Chapter 1: Briar Rose

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  • Scent Notes
    A field of wild roses and lavender leading into the woods, cedar, a sprig of rosemary, freshly ground clove, bergamot.
  • Description

      Scent Notes: A field of wild roses and lavender leading into the woods, cedar, a sprig of rosemary, freshly ground clove, bergamot.

      Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young woman named Aurora who lived with her overly-protective parents, formerly the king and queen of the land, and three crazy aunts. She spent most of her days in her tower bedroom, reading romance novels and daydreaming. Apparently, a woman who lived in town had not been invited to her first birthday party, and it pissed this lady off enough to put a curse on baby Aurora. Shouldn’t she have, you know, cursed her parents instead of her? 1 year-olds haven’t exactly reached their full mental capacity, so maybe blaming the baby was an illogical move? Regardless, ever since, Aurora’s had to keep a low profile, and her parents stepped down from power to protect her.

      Aurora’s gift was in spinning yarn; she had a natural knack for it. The evil woman who had cursed Aurora said that on her 15th birthday, she would prick her finger on the spindle of the wheel and she would fall into a deep, deep sleep that would last until true love came along. That sounded terrible to her, so she avoided the spinning wheel 99% of the time. But occasionally, she just couldn’t resist, and took great care to avoid the spindle. Whenever her mother caught her spinning, she had such a panic attack that poor Aurora had to throw a bucket of water over her just to calm her down. Plus, it wasn’t her birthday quite yet; she’d be fine.

      So most of the time Aurora sat in her room, biding her time, being interrupted at regular intervals by either an aunt or one of her parents, making sure she was safely in her room, doing nothing, reading boring heteronormative fairy tales and hoping she didn’t need true love to come along and save her.She looked out her window and could smell the garden below; the wonderful scents of lavender and rose wafting up into her nostrils, and the strangely familiar scent of the woods just beyond the grounds. She loved plants, and gardening, and drawing scientifically accurate, incredibly detailed sketches of plants.

      Alas, the dreaded 15th birthday finally arrived. Aurora’s parents gave her a new dress. Her aunts gave her yet another gigantic tome of love stories, which Aurora planned to quietly destroy later that night. Her true passion was plants, and gardening, but they didn’t seem to understand that. All they wanted was for her to fall in stupid love with some stupid guy. Before heading off to bed, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

      Sneaking into the room with the spinning wheel, she took her brand new book, and began to smash the spinning wheel to pieces. She hit off the spindle, placed the book on top of it on the floor, and stomped it to splintery little pieces. There. Curse avoided. Why was she ever given a spinning wheel anyway? Eyeroll.

      Satisfied at the destruction of the spinning wheel and the book, she concluded this was the most satisfying birthday she had ever had, and went up to her tower bedroom and promptly fell asleep.

      Just before midnight, from the dark corner of her bedroom, the evil woman from town emerged dramatically, her cape whooshing with a satisfying flourish. “So, you thought smashing the spindle and spinning wheel would mean you could avoid the curse, huh?” She smirked. “Guess again, Princess Smartass.” Out of her giant, billowing sleeve, she pulled another spindle, and smashed it into Aurora’s sleeping hand. Aurora didn’t even wake up to scream; the curse had automatically put her into a deep and total slumber.

      The woman’s evil laugh echoed throughout the tower, down into the rooms where her parents and aunts had been sleeping. They all awoke, and ran up the stairs to Aurora’s bedroom, where they found the girl dead asleep, the spindle bloody on the floor. The woman had vanished; after all their careful planning and avoidance, the deed was done. The king and queen and aunts sat on the floor and sobbed, knowing their beautiful Aurora would be suspended in sleep until the right man came along to rescue her with his mouth. Weird.

      Although the woman had told everyone the curse would be lifted upon true love’s kiss, that was total bullshit. She had no idea how long it would last, or if the girl wouldn’t just, you know, die in a couple weeks from lack of food and water. This was her first successful curse in years; all that mattered to her was that revenge had been exacted.

