But the Essence,” Tara started. “You don’t understand. I can’t…” Tara felt the tears welling in her eyes just before her entire being convulsed with what she had always thought of as a sneeze, though it was nothing so ordinary. She opened her eyes to see a green-eyed kitten on the desk, rubbing its chin against the Essalyst.

“I can’t control Essence,” she whispered. “I’m allergic.” She wondered whether Tek would enjoy being a cat.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

 

I hope you enjoyed my story! I often surprise myself with how things come out, and this one was no exception. Especially considering that my initial idea was a blind girl. 😀

If you liked it and aren’t yet on my mailing list, please consider joining to receive a free short story.

And for more reading goodness, please visit the stories from the other authors in this hop:

Elizabeth McCleary – YOU ARE HERE
Katharina Gerlach – Scars
Karen Lynn – My Story
Angela Woodridge? – Uninvited Guests
Barbara Lund – New Space
Kris Bowser – Smithereens
Justine Ohlrich – Two Deaths on My Birthday
Rabia Gale – House Bound
Juneta Key – Untitled
Mel Corbett – If It’s Not Yours

 

These were the stories from the last hop… just in case you missed them.

Angela Wooldridge: An Alternative to Frog
Thea van Diepen: Are You Sure It’s That Way?
Paula de Carvalho: Body Double
Kris Bowser: Tantrums
Virginia McClain: Rakko’s Storm
Grace Robinette: Georg Grembl
Elizabeth McCleary: The Door
Dale Cozort: Two Letters In A Fireproof Box
Katharina Gerlach: Canned Food
Karen Lynn: The Family Book
Rabia Gale: Spark
K. A. Petentler: The Twisted Tale of Isabel
Shana Blueming: Paper & Glue
Amy Keeley: To Be Prepared For Chocolate
Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle: After I Died