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the texture of flower petals

by manilla


Contrary to traditional feminine ideals, there were no flowers in the cottage. No hyacinths, cherry blossoms, or daffodils. There were multiple scales in the two bathrooms, and a collection of dresses ranging from size zero to two. Shiny arithmetic books sat on the bookshelves along with empty picture frames on the walls. The woman’s estate had been reconstructed into a pristine sanctuary. It would be a space for successful, beautiful girls who could grow up appreciating order and everything right.

However, Minka’s own body is worn down after years of both misuse and disuse. In the mirror was a crooked face, with an off-kilter nose and a bulging chin. Impurities. All of them and more, impurities that she spent ages trying to cover up and hide away.

Despite it all, Minka smiled at her reflection. Why must she care about herself? This was the face of a protector, a liege of Queen Melisende trusted with the most important task in the queendom.

Leaving the bathroom without washing up as usual, Minka wanted to spend every second of her life caring for baby Princess Aeon. With soft, dusty brown curls and eyes like a soft ocean, Aeon was an angel.

Minka cooked a porridge with peach blended into it. The fragrant smell wafted into the kitchen, but the baby was content and quiet. Wonderful royalty, Minka mused. Born and raised to have a crown sit atop one’s head required the most fine-tuned of motions, the cleanest of behaviors, and a heart of steel. Minka would raise that baby to fit each and every one of the Queen’s standards.

At times, Minka wondered about her own, lower-status blood relatives. If she’d embodied their ideals of slender bodies, stellar grades, and womanly manners, would she have turned out one step closer to royalty?

Gently, Minka coaxed the baby to eat. All that mattered in the world was here, in front of her. Aeon’s future would be a light that rivaled the sun’s.

The spoon stopped at the baby’s lips, which remained shut. The baby stayed quiet. Minka smiled - she was plenty used to routine. Aeon didn’t get hungry, after all.

As she ate herself, waiting for Aeon to respond, she thought of long ago. Before Queen Melisende or Princess Aeon, there had been a series of letters. They came “Lenna”, someone Minka wanted to forget in her years alone. Lenna spoke for their family - what family, Minka thought. Minka remembered their years’ worth of harsh words, tearing into her heart like starved animals. Her young self was left with a stinking corpse of a soul, but better that than perfume.

All Minka smelled when she grew up were the noxious fragrances her mother wore, pretty smells from a pretty woman with ugly memories attached. She never tried to think beyond the initial flash her memory produced. Maybe she saw bloody ballet slippers, or felt phantasms of scalding coffee against her skin.

Towards the end, Lenna had written of a baby, just like Aeon. The main difference was that she had been dead for twenty seven years. Minka was overcome by an onslaught of memories, twisted symphonies of girls screaming and crying, words and tears and shrieks melding into one.

Oh, how Aeon, her Royal Highness, never cried.

It wasn’t your fault, Lenna had begged, lacing her words with lies. It was like saying that Minka was missed and appreciated and cherished. Dear Minka, the baby’s passing had been an accident. Had it? Or had it been a delusional act stemming from the anger at one of her father’s mad outbursts, or her mother’s magical act of shifting reality into a world of make-believe? Minka did not pretend-play. She was old enough, unlike Lenna, and knew what she saw...right?

Her parents said that she would never be good enough for their standards.

What disgusting, despicable words.

After all the ways they’d ruined her life, they asked Minka to come home.

What undesirable, flawed words.

But she’d made her home, away from all of them, because who in their right mind would want to stay with people that hurt them? Minka could run away from the damage, and raise a baby with all the love she never got.

The final punch was that the fire she burned the letters in smelled like lily of the valley.

Now, for the happy thoughts. Whenever a dark evil threatened to peel apart her shiny wrapping paper, Minka urged them away. She never thought of herself there, but the baby. These thoughts fueled Minka’s steps as she walked with the small stroller - one a child might push. Now this was her reason to grandly live her small existence.

Above anything, Minka wished she could've been born as Aeon. The baby was faultless. That was how Princess Aeon would win her love, the security and blessing of Fate and God themselves. After all, Aeon didn’t talk or doesn’t move. Her body was of ideal proportion, and her smile was permanent. There were no flaws on her skin, and without the ability to formulate a personality, not a single soul could stir those chances away. And most miraculously, Princess Aeon was under Minka’s possession, something to own and worship like a frenzied preacher caught up in the whims of an ideal they so desperately wanted to be real.

Aeon’s face was so soft, like the texture of flower petals.


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75 Reviews


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Tue Sep 14, 2021 1:03 pm
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waywardxwallflower wrote a review...



Hello! Wallflower here for a quick review (:

"Contrary to traditional feminine ideals, there were no flowers in the cottage. No hyacinths, cherry blossoms, or daffodils. There were multiple scales in the two bathrooms, and a collection of dresses ranging from size zero to two." This is an absolutely incredible start to the story. Your use of contrast between a beautiful home and this one truly helps to set the harsh scene, and your unique writing style is already very evident.

"Minka’s own body is worn down after years of both misuse and disuse." This line should say "was", as the story is in past tense. Otherwise, incredible line.

