Better Than Nothing

Happy Friday, Readers! Was it only a week ago that I was at the beach? Feels like an age…

Here we go again with Friday Fictioneers, the weekly challenge provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields to write a 100 word story based on a photo. This week we thank Dale Rogerson for our picture! Now back to our continued story about Nick and Emmeline…

Copyright: Dale Rogerson

Better Than Nothing

“Mr. Ramsey?”

Nick jolted awake.

“Miss Price is sleeping, but stable. You can sit with her if you like.”

Nick didn’t need told twice. Quietly he entered her room. In the corner her heart monitor beeped slow and steady. He sat down beside her bed, fiddling with the rosary still in his hands. “Stay with me, Emmy,” he whispered.

Moved by an urge to be doing something, anything – he pulled out his phone and opened his last search – “How to Pray the Rosary.” He didn’t believe in this stuff, but it was better than nothing. Hesitantly, he started to pray.

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Must Be Magic: Part II

Hello again, Readers! Are you ready for Part II of Must Be Magic? I’m sorry for making you wait so long. This turned out to be a little harder to write than I was expecting. (And I’m still not happy with it. Forgive me!)

Now I’m sure you are itching to get to the story, so I won’t keep you. Enjoy! (and tell me your thoughts afterwards).

The WordPress Daily Prompt word when I started writing this last week was Devastation.

Fireflies illuminate a forest in Shikoku, Japan. © Hiroya Minakuchi/Minden Pictures
Fireflies illuminate a forest in Shikoku, Japan. © Hiroya Minakuchi/Minden Pictures

Must Be Magic

Part 2

For a moment, none of us moved. I stood a few steps in front of Griffin, my arms cradled against my chest after pulling out of his grasp. I glanced at him and Bart, hands on their weapons, and back to the tiny old woman in front of us. She looked more ancient than anyone I’ve ever seen. Her hair was white with a few gray strands and pulled up into a bun on the top of her head, held there by two twigs. She moved fairly quickly for such an old woman and was now disappearing in the late afternoon light, her mottled robes blending in with the scenery.

I made a decision and started forward, only to hear a hissed “No!” from Griffin, but I didn’t stop. Something was drawing me to the old woman, a sort of gravity or curiosity, I wasn’t sure what. I continued to follow her and soon heard the sound of footsteps behind me. Bart was following, looking nervous and Griffin looking grim. He had put away his sword, but still looked tense and ready to spring into action at any moment.

I shook my head, wondering how he could possibly think an old woman was a threat to us and moved forward through the village, trying not to notice the emptiness of all the homes. The cloth doll I had seen earlier floated through my mind and my heart twisted at the thought of a child becoming a victim of the Soul-Eater. What sort of monstrosity was this?

Horatia lead us to the outskirts of the village, which only took a few minutes since the settlement was so small. She lead us to a cozy looking cottage with a small herb garden neatly kept beside it and flowers growing beside the door. Some of the tension I hadn’t realized I’d been holding dropped out of my shoulders. I didn’t wait for Griffin or Bart before following her inside the small house.

The inside was just as cozy as the outside. It was clean and well-kept. Dried herbs hung from the low rafters, filling the room with the smell of basil, sage, and spearmint. Along the wall hung shelves holding all sorts of objects – clay bowls and bottles, a mortar and pestle, cups, vials, books, various rocks and crystals, some carved wooden figures, a nesting doll and a silver chalice. A large table dominated the center of the room, not far from a small iron stove and the fireplace, beside which sat a single bed, with a curtain that could be dropped down for privacy. By the time Griffin and Bart joined us inside, Horatia had already filled a kettle with water, set it to boil, and placed four cups on the table. When we had all gathered inside, she gestured to her table.

“Please, sit,” she said. I crinkled my eyebrows together, certain that there hadn’t been four chairs before, but shrugged and sat down, curious to know what Horatia would tell us. Bart and Griffin sat down on either side of me, both with the same wary and grim looks on their faces.

