Rose Shaped Freedom
There once was a lady cast out by her family and rejected by her own kids for a crime she did not commit. The village she belonged to decided to banish her from the place way beyond the river into the wild plains where only wolves lived. Having been flogged thirty-five lashes for theft and dishonoring her family, the poor creature couldn’t stand up after being tossed from the wagon that brought her to that arid place. As she lay helpless from pain and thirst thinking about her imminent death; it began to rain. Just then she said to herself: “Oh how I wish I could get some of that water pooling up there” as her tears rolled down her swollen face. Feeling alone and scared she closed her eyes, pulled her knees to her chest and sobbed with her hand on her mouth as if afraid anyone might hear her.
Humans are cruel but nature is kind. A rose that was growing nearby, heard her wish and felt brokenhearted when she saw her smother her cries in her hands. The rose bent down as the wind came by and brushed her wet cheeks as if to comfort her. Startled by the sudden sensation of something touching her cheek when the world was black as she closed her eyes to cry; she screamed opening her eyes: “please, I paid for it more than it’s worth. No more pain. I just want to die alone”.
Just before she could utter another word, the rose poured all the water it had collected in its calyx into her mouth and brushed her face even more with its petals. Surprised and confused, the lady grabbed the rose forgetting it had thorns and pricked herself. Being in so much sharp surprising pain, she flung the rose branch quickly. But instead of the rose going back and forth aimlessly it swung back towards her face and opened its petals exposing its pistil. She was so surprised by the rose for its pistil had the reddest lips she’s ever seen almost like plump human lips wearing lipstick. She rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn’t dreaming but then the lips moved and by God it could talk.
“My dear child, I may seem like any ordinary rose in bloom to you thriving under rain, but am not just any rose” said the enchanting rose.
“A talking rose, I must be dying and that’s why I am seeing things out of this world” the girl thought to herself.
“Well I am not only a talking rose foolish girl, but I can also read minds. You are not dying, you are just becoming who you were meant to be and I am real. Here, let me spray some of my pollen into your nose to make you sneeze” said the enchanted rose who sprayed her pollen into the girl’s eyes and nose.
It was that moment when the girl sneezed so hard that she realized she wasn’t dreaming or going mad. “Alright so you are a talking mind reading rose but how does that help me get back on my feet?” asked the weakening girl.
“My dear, you were so thirsty that all you could think of was water and I gave you some only I gave you hope with that. Now you have to find a place to weather this storm. So help yourself. You are more than your scars and what you are ashamed of.” said the Rose.
The Rose’s words resonated deeply in the girl’s soul and she realized she had stopped fighting for her innocence or believing in herself. She thought to herself if something as feeble and insignificant like this strange rose believed in her so much that it is trying to give her hope then why couldn’t she believe in herself?
“Well? Are you just gonna stay on the ground face down the way they kicked you or are you going to stand up for yourself?” demanded the rose. “Hang on let me try to stand up” said the girl. She tried so hard but her legs were too swollen and her back was still too lacerated from the flogging. And so the girl began to crawl on all four one budge at a time until she found shelter beneath the trunk of a hollowed tree. The rain seemed to pour down endlessly and her eyes felt so heavy that she soon collapsed asleep.
Morning broke with a sharp cry as the sun began to crawl with its rays on the girl’s face. She could feel life clawing its way into her limbs despite the stings of her wounds but the pain was bearable for the little girl. She didn’t dare to open her eyes hoping to prolong her moment of being left in peace for once for a change. Still trying to drift back into her sleep amidst the sun in her face, she started seeing a blue flare hover closer to her semi shut eyelids. She tried to ignore the flare but then she started hearing very sweet chimes with a very peaceful symphony. Finally, curiosity got the best of her and she opened her eyes to see the rose floating in the air only this time surrounded by a blue flame.
“Oh my God, what are you? How on earth are you hovering like that? And why are you in a blue flame? Get away from me. You must be under some sort of evil spell” the girl yapped as she tried to drive the rose away with her hand as if she were swatting a fly. The girl kept trying to swat the floating rose but she never managed to touch it. Her hands kept going through it. In the end she gave up and said: “alright then, so you are some sort of spirit aren’t you and that’s why I can’t touch you. You only exist because my mind is weak. I don’t believe in you. You are an illusion”.
Just then the rose laughed so loud and spun like a top and went through her right ear inside her head. Having felt the impact of the rose’s entry, she screamed like a wounded animal and began to hit her left temple whilst tilting her head downwards thinking she could drop the spirit rose out of her ear.
“Oh my God why can’t I see? Who turned the lights out?” shouted the terrified girl. By now her heart beat was so loud she could hear it but all that was just a speck of dust in what happened next. Suddenly her eyes began to work again and she felt the wind. She was way above the ground she knew it because she could see the trees below. As the wind blew she felt the world take a spin.
“Alright steady now, we are going to descend” said the rose who was now nestled behind her head clipped to her hair like a bobby pin or brooch. As she began to descend she saw her body lying lifelessly without its head under the bark of the tree. “Oh my God you beheaded me?! I’m dead. This was your plan to possess me and take my life. You are an evil spirit. I should’ve known better than let you near me or look you or talk to you” said the girl in tears.
