Amy and the Rose
Once upon a time, a woman and her young daughter lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods. Rumour had it that the woman was a witch, for in the garden surrounding the cottage, anything would grow. Whether it be seed, bulb or sapling, it would thrive. The stream bordering the cottage and its garden was also renowned for its healing powers.
Although the people living in the villages bordering the forest publicly shunned the witch, in the dead of night many would visit her to buy potions. Potions to make them attractive, potions to make them rich. But of course in the light of day this was denied.
The woman’s daughter was called Amy, and, as the villagers always came late at night when Amy was in bed and asleep, she never knew anybody but her mother.
Amy had a rose tree planted in her honour, her mother had planted it not long after she’d been born. Amy grew and bloomed through the years along with the tree. She had skin as white as the rose petals, hair as richly brown as the branches, and eyes as green as the leaves. Every morning her mother would send her to the garden to pick a rose from this tree. So, Amy would run out to the garden, stretch our her arm to retrieve a rose, and take it back to her mother, who would take it off her, and on finding the petals of the rose a pure white, she would sigh with relief.
“My daughter is as pure and as sweet as the morning.”
Life went on in this way, Amy grew up and more beautiful, and her mother grew old. One day whilst they were gathering herbs and flowers in the woods, Amy’s mother collapsed. Amy rushed to help her up and managed to get her into the shade of some trees to rest. Her mother ordered her to go and fetch some water from the stream around the cottage and its gardens. Its healing powers would help her to recover. So off Amy went for the water, came back and managed to pour enough into her mother’s mouth to revive her a little and help her home.
The next time Amy set off into the woods, she was alone. Her mother had agreed she was getting too weak to go. Amy sang, hummed and skipped as she selected certain herbs and flowers, and her voice was heard by a boy who was passing by the area. He lived in a big house on the edge of the forest, his father a rich landowner.
He crept closer to Amy, listening to her song, and soon enough he could see her through a gap in the trees, and he was dumbfounded. He could not believe how beautiful she was. Her rich mahogany coloured hair, fair skin and piercing green eyes were etched onto his mind as he made his way to the witch’s cottage, as he knew who Amy was immediately. Common sense of course told him, as the place he’d found her was close to the cottage, and rumours of her beauty had spread through the village.
So the boy went to the witch’s cottage and knocked on the door. After a minute or so there was no reply so he knocked again. He heard noises inside, and eventually the witch came to the door, opened it and asked who he was.
“My name is Mark, and I’ve come to ask if you would introduce me to your daughter. I have seen her in the woods and she is beautiful.”
“Young man, you may as well get her out of your head immediately. My daughter is to have nothing to do with men, or boys such as yourself. She has lived her entire life without a man and she doesn’t need one now. You leave her alone, or else.”
So Mark went away, downcast. As he walked back through the forest he heard Amy singing. He peered through the trees at Amy once more, and this time, decided he was going to speak to her. So he began to push through the foliage to get closer to her.
Amy heard the rustling and immediately looked towards where the sound was coming from. She gasped when she saw Mark, and began to back away.
“Hey,” said Mark, “I mean you no harm, I heard you singing and I just wanted to listen more closely. You have a beautiful voice.”
Amy blushed and put her head down. Mark made his way toward her, and said gently “You are beautiful.” Amy looked at him, and he bent his head down and kissed her.
The next morning Amy went out to the garden to retrieve a rose from her tree as usual. She ran back into the house and gave it to her mother. As soon as her mother looked at the rose, she flew into a rage. For the rose Amy had given her had each petal lined with pink. Amy’s mother immediately knew that Amy was no longer pure.
“Where have you seen him?” her mother yelled.
“Don’t play the innocent with me young lady, this rose tells me as plain as day that you have seen a young man, and I know who.”
Amy broke down and confessed all. Her mother immediately began making arrangements for their departure. “But where are we going?” asked Amy.
“Away from here. I’m not having you further polluted. I’m saving you from yourself girl!”
So Amy and her mother gathered all their belongings together. Once they reached the village, the people began to spit at them and shout. Amy’s mother had expected this kind of reception and asked Amy to try and sell some of the potions they’d brought with them.
“Maybe they will treat you better than they treat me.” But no, as far as the villagers were concerned, Amy was the daughter of a witch, and therefore, was one herself.
Amy went back to her mother and explained what had happened. So they continued their journey, further from home and hoping for anonymity. Amy’s mother began to slow down her pace, and began breathing heavily and wheezing.
“Are you ok mother?” asked Amy worriedly.
“I’m fine, my child. I just need to rest.” So they sat under the shade of a tree by the road until her mother got her breath back. As they sat, Amy’s mother said to her;
“My child, promise me that whatever happens, you will never go back to our cottage or garden.”
“Nothing’s going to happen mother.”
“Amy, promise me.”
“I promise.” And with that, Amy’s mother closed her eyes in the shade of the tree and heaved out her last breath.
Hours later, Mark found Amy on the roadside, hunched over the body of her dead mother. She’d sobbed until her eyes and face were red. He put a gentle arm around her and said
“I’m sorry, my love. But if you agree to marry me, you will not be alone. I will look after you.” Amy looked into his eyes, and believing his words to be true, agreed.
