The breeze swept my curls this way and that as my shoes clogged with moisture in the freshly watered grass.
“Do you think the daisies will look good in the shiny pink vase, Bojangles?”
I never found it abnormal to carry out a conversation with my dogs while doing some of the tedious chores, like picking flowers for the floristry. Of course, I never got much of a reply, but there was no doubt in my mind that that dog heard me loud and clear.
I laughed and snipped another few sprigs, “No, I think the daisies will look much better in those gold votives for a wedding or something,”
My bag was soon filled, so I quickly started up the hill back to the house,
“Hurry up Bo!” I called,
But that pup just stood there like a mountain, giving me a stubborn look,
“You lazy doggie!” I giggled, and ended up making Bojangles catch up to me as soon as he pleased.
The door jingled with a familiar ring, marking my coming into my mother’s beautiful store, “Tallulah’s Floristry,”
I found my mother, carefully wrapping up some fuchsia roses in butcher paper for the next wedding she was decorating.
“Good morning Kenya!” she smiled at me warmly as I walked in.
“Hi Mom!” I greeted her.
Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking. No, my mother and I do not look alike. That’s because she adopted me when I was really, really little.
She’s as good as a real mother can possibly get!
Announcing his presence, Bojangles let out a sharp bark.
“So…” I began,
“What are you up to?”
“Oh, just preparing for another baby shower!”
“Hmm, a baby shower this time!” I glanced at the bright pink flowers, “Lemme guess… it’s a girl!”
Mom laughed, “How did you know? It’s going to be a pretty one, and a good paying one,” she winked at me as she straightened out the chalkboard sign.
“The only problem is that it’s in Michigan..” She tucked a pencil behing her ear casually, prepared for another day’s work,
I held back a gasp, “Michigan?? Mom, that’s like 3 hours away from here…” I nearly dropped the basket filled with daisies.
She positioned a stem into a glass to display for the customers, “I was thinking…of actually leaving you here to take care of the floristry over the weekend while I’m gone…”
I pondered her proposal for a few moments, “I dunno, mom. You know how I want to manage this place when I’m older… but do you think I’m really ready?”
“Don’t worry Dear! You’ll be just fine. You can close early on Saturday, and you know that the shop is closed on Sunday… and I’ll be back early Monday morning before you go to school!”
“Ok mom… I think I can do it. I mean, I have been helping out for as long as I can remember! I’m ready!”
She rushed over to hug me, “Oh Kenya, thank you so much sweetie! I’m leaving this afternoon.”
I watched Mom speed away, and turned the flower shop sign from open to closed, and locked it up.
The sun was about to set, and I had to take Bo on a little walk.
You see, every day since I had received Bojangles as a tiny puppy, I would take him on a walk. It’s so fun to take a walk along the borders of the woods, and through the flowers.
But there was a place where I had always been told not to go, and that was inside the woods.
I knew it was wrong. Well… maybe not wrong… but irresponsible I suppose.
My curiostity had not yet taken over me. But every day I had walked past those tempting trees, saw glimpses of light peek through them. I had studied where the concrete ended and the thick underbrush of the forest began.
It was too much to bare.
I entered stepped off the concrete.. into the woods.
Little did I know that everything was about to change.
“What is this place?” I asked, half to myself, and half to Bo. I came across stones… stones leading in a winding path farther than the eye could see. Beautiful blooms lined the area… flowers I had never seen before, flowers I knew didn’t belong in this area.
Flowers I knew didn’t even.. exist.
I stroked a blue sprout and wracked my mind, desperately wanting to figure out what it was.
And then I saw them.
No more than 100 feet away, stood 2 girls, about the same age as me, perhaps 13, just like me.
I darted behind a bush, hoping they wouldn’t see me. And I… looked closer at them.
Their faces were festooned with bright markings. Their beautiful dresses flowed in the wind.
And they were… barefoot. How could they be walking on their bare feet across these harsh stones?
Why would any normal teenage girl wear such wild makeup? I supposed it was close to Halloween… but not that close.
And then I heard her voice.
It was chillingly beautiful, and reminded me of a sparrow’s cry, or a robin’s chirp. But it resembled a human voice as well. It was magical. It didn’t seem real.. none of it did!
And yet I could still understand the voice…the brunette girl said, “Ophelia, I swear! I heard something lurking over here! And… and I smell traces of.. human!”
Oh no! I thought,
“There’s no way Viniva, there’s no possible way. Humans are always repelled from the forest, it’s our force that protects us from them! And besides-”
She turned her head and saw me. She gasped, as did I. And with that… we both turned and ran.
I ran as fast as humanly possible, and when I looked back… they had disappeared.
the next day
On Saturday, I took one of my mother’s blouses out of her closet, and dashed to the forest with Bojangles.
It took me awhile to convince myself, but I knew I had to go back. I had to see those girls again, I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
And sure enough… nothing was a dream.
The only thing I was dreaming about was becoming one of them.
“Greetings!” I shouted as loud as I possibly could. They both snapped their head around and mumbled to each other just loud enough for me to hear, “Dear Goodness! That’s a human Ophelia!” “What else would it be Viniva??” “What should we do!? All men are evil! The queen told us, all men seek to destroy”
I cut in, “I’m actually not a man. I’m a girl, and I’m not here to destroy anything!”
“A-a girl? What’s a girl?”
“Well what are you?”
The brunette… Viniva… looked down, “I don’t know if I can tell you that,”
“Oh come on Viniva! We can tell her!” Ophelia turned to face me, “We are forest nymphs, the voices of the forest. We must take you to our ruler, follow us.”
