There Will Be Flowers Again by Grace P. (Year 8)
The rose garden is cold. The girl shivers, and tries to pull her coat closer. It's midwinter. Frost lies on the ground as if thrown by an invisible hand, decorating the lawn in elegant spirals, silvery enigmas.
The freezing sky is a snow globe, ready to paint the world in white if shattered. The girl wears a dark red dress over her brown leggings, her dark boots making zig-zags in the crisp blanket of frost. She hugs her blue coat closer, and tries to forget the cold. She should get back to her parents, her brother and sister. Her father and mother will worry. But she just stands, her feet frozen to the ground.
Here in this garden, time seems to stand still. In summer the flowers would be beautiful. Families would picnic on the lawn, breathing in the sweet scent of perfumed roses as the flowers, in every shade from blood-red, to delicate pink, to honey-yellow, to pure white. But in this harsh winter, the flowers are dead. Their petals are gone, their stems dark with black spikes curving evilly from among dead leaves and spider webs embellished with ice.
The lawn is frozen beneath her feet, turned to frost-speckled stone by the icy witch that lurks in the pages of the old book she clutches to her chest. Something moves at the end of the garden, and the fear inside her spikes like the deadly point of an icicle. But curiosity gets the better of her. Feet making barely a whisper on the ground, she tiptoes to the end of the garden, hazel hair standing out against her face, pale with fear. A wolf? A Snow Queen?
It is a woman, a gardener from the house. Her face is wrinkled with a strain of many years, like a walnut, and her hair is like a bird's nest under her scarf. Her hands are brown and wrinkled too, bare as she reaches for the stems of the dead roses, swaddling them gently in garden fleece like a newborn. The old woman turns her head when the silent girl is still meters away, and her eyes are like blue diamonds, bright and shining.
"Hello, my child." The old lady says, her voice soft and worn with time.
"Hello." The girl says, making it sound like a question. The old woman smiles, and beckons her. The girl pads forward, staring as the woman gently prunes the darkening stalks with red clippers. The girl looks around as a few flakes of snow fall.
"Why are you tending the flowers?" the girl asks, her voice clear and ringing in the garden's cold silence. "They're dead. They're just stems."
"They're not dead." The old woman smiles, her gnarled face lighting up and regarding the girl with wise fondness. "They're asleep. They may look dead, and succumb to the frost and snow, but in summer they will open their petals and their hearts to the sun, and be green again. They'll bloom again."
"How do you know?" The girl asks "It's winter. What if they die in the cold? You can't tell."
"My child, everything has to sleep. Sometimes the sky goes cold, and our lives go dark. Winter has to come in order for us to have joy in the spring. The clouds come, and we are afraid, and the flowers drop their petals and hide away. But the sun will come again." The old woman taps her nose "Gardeners know nature. There will be flowers again."
The garden is silent. The girl contemplates the old woman's words. There will be flowers again. The words seem to make the cold less sharp and the ground less hard.
"Thank you." The girl says to the old woman, who smiles like a ray of sunshine.
As the girl looks around, she sees something she missed before. On a single black stem, a tiny bud – a few millimetres wide – sits right at the top, reaching for the sun. Layers of fresh, beautiful green cluster around the tiniest speck of soft pink.
The flowers have started to bloom, and soon the cold and the fear will be gone.
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