The silence stretched between the four of us for a few moment before it was broken by Griffin. “Well, tell us what you want to tell us woman, so we may be on our way. Ours is a quest of urgency.”

The gruffness of his tone startled me. I glared at him, about to reprimand him for being so rude, when Horatia interrupted with a bark of laughter. “Urgent indeed, if only you knew how much.” Her eyes gleamed and her smile held back the knowledge I was more desperate to know by the second.

“Please,” I said, extending  my hand across the the table and pleading with my eyes as well as my voice, “if you can help us, tell us what you know. We seek to destroy the Soul-Eater and rescue the Taken.”

Griffin glared at me as if our quest was some sort of secret he didn’t want this woman knowing, but I brushed him off. The entire kingdom knew that Griffin was the king’s champion, the one he sent to deal with situations like these. Horatia’s gaze softened when she looked at me. “Patience, star-girl. I will help you. But first, tea.”

She bustled forward with a steaming kettle and poured a generous amount in each cup. Then she pushed one in front of each of us. “Drink!” she commanded. “You’ll feel better.”

Neither Bart nor Griffin moved to touch their cup but I picked mine up. I breathed in the vapors rising from the cup and sighed, feeling more of the tension I had been carrying melt away in one breath. A question popped into my mind and tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop it. “Why did you call me star-girl?”

“Stella is your name, is it not?” Horatia answered.

My mouth fell open. “How did…”

“Don’t be so shocked, girl, I simply heard your companions call for you.”

A pang of disappointment went through me. For a moment I had hoped the rumors of magic welders had been true.

As if sensing my thoughts, Horatia smiled and said, “Too often men mistake simple observations for fortune telling or mind reading. I merely pay attention to the world around me and listen to what it wants to tell me.”

I smiled. “I suppose you’re right.”

Horatia smiled again, the same smile I had seen earlier, the one was full of secrets. She took a sip from her own cup and settled comfortably into a chair. “Now then,” she said, her tone switching to something more serious, “about your quest.”

“How did you survive the attack?” I asked, the question bursting forth before she could continue. I felt my cheeks redden. I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t hold my tongue. But Horatia didn’t seem to mind.

“I was gathering roots and plants when the demons came. By the time the screaming started, I was deep in the forest. I knew instantly that this was no ordinary attack of bandits or thieves.” Her brows came together and her mouth pressed into a hard line. “I could feel them. The cold, dark, slimy feeling of the Otherworld, of that shadowy place where demons come from. It was so strong, almost staggering.” A shadow passed over her face. I felt a cold stab of dread in my stomach.

“How have you come to know the feeling of demons so well?” Griffin asked, his voice hard.

Horatia fixed him with a equally hard stare. “When one lives as long as I have, doing what I do, meeting a few demons along the way is inevitable.”

Griffin snorted, clearly unconvinced. “And what exactly do you do?” he asked.

“Oh, this and that,” Horatia said, smiling again. It was maddening.

“Nevermind that – tell us what happened next!” I leaned forward, feet bouncing under the table.

The smile vanished. “I hurried back as quickly as I could. The screams grew louder and louder with every step and the feelings worse. I was terrified of what awaited me once I reached the village.” She paused for a moment, closing her eyes as she remembered. For an instant, I saw Griffin’s face soften, but the moment she started speaking again he hardened his face. “I had prepared myself for bloodshed and gore, but what I found was much worse,” Horatia said soberly.

“What?” I asked, my eyes wide.

Griffin answered for her. “Nothing. You found nothing. Just an empty village with barely a sign of struggle to be seen, as if everyone had vanished in the middle of whatever they had been doing.”

I turned to him, about to ask how he could possibly know that when Horatia nodded and said, “Exactly. Not a trace of anyone, nor any sign of the terror I had heard. Just a feeling of wrongness pervading everything.”

“But you knew,” prompted Griffin. “You knew what had happened.”

“I had heard enough news from the North to guess,” said Horatia. “The rest I figured out from my own observations. It’s not obvious, but there are little signs the demons leave behind, things anyone with a trained eye can see.”

