Rosomon, all of six years old, started her day as she had for nearly three years, sitting in the solar, focusing intently on the paper before her.
A A A a a a B B B…
At least, she tried to focus. The window kept drawing her attention. It was a beautiful, sunny day. She wanted to go outside and run around – maybe find someone to play with.
Sighing, she turned back to the letters and numbers before her. No fun was to be had here. Still, she wrote and wrote, methodically dipping her quill in the ink before returning it to the parchment.
“Morning!” A hand that was suddenly on her shoulder startled her, and the quill scratched across the paper leaving a large line. She knew she would have to start over, as her father would never accept such a thing.
She straightened address the older boy before her, “Good morning, Gunter. You startled me.” She looked pointedly at the mark on her paper.
“No matter – you can write just fine, so do it again.”
“Indeed, I certainly shall.” She pulled a blank sheet before her and picked up the quill.
A A A a a a B B B…
“You will never believe what I did today,” he said prodingly.
H H H h h h…
“Oh?” she replied without looking up.
M M M m m m…
“Yes…” Gunter went on to tell his story.
“Rosomon!” He grabbed her wrist to jerk her to face him, causing a mark to mar this paper as well. “Were you listening to a word I said?”
“You bested Marcus Olson at swordplay. Then the two of you went to the lake and found a boy catching frogs… and you threw stones at him,” she finished disapprovingly.
He pulled back to look at her a moment. “That’s right. ‘Bested’ is stating it lightly, though. I doubt he will even have the courage to challenge me again.”
Silence grew for a moment. “Ah! I nearly forgot! I have a gift for you,” he said proudly.
Her head canted to the side. “Truly?”
“I do.” Gunter took a step back to stand tall before her. He reached behind him, then bowed with a dramatic flourish. “My Lady,” he said holding a large rose in full bloom before her.
Her eyes lit up. “It is beautiful!”
“Of course – it is the first of the season.” He straightened and said kindly, “And it is for you.”
She smiled at him as he held it up to her. It was fragrant, and the petals looked soft to the touch. Gunter looked at her expectantly, so she reached her small hand to take the rose.
“Ouch!” She exclaimed as her hand closed around the stem.
A laugh cut through the air.
When she made to let go of the flower, his hands came up to caress hers. The move looked kind, but it exerted pressure to keep her hand closed around the stem and thorns. “Now, Rosomon, you do not want to drop your present.”
Her chin trembled and she felt tears behind her eyes, but Rosomon refused to cry. “Let go,” she said.
Gunter looked at her curiously, “Why would I do that?” The pressure increased slightly.
Knowing it would cut her hand more, Rosomon tore herself free of his grip. With one last glare she moved to leave the room.
“What? You don’t like it? Is it not enough? I can get you more!” He laughed behind her. “Come back.” When she did not follow his bidding, he stormed after her. “Rosomon. Come back. Agh! It was a joke!”
Finally reaching the door, she rounded on him, “There is nothing funny about using thorns or stones to hurt people!”
He froze, aghast, but before he could speak she was out the door. “You are no fun,” echoed after her.
Rosomon’s steps grew more hurried. She did not bother going to her parents – she would find no comfort there. So, instead of the rooms, she headed to the door leading to the garden. It was there she found her solace.
Bent over pulling carrots from the soft soil was Clodagh. The old Dunnick woman was always there for her.
Clodagh turned when she heard footsteps racing toward her; she barely had time to catch the child that flew into her arms.
“Miss Clodagh,” came a tearful voice, slightly muffled from her skirts.
“What ‘tis it then, little lady?” Clodagh stroked the girl’s soft curls.
She held up her hand, realizing that the rose was still clutched in it and little streams of blood trickled down her wrist.
“Ach! Whatever happened?” she asked, pulling Rosomon to a bucket of clean water nearby. She took the flower and set it aside, then began cleaning the cuts that looked too big on the girl’s little hand.
“Gunter played a trick,” she sniffed. Clodagh could see the girl was near tears but trying to keep them at bay.
“Hold fast, Rosomon,” she said encouragingly. “Life is uncertain. One day you get a rose, the next you feel the thorns – but the end result is red.”