September 27, 2014

"Rosie" (Novel Snippet #2)

Depending on how you look at it, this could be a complete short story or part of a longer novel. Either way, I am excited -- and a little nervous -- to share this with you. "Rosie" may not end in the way you expect ...  - Laurel

Rosie stepped outside. The cold velvet air caressed her cheeks, turning them red. Blissfully, she was wrapped in an oversized furry coat, which sheltered most of her skin from the chill. A glimpse of a smile escaped Rosie as she saw the snow-laden trees. “It looks like God came and frosted them overnight,” she thought. Rosie wondered if she might yet hear the chitter-chatter of the few squirrels that had resisted the urge to dig into the warm underground and still braved the icy fingers of winter.

Behind her, Rosie’s own shelter from the cold—a nondescript white hut that had just begun to gray with age—beckoned her to return. Glancing back, Rosie’s saw the familiar lone narrow window that graced the front of the house. Rosie felt like that window. Alone. Out of place. And chilled by the frost. But, unlike that window, she could leave that creaking house. She shivered and pressed on to the trees. Rosie longed to hear the voices of the forest creatures…even just one. She would not stay away any longer from the woods—no matter what warning her old hut moaned.

20 minutes later, the house welcomed Rosie back. No, the squirrels were tucked safely underground. She tried to coax one out with a song, but they must be fast asleep. As usual that night, Rosie wrote in her tan, leather-bound journal. With large brown eyes, she peered through her lonely window, gazing at her favorite stars.

Rosie was startled when a robin-sized bird landed on her windowsill. It was as white as the ground outside! And this was no ordinary bird! It spoke to her – “I have come from a distant land. There is a prince there who bid me…” Here the bird stopped, awkwardly shifting to one spindly, sharp-clawed foot.

Rosie’s heart thumped in her chest. What strange words the feathery creature spoke! “So…” she spluttered, “Why have you come here?”

The small black eyes of the bird softened. “As I was flying through this country, I heard you singing in the woods nearby. You have a beautiful voice! So, I stopped a while to rest on a branch and your music gave me great peace. I would like to give you something.”

At this moment, the bird turned his neck almost completely around, pecking at his feathers with his pointed beak. In a moment, he withdrew a single folded sheet of paper. Bowing gracefully, he dropped it in Rosie’s opened journal.

Rosie blinked, and in that second, the bird was gone! With quivering hands, she unfolded the sheet, flattening it on the desk’s hard surface. Rosie drew her candle’s flame close, and bent over the little note. It read, “Dearest lady…”

The contents of the letter are private to Rosie. I would not break her confidence, dear reader, so I cannot disclose what the prince said to woo fair Rosie.

But I will tell you that the letter contained instructions.

The first—and most important—was that Rosie was to keep the paper. On her person.

Rosie happily kept the letter in the pocket of her robe that night. When she awoke, though, the paper had moved. It seemed to have crawled up on her skin. “Ridiculous, of course,” Rosie muttered. “I must have tossed and turned in my sleep.”

But, strangely, she was happy to leave the paper there on her arm. It felt good. The single leaf of paper was face-up on her arm. She read the prince’s words over and over.

Later that day, it had moved up her forearm. By evening, it had wrapped itself around her neck. “I feel so good,” Rosie thought, looking in the mirror at it. “But it feels just a tad tight.” She tried to slip her finger under an edge, but she couldn’t.

Rosie screamed as the paper began to choke her.

Lunging for her candle, which was flaming, she held it up to her own neck. The paper shrieked.

In the mirror, Rosie watched the paper succumb to the flames. Bit by bit, the black ashes fled to the ground. Her neck had a slight burn, and her hair was singed. She hated that smell.

But what Rosie did not see was a silent white bird, who retrieved with its beak one tiny unburned corner of the paper that had fallen to the ground.

10 years later, a note was dropped on Rosie’s desk. There was a flutter of wings. Trembling, Rosie opened the letter. “Dearest lady…” she whispered aloud. She held the paper to the single flame of her candle, willing herself to read no more of the letter.

Screaming, the last of the original letter died.

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