The rose laughed at the ignorant girl’s assumptions and worries;“you are a very skeptic personality Lyrae. Do you know who I am? I am no spirit. I am your essence, what’s left of you, the old you, the one that loved life and had something to live for and love in a time when all the others chose to die”.
“What do you mean? Are you trying to drive me mad? What kind of twisted mind game or illusion are you to trying on me? What do you want from me?”
“Here, lets go for a tour to that wretched town that cast you away and see what’s become of those self righteous people” said the confident Rose.
“Are you crazy? If they see me like this they will kill me this time thinking am a witch! You can’t drag me! You can’t do this to me! What have I ever done to you to deserve this? I never pick up roses even. Nobody’s ever given one to me!”
But the rose didn’t give a damn and hovered the poor girl’s head with her back to the town that cast her out. The girl was sure they were going to see her find her and hunt her down this time.
The Rose hovered her down to the town’s square and began heading towards the house of the Lord whom she served his household as a kitchen and laundry maid.
“Why are you taking me there? Don’t you know he accused me of theft after trying his luck with me and his wife accused me trying to seduce her husband? What if they see me like this? “Be quiet, listen and watch”.
The two huddled at the kitchen window that was open watching the man and his wife sit at the breakfast table as a maid poured milk for the man and the other ladled porridge into the bowl of the woman.
“Are you happy now that she is banished from the town? You should be. You got what you wanted?” said the angry man.
“I’m not the one who should be happy and relieved. It’s you who should be. You and I know that you tried to rape that poor little girl who refused your advances. I am just relieved that you couldn’t get what you want considering she could’ve bore you a son who can share your estate with me when I can’t give you one. You had a lucky escape. You think I didn’t know you put the silver goblet in her basket?” said the woman in a spiteful sarcastic tone.
“Well, I’m not the one who presented the dress with the fresh semen on it to the town sheriff. You and I know that was no semen because I never got to that point. Anyone with a suspicious mind would’ve exposed the dress to steam and the egg white would’ve curdled and they’d know it was egg white dried up on a dress especially it was a stain right in the lap area not at the back. So let’s call it even and put this matter behind us. I might have liked her and thought of forcing myself on her but never about destroying her life like you did. I could’ve paid her to keep quiet but you chose to make a scandal for her leaving me looking like a bad womanizer. I just went along with your accusations. We are as guilty as each other” said the man with a remorseful tone.
The woman scuffed and said: “I’m not sorry for what I did. But you are right she is out of our lives and way just don’t let me catch you trying with someone else. You should accept that you will never have a child unless I bear you one”.
The girl was in shock from what she heard that she stared at both and felt the urge to jump at them or shout and was about to when the rose said: “Relax they can’t see us or hear us. We are here just to open your eyes and let you see for yourself how your life went into flames. Do you understand now what you lost besides people’s respect?”
“I don’t understand. What have I done so wrong to these people to destroy my life? How can they be so cold and contented to see me go through all this pain and humiliation without being bothered? Wondered the girl.
“You still don’t get it do you? That night you didn’t just lose respect and a life you thought you had. You lost a lot more. Let’s move to the next house. This one is going to surprise you” said the agitated Rose.
The wind blew again and they hovered to the next window. The house looked familiar and quite old.
“Do you recognize this place?” asked the Rose
“Yes, yes. This is my old parent’s house. Why are we here? Nobody’s lived there for quite a while” asked the girl.
“Well lets get in so you can see for yourself” said the Rose. The girl was worried about someone shutting the window and getting trapped away from her body for a long time but the rose took her through the walls of another room. She almost let out a scream but she couldn’t feel the impact of going through the walls so she calmed down.
They entered the living room and on the floor were two children a beautiful boy and girl playing with blocks on the carpet by the fire and a harsh looking man in dirty overalls yelling at the kids:
“I don’t want to hear anything about your mother anymore. She is a bad woman who brought shame to this family and chose a rich man over her own children. Your mother married me only to settle her father’s debt with my father. It was always about the money. She is just another greedy selfish soul who never loved you or wanted you”.
Both kids nodded and embraced their father. The boy turned to his father and said: “She was very hard on us father. Whenever we didn’t do what she asked, she’d send us to bed without supper. Indeed she is selfish”.
That broke the heart of Lyrae who wanted to say something to that boy but she remembered the Rose’s words and just let her tears roll. “Lets visit the final house. I’m sure this house will change how you feel about this ungrateful bunch you thought were your world” said the Rose.
They hovered for a while to the outskirts of the town to an old estate with nothing but burnt trees and some rubbles. There an old woman sat on a cut up log by a fire cleaning some lentils next an elderly woman who was blind sobbing:
“You should’ve told that callous mason that his child was born stillborn. You should’ve never switched that dead baby for those twins. Whose children were those anyways?
