By Kathy L
Posted on January 1, 2024
Cover Image Title: Still Life
Cover Image by: Deborah
Specifications: watercolor and colored pens
Location: Dubai, UAE
Upon her desk sat a jar of dried peonies and lavender flowers bundled with twine. The color of the flowers already faded as she incessantly plucked the rose in her hand, crushing the lifeless petals. A gold coin rested on top of the jar, the closest color to the sun’s brilliance.
Biting her lip, she willed herself not to move, not to stare too long at the golden sliver on her oak desk. She hoped the itch would go away, but it was persistent, clawing at the back of her mind as she crumbled more dried petals.
She had learned early on not to step outside the castle - the cold gray pillars encased her in beautiful crimson and plush couches. Leaving would cause her harm - she was allergic - and under her uncle’s care, anything he says is the divine rule. No one goes against him. She banged her head on her desk and pulled her knees to her chest.
It was futile to think she could do anything about her predicament. Being controlled all her life, stuck in one place all the time led her mind to wander through life hopelessly. But at the same time, his strictness was like fuel for her craving of the light. It caused her to burn for the light, to want the light… no, to crave it, to need it.
But she couldn’t succumb. Succumbing would mean giving in to sins, and to darkness, her perceived enemy, but true confidant.
Would she truly be human if she didn’t even crave a bit of the forbidden apple?
But of course, she stayed inside. Mother would be sad, and Father would be disappointed, her uncle always told her, but they were gone. Dead and gone, buried six feet underground along with all her hope.
Was darkness truly ever her friend?
She had no one to lean on except for herself, but that couldn’t sustain itself, and decisiveness was never her strong point.
Despite her craving of what was beyond her walls, the gray and crimson made her dizzy with curiosity. It pumped through her veins, her muscles twitching as she restrained herself. Blood rushed to her head as the thought of just being able to see sunlight in the flesh swirled through her mind. She cradled her head with both her hands, trying to erase those thoughts.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but she was just a kitten. Dying wouldn't even be half of her punishment.
Still, she feared it. The unknown was, after all… unknown. And if she played too close to the fire, who knows what it would truly do to her?
Aside from killing her, of course.
As the light in the room filtered in, she teetered to the edge of the rays, steps tentative as she reached close enough for her to make out the dust in her room, floating toward the sunlight. She wanted so badly to touch it, but instead, her eyes just trained on it and she sighed.
The two flowers adjacent to the gold coin called to her.
On one hand, she could be silent and devoted to her duty: live her life as long as possible and try her hand at the throne if permitted.
Simple. Easy. Safe.
To live as if she is a bird in a cage, devoid of the whispering winds and the pull of floating petals.
On the other hand, she could turn against her uncle, fight the blessings that had bound her to this cursed porcelain box. Leave her world of safety; break free from the chains of repression designed to quench this villainous thirst.
Or do both.
Do both - and risk losing or winning all the same.
The rose lay on her desk, a mocking presence to her dilemma.
Achievement and completion.
She grabbed the coin and placed it on her palm, weighing her decisions.
Lavender, peonies, and roses. The sun’s gold was a mere touch away. It was so close she could almost taste the bitter twist of victory and pain, churning her gut into an uneasy spiral.
With sudden resolve, she closed her eyes and threw the coin up, praying for good fortune
She couldn’t turn back now.
Freedom, or pain, that’s all she’d ever wanted.
And the coin landed, sealing her fate.
[Writing Editor: Nikky Kroeger]