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Around the Rosie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I take a deep breath and inhale the humid, summer air. My sweaty palms hang at my sides as my fingers play with the laces of my dress. My heart pounds against my chest, and my brain pulsates rapidly. I hear my sister speak, but her words are lost to me. They are unable to surpass the ringing sound that encompasses my lobes.

I do not need to hear her to understand what she's saying. We had run it over and over again as we made our trek to the solitary tree behind our house. A lone swing hangs from its dry branches – put there by our father once upon a dream. The cicadas that cling to the tree's bark fill my ears alongside the ringing sound. I gaze at the dry grass encroaching across the earth; another normal summer day in the blazing heat of July.

My sister clears her throat to get my attention. I turn to face her and take in her form. The white Sunday dress Mother bought her not a week ago. A small red stain at its hem threatens to wrench apart its purity. I've always been jealous of her; I'm not even a shadow when scrutinized beside her. I'd humbly stand beside her as the grown-ups remarked on her posture or how well she was learned. Her golden hair comes down in subtle ringlets to her bosom, which has already begun to develop; the boys adore her, maybe a little too much. Her lips are always the perfect shade of pink, and her nose complements her with its perfection. What really catches everyone's attention though are her deep blue eyes; profound chasms that enlighten others with a strange euphoria.

Jealousy is a fickle thing, though, for however much I envied her beauty as I stood for hours criticizing my own plain form, I would never wish to be her, always striving to perfect her already-perfect world, always maintaining a perfect visage. For who would allow her even the slightest slip of the tongue? Mother drills lessons into her every day from dawn 'til dusk. Father eyes her in a not-so-fatherly manner. No, my sister could keep her perfect world; I would continue to be the dreamer.

She hands me a pile of berries – Solanum dulcamara, or bittersweet nightshade, as it is commonly known. They are small, bright red. How could a berry so beautiful be so powerful?

“One,” she whispers. I take a deep breath.

“Two,” I reply, my heart pounding rapidly.

“Three,” we say together. I swallow the berries and feel them tumble down my throat and into my stomach. Qu'a fait est fait. What's done is done.

Time passes as we take turns on the rickety swing. The wood creaks and the rope sways. My head throbs more and more. As my sister swings I see her white dress glow. A bright ethereal light blurs my eyes. Her skin becomes translucent.

My turn on the swing. She gently pushes my spine. My stomach lurches as the swing goes back and forth. I feel like all the food I'd ever eaten in my life is ready to come back up, that it wants to escape its dungeon and be set free. The symptoms are just as the book had said.

“Rowan?” my sister breathes. She too has come to realize her fate. Her breathing is labored, “Can we play Ring Around the Rosie? Like when we were little?”

Just like her, always wanting to make light of the moment, but I smile. Of course I'll play. There is nothing I'd like more. We interlock fingers, our hands closing around each other. We spin slowly, around and around, picking up speed. Then we sing, our voices becoming one, without distinction:

Ring around the rosie – It's getting hotter the more we spin – Pockets full of posies – My heart has begun to slow, almost to a stop – Ashes – My eyes sting as they fill with tears – Ashes – My head spins – We all fall down – I close my eyes.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 12 comments. Post your own now!

vivz02 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 3, 2016 at 4:59 pm
This is a really nice story; it's a light sort of sad, the imagery is really nice and the pictures goes well with it too. Good job!
jettabug This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm
The first paragraph was enough for me to know the beauty of your work. Great job!
PrettyPinkButterflyKid said...
May 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm

When my family moved from California to Oregon, where we live now, one of my older brothers ate nightshade. I think he was about six. He only had a bit and he was sick, he was fine though. That was a long time before I was born.


I love the writing style, and the story. It's very...pretty. Even though they are comitting suicide it is beautiful.

BookwizardThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
May 13, 2012 at 7:59 am
OH MY GOSH! That story was great. I loved how you ended it. I knew they were going to commit suicide as soon as I read nightshade. I was so into the story and like I already said, you ended it awesomely. :)
tweetiebruce said...
Jan. 24, 2012 at 3:13 am
The whole time, i just wanted to keep on reading, when it ended i wished there was more! Its brilliant and very well written.
DiamondsIntheGrass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm
WOW i googled solanum dulcamara, and i do not like it.  i hope they were not using it to commit suicide but to get its healing properties. !!!??...
SpringRayyn replied...
Oct. 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm
were they though? just curious. If so, the ending really fits and is really awesome story!
.:Echo:. said...
Apr. 26, 2010 at 7:24 pm
I love this, absolutly love it. I can see the two girls, swirling and spinning. It's an amazing story, keep writing! <3
scarlettforever724 said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm
this is truly amazing :))) i loved it so much. i liked how you used the song in the story too
lily1411 said...
Jan. 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm
I loved this; at first I thought it would be one of those super long and nagging sister-is-jealous-of-the-older-sister stories, but it wasn't that. I'm glad you're a writer:)
Joyce said...
Oct. 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm
I love this story. I enjoy the simplicity and a sort of mysterious tone and feeling to it. I was surprised at the end, why did Rowan wanted to die? Maybe was it to be with her sister, because she loves her so much?
I love how Ring Around the Rosie matches the action and how it has the same meaning as what is happening at the end.
Rebecca24 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 12:20 pm
Whoa, I like the way the story ends up! It makes me want to know what caused them to do this to themselves - the sister I understand, but Rowan? Maybe there's something we don't know about her. Very mysterious - love it! Especially the last paragraph, the song intertwining with the prose. Great writing.
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