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The Rose Petal Curse
Author's note: This is my second complete story, one that I could make simple, yet interesting and still keep it short.
Sarah Dower sat on the front porch swing of her family’s two story house. The house was white on the outside with a porch in the front and a gravel driveway. In the middle of the yard stood one tall Oak tree with a tire swing hanging from one limb. Sarah watched as her younger brother chased their squealing little sister around the tree. Charlie was eight years old and just as skinny as Sarah herself. But her dad had said not to worry, he would grow muscles soon enough. Five year old Abby on the other hand was a chubby child. But their dad said not to worry about that either, that with all the energy she had she would burn off the baby fat pretty soon.
Sarah used her feet to swing herself back and forth as the swing gave out a creaking sound with every move. In her hand she held a red rose. She had gotten it attached to one of her birthday presents the day before. She was sixteen now, and she knew what the rose meant. For generations it had been a tradition on her mom’s side of the family for every girl to pick the petals off of a rose the day after their sixteenth birthday. As you plucked them from the stem you were supposed to say the name of the boy you liked and say “He loves me. He loves me not.”, saying it over and over until the last petal was gone.
Now is the perfect time to do it, thought Sarah. Mom and Dad are in town, Charlie and Abby aren’t bothering me, and it’s so peaceful this evening. Still, she hesitated. She thought about not doing it at all, but she knew all too well what would happen if she chose not to. But she was also afraid of what would happen if she did. She was afraid of the curse. Sarah was Charlie’s age when her mom first told her the story, and at first she thought her mom was making it up. But after the death of two of her cousins, Sarah realized how very real the curse was. And it was all thanks to her great great great great grandmother.
As Sarah was told, back in the early 1800’s her great great great great grandmother, Charlotte Cummingway, grew up in London where she met young Charles Hawson. She fell in love immediately but was never sure if he felt the same for her. She went to an old crystal gazer to see if she had any future with Charles, and when he looked into the crystal ball the answer was no. But he also told she could reverse this fate if she made a vow. And Charlotte, who was madly in love, eagerly agreed.
So on the day after her sixteenth birthday she took a rose and began plucking the petals, saying “He loves me. He loves me not.” The last petal ended on “He loves me.” and Charlotte took it as a sign of good fortune. Two months later Charlotte and Charles began courting, and six months after that they got married. Charlotte had four children, two of them girls. Charlotte kept her vow, and after their sixteenth birthdays, she made them do the same thing she had done. This is when the vow took effect and the curse began.
Charlotte’s first daughter ended on “He loves me.” and happily married the man she loved. Charlotte’s second daughter also ended on “He loves me.”, but found out that she really didn’t love him like she thought she had. But because of her mother’s vow, she had to marry him or she would die. Then, Charlotte’s first daughter had two daughters herself. The oldest granddaughter kept the vow, but the second one refused to do it. As a result, the second granddaughter died from an unknown cause.
The crystal gazer had warned Charlotte of these things, but she didn’t listen. She regretted it and wanted to reverse the vow. But the old crystal gazer had passed away by this time and left no apprentice to carry on his work. But his nephew did find a journal where the crystal gazer had written a way to reverse the vow. Since he had no need of it, the nephew was kind enough to tear out the page and give it to Charlotte. The only thing on the page was the vow she took and this poem:
When one seeks love from another,
And blindly makes the vow of the rose,
They are sadly cursed forever,
Until they learn what the wise man knows.
They are doomed with this lasting curse
As red petals fall from their fingers.
These are the words that can reverse
Red doomed love that forever lingers.
But Charlotte didn’t know what these words meant, and no matter how many times she repeated them, the curse never went away and she suffered to see several of her granddaughters die or marry men they didn’t love anymore. Some actually continued to love the men they loved when they were sixteen, but sadly their daughters weren’t free from the curse. And when some of them immigrated to America, they brought it with them.
And so generations passed and the curse continued. If the man didn’t love them, they were lucky. If the man did love them, they had to hope they still loved him when they got married, because if they didn’t marry him, they died. And if they refused to pluck the rose altogether, they died.
Now in the state of Virginia, the curse was lingering in the Dower household. This is why Sarah had no option of refusing to pick the petals off the rose. But she was afraid of not loving the boy she had a crush on. Her mom had been one of the lucky ones who ended on “He loves me not.” She got to marry the man she really loved and hoped Sarah and Abby would have some luck like she did.
Sarah walked to the end of the gravel driveway, contemplating her situation. She knew she had to go through with it. It was already evening and if she didn’t do it soon she would be dead by morning from an unknown cause. She didn’t want to end up like her two rebellious cousins. It was now or never.
