“Good evening everybody. It grants me true warmth to welcome you again to the council circle.”
The family were seated around the rose bush, the garden bathed in the light of the setting sun.
There were seven in total, with one empty chair as usual. Willow looked around at her children, knowing her face should be grave, but the first lights of spring had, as always, lifted her spirits from their winter slumber. Old and frail though she was, the temptation to run from the rituals and chase the fireflies still stirred within her. Still, not even the finest of weather could ever make Oak forget his council decorum. She nodded at her brother and he rose from his chair. It had to be said, Oak fitted his name marvellously. He was tall and stately, and the dying light highlighted his heavy-browed, solemn face. His love of tradition could have made him a terrible bore at the seasonal councils, but mercifully he had a very brief manner of speaking.
“Indeed. Let us address the issues of the season before night falls. First, provisions. Reed, I believe you have something to say?”
A thin Sim with hunched shoulders and a face that always looked strangely as if he was facing into high winds, Reed gave a small nod and looked around the circle. After Willow and Oak, he was the eldest of the clan, and the younger generations often thought privately that he thought rather too highly of himself because of this.
“Mm-hm,” he grunted. “I do indeed. Stop dumping in the lake, all of you, or it’s no more fish from me. You’re ruining the quality of the catch.”
“Yeah, right, we’ve heard that threat before.” This comment came from Larch who had been looking at Reed with barely concealed contempt since they had sat down. He was the youngest of the clan, only recently matured, and his face still retained the round cheeks of youth.
“Yes, you have. Which begs the question, WHY HAVEN’T YOU STOPPED?” Reed leant forward, clenching his fist on his knee. Willow rose from her chair extending a hand to intervene. Reed was a fine fisherman, as skilled and quick as a bird, but fishing is a solitary business and his years of sitting alone had made him as bitter as an old root, something which Larch, still but a sapling, found remarkably difficult to deal with.
“Make me,” smiled Larch quietly, tensing his own arms. Though he was probably in reality no stronger than Reed, who had spent his life hauling heavy fishing rods and nets, they did possess a more threatening appearance than Reed’s wiry twigs. The two men scowled at each other, leaves bristling. A cough interrupted them, and they looked round.
“Larch,” reprimanded Willow. She met his gaze and raised her eyebrows. He looked defiantly back at her, but the young man sitting at his side took hold of his elbow and gently pulled him back. Reed sneered.
“Reed.” She redirected her gaze. A hundred years of decay could not have dampened Willow’s authority in the family. Both men now resumed their original positions, determinedly avoiding each other’s gaze. Oak tutted to himself, astonished as ever that his descendants could regard manners and ceremony of such little importance. This kind of quarrelling so early in the meeting! It would never have happened in his day. He sighed.
“If we may continue? Moss, your reports on the harvest, if you would.” Moss released Larch’s arm and pushed his glasses up his nose. He grinned eagerly at Oak and Willow, wringing his hands together as he often did. He was the Rose family’s resident gardener and, during the winter months when there was little of use to grow, something of an inventor.
“Y-yep!” he stammered. “Looks great! I’ve b-been worki-ki-king on a n-new fer-fer-fertiliser! D-d-don’t look like that,” he pleaded, for at the mention of fertiliser the whole circle, even Oak, had wrinkled their noses. Larch winced and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It sm-mells l-like lemons this time.” An audible sigh sounded. Willow wiped a small bead of sweat from the side of her face. Oak nodded approvingly (and with no small amount of relief) at Moss, who sat back looking pleased with himself.
“Well, now that’s all, er, sorted, I do believe there is only one more announcement to make. Sister, would it please you to do the honours?” Willow smiled at Oak. She took his hand and stood beside him. This was her favourite part of leading the family.
“Holly,” she said. Holly put her hand on Reed’s shoulder, digging her fingers into his shirt. She was a strong, stocky girl with an often severe face, but now a ghost of a smile played on her lips. “We have reviewed your request, on the grounds that you require assistance in your maintenance duties. We can find no great fault in your reasoning or indeed your character, so it is with great pleasure I announce that you have official permission to spawn.” Holly jumped in the air, whooping. Moss ran across to hug her, and even Reed managed a thin smile. Oak clapped his hands gently to break up the hubbub, shaking his head but unable to conceal his own amusement.
“Come, come now, children, settle down. Holly, I know you realise that this is a great undertaking. Tomorrow morning you may come along to the main cabin and collect the books necessary for parental study. You will be working alongside Lily of course.’ At this, Lily looked up.
She hadn’t spoken a word throughout the meeting and, as often happened with one so quiet, many of the others had forgotten that she was there at all. A flesh-being might easily have labelled her ‘beautiful’, but in the culture of the PlantSims the matter of appearance was of very little importance.
“This will be her first time taking the lead in the Nurturing. Of course, if you require my guidance at any point,’ said Willow to Lily. ‘I will be delighted to assist. But now the light of the moon will soon be upon us, so we must retire. Goodnight, my garden of Roses, sleep well.’
A Garden of Roses Chapters
- The Spring Council
- Overheard Words
- A Little Mistake
- By the Lake
- Something Much Worse
- A Midnight Arrival
- Back to Normal?
- Bad Omens
- Willow Explains it All
- The War of the Roses – part I
- The War of the Roses – part II
- A Garden of Roses
- Epilogue – The Summer Council