“Clever,” said Griffin dryly. “But none of that tells me anything I didn’t already know.”

My heart beat a little faster. I knew Griffin knew about the Taken and the Soul-Eater, but he hadn’t been forthcoming on many of the details.

Horatia studied him for a moment. “Quite so,” she said finally. Then breaking her gaze with Griffin, she looked at me. “Tell me girl, what do you know of the moon?”

My mind blanked. The moon? Why was she asking me? What did this have to do with the Soul-Eater? “Wh-what do you mean?” I asked, hating the fact I had stuttered.

“Do you know about the moon’s cycles?”

I tilted my head. “You mean that it grows bigger and smaller?”

Horatia nodded. “Have you been paying attention to it? What is it doing now?”

I resisted the urge to turn and look out of the window, as if  the moon would be sitting there in plain view. “What does this have to do with anything?” Griffin demanded.

Horatia ignored him. I glanced quickly up at him then back to the old woman. “It’s getting smaller now. The nights are darker.”

Horatia nodded. “That’s right. And did you know that in only a few days time, the moon will disappear completely?”

I nodded. Griffin growled and Bart elbowed him lightly.

“Complete darkness,” whispered Horatia.

I looked at her and back to Griffin and Bart. “What significance is that?”

Horatia didn’t answer. Instead she asked, “How long have these attacks from the demon men been going on?”

My eyes widened. “Um, I don’t know, a few weeks at least.”

“A little more than a few weeks,” Horatia said. “I think you’ll find that the first whisper of an attack came on the night of the last vanishing moon.”

Griffin seemed to suddenly catch her meaning because he gripped the edge of the table with one hand and made a fist with the other. On the other side of me, Bart looked over my head at Griffin. I however, was still in the dark. “What does that mean?” I said a little irritably.

“You think the Soul-Eater is going to retreat on the night of the vanishing moon,” said Griffin. “Are you certain?”

“Positive. Your own memory will prove me right,” Horatia said. Griffin flinched as if smacked.

“But why?” I asked, ignoring this odd reaction.

“The Soul-Eater and its minions will be at their strongest when the night is darkest. On this night they will be able to open a portal and return to the pits whence they came.”

“But that’s good, isn’t it?” I looked around at everyone. “If they leave, the attacks will stop.”

Griffin bowed his head and Bart looked away. Horatia shook her head slowly. “It is true the attacks will stop here. But if you seek to rescue the Taken….” she trailed off and started again. “If the Soul-Eater is allowed to retreat to the Otherworld, then the souls of the Taken will be lost forever and their bodies will slowly fade away into nothingness.”

Silence filled the air. Roy. I stared into my cup of tea for a few moments, watching the leaves floating. Roy. I drew in a deep breath and suddenly straightened up. “Then we just have to rescue them before the vanishing moon, don’t we?”

Both boys turned to look at me. I set my jaw and tried to look confident, even though hopelessness was flickering in my chest. Horatia reached out and put a gnarled hand over my white-knuckled one gripping my cup tightly. “I might be able to help you with that, star-girl.”

A Little Encouragement

Hello again, my lovely Readers! Did you miss me? I hope you are not too disappointed I haven’t been posting everyday like last week. It was good fun, but I’m afraid I can’t always keep up with it. Still, I have been thinking about Stella and Griffin’s story the last few days and I think I’m ready for the next installment.  (What did you think of the little backstory on Roy? There is much more to tell, you know, but all in good time…)

The encounter with the Taken definitely left its mark our trio. Let’s see how much, from Griffin’s point of view. Enjoy!

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Aesthetic.

Found via Pinterest.
Found via Pinterest.

A Little Encouragement

Nothing has been the same since we saw the Taken.

Bart and Stella ceased their nonstop chatter. In fact, they hardly spoke at all. Stella was quiet and shadows passed over her face as she rode. Occasionally some other emotion flitted across her face, but it was gone so quickly I might have imagined it. Her mind was far away.

