If they were witches like the rumors said, they’d know. Even if they weren’t, they would wonder why Miel’s rose held their colors in its petals, and they would look at her, and then at Sam.
Miel paused, finding a break in the familiar silhouettes along the river.
Two shapes stood against the dark, close enough to Miel that she hid in a tree’s shadow so they wouldn’t see her. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, letting her see one feature at a time. A girl. A boy. Neither standing in enough light for her to recognize them.
But she could make out their posture, the girl’s inclining forward. Eager and flirtatious, her hands flitting in the space between them like birds. From where Miel stood, a tree branch obscured the girl’s face, but the moon lit her hair enough to show the color. A veil of rich red that could only belong to a Bonner girl.
The boy’s stance did not match the girl’s. He did not lean forward. He did not try to touch her. There was no sense that he was making an attempt at persuading her. To let him kiss her, or to get her sisters to sneak out and see him and his friends, or anything at all.
He seemed bored, humoring her rather than being entranced by her. The way he held his shoulders, facing a little out, made him look like he would leave as soon as he could figure out a way that wasn’t rude.
Miel knew this same scene. She’d seen it, when girls had tried flirting with Sam, who seemed as oblivious as he was indifferent. She’d been half of it, with other boys, to get back at Sam for—she flushed realizing this later—nothing more than being interesting to another girl.
But she’d never seen it with one of the Bonner girls. The Bonner girls had stolen boyfriends, enchanted reverends’ sons, lured away boys who, before, never did anything without their mothers telling them to.
If a Bonner girl couldn’t interest a boy she wanted, if she couldn’t have anything she wanted, how could she keep her own last name?
Miel moved a little farther down the river, putting tree cover between her and those two shapes. She knelt alongside the river and stared down into the dark water, trying to make out a shape, any sign that something was down there. Fish. The glimmer of pondweed leaves. Or the river mermaids Sam told her stories about, so Miel would one day be unafraid to go in the river.
She wasn’t ready. She was never ready; even when she was anxious to have the weight of the rose gone, she cringed before slicing the blades across the stem.
Rumors about her roses laced this town’s gossip. Some said her roses could turn the hearts of those who had no desire. Others insisted their perfume, the soft brush of their petals, was enough to enchant the reticent, the frightened, the guarded.
One said Miel had given a pale pink rose, barely blushing, to one of Aracely’s friends. A boy had done something so bad to her that she could not think of parting her lips to be kissed even years later, when another boy with hands as gentle as tulip tree leaves wanted to love her. Another said that last year, she’d given a rose to a farmhand who had fallen in love with an apple grower’s daughter, but who could not see past how her eyes were the same green as his family’s, a family that never let him forget his were brown.
But Aracely had cured them both, not Miel and her roses. Aracely had convinced that girl to love the boy with hands like tulip tree leaves. And the farmhand, he had come to Aracely, and so had the apple grower’s daughter, wanting her heart rid of her love for a boy too shy to love her back. They had both wanted lovesickness cures, and Aracely had told them both to come at the same time. When they saw each other in Aracely’s indigo room, when they both realized they were heartbroken enough to want the love torn from their rib cages, they touched each other with their hands and their mouths, and they forgot they wanted to be cured.
Aracely was all the magic and skill. Miel was just a body so restless petals burst from her skin. Aracely was all the beauty and goodness in their violet house. Miel was a girl stained with rusted water and the blood on her hands of two people whose names she could not speak.
The silver-plated scissors, both the strangest and the most useful gift Aracely had ever given her, whined when she opened them. She poised the scissors low, close to her skin, and snapped the blades shut. Pain shivered along her veins. It found her heart and her stomach and everything in her that was alive.
Blood seeped from the opening. Pain made Miel’s fingers heavy. It weighted her to the ground. It hurt like a knife blade, pressing into her wrist so hard she felt it flash to her ribs.