      The news spread throughout the country and surviving lands like wildfire. Naturally, her parents set up her tower bedroom as a kind of kissing booth, charging young boys to come in and give their daughter a kiss to see if they were her true love. (Gotta make that money somehow; going into hiding and renouncing their royal heritage didn’t exactly bring in a ton of income, especially now that they no longer had a spinning wheel, nor a daughter to spin.) Aurora just laid in her bed in her new birthday dress in what seemed like permanent paralysis. Months passed, and still, she didn’t stir. Many men came and kissed her, attempting to wake her up from her reverie. None succeeded.

      Except … every three or four nights, Aurora did awaken. You see, that curse wasn’t as foolproof as the woman had thought. Alone in her room around midnight, Aurora would wake up. One of the first times she woke up, she had gone down to the kitchen and raided the cupboard, bringing a stash of food with her. Once a month or so she’d replenish her stores: rosemary crackers, dehydrated meats, clove-studded oranges to keep under her pillow and hide the constant cedar and bergamot scents left behind by all the suitors traipsing in and out of her room. But most of the time she woke up, went to the bathroom, ate, and just went back to sleep. This, she thought, was really stupid. Yes, she knew that all these men were coming to kiss her and trying to gently wake her from this wretched eternal slumber; but really, her life was boring and dull and sleeping days and nights away was just fine with her. She even woke up occasionally from a kiss, but never bothered to actually stir or awaken. She never felt any deep, stirring emotions, which she surely would upon being kissed by her true love, right?

      Time passed. On the eve of her 18th birthday, it seemed as if every man had passed through her bedroom to try and awaken her with his fishy face meat. She kept secretly waking up occasionally, although it was happening with less and less frequency. Now it was once a week that she would secretly wake. Her body had gotten used to stasis. But on this night, a visiting prince from a faraway land happened to be in town for a wedding, and heard about the sleeping beauty. He decided he must visit her the next day; he was certain that, as the most charming prince, his mouth would be the one to shake her awake and make her love him.

      Thus, her 18th birthday dawned. The charming prince arrived and wooed her parents, who showed him straight up to her bedroom. “And now, I shall awaken your daughter with True Love! That’s what I call my tongue,” he announced as he crossed the threshold.

      Sure enough, he swooped under the canopy, pulled her half-dead body into his arms, and jabbed his tongue into her mouth. He kept darting it in and out as he was kissing her, like he was some kind of lizard, just stabbing her tonsils with his tongue. She woke up, gagging, and nearly retched all over him from the sheer force of his fleshy mouth-knife. “OH WHAT THE FUCK!” she cried out, tears springing from her eyes.

      “A-ha! I have done it! My love, my life, my true beauty, you are to be mine!” the charming prince cried out over the sound of her astonished parents gasping and clapping and crying.

      “Our girl is alive! She’s alive; oh, you truly are her one true love! Do you know how many men have been here? We thought this would never work! You still owe us $10.95, though,” her mother exclaimed, running over to hug her daughter. Aurora shoved her mother away.

      “Are you all insane?! I’ve been alive this whole time! You whored me out for money, and now this jagweed shows up and shoves his tongue so far down my throat I really did almost choke and die! Hell no, I’m out of here.” Aurora had already secretly packed a bag, and without another word, she pushed aside her parents, punched the charming prince in the dick, and walked out of the room.

      She walked through the village, shocking everyone who saw her. “Yeah, I’m alive, I’ve been alive, whatever. I love myself, I don’t need any of you people.”

      She walked through neighboring villages for many days, until eventually she found a little cottage with a mostly dead garden surrounding it. It appeared abandoned, and nobody in the little town seemed to own it. She turned the front room into a little shop, as it luckily had a spinning wheel, and soon she had enough money to restore the cottage. She planted fresh plants, and they bloomed tremendously.

      Years passed, and with a successful business and blooming gardens surrounding her cottage, she was happy. She was alone on her own terms, growing cabbage and arugula and using her natural gifts. She was a talented herbalist, and preferred to spend her nights alone, reading and writing stories about loving yourself. She went on plenty of rants in public about the hypocrisy of heteropatriarchal culture, and the centering of romantic relationships as the most important ones. The neighborhood children all called her a witch because she was so unlike all the other women they saw. And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, they were right.

      Keep the story going! Read Chapter 2, Glass Rose, here.

      Want to see the whole anthology? Check them out here!

      Scent Notes: A field of wild roses and lavender leading into the woods, cedar, a sprig of rosemary, freshly ground clove, bergamot.

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