I’ve been on a bit of a short story kick lately. I’ve written a small horde of them and submitted a couple (fingers crossed). So, I thought I’d take today to introduce you to—if you don’t already know it—a short story that helped spark my desire to be a writer.
“Roses by Moonlight” from “Book of Enchantments” by Patricia C. Wrede
I read “Book of Enchantments” years ago. I loved most of the stories in it, but what really caught my interest was the section at the end from Wrede detailing how she’d written each story. I reread that section over and over again. The method of writing a story fascinated me in a way I couldn’t explain. I know now that it’s the putting together of elements to make something bigger—kind of like cooking—except I like to write. I don’t much like to cook, but I do make a mean meatloaf.
Anyway, back on target. “Roses by Moonlight” captured me from my first read. As a matter of fact, I used it for a class project in a creative writing course during my undergrad to discuss themes. It tells the story of a girl, Adrian, who is jealous of her younger sister, Sam. From Adrian’s perspective, Sam has everything—friends, looks, and success.
While ignoring a party that Sam is having, Adrian meets a strange woman who brings her to a garden of roses. Adrian is enthralled by the beauty of the roses, and goes to pick one. The woman stops her with the warning to choose one and be careful about which she chooses. Adrian quickly learns that each rose contains a potential future. She travels the garden, sniffing roses, and being treated to every possible future she could have from riches to dying of cancer. None of the roses, though, offer what she is looking for.
Finally, she sees a rose that seems to be struggling. Unlike all of the other roses in the garden, this one is disheveled and barely in bloom. When Adrian sniffs it, she is treated to a scene between her and Sam talking and apologizing to one another for how they treated each other over the years. The woman appears at Adrian’s side and asks if that is the rose Adrian wants. Adrian thanks the woman but declines her offer to choose a rose. She leaves the garden understanding what the future can bring and resolving to make it her own.
I love this story. Aside from it being well-written, it’s the kind of story that really makes the reader think. If you had the opportunity to choose your future, would you? Knowing that you could only have one and never go back—never choose another path? I don’t think I would.
I also love the symbolism. Facing Sam and trying to mend her relationship with her sister was difficult for Adrian to even consider. Thus, the rose that showed her doing that struggled to grow. They say that the late flower is the most beautiful, and I think that is a big theme in Wrede’s story. While the wealth, fame, popularity, and other amazing futures that the roses showed looked like great options, they were shallow. They were lives that, given enough work and time, could be achieved by anyone. It’s the things that take the most work, that take the inner struggle to grow that help us the most.
So, there it is—“Roses by Moonlight” by Patricia C. Wrede. If you get a chance, pick up “Book of Enchantments” and read this and the other stories in its pages. I recommend all of them.