Alyssum's Wish

Danielle McDougal December 25, 2018
Magic
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    In a time long past, there was a young girl named Alyssum who lived in a small village. The village was nestled in a dense forest and Alyssum was surrounded by friends and free time. Her favorite pastime was to pick flowers from the wild gardens in the woods, and nothing compared to the joy she had when she would scavenge for the most beautiful blooms she could find.
    But there was one time of year where she could not pick flowers. In the throes of winter, the flowers would be crushed by the snow and cold. She hated winter for killing her flowers every year and as her friends laughed and played in the fluffy blankets of snow, she would sit inside her family’s cozy cottage and scowl.
    She knew she couldn’t stop winter from coming and destroying her flowers every year. Her mother would tell her that it was just how the world worked, she but couldn’t live at ease with it when her flowers so desperately needed her help. One day, Alyssum determination got the better of her and she set off on a quest to get rid of winter once and for all.
    She journeyed into the woods, frowning as her breath puffed like a cloud in the cold air, wishing with all of her might that the snow would disappear. She kicked at the snow, willing it to melt as she wandered further into the forest as she continued to think of something that might get rid of winter forever.
    She wandered for what seemed a long time when she saw a young woman in the distance. She wore a heavy green coat and her hair shone like nighttime though it was day. Her face was pale and her cheeks were bitten raw by the cold, but she was smiling. In her avid curiosity, Alyssum strode toward the woman, looked up at her, and demanded to know how she could be smiling despite the winter weather.
    “You have much to learn, young one,” she said with a hearty chuckle, “winter has its wonders.”
    “But winter kills all the prettiest blooms every year,” Alyssum said haughtily, “I wish winter would go away so I can pick flowers and not have to watch them die.”
    “That is quite a wish, but it is what you truly desire?”
    Alyssum nodded impatiently. She was about to walk away when the woman beckoned her to stay.
    “Young lady, I happen to know how to make wishes. Would you like me to make you one?”
    Alyssum’s eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat. This was just what she was yearning for!
    “Yes! I would be so grateful!”
    “A wish simply doesn’t come to you,” the young woman said, “I have to have the proper ingredients. I need you to bring me three things. Bring me something that hangs upside down, but does not have hands or feet.”
    Alyssum narrowed her eyes at the woman, thinking long and hard about what she could be talking about.
    “Take a walk through the winter woods and you will find what I ask for.”
    Alyssum set off immediately, but her eyes vigilant and watchful for any sign of what she might need. She thought and thought, but no matter how far she walked or thought, she could not think of the answer to her mysterious riddle.
    “If only making wishes weren’t so hard,” Alyssum said sourly.
    At that moment, she felt a drop of water fall on her small head.
    She looked up and another cold droplet landed on her eye.
    “For heaven’s sake!” she shouted as she took a step back, staring at a low hanging branch and at the water-dropping culprit.
    There was an icicle slowing dripping water.
    For a moment, she smiled at her silliness, but her mouth set again into a firm line.
    Something that hands upside down, but has no hands or feet.
    She climbed the low branches and took a hold of the icicle, breaking it away from its wooden perch. She looked at it and though she felt the cold through her mittens, she saw something that made her laugh. Her reflection was quite long and she laughed at how her nose seemed to droop in such a funny way.
    She stared at it and made faces at the icicle all the way back to the young woman.
    “I see you’ve found the first ingredient. What a clever girl you are,” she said, “but there are two more that remain. Now, I need you to bring me something that glitters like starlight, but is on the ground.”
    Alyssum was intrigued by this riddle and set off in another direction. She looked down at the ground, but only saw puffy snow. Every now and again she would spot a branch or a bush or blade of grass clinging to life, but nothing that glittered. She kicked up the snow as high as she could and listened to the crunching beneath her as she walked.
    She wove through tree trunks and branches, unsure of where to go next until she spotted a ray of sunlight in the distance. She wondered if that’s what the young woman could have meant, but sunlight was impossible to catch.
    She picked up her pace until she reached a clearing in the trees and she gasped at what she saw.
    In the gap between the trees, the sunlight landed on the snow and made it sparkle like diamonds. Alyssum was stunned to the spot, not feeling the cold hugging her arms and legs. She stared into the shimmery sea of snow and realized this was what the young woman needed.
    She tried to grab the snow, but it fell apart in her hands. She felt panic rising in her stomach, unsure of how to carry this sparkling snow, but then she remembered what her friends would do this time of year. She rolled a patch of snow in her hands, making a beautiful snowball. Rather pleased with herself, she turned to walk back into the woods but was stopped when she saw the young woman watching her from a distance.
    “I’ve got the second ingredient!” Alyssum said, showing her the glittering snowball.
    “Wonderful!” the woman said and took it, putting it into her cloak.
    “What’s the last thing I need to get?” Alyssum asked, having so much fun on this scavenger hunt, just like she would when she scavenged for the best flowers.
    “Lastly, I need you to bring me something that bleeds red, but is not dying.”
    She felt that the last two riddles were much easier than this one. She was completely unsure of where to go.
    “Why don’t you go where the flowers grow? Go to where you pick flowers, you may find what you need there.”
    Without another word, Alyssum ran through the woods to her favorite picking spot, toward home. She drank in the cold as she ran, grateful that it was cooling her from her exercise. Once she reached her favorite spot, that familiar cold feeling of sadness seeped into her bones. There were no flowers here. Nothing escaped the white blanket that had been placed over the green grass that was there only weeks before.
    She picked up her head and tried to remain steadfast, searching everywhere for the thing that bled red but was not dying. Alyssum had hoped the young woman meant something in her favorite place had survived, but not a flower could be found.
    She looked ahead into a green bush covered with snow and spotted a dot of the color red. Her curiosity walked her closer and she examined the small speck. She brushed the snow away and saw a small, red berry.
    “Holly berries!” Alyssum exclaimed with joy and picked a lone berry from its nest in the bushes, “I’ve found everything I need for my wish!”
    “Yes, you have,” said the voice of the young woman.
    Alyssum turned to see the young woman and hurriedly gave her the berry.
    “Now we have all the ingredients for your wish, and here is where I must apologize to you. I could have granted your wish as soon as you had asked.”
    “Then why didn’t you?” Alyssum said, crossing her arms in a pout.
    “I wanted you to know what you were asking for. You were asking for no more icicles to make faces into, no more snow to play in, and no more small miracles that winter one of the most magical times of the year. Just as your flowers are beautiful, so are so many other things in life.”
    Alyssum looked around at the snow, took a bracing breath of cool air, and sighed. As much as she did not want to admit it, she was growing fond of walking through the snow and was wondering what other winter things she had been missing out on.
    “You have a noble heart, Alyssum. You wanted to wish away winter because it caused your flowers to wilt and die. Because of this, I will grant you a wish, but think very carefully about what you would wish for.”
    Alyssum recalled the small joys she had as she roamed through the wintery woods and she knew instantly what she wanted most in her little heart.
    “I wish that there was a flower that would bloom every year to remind me that winter is beautiful, just like my flowers are.”
    The young woman smiled broadly and said, “When spring comes next year and for every year until the end of time, you will see a flower that blossoms a myriad of white blooms and these flowers will be called Sweet Alyssum.”
    That is how we came to inherit the Sweet Alyssum flowers we have today: from a young girl’s innocent wish and her determination to remember that every season has its pleasures.

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