I’ve had been avoiding Bart, who hasn’t stopped trying to catch me in quiet conversation ever since I agreed to help Stella save Roy, whoever he is. I assumed he must be her fiancé, though I have not seen any promise band around her finger nor chain around her neck. I knew Bart was anxious to talk about the Soul-Eater and what happened in Fellforough Woods, but I was not ready yet, and I was not going to change my mind.

As we packed up from our midday break for lunch, Bart cornered me. I cast I quick glance at Stella, but she was murmuring something to her horse and didn’t look our way. I almost wished she would. I frowned and turned my attention to Bart. I’d eat dirt before admitting I missed her sarcastic jabber.

Bart wasted no time once he saw that he had my attention. “Griffin, you have to reconsider.”

My eyebrows went up. I’d never insisted on it, but Bart rarely called me simply by my given name. He called me either “Master” or “Master Griffin.” If I hadn’t been convinced by the dire look on his face, his use of my name did the trick. I sighed deeply.

“If it really is a Soul-Eater, we have to take Stella back. It’s too dangerous. Remember what happened last time…”

I held up a hand and cut him off. “Quiet!” I said sharply, glancing back at Stella again, but she was still oblivious. “I know very well what happened. As if I could ever forget.” I closed my eyes for a moment, hearing terrible screams echo across my memory. When I opened my eyes and looked at my hands, it was as if I could still see the thick black blood staining them.

“Then you know your promise was a false one.” Bart’s words pulled me back into the present.

“No, I do not.” I shook my head as a protest started to form on Bart’s lips. “We didn’t know what we were dealing with last time. We…I made mistakes. There has to be another way.”

Bart’s shoulders drooped and he gave me a look that was full of too much understanding. “Master Griffin…”

“No.” I cut him off again. “I’ll not discuss it further. There has to be another way.”

“Another way to what?” Stella asked, strolling over to join us. Bart froze and looked at me.

I looked at her a bit stupidly and said the first thing that came to mind. “Another way to make you smile.”

Surprise bloomed over her features and she snorted, her brow contracting in a questioning sort of look. Bart was now staring at me as if I had grown a second head. I forced myself not to grimace. The words had sounded ridiculous and insincere. I shook them off. “That is, you’ve done nothing but mope all day. I can’t stand your inane chatter, but it’s a damn sight better than your miserable face and brooding silence.” it came out a bit more gruff than I intended, but to my satisfaction, annoyance flickered across her face before settling into the smirk so often directed at me. She dipped into a curtesy.

“By all means, I wouldn’t want to spoil your view while riding,” she said, her voice filled with sarcasm. Briefly I wondered if she spoke like that to anyone other me. How did she speak to Roy, I wondered? Then she smiled at Bart and hoisted herself up into her saddle, looking a little less miserable than before. The shadows haunting her face had receded for the moment. I watched Bart give her his wide grin in return and shook my head as I mounted my own horse. Things weren’t going exactly as I’d planned, but then, nothing so far had gone to plan this trip. I snorted. The afternoon was looking up.

 

More Than Shadow

Thursday already, Readers! And I’m back with another excerpt of Stella and Griffin’s adventure. Did you enjoy the change of perspective in yesterday’s story, “Three’s A Crowd“? Today we might just see those elusive and dangerous Devil Men. Are you ready?

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Someday.

Found via Pinterest.
Found via Pinterest.

More Than Shadow

The night after being attacked by the bandits, we saw them.

They were just shadows in the corner of our eyes at first. I felt them before I truly saw them. I was riding next to Griffin, with Bart following with our pack mule. Conversation had long since died, and we were eager to find a place to rest for the night. Though it was late summer, the air had the chill one expected to come with frost. The back of my neck prickled as though invisible fingers were brushing across it and I whipped my head towards the woods.

I sucked in a sharp breath and my hand shot out to grip Griffin’s arm. I tried to speak but couldn’t. Our horses halted but I didn’t hear anyone give the order. Shadows were becoming solid in the woods around us. They had a human shape but no features were distinct. Only their eyes stood out, a bright, filmy white.

