She wanted to fly.
Oh! To have wings she could stretch and unfurl! Wings that could take her wherever she wanted to go.
She would finally be able to see what waited beyond the path that curved round the hill. With wings she could explore the forest that loomed quietly to the west or talk to the fish that swam in lazy circles in the pond to the east.
As a wingéd flower, she would have a chance to find her fortune rather than waiting passively for the seasons to change, her stem to grow brittle, and her petals to fall one by one until all that was left of her was a few withered leaves and a crumpled face that had once been bright yellow.
Some flowers, you see, are remarkable creatures that die every few seasons, only to be born anew once more. Bigger. Stronger. Budding life on their previous lives and accumulating a sort of verdure venerability.
But our flower is a young flower who has only lived a total of two seasons. Three, if you are inclined to generosity and count the current season. Still, the drumbeat of the autumn pulsed up through her roots, into her stem, and rattled against each of her petals. Our flower knew, as all greenlife knows, that one’s own life was subject to the capricious whims of mortals, the ravenous appetites of birds, the occasional cat whose curiosity outweighs its good sense, and the rather flighty nature of the wind.
Just because one might live and die and live again, doesn’t mean one will.
More and more the little flower’s heart turned to the sky that hung prettily as the northern frame for the world.
“Wings,” she sighed. “All the world to find, if only I had a pair of wings!”
“Don’t be silly,” the bees buzzed as they flew past her window in yellow-streaked clouds of black. “Flowers aren’t born with wings. If they were, they wouldn’t be flowers—they’d be bees.”
The flower wrinkled her face. She didn’t want to be a bee, although she admired their bright little rapiers they belted round their middles. Bees, for all their glorious golden stripes and inky black spaces in between, were notoriously short-tempered and too busy working to dream.
And wings without dreams was drudgery.
Still . . .
“I should like very much to brush up against the sky, gently, so as not to wrinkle it, of course,” the flower murmured. Though she was an orphan, as many flowers are, she had an eternity of knowing stored—first in her seed, and then in her roots—and impeccable manners.
“Silly,” the squirrels chattered as they gathered up acorns from the oak tree growing just beyond her reach. “What would you want to touch the sky for? Better to stay down here where up is up and down is down, and you don’t sink from one to the other on accident. Besides, there are no nuts in the sky.”
“Still,” the little flower shrugged her leaves closer to the sunlight, “I should like to discuss the merits of water with the fish, say hello to my distant cousins in the forest, and see if the garden path is nearly as rocky as it looks.”
Of course the flower had tried to do all these things, wings or no wings. Birds are excellent gossips if one can keep their attention long enough. They were gracious messengers that carried conversations between the young flower and the school of minnows currently residing in the pond. But long-distance correspondence is an uncertain thing and wearying to a soul who would rather be speaking face to face than through bird.
“Be content in what you are,” the bluebirds advised as they sought out food for their young. “You may be stuck in one spot, but that spot is your own, and you don’t have to worry about another flower coming along and pushing you out of it.”
Our flower nodded and tucked away each piece of advice into a corner of her heart, but the urge to reach out and touch the sky would not be quieted, no matter how hard she tried to ignore it.
“You are of earth,” the oak tree murmured. “Dig your roots deep into the soil and find joy in the sunlight that warms your leaves, in the rain that strengthens your stem, and in the wind that ruffles through your petals.”
Chagrined, the flower bowed her head so the mighty oak would not see her blush. “I try,” she whispered. “And I am grateful. Truly, I am.”
And she was.
Her keeper kept her warm and comfortable, watered her, talked to her, and smiled at her sometimes for no reason the flower could ever discern.
But the luster of safe and the familiar tarnished a little more each day, until the flower’s head and leaves drooped beneath the weight of a single wish that quickly fractured from one into four:
To fly. To explore. To discover. To become.
Being a young flower, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to become yet, only that the need to do it burned like frozen sap in her veins. In this, our flower is not like many of the others. For they are content to rest in their places, so long as they have sunlight, soil, and water enough.
Perhaps the mortality of her keeper was contagious, infecting her as all mortals were with the need for more, no matter how much they already have. Mortals, you might already know, are an unsatisfied lot. It is the virtue and price for their mortality, and one that few other creatures shared.
But whatever the cause, the weight of the flower’s dream bent her back and dulled her petals.
The insects and animals continued to chide her on one hand and encourage her on the other. Her keeper said nothing, but a worry line etched itself on her brow whenever she glanced over at the small flower struggling to bloom on her windowsill.
This might have gone on until the flower’s petals withered to scraps of forgotten color and her leaves dried to wisps of bone, had not a faerie passed by the flower’s window one late autumn night.
The flower lifted her head to wonder at the crystalline wings arching away from the faerie’s shoulder blades. The wings caught the moonlight and fractured it into fragments of rainbow.
With a sigh, the flower dropped her head again.
What was the use? The birds and bees and squirrels and trees were right. She had no wings, and never would. It ought to have been in her nature to cling to the earth and feast on buttered sunshine, not to soar up against the sun and moon and stars.
“What ails you?” the faerie asked, her voice piping against the night. She hovered near the window, tiny hands grasping the sill as she peered inside. “All is well and good within.”
The flower’s cheeks went pink with shame. The faerie was right—all was good and well within. When the wind tugged too harshly, her keeper closed the shutters. When the frost came and a chill shivered through the air, her keeper would move her from the window to a comfortable spot near the hearth. When she grew thirsty, her keeper watered her. When bits and pieces of her grew brown and ragged, her keeper gently snipped them away.
Yet . . .
“Every day I stare out into the world,” the little flower said. Her wish trembled inside her heart, growing bigger and stronger from being spoken aloud. “I watch the clouds scuttle across the sky, watch the rains dance down upon the earth, and wonder what secrets the stars twinkle at each other every night.”
“You have a home, yet you are homesick,” the faerie said, wrinkling her brow.
The flower considered this.
“My kind are free to wander the earth,” the faerie said, kneeling next to the simple clay pot that cradled the flower’s roots. “Yet, the more we linger, the more we fade. Our essence is not made for this place, and every moment reminds us that our true home is calling.”
“Why do you come here, then?” the little flower asked. She ducked her head, hoping she hadn’t offended the faerie with her question. Curiosity was not a trait much encouraged in plants.
The faerie stared out into the night, her wings glimmering with moonlight. “Because this place calls too.”
The flower stood a little taller, never before realizing how nice it felt to have someone understand. It wasn’t a comfortable place, this Between and Betwixt, but it was the only place she knew.