“You know how weak Lyrae’s position was and her father was good to us. That man just wanted her to become his by burdening her with children. As for the children they were the Lord’s bastards from the previous maid he kicked and she didn’t want to have anything to do with them. She is happy now. She went back to her village and married a good man. Besides can you imagine what that Lord would’ve done to the town if he knew he had kids? He would stop giving poor people like you and I shares of his crops as a charity in hope of having a child. You know that’s the only good thing he does when he is not terrorizing, raping, and tormenting our kind” said the midwife to her mother.
“One day those children will grow up and they will find out they are not that mason’s children. And you owe it to Lyrae to give her peace that those kids who refuse her now are not her flesh. She’s had her share of hurts. Remember, her father was always kind to us” said the aged mother.
“She is better off now, set free from a slave driver for a husband who treats her like cattle, ungrateful hard children and work at a sick dirty old man along with his poisonous wife” said the midwife.
“It will all come back to you, one day you know. It will. Karma is real. Freedom can’t be forced or manipulated it must be taken or earned by its rightful owner. Correct yourself while you still have a chance child” said the mother.
The midwife knew she would hang for this and wasn’t ready to die for an old mistake and continued cleaning her lentils as if she heard nothing. The world toppled down on Lyrae’s head who went back in time to see her father’s face as he knelt begging for mercy from her father in-law to give him time to repay his debt. She recalled how he came to her that afternoon asking her to forgive him for what he has agreed to do, the day he gave her away to that mason’s son. She remembered how she told herself she is saving her father’s life who just took his life later from grief a month into the marriage.
“Can we go back to my body now?” asked the girl.
“Of course little girl. Come along now. It’s time you find out what you truly lost so that I can be on my way and you on yours” said the Rose who looked satisfied.
They arrived back at the tree’s trunk and her head joined its body once more as the Rose hovered back into the air.
“So how do you feel now knowing what you know now little girl” asked the Rose.
“I don’t know what to feel. I just feel different kinds of pain, grief, hurt, betrayal, and loss. I don’t know what’s worst: realizing I was humiliated and punished for things I didn’t do; losing my children and family; or realizing my child died and these are not my children” said the shattered girl.
“Are these the only things you’ve learned from our tour today?” asked the Rose who seemed infuriated.
“Yes, is there anything else I should know about?” asked the girl.
“Little girl, by agreeing to your father’s request you lost your freedom then your soul. My darling child, trials are a fire that solidifies freedom in a rose’ shape to teach you about how life blooms and withers to yield or bury a soul” said the Rose.
“What do you mean by Rose Shaped Freedom” said the girl.
“My child, choice, respect, dignity, and direction are petal’s on life’s rose protecting its pistil- its soul- but get blown away in time. You only see your true soul when you wither after all your petals fall. But you only see freedom bloom when life’s rose holds on to its petals until it’s time to shed them to bear fruit or seed to be reborn again. Trials are the fire that forges freedom’s roses until time’s winds blow them. You’ve been reborn again. You never belonged in that place. With your father gone, you being banished and having no man or child there; you have no home. So why are you staying here waiting to die? Go out beyond the horizon you see and find your soul to hold life’s rose. You’ve been given freedom’s rose from trial’s fire. All you have to do now is ride time’s winds” said the Rose.
“That is a lot to internalize dear Rose. I see your point but without your guidance, how will I be able to know what I lost or gained or where to go? Will you come with me?” asked the frightened girl.
“I don’t need to come with you, child. You have your freedom. Your fiery rose. Now all you need is to find a good land to plant it to see life’s rose bloom. I am what’s left of your soul salvaged by trial’s fires to be set into freedom’s rose. When you are unsure, just search for hope’s sun. It is life’s North Star. You are stronger than you think. Good luck my child. I will be leaving you now. Just follow the blue flares along the river’s trail into the valley. There you will find a village whose people are kind. They will welcome you. Farewell child” said the Rose who faded into the ether.
“Wait. Wait. Oh my God what should I do now? Wondered the girl.
The next morning with the first hit of sun rays the girl was on her way to the said village where a young farmer’s son saw her. They welcomed her with open arms. It was a place who believed those broken are special because they were bearers of freedom’s rose.
The world went back to its business as the blue jays jived with the blue flared roses in the forest singing the old saga of Rose Shaped Freedom:
Have you ever asked a rose:
what is it like to bloom?
Or did you just watch its petals
open exposing its pistil?
If you did, ever wonder what a rose
feels when it’s in bloom
Or when its petals leave their sepals
to dance in the wind like a frill?
See, I’ve spoken to a rose
who bloomed and withered
but bloomed again through a pen.
She said to me, blooming
is like wisdom’s double-bladed knife.
It cuts twice with agony in and out.
Blooming begins in the calyx
before our petals gain colors.
Even as we wither, we are blooming.
I asked her how can that be?
She said to be in bloom
is to see freedom not doom.
You see my fading petals
but you don’t see my freedom.
I come and go in peace
as my soul goes on.
We are all freedom
shaped roses waiting for fire
to forge us, wind to doom
us, life is for those with a soul
not those who dwell in a hole.
Catch more of Pasithea Chan with her previous posts here. You can also find her brand of poetry on Facebook.