Three Word Wednesday is a once-weekly 3-word writing prompt.
The three words are dainty, haunting, tantalize.
In Her Song
Flowers and herbs are, by nature, mute, pretty, to be savored, adored, enjoyed; and thus was it with most of the Flowers in Lady Alouetta’s Garden: they might converse, but only as an echo of the patrons’ conversation. For the most part, pleasure was taken of them without engaging them except as a decoration, a receptacle, a delicacy.
One Flower was different from all the other pretty things in the Garden: rarely touched, and never without her consent, rarely spoken to, her presence in high demand but, unlike the other Flowers, almost never privately, almost never for the bedroom or the grotto.
Her name was Zinnia; her name was always Zinnia, and that alone set her apart, when her fellow Flowers changed name with the day, with their handlers’ moods, with their patrons’ desires. It was, of course, not her birth name, but no-one but the Lady herself, and Zinnia, knew who she’d been before she’d come to the Garden.
She was slender, dainty even in comparison to the others there, who tended towards a slim fragility favored by many patrons, with tiny hands and feet and an ethereal speaking voice that she rarely used. Clothed in lavender and cornflower, she brought to mind more a lily of the valley or a forget-me-not than a hearty, bright Zinnia, but Zinnia she was, last in the alphabet, last in line, last in the bunkhouse. Newcomers puzzled over her, chin high, smile faint but perpetual, until the first Saturday night.
When she stepped up onto the small stage and the room quieted around her, granting her the courtesy of attention they granted no other Flower, even the densest newcomer began to understand something was afoot. When she opened her mouth, it all became clear.
She had a haunting voice, unearthly, fae; she drew people out with a note, with a measure of a melody. She pulled at their hearts, at their bodies, at their wallets; she could tantalize an aesthetic into dance and bring stoic businessmen to tears. When Zinnia sang, everyone listened.
The boy who was sometimes known as Jason was serving tables today, a jonquil tucked behind his ear in lieu of a name tag; it was the first day Lady Alouetta had seen fit to allow him in public, and the first time he had heard Zinnia perform. He watched the patrons around him struggle with their emotions; he watched them lose the battle, one after another, like dominos falling, and he worried. If he cried like that, would the Lady understand? The other Flowers were smiling, moving among the tables as they were called for, seeming oblivious to the song’s tug.
He chewed on his lip, knowing he wasn’t supposed to do that, either, but too concerned not to. The song was pulling at him; she was singing of home, which was just cheating, a home he could barely remember. Weren’t the others bothered by it? Hadn’t they been torn from their lives, too?
Jason-Jonquil glanced up at the stage, at the singer, just as she looked at him. She threw in a trill that sounded like a flamenco dancer twirling, and winked, very deliberately, at him. Her melody changed, a tug and a tear, ripping the song from home to prison, ripping the listeners with her. The Flowers, who already lived in prison, who had already been torn from home, swayed with the music and were unhurt; the patrons reeled.
He stifled a chuckle and moved on to the next table, to the next patron scrubbing surreptitiously at tears, understanding, for a moment, why the other Flowers smiled at Zinnia’s songs.
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