by The Cowl Editor on October 1, 2020
by Ellie Forster ’24
Every day she woke up at seven to leave at seven thirty to get to school at eight. She always walked, no matter what. Since about halfway through the fourth grade, she walked alone. That was, until her mother shoved a six-year-old’s hand in hers, said something about new neighbors, new school, and said to walk with her. So, now she walked slightly less alone. The little girl babbled on about breakfast, about her sneakers, about her mom, about her old house, about her new house, and everything else there was to babble about. Eventually she acknowledged there was something in her presence, something with conscious thought.
“Do you wanna know a secret?”
She paused, thinking about it. Saying yes would mean more talking, saying no would surely mean the same. With no way to win, she gave in.
“My name isn’t Buttercup.”
“But that’s what you have to call me.”
“Because I saw a movie, and the princess’s name was Buttercup, and she was in love and it was awesome, and now that’s my name, but except it isn’t really.”
“You probably don’t know that movie.”
“It’s really old. Older than you even.”
Another pause, as Buttercup tried to think of something to say. It wasn’t long before she did.
“Why do you walk to school?”
“Why don’t you take the bus?”
“I dunno, driving makes me sick, so I like to walk, I guess. My dad walked with me when I was little.”
“Oh.” She kicked a rock in the road. “Was he quiet like you?”
She thought about that for a while. She guessed it was true; she and her dad never really had conversations on their walks. But he wasn’t quiet either. He loved to talk, and she loved to listen to him. He never talked about himself, or her mom, or anything as unimportant as that. He would just tell her these weird stories. She always paid attention as closely as she could, and then she’d repeat them to herself throughout the day. That’s what she’d do on these walks to school normally. She’d stare at the ground and hear her dad’s voice in her head, trying to remember the words he used as best she could.
“No, he would talk.”
“What would he say?”
“He would just tell me things. Stories.”
“Kind of, yeah.”
“Can you tell me one?”
She paused, thinking and moving. She looked down blankly at Buttercup, who was wide-eyed and smiling. She cleared her throat.
“Yeah, okay. Right. So, there’s a man, and his name was, um, well, his name doesn’t matter, he’s the only guy in the story. Yeah, so there’s this guy, and he’s going to marry this woman, this girl, who can’t love him back. She just won’t let herself, basically, and—”
Buttercup tapped her, “Was the man handsome?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Was he nice?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So, why didn’t she love him?”
“She just didn’t, listen to the story, okay?”
“This is stupid.”
“Do you wanna hear the story or not?”
Buttercup nodded begrudgingly.
“Okay, so she didn’t love him, because she couldn’t love anyone since her sister died. Her sister had been, like, this perfect, beautiful, girl, that everyone loved. And, oh yeah, the man had loved the sister before, and then once the sister was dead, he decided to marry her instead.
Anyway, the woman always felt, like, less than her sister, and she hated her because of it. But she also loved her sister. It was complicated, I guess. They were best friends, but she, like, hated her, in a jealous way. But then when she died, after they buried her behind the chapel, the man proposed to her instead. She felt awful, ’cause she knew her sister had actually loved him. It was this horrible joke, ‘cause now she finally didn’t hate her sister anymore, but she was still second to her. The guy only wanted her ‘cause he couldn’t have her sister. But she agreed to marry him.”
Buttercup interrupted, “Why?”
“I’m going to get to that.”
Buttercup looked down, embarrassed. She almost felt bad. “Hey, sorry,” she said, and the little girl looked up at her. “I can stop now if you want. I know you prefer the prince, princess, true love thing.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Okay,” she paused, trying to remember where she left off. “So, the wedding. The guy had this dress made, this beautiful big gown, with real white flowers called ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ sewn into the fabric ‘til the dress was coated in the stuff. Since they were using real flowers, they had to get them the night before the wedding so they would be fresh. They had made two dresses, so she could see what it would look like with the flowers before the actual day. So, in her closet she had a dress with dying flowers that reeked.”
She got excited because she used to repeat this next one line to herself all the time. She loved the way her dad had said it. “It’s that smell dead flowers have, like sour wine, like some sickly sweet promise has been broken.” She looked at Buttercup after that line, expecting her to be in awe. She just looked back at her, waiting.
She kept going. “Anyway, on the night before her wedding, once she had the dress, she made everyone promise that she could get ready by herself, and that she could do it in the chapel. So, when they came in, there she was standing at the end of the aisle, in her beautiful, pure white dress. Except it smelled awful in there, and everyone was freaking out, ’cause this place was decked out completely in flowers, so it should’ve smelled awesome. Once everyone was inside, the door slammed shut behind them, and there was the woman, in the dress with the dying flowers. She was covered in dirt and stuck a shovel through the door handles, trapping them. Everyone was shocked, but mostly ’cause, if she was there, who was at the end of the aisle? So, the guy ran down and lifted the veil, and it was the sister. She was all rotted, the other half of that awful smell. Everyone freaked out. A bunch of people fainted, the guy was crying, it was chaos. And then the woman just walked herself down the aisle, took out a knife, cut off her dead sister’s finger, and put the guy’s ring on it. Then she walked out, and no one ever saw her again. That’s the end.”
Buttercup’s mouth hung open, and her little hand had gone limp. They had arrived at school and were standing still outside of the kindergarten classroom.
“Well. Bye, then. I’ll come pick you up at the end—”
Buttercup suddenly unfroze and hugged her. “Thanks! Can you tell me it again on the walk home?”
She stood there again in six hours, until a little girl bounded out and grabbed her hand. She began, “So, there was this guy…”