“Tattered Flower” Full Text

cover for "Tattered Flower" a flash fiction by Annaliese Lemmon. It features a woman kneeling beside an empty cradle on a hillside.

Kamila breathed deeply the spicy scents of the autumn festival. Although, she would have been glad of the smells if it was manure and unwashed bodies. It meant she was away from the intoxicating smell of the conception flower still growing under her bed after almost three years.

She’d followed the witch’s instructions perfectly. After seven years of infertility, she wasn’t going to ruin her one chance for a child. Plant the seed in the dirt floor under her bed. Water it until it grew into two flowers. Take one and brew it into a tea. That night, she’d conceived her daughter Marisko. Leave the other flower alone. So far, she’d been able to, but that sweet smell was making her crave that tea.

Kamila adjusted Marisko on her hip as she pushed through the crowds. The witch would tell her what to do so she could ignore the flower and not hurt her daughter unintentionally. She’d been waiting for months for the witch to come to the festival. She just hoped the advice didn’t cost more than they’d earned from the sheep sales her husband had arranged.

The witch’s stand sat at the end of the road, the counter covered in bundles of herbs and bottles of potions. The little gray-haired woman bustled about the stall, always smiling as she handed out remedies. “And what ails you, my dear?” she asked as Kamila approached.

“I need some advice, about the conception seed you sold me three years ago.”

“It looks like it worked well to me.” She waved at Marisko, who buried her face in Kamila’s shoulder.

“Yes, but what do I do about the second flower? I’ve found myself almost picking it so many times. I’m ready to go sleep in the barn just to get away from it.”

The witch’s eyebrows raised. “You still have the second flower? It hasn’t wilted?”

“No. The petals are still soft and yellow, with big brown spots.”

“Huh. That flower must have a strong spirit. Anyway, now that your child is born, its job is done. Go ahead and pull up the entire plant.”

“Oh.” Kamila hugged Marisko. That was a relief that her daughter was not in danger. “What did you mean by the flower having a strong spirit? If I drank the tea would I conceive again?” She’d mourned that Marisko wouldn’t have a sibling to play with. And questions from nosy neighbors about when they’d have another child, combined with comments about how more children meant easier living in old age made her barren womb ache. If that flower wanted to be born, why should she throw it out?

“Yes,” the witch drew out the word, as if admitting it was like swallowing a bitter potion. “But it got those brown spots from giving its strength to this child in the womb. Any baby born from its tea would be left sickly, or addled, or deformed. Trust me, you don’t want that.”

Kamila’s grip on Marisko stiffened. People had said things like that before – that they wouldn’t want a child like her brother, so mentally challenged he’d never learned to speak. Yet, as much as she’d had to help take care of him, she couldn’t imagine life without him, and his smile. She’d refused to associate with those people after.

“I have another conception seed, if you would like another child.”

Kamila grit her teeth. The first had taken five years savings. She and her husband had agreed that buying another eventually was unlikely. “I can’t afford it. Tell me, is there a chance the flower could have recovered in the last two years?”

“I’ve never seen it. Just consider yourself lucky that you have one healthy child.” The witch turned to the man standing behind Kamila. “And what ails you, good sir?”

Kamila swallowed. “I don’t feel lucky.” She’d been prepared to do some monumental task to solve her problem. Instead, she just had to choose. Either get rid of the plant, and say someone like her brother didn’t deserve to exist, making her no better than those she had shunned. Or have a child that would demand extra care, possibly for the rest of their life. She stepped away. “Come on, Marisko. Let’s go home.” There was no help here.

The End

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