First Rose

For Friendly Anon’s commissioned continuation of Twelve Roses and One

She’d heard the story her whole life. The rosebushes, the crazy Aunt that nobody wanted to admit was theirs, the twelve pink blossoms that got brighter for each daughter, the “true gift” they were supposed to receive on their sixteenth birthday.

She knew, too, that her parents had planned on stopping at four kids, or stopping after Harold, or stopping at any point that wasn’t almost-to-thirteen-children. She was fairly certain the gift had power… and she had known from a very young age that one ignore fairy gifts at one’s own peril.

So it was no surprise to her, or to the next three sisters down, when, on the dawn of her birthday, Alicia walked out to the rosebush and snipped the rose that her parents had always called “her rose.”

Her parents had been dithering. They were worried about what a “true gift” would be. They were concerned that there would be sort of booby trap. They were, she was pretty sure, concerned they might end up with a hundred and sixty-nine grandchildren spaced over thirty-something years.

None of that mattered. Alicia had decided as soon as she was old enough to remember making decisions that she would do what Aunt Edith had bade. She had planned to go out there, laid out the pruning shears…

..and then woke in the kitchen, silver blade in one hand and the rose in the other, as she placed it in the vase.

“Well.” Brandy, Celia, and Darla were watching her. “Did I…”

“Yup.” Darla looked a little spooked. “Do you remember…”

“Nothing.” She frowned at the flower. “I wonder what’s going to happen now.”

She watched the flower – they all did, including their rather-miffed parents – every day, staring for the first signs of roots. She ran her fingers over the stem every night before bed, wondering what was coming. It seemed as if she was waiting, holding her breath, like her birthday had been delayed for a flower.

The day her mother found out she was pregnant again, two months after Alicia’s birthday, the rose suddenly popped out roots all over the place.

“Of course,” Mom muttered, and pulled out a lovely pot and a bag of potting soil. “Come on, Alicia. Let’s get her planted.”

The rose went into the dirt like it was helping, grabbing at the dirt, sinking in as if relieved, even if Mom was glaring at it. They were all staring at it, Alicia, Dad, all ten of her sisters and her spoiled little brother. Waiting. Holding their breaths.

“What do you think…?” Ida whispered, but just at that moment, Alicia knew.

“Oh…” She reached out and let the thorns, the two thorns this rose had kept, near the bloom, pierce her fingers.

“Alicia!” Mom had gone from angry to horrified. “What have I told you about fairy gifts?”

“It’s okay, Mom.” Everything was going… well, not everything. But enough was going to be okay. “I understand now. I see it all now.”

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