Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 213

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The Moment of Epiphany

It was the garden and the plants that made her think she could save him. Her screams grew into patches of soft, small flowers, the faded faded blue of the sky’s horizon at midday. The gardener tried to warn her away from them, but she would have none of it. “I planted them and they are mine,” she said to him. It was the first time she had used the authority of her position and he flinched as if she’d struck him. It made her feel guilty but his action had made her angry. They were her flowers, after all.

She apologized to him later. Not while he wrapped her hands in thick leaves, no, not then. She was still in too much pain at that time. Later, when the swelling had gone down, although her fingers remained puffy, red, and tender, she sought him out and begged his forgiveness. By then her maid had dabbed her hands with mud, let it dry, and gently peeled the caked dirt off. For whatever reason, it helped the pain. “I did not understand what you meant. I should have trusted you. It was my mistake and my arrogance and I hope you will accept my apology.” He flushed then, gave her more plants and showed her how to use them, and excused himself from her presence.

The flowers of her screams had downy hairs covering the petals. They blended in almost perfectly against their pale background, but Belle did see them. She did not consider them, however. They were flowers and flowers are beautiful. She did not think that they were the flowers of a scream. She did not consider the nature of the scream, only the image of the flower.

Those downy hairs were nothing more or less than a kind of stinging nettle. Belle had pushed her hands into the middle of the flowers, reveling in their softness, before reaching past to uproot a small bunch to bring inside. She was still marveling that a scream could be as beautiful as this small bouquet when her hands went numb. Like fear building up in her stomach, slowly at first and then erupting, the pain in her hands was mild before it overtook and overcame her. Then came the treatments and the recovery.

Before the apology, while she lay in bed with her hands entombed in crushed aloe, Conomor came to see her. He was furious. How could the gardener have let this happen? From where had these flowers come? It took all of her persuasion to mollify him that the gardener had done his job and it was her own insistence that had led to her pain. He only truly settled when she suggested that she would create a pavilion for their wedding, one that would go with her dress (the dress would be done within the week, she promised him). “I can see how dear you hold the garden and the grounds. I would like you to be happy on the day that we join our lives together. It should be a celebration, should it not?”

He searched her eyes for insincerity and found none, because there was none to be found. Able to plant her screams and to think about her fate with a clear head, she had settled on the thought that it would be best to nurture her husband-to-be, to care for him, and to take care of him. He could be as wild as the maddest dog. There was good in him, nevertheless, and like a plant, pruned and watered, that good could be grown.

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