Our horses pawed the ground and whinnied nervously. My heart was beating so loud and fast I almost missed Griffin’s quiet words. “Stay calm. Nobody move.”

There was no worry of that. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. Remaining calm, however, was a more difficult task.

We stood there, as if frozen, watching the shadows move slowly through the woods on either side of us. My only relief was that they were not moving towards us. Yet.

All of the sudden the silence which had become thick and heavy in the chill air was rent by a piercing shriek. Red flashed across my vision and pain bloomed in my head. I released my grip on Griffin’s arm and my reins and covered my ears, but that did nothing to quiet the keening now coming from the shadow people all around us.

The horses were going mad beneath us, and through my blurred vision – there were tears in my eyes – I saw Griffin grab my fallen reins to keep my horse from bolting. All the sorrow I had carried before suddenly crashed over me again, filling me inside and out. The keening seemed louder in my ears. I looked to the woods again, watching the shadow people hunch over in their misery. I wanted to join them. Dimly I heard someone calling my name and for a second I thought it was Roy, calling me across the void.

“Stella! Stella!”

Someone gripped my shoulders and realized I had slipped down from my horse and was making my way towards the woods. The hands spun me around but I turned my head over my shoulder, back towards the woods, towards the shadows. They were moving away now, disappearing into the trees. I belonged with them. I needed to follow. The wailing got louder.

“Stella!” the hands shook me then, forcing me to face him, and when I did, Griffin crushed me to his chest, his large arms surrounding me and his voice a rumble in his chest. “It’s going to be okay,” he repeated over and over. “Calm down.”

Suddenly I realized the loud wailing was coming from me and my cheeks were wet with tears. I tried to pull away but Griffin held me fast. My wails stopped, dissolving into sobs. When I finally stopped crying, Griffin released me and I pushed away, my cheeks heating with embarrassment over my display. I hiccuped. “I-I’m sorry,” I stuttered, not meeting his eyes. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s okay Miss Stella,” Bart pipped up. He was standing not far away, holding onto all the horses and the mule. They seemed calmer now as well. “It was horrible for all of us when they came. Never heard anything so terrible in my life.”

“But I don’t know why I was so affected,” I said miserably. I looked up at Griffin. He was watching me with a grim expression. “I suppose I really am just an encumbrance to you. You could have been pursuing them if not for me. You could have even now been capturing one of the Devil Men.”

Griffin was silent, and I looked down at my feet. “Those were not Devil Men,” he said finally.

My head snapped up. “What? Then what were they?”

If possible, Griffin’s gaze became even more grim. Instead of answering my question, he asked a question of his own. “Do you recall me telling the bandits that I received my sword from the king after I defeated the beast of Fellforough Woods?”

“Yes,” I said, not seeing how this was connected to the shadow men we had just seen. I looked to Bart for some sort of explanation, but he was looking at Griffin, horrified recognition on his face.

“You don’t think…” he started, but trailed off.

“Yes Bart,” said Griffin. Bart blanched. My curiosity was burning now. I didn’t know much about the Fellforough Woods. They were located far away in the northern part of the kingdom. My village was located in the south, and we only received travelers from the north maybe once a year.

“Well, what is it? What do you think?” I asked. Some of the despair that had been clinging to me since the arrival of the shadow men fell away.

“I believe what we just saw – the shadow people – are the victims of the Devil Men, as you call them.”

My mouth fell open and I immediately looked to the place where they had disappeared. Roy.

“But how?” I asked, jerking my head back towards Griffin. “And what do you mean by as we call them? What happened in Fellforough Woods?”

Griffin sighed. “You speak of the Devil Men as a pack of demons. I do not think it is so. I think what plagues you is the same type of beast that dwelt in FellForough. A beast of shadow and darkness. A Soul-Eater.”

“A Soul-Eater…” Cold gripped me. “But then the victims…”

“They’re called the Taken,” Griffin said. “They wander as we saw them because their souls are gone. They are neither dead nor alive. They are lost, part shadow and part human. Eventually they will be nothing but a wail in the wind.”