It was beginning to get dark, so Mark suggested he and Amy get lodgings for the night, then make their way to his parents house in the morning. Amy told him of the reception she and her mother got in the village, so Mark loaded Amy’s belongings and the body of her mother onto his horse, and they began to walk the long journey back to his father’s house.
Some time later Amy and Mark reached the border of the forest. As they got to the place from which Amy had departed only earlier that day, she knew something was wrong. They drew closer, and Amy suddenly realised the reason her mother had made her promise never to return. The whole garden was dead, the trees and bushes had shrivelled and lost their leaves, it was a far cry from the beautiful sight it had been only that morning. Amy began to cry as she realised that her mother, and her magic, were gone forever.
Just as Amy and Mark made to set off again, Amy realised that the garden was not completely dead, as her rose tree was still alive, there, on the edge of the garden by the stream. And on each bloom, the petals, once white, had turned a rich pink.
As soon as Amy and Mark reached his parents house, Mark said
“Look, they are expecting us. They have lights on in the porch!” They made their way up to the front door, and just as they got there, it flew open. Mark’s father stood in the doorway, a huge formidable looking man.
“Where the hell have you been? I’ve had my people out looking for you, I thought something had happened to you! And what’s this?” He studied Amy for a moment, then yelled, “You disappear for hours on end, and you bring back…. This! Spawn of Satan!” Mark jumped immediately to Amy’s defence.
“She is no witch. I found her weeping over the body of her mother. We wish to marry.”
“If the Priest can confirm she is pure, then so be it.”
The priest arrived shortly and he and Amy went into a room alone, where he performed various rituals on her. After some time he came out of the room and shook his head at Mark’s father.
“That girl is as pure and good as the morning. There is no witchery in her. I see no reason why they can’t marry immediately.”
Mark immediately started rattling off orders to his father’s servants, but Amy said,
“Wait. Before we do anything, I would like my mother laid to rest in the proper fashion.” Mark ordered a servant to go and fetch the body, which had been left with the horse. The servant, petrified of devilry and black magic, backed off. Mark blew out an impatient breath and went to fetch the body himself. He retrieved the bundle from the horse and opened it. Inside he found nothing but a withered rose. He dropped the bundle, horrified, and went to tell Amy and his father what had happened. Mark’s father was livid, and screamed
“Witch! Your magic fooled even the priest! Kill her, kill her!”
Mark grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her out of the house, and to the waiting horse, which they mounted and were away. They fled deep into the forest, hoping in its depths they would be able to hide. Mark’s father had by this time mounted his own horse, called out his dogs and was in hot pursuit.
“Amy, this horse is already tired, he won’t go much further.”
So they left the horse and continued on foot. They made their way deeper into the woods, and unbeknownst to them, closer to the witches cottage. The dogs would not enter the area near the cottage, and so, missed Amy and Mark completely.
After some time, they realised they must have lost the dogs, so Amy and Mark looked for somewhere to rest for the night. Amy’s sharp ears heard the babble of a stream, so they made their way towards it, and lay down under some trees near it. They began to talk, of the future, of their plans. Mark took Amy in his arms, and they made love. Amy’s virgin blood spilt to the forest floor in pain and ecstasy.
The following morning, Amy woke to the sound of the forest, birds singing, and the bubbling of the stream they’d heard the night before. In the light of day, Amy realised the stream was none other than the one bordering her mother’s garden. She climbed over Mark to get a closer look, and as she did, she could see the garden, which the night before had looked so desolate, now looked beautiful. For it had come back to life, as plentiful as ever. Delighted, she shook Mark awake to show him. But he did not stir. She shook him again, harder this time, and called his name. Nothing. She pulled his shoulder roughly and he rolled over onto his back. That was when Amy saw the thorn through his heart, and the trail of blood leading to the roots of a nearby tree. A rose tree.
The petals, a rich pink, began to change colour before Amy’s eyes. They turned a deep blood red. Amy began to cry with grief and anger, and ran to the cottage and got an axe, with which she chopped down her rose tree and burned it. She then buried Mark’s body in the place they had lain together.
Not knowing what to do, Amy made her way back to the cottage once more and decided to stay there until she was found.
The visit never came. A few short weeks later, Amy realised she’d missed her monthly bleed and was in fact with child. Amy cried with grief and happiness all at once. Grief for Mark and the fact the child would never know its father, but happiness as she would no longer be alone, she would have a part of her true love with her always.
To Amy’s astonishment, a huge thick hedge of thorns grew around the cottage and its garden at the discovery of her pregnancy. Amy smiled as she realised her mother’s magic had not completely gone. It continued to protect her and her unborn child. Nothing could penetrate those branches with their lethal thorns.
So Amy lived on the fruits of the garden, and the nourishment of the stream bordering it. A few short months later, Amy gave birth to a gorgeous little girl, and as soon as she was able, Amy took the baby girl to where her father was buried. At the exact spot where Mark’s body was buried, there grew a thriving rose tree, its roots buried deep through his heart. Its every bloom was a pure white.
Amy named her daughter Rose.