“Your highness, we have a foreigner in our forest,”
A woman clad in a dress filled with red and white flowers looked at me and widened her eyes considerably.
“Yes, this is… erm..what’s your name, and what on earth are you?” Vivina looked at me,
“Yeah… my name’s Kenya, and I’m a girl…”
“A human girl? How did you get here? Where did you come from? And why did you come?”
“Well… I came from Tallulah’s floristry.. but I’m originally from Africa.”
“Africa? Tallulah? What interesting places!”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded and added, “Oh, and I just came to have some fun, I guess,”
Vivina looked at the queen, “Your highness, that seems like a reasonable request.
A similar looking nymph arrived, “Yes, Queen Yazabeth, that does seem.. well… fun!”
“Yes, I suppose so. Alright, Kenya. You may stay for a little while… Actually, you may stay and come until I tell you to leave. And just remember to… I dunno, have fun I guess.”
“Stay still Kenya!” Ophelia laughed at she dusted pollen all over my face and hair, “Now this will make you look youthful… but I honestly think it’s not working because you already look perfect!” She giggled, and I smiled in return.
“It also makes your hair soft, Kenya!” I touched my curls and laughed, “It totally does!”
I patted the head of one of the peculiar wooden statues that lined the forest edges,
“And this,” I said in a thick accent, “is my Grandpa! But I call him Pops!”
The two burst out in laughter, and I laughed along with them.
We had been playing around in the huge forest for hours. I had left for a few to take care of the floral shop, but I closed it up even earlier than I wanted to.
But that was ok… it wasn’t like business was booming.
“You are so funny Kenya!”
“Yes! Now, enough of this pretend stuff, tell us about your real life, Kenya!” Vivina smiled at me with her eyes that resembled robin’s eggs.
I took a deep breath, “Well… I was adopted when I was a baby by my Mom. I help here run her florist business… which is like a shop where you buy flowers!”
“Why would you buy flowers if you can just pick them?” Ophelia looked thoroughly confused.
“If you don’t want to pick a lot of flowers, you can buy them instead.
She mumbled a quiet, “Ohhhh,” and I asked her a question, “What is the nymph’s story?”
Vivina cut in before Ophelia could speak, “We are deemed the protectors of this forest. We protect this beautiful refuge from human contact. Humans are greedy. The take land and call it their own. We use our magic to keep humans out… and I don’t know why the magic didn’t keep you from coming… but I think it’s because you’re different from other humans.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Ophelia answered, “Maybe you have some forest nymph blood in you. You did say you don’t know who your real parents are…”
I grimaced, and then realized how much sense that made to me.
“Yes, that seems possible, Kenya, very possible.”
I was about to reply, and then I saw the brightest flowers I had ever seen, “Wow!” I said,
“Look at those flowers!” I raced up to the bush they grew from. I heard a cry from one of the nymphs, but it was too late. I had already picked one of the pretty blooms.
“Look Ophelia! What kind of flowers are these?”
The queen appeared out of nowhere, “No! What are you doing? Oh dear Kenya… you’ve crossed a line,”
I was confused.
“You are hereby banished from the kingdom of the nymphs, you have destroyed our possesions… our flowers. By picking that flower, you have killed a spirit of the forest,”
“Stay out Kenya. I knew I shouldn’t have let a human enter my forest,”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, I swear!” A tear trickled down my cheek.
“No, Kenya! Oh, Your Highness, please forgive her, I’m sure she won’t do it again!”
The queen did not speak, she just pointed to the exit of the woods.
And I left.
I quickly changed into a clean blouse and entered to floristry in a sour mood.
And it turned even worse as soon as I saw an envelope in Bojangle’s jaws, dripping with drool.
“Bad boy Bo! You know you shouldn’t do that!”
I snatched the letter out of his hands, the seal was already all chewed up, so I carefully opened it.
And then I read it.
Dear Tallulah Matthews,
Your establishment in in threat of foreclosure if you fail to pay off your business loans within 30 days notice.
Dells Nargo Bank
A wave of so much grief crashed down upon me. I wailed into the empty floral shop, and I sobbed my heart out.
I cried for hours in that empty shop. I cried because it was going to be empty forever.
“Please, I’m begging you Opelia! I need flowers! Your kingdom has the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen… flowers that will attract more customers, and save the flower shop!
In the dawn light, my shadow was cast upon her.
“I’m sorry Kenya, there’s nothing I can do.”
“Only true nymphs can pick flowers without killing them. And you’re a human. Leave, before you get us both in huge trouble. Please. I can’t help you.”
Ophelia looked at me coldly, with no emotion in her eyes.
I turned around and headed back to the business, silently crying.
Early Monday morning, I filled the vases with flowers, and restocked until I got bored of it. Not a single customer had come all weekend, not one.
Maybe that place was just doomed.
“Good morning Kenya!” a familiar voice burst into my ears. I snapped my head around.
I looked Ophelia over, “You look so different!” the thought burst out.
She giggled, “I have to fit in with your world!”
I was about to ask why she was at the floristry, and then I saw the flowers…
I almost fell over…
“You may pick the flowers form our sacred woods as much as you’d like to. Only a true nymph can let the life of a flower live while still picking it. Well, Kenya Matthews, you are a true nymph.”
And with that, she vanished. But I heard the door jingle, and a high pitched “Hullooo!” rang through the air.
“These flowers are beautiful honey! Now, sit down, let me tell you all about how pretty the baby shower was!”
“Hi mom! My weekend was pretty boring… I don’t know how I got through it without you!”