My knees could no longer support me. I fell to the ground, the despair that had been receding rushing forth again. “Then there is no hope,” I said, my hands clenching into fists in my lap.

“Don’t say that, Miss Stella,” Bart said consolingly.

“There was never much hope for the Taken,” Griffin said. Bart shot him a dirty look. Griffin returned it with a stern glance. “False hope helps no one, least of all the Taken.” He turned his stern gaze towards me and it softened ever so slightly. “But not much is still a little. I could not save the Taken in Fellforough. But perhaps with your help I will find a way here.” He held out a hand for me. I took it slowly and he pulled me to my feet with surprising gentleness.

“You promise to do everything in your power to help me save Roy and the rest of the Taken?” My eyes locked on his, searching for sincerity. I found it.

“I will,” he said. “And I promise you, you will see Roy again.”

I released the breath I had been holding. A smile spread across my face and I threw my arms around him. “Thank you.”

Bart looked positively alarmed by this turn of events. He mouthed something to Griffin that I didn’t catch and whether or not Griffin answered him, I couldn’t tell. But I didn’t care. At last I had real hope. I would see Roy. We would save him. All would be as it should be.

I released Griffin and went to my horse, taking my reins back from Bart with a smile. He weakly returned it and stepped over to where Griffin stood. They whispered quietly, appearing to have some sort of argument. That was unusual, especially for Bart, but I couldn’t focus on it. My mind was too full of everything I had just seen and learned. There were dark roads ahead, but I would face them.

For Roy, I would face anything.

Traded For A Sweet

Hello Readers! I hope you are having a good Friday! I’m still trying to get back in the habit of posting regular Friday Fictioneers again, so thank you for bearing with me.

Today we thank Sandra Crook for the photo, and as always, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for providing us avid writers and bloggers with a weekly prompt. Enjoy the story!

Copyright: Sandra Crook
Copyright: Sandra Crook

Traded For A Sweet

It appeared overnight. The house of candy.

Everyone was drawn to it. The old woman who ran the shop was sweet as sugar herself, and required only a simple payment.“Tell me what your sweet tastes of,” she asked every customer.

So they did. Her sweets tasted of glory, love and joy. They tasted like dreams. The townspeople poured their hearts out in her little shop, and the woman just smiled.

They disappeared overnight. The house of candy and the old woman. With them went the dreams and the hopes of the whole town. They had traded them for a sweet.

Rose Garden

Today’s one word prompt from WordPress is Vegetal. (fun word!) My musical inspiration for this prompt is Rose Garden by Nick Jonas and the Administration. Listen here.

Enjoy the story!

Like this image? It doesn't belong to me, but you can buy a print on Etsy.
Like this image? It doesn’t belong to me, but you can buy a print on Etsy.

In the Rose Garden

The quiet, steady pitter-patter of raindrops on the greenhouse roof was soothing to Margaret’s ears as she worked, slowly moving along the row of flowers in various stages of bloom, trimming and gently removing dead leaves and petals. The greenhouse was mostly full of roses, her favorite. She loved their rich, velvety colors, and their ever-changing scent that made every hour with them a new experience. The roses she felt, unlike many of the other flowers, were classic. They never went out of style, and even when dried retained some of that mystery and personality that made them so captivating when first cut from the bush.

She paused in front of a particularly large bush of deep red roses whose buds were nearly all full and open. Her heart gave an involuntary pang as their musky scent washed over her. These were the flowers of love, whose scent and color captured the essence of romance, passion and desire. She had been given roses like these, once. She had been swept away by dreams of love and a fairy tale ending with her handsome lover. She had danced and rested in his strong arms and gone to sleep with this musky rose smell clinging to her hair and skin.

Without realizing it, her hand had gone up to touch her hair, her mind caught up in a distant memory. She had forgotten it was covered with veil, similar to what the nuns wore, the gentle sisters who had taken her in despite her tarnished reputation. “Enough daydreaming,” she muttered to herself. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the simple prayer the nuns had taught her for times of distraction. She opened one eye at the roses before her, their heady smell still sidetracking her. “You are entirely too demanding,” she told the bush. “Perhaps you could tone it down for a bit.” The rose bush didn’t answer, and Margaret had the impression it was smirking at her.