"Lenna spoke for their family - what family, Minka thought. Minka remembered their years’ worth of harsh words, tearing into her heart like starved animals. Her young self was left with a stinking corpse of a soul, but better that than perfume." Here, you should likely italicize Minka's thoughts and add a question mark after the initial one. Otherwise, this line is absolutely stunning - it creates a vivid image of a childhood torn apart and fully and truly exhibits the broken soul Minka is. This is fantastic.

"Towards the end, Lenna had written of a baby, just like Aeon. The main difference was that she had been dead for twenty seven years." I got chills at this line - had to stop reading for a bit just to process. Your pacing is wonderful and vivid.

"It wasn’t your fault, Lenna had begged, lacing her words with lies. It was like saying that Minka was missed and appreciated and cherished. Dear Minka, the baby’s passing had been an accident." The words in Lenna's letter should be italicized to provide clarity and separate Minka's internal monologue and Lenna's letter.

Remember to take the advice you like and leave the rest!

Overall, this story was incredibly powerful and vivid. Your pacing is wonderful, and your wiritng style is distinguished and poetic- lovely. Fantastic job!




manilla says...


Wow! Thank you for such high remarks, and I'm so, so glad you enjoyed it!



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Tue Sep 07, 2021 3:21 am
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Stellarjay wrote a review...



Hello manilla,
The title intrigued me, so here we go!

Roses

In terms of content you did really well. The concept of the story was thought provoking. It made me rethink my view of body image and how I almost idolize certain body standards. For Minka these body standards and image come from her family. Her own comfort in life is the young Princess Aeon whom she believes is more beautiful than the sun itself. I feel like this kind of behaviour isn’t healthy for Minka, especially when she hasn’t come to terms with her own body dysmorphia. I’m glad that you brought light to these issues.

Buds

There were a few issues that I found within the story. There were a few common ones, such as spelling and grammar that are an easy fix. And some bigger ones that could use a little more attention like plot and fluidity. I’ll dive into grammar and spelling first to get those out of the way.

Grammar
Minka cooked a porridge with peach blended into it.

‘A porridge’ is grammatically incorrect. So instead, replace the ‘a’ with some. It also makes the sentence sound smoother.

The fragrant smell wafted into the kitchen,

Wouldn’t it be coming from the kitchen? Maybe say wafted around the kitchen instead.

As she ate herself

It sounds like Minka is eating herself….. I know what you are trying to convey here, but I would just use a different word(s).

After all, Aeon didn’t talk or doesn’t move.

I don’t actually know what you are trying to say here. But it sounds clunky and awkward. Re-wording it will help a lot though!

I would strongly suggest having a friend proofread your work! A second pair of eyes is always extremely helpful, especially for the nitty-gritties like this. Also note that I didn’t mention every single grammar mistake because that would be incredibly boring on your part.

Plot and Fluidity

While reading through the story I felt disconnected from it. This may stem from a few different issues.
  1. The distinction between Minka reminiscing about past events and the actual story are blurred. It’s hard to tell what is actually happening in the story and what Minka is thinking about. This issue made me do a double take a few times. Paragraph breaks, dialogue and the like can help with this issue.
  2. The sentences didn’t flow together very well. Each one was about a new thing, they didn’t really connect together to create a fluid story. Like here at the end of the story:
    Aeon’s face was so soft, like the texture of flower petals.

    Don’t be afraid to take your time, slow down to let the reader get used to the characters and surroundings. It can really help capture the reader's attention too!
  3. I feel as if Minka’s reminiscing mixed with the present plot distracted from the theme of the story. If you distilled down the plot into just Minka’s past you could bring across a really strong message. But this is just preference and there are many ways of going about this!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Overall I really enjoyed the theme of the story! I think it’s something that everyone needs to realize in terms of body image and what the media is telling us about it. I think you did really well on that front. I hope that this review was helpful, if you have any questions feel free to ask. Keep on writing and have a great rest of your day <3

- Stellarjay




manilla says...


Thank you for the review! (yeah i need a beta hehe) Judging by the rest of the comments here, something hidden about Aeon and Minka's true nature weren't made apparent enough to the reader (the whole Minka's reality vs actual reality being blurred was intentional). I'll take all of these into consideration as I write!



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Mon Sep 06, 2021 4:15 pm
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vampricone6783 says...



What an interesting story! I love the lesson it teaches us,the readers.You can leave behind your broken past and work to make a better future for yourself and the people that matter to you.I'm curious to see what happens next and who Princess Aeon will grow up to be.Good job on the story!




manilla says...


Thanks for the comment!



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Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:41 am
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BetsyJ wrote a review...



Dear manilla,

Your language is admirable and very evocative. My curiosity was piqued by this piece, and I find myself wanting to know how the rest of the story goes. I especially love the phrases and comparisons you have used. In keeping with the title, your language uses undertones reminiscent of flowers. e.g, "Noxious fragrances", "pretty smells", "lily of the valley"...
These sensory details really help the reader have a better reading experience, and imagine the story vividly.

In the sixth paragraph, I found the first sentence odd. Perhaps I'm mistaken, I'm not sure if you meant "...her own lower-status blood relatives.", or, if you meant Minka thought of her own baby, born of lower-status. Otherwise, I did not spot any errors or ambiguity in your work.

Overall, I really liked your piece. I found it well-planned and well-written.




manilla says...


Thank you for the review! I meant Minka's birth family (not Aeon), but I thought of how she didn't want to call them her family so addressed them by that instead. Hope that helps!




cron
Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.
— Euripides