First the name. “Jake” she whispered and began with the first petal. “He loves me.” she said. Then the second one.“He loves me not.” She continued slowly, not wanting to rush any unfortunate fate. Just before she got to the last one she said, “He loves me not.” and stopped. She knew what this meant. The next petal meant that she would have to marry Jake even if she didn’t love him several years or even several months from now. She hesitated, wondering if it was better to die than to finish the vow. Her mind was racing. She didn’t know what she wanted. Then a voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Charlie! Look at this pretty caterpillar!” exclaimed Abby.
“Where is it?” Charlie asked, coming over to see what she was pointing at.
“There,” Abby answered. “There on the yellow rose.”
Yellow rose! thought Sarah. Then the words of the poem raced through her thoughts. As red petals fall from their fingers…red, doomed love that forever lingers. Sarah dropped the rose in her hand, the last petal still on it. Red! thought Sarah. That’s it! That’s how the curse can be reversed. You say the poem and pluck a different colored rose.
Sarah was excited as she rushed over to the yellow rose bush in their front yard. She picked a rose, took a deep breath, and plucked the petals while saying out loud, “When one seeks love from another, and blindly makes the vow of the rose, they are sadly cursed forever, until they learn what the wise man knows. They are doomed with this lasting curse as red petals fall from their fingers. These are the words that can reverse red doomed love that forever lingers.” She waited a moment. She didn’t feel any different. There was only one way to find out if the curse worked. She would have to wait until morning.
Sarah was reading a book on the front porch swing when her parents came home a half hour later. Charlie and Abby went to greet them as they stepped out of the car. Abby grabbed her mom by the hand. “Come see the caterpillar, mommy!” She led her mom over to the bush and pointed it out.
“Oooh. That’s a pretty one isn’t it?” said her mom. Then she looked up at Sarah and began walking toward her. “Hey have you done the dishes yet?” she asked. She stopped when she saw the rose petals on the gravel driveway. “Sarah!” she shouted as she picked up the rose stem with only one red petal left.
“Yes, Mom?” Sarah said, trying to sound casual.
“Sarah, how could you miss this? You could have been dead tomorrow! What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all? Come here and finish this.”
Sarah’s dad was right next to her on the porch. “No?” he said. “What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I reversed the curse.” Sarah said. Her parents looked at each other and then back at her.
“What are you talking about?” asked her mom. Sarah explained what she thought the poem meant and what she did to make the curse stop.
Her mom came and put her arm around Sarah’s shoulders. “It sounds reasonable, sweetie, but think about this. What if you’re wrong? What if it doesn’t work?”
“That’s a risk I’ll have to take.” Sarah replied, surprised at how calm she was about the whole thing. “Besides, if I am right, we’ll never know unless I try. And that might break the curse forever.”
Her parents looked at each other again. Her dad sighed. “She’s right. We’ll never know if Abby can be free from the curse unless Sarah tries this.” Sarah’s mom just nodded and went inside, tears welled up in her eyes.
Before bed that night, Sarah gave Charlie and Abby a big hug. They didn’t know what their sister was risking and she didn’t want them to know. Her parents each gave her a big hug with tears in their eyes. This could be the last time they saw their daughter alive. Sarah lay awake for a few hours, wondering if she had done the right thing. Finally she was weary enough to fall asleep.
When morning came the sun shone through the window in the upstairs bedroom that belonged to Sarah. The golden beams put a spotlight on her face. She lay on her back with her head tilted to her right, her right hand near her face, and a slight smile on her face. She didn’t move. When her parents came in to see her she looked to them like she had a peaceful dream and was still walking around on it.
Her mom sat on the edge of her bed and nudged her body. She didn’t make a single move. She nudged her body again, but still no movement. Then she leaned her head on her daughter’s body and burst into tears. Behind her stood Sarah’s dad, trying to keep his own tears back. “Sarah.” He whispered.
Suddenly Sarah’s mom felt a movement underneath her. She sat upright. Sarah’s left hand began to stir, and then her eyes began to flutter open. Sarah stretched arms and yawned before seeing the astonished looks on her parents faces. “Sarah!” her mom cried, throwing her arms around her.
“Whoa!” laughed Sarah as her dad wrapped his arms around the both of them. “I’m alive! I’m alive!” she shouted and they all laughed together.
And so Sarah had broken the curse, not only for herself but for every descendant of Charlotte Cummingway. And she knew this because a week later her cousin also refused to take the rose vow and woke up the next morning.
In the weeks that passed, Jake began to take an interest in Sarah. They started dating and continued their relationship through college. She thought she might lose her crush on him, but she never did. Soon it turned into love. They were married a year after she graduated college and over the next several years they ended up having ten children. All of them were girls. And every time one of her daughters turned sixteen Sarah was glad she had taken that risk all those years ago. The rose petal curse was forever broken.