“You’re right, I know,” she finally conceded. “I’m the hopeless one.”

Suddenly she felt a sharp twitch in her stomach, like an uncontrollable muscle spasm. Her hand went to the swell showing through her gown. “Do you disagree, little one?” She felt the twitch again.

“Talking to the roses again, Miss Margaret?”

Margaret spun around, one hand remaining on her stomach, the other flying to cover mouth. She blushed and lowered her hand. “Yes and no, Sister Mary Elizabeth. The roses distracted me, so I started to say a prayer, but the smell was so overpowering I had to stop and reprimand them, and then the babe wanted to join the conversation too.”

Sister Mary Elizabeth gave her an indulgent smile. Inwardly, Margaret was relieved. Not all the sisters approved of Margaret, and many had opposed her staying with them. But Sister Mary Elizabeth had been kind to her from the first, and coming from a family of thirteen children, she understood a few things about childbirth. “Often a woman’s sense of smell is more sensitive while she carries a babe in her womb. If the roses are so potent to you, perhaps you should refrain from working in the greenhouse for a while.”

Margaret was horrified. “Oh no, please Sister, don’t take me away from the roses! I only got caught up in some foolish daydreams, is all. I shouldn’t have blamed the roses.” She looked pleadingly at the nun and when she didn’t reply, continued, “I’ll make extra penance today but please, please don’t keep me from the roses.”

Her plea was so earnest, Sister Mary Elizabeth laughed. “Well alright then, you may continue your work. The gardens have never looked so beautiful before you came to us.”

“Thank you, Sister.” Joy filled Margaret’s face for a few moments, then dimmed as she remembered her daydream. “I was thinking about him again.”

Sister Mary Elizabeth came forward and put a hand on Margaret’s shoulder. Margaret leaned in for comfort. “I know I shouldn’t, but I do miss him sometimes.”

“It’s only natural, my dear,” the nun replied. But now you must focus that love on God and the responsibility he has given you.” Her eyes dropped to Margaret’s stomach. “It will be a difficult road, but filled with rich rewards, I promise you.”

Margaret nodded, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.

Sister Mary Elizabeth smiled again and started for the door. “Finish your work my dear, and do make sure you are on time to vespers.”

“Yes, Sister.” Margaret watched her leave and step out into the rain, which had thankfully slowed. She stood there for a moment more, cradling her stomach and wondering at the grace she had received. The nuns hadn’t been required to shelter her, a runaway mistress, a fallen woman, but they had. They had given her a place to sleep and food to eat, and work to do in their beautiful gardens. And here, surrounded by growth, life and beauty, Margaret appreciated even more the tiny life growing inside her. As she finished her work she prayed God would continue to guide and care for her and the babe just like she guided and cared for these roses. “Amen,” she finished, and stood for a while longer admiring the lovely flowers.

Just then the clock struck four and the bells began to ring. “Vespers!” Margaret cried, and hurried to the door, once again feeling the babe inside her move, as though he (or she) was running too. “We won’t be terribly late,” she said, silently offering up a prayer for forgiveness. “I was only admiring the roses.”

***************

“For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.”

-Isaiah 51:3

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is Symbol. It asks:

This week, share a symbol with us, and tell us what it means to you.

When reflecting on this challenge, I decided to take a photo of something I use everyday – my rosary beads. For those of you who don’t know, the Rosary is a series of prayers and mediations said by Catholics. If you’d like to learn more particulars, read here.

Rosary_TM2015

For me the Rosary is a symbol of faith, hope, and love. Saying these prayers everyday help me feel closer to God and give me time to mediate on God’s love for me and the world. It is comforting during times of struggle and helps me keep holding onto the hope that things will get better. Life is rarely easy, but in this prayer I find strength to persevere.