“Every girl should get a rose on her sixteenth birthday.” That red rose from Granny had felt more like a judgement than a gift. The first falling petal reminded Viola of Belle, and Granny had been there to mourn her lack of Prince, handsome or otherwise.
Five years later, Granny would have been impressed. Yamin held a rose outstretched, a diamond ring balanced on top and Viola could almost feel a little nudge from behind.
But Viola had been raised on Mulan and Moana, not Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella: marriage would clip her wings, and today, she needed to fly.
“I love talking.” Mum would say, “And he listens better now, especially when he’s got his pipe.” A lifelong non-smoker, Mum had cleaned and refilled that pipe every day since Dad’s death, then placed it unlit on top of the blue carved box that held his ashes. A habit of devotion.
Maria stared at the pipe and box and wondered what she should do with them now. Should she add Mum’s ashes to the box, or scatter them somewhere together?
Maria emptied the pipe into the bin. The tobacco smelled like Mum. She opened the pouch to fill it again.
Lyla woke with a start. The room was dark and quiet. Gentle breathing from her left the only thing to hang onto. The world wasn’t ending.
She wrapped herself in a blanket and padded into the next room. The baby was sleeping soundly, her mouth slightly open, her face calm. Lyla’s mind spiked again with the vision of that same face contorted in terror, dropping away into the abyss and her own arms reaching desperately through the air.
Lyla’s face touched the baby’s hair as she climbed into the crib. “You caught me,” she whispered, finally able to relax again.
Louise remembered all too well that telltale red stain on Ayah’s white pants last week… the looks, the comments. She felt bad now, for laughing along. She stumbled into the washroom, and crashed onto the seat. It didn’t numb the pain, but it still brought relief. The sanitary pad her Mom gave her this morning had worked; there was no blood on her pants or underwear. Safe.
She reached for toilet paper and her hand hit metal. An empty roll. Louise began to cry.
She heard her name from outside the stall. “You OK?” Ayah whispered, “Do you need anything?”
NOTE: As ever, I’d love to hear your feedback – this week, if you have any ideas about the title in particular. I’m not thrilled with it, but couldn’t settle on anything better.