1.

CHLOE ELOISE ROSE

 

   The wind sang through the meadow under the open bright skies of Wilmoton, the climate advanced confidently with warmth. Each new day, the promise of spring drew near as wildflowers rose from the earth. The Langerfield battle had ended two years ago, and peace had once again returned to Wilmoton.    

 

    So, Chloe Rose spent some time alone in her special place. The warmth of this special place spread up from her arms straight to her heart. This was where she felt lighter and happier. This special place of hers was on a little hill in the middle of a meadow that overlooked Wilmoton, one of the most beautiful views that her hometown had to offer. It was also Chloe’s special place to draw flowers and also pick them for her mother.

 

   Her special spot was surrounded by gentle whispers of nature. Even the birds quiet down to listen to the whispers. Chloe loved the sweet smell of flowers that cut through the scent of the dewy meadow. The sun glared down at her from the sky. And the breeze brushed her sun-kissed skin while she let her brown, curly locks down. She smiled with every twirl on the soft-bedded grass. For a moment, everything was peaceful and her heart had a steady, calm beat. In her special spot, she was not afraid of what haunted her thoughts, which caused her to squeeze her eyes shut to make it go away. Nor did she worry about the nightmares that came every night after those thoughts. Everything is brighter and calm from here; this is definitely my happy place Chloe thought to herself.

 

      As time crept up on her, Chloe knew it was time to head back home to her mother, Catherine. She picked some rosebuds for her mother I like to watch as the petals expand slowly as they bloom, she also grabbed the picture of her view of the meadow that she sketched for her father, Michael.  Her affection and admiration for her parents were unfathomable. Chloe liked to believe her father had superpowers. In real life, Chloe’s father was the captain of the Wilmoton’s army. The ongoing dispute between Wilmoton and Cottondale was as old as time. A dispute over land and, who owns what and, who was the first one on the better side. Cottondale’s features ranged from cracked sidewalks and deteriorated houses that either had weathered paints along their walls or were in ruins from previous conflicts. Remnants of broken swords and shields littered its fields. The people of Cottondale showed no inclination to repair these damages. Instead, they carried on with their lives in the only way they could, with the hope of reusing the broken swords, broken shields, whenever the situation called for it again.

         

      Wilmoton was a quaint town with unsurpassed colorful cottages, and a huge bell tower named “Armstrong” at the heart of its harmonious infrastructure.  The women learned to sew and weave every day in workshops. The people of Wilmoton were hardworking and it showed. It was the type of place where almost everyone knew each other and, people greeted each other with a smile. Wilmoton was ruled by King Francis II, a kind ruler who protected his people. Apart from the never-ceasing war between Wilmoton and Cottondale, Chloe loved living in her hometown.           

         As Chloe skipped along the sidewalk from the meadow, her pink gown flared up and down in the wind as she bounced. She spotted Mr. Andrews with the evening newspaper and he had a worried look on his face. The Andrews family lived a couple of cottages away from the Roses, and their two daughters: Chloe Rose and, Thyra Andrews were best friends. Like Chloe’s father, Albert Andrews was in the army, too.  During one of the many conflicts between the two towns, someone abandoned a baby in a wicker basket on the boundaries of Wilmoton. Disturbed by this little bundle of joy being abandoned, he hurried back to his home with the baby, showing her to his wife Ava who had no child of her own.  They adopted the baby and named her Thyra.

 

    Upon seeing his worry, Chloe waved her hand to say, “Hello, Mr. Andrews!” Her broad smile revealed her brown glittering eyes, which could cheer up any sad face on a normal day. This time, it did not. “Hello, Chloe,” Mr. Andrews replied in haste. His whole face lit up with worry and, confusion.  Chloe did not know what to interpret the look on his face, so, she continued home.

Catherine Rose was the envy of almost all the women in Wilmoton. Not because of her luscious, black hair, or her delicate porcelain skin, or her high cheekbones, or her dainty nose that perched so delicately above her rosebud lips, but because of her advantageous marriage to the captain of the army.

 

   “Go and wash up for dinner, dear,” her mother told Chloe as she entered their cottage. Wanting

to rid the image of Mr. Andrews’ uneasiness from her mind's eyes, Chloe’s thoughts turned to her wonderful day from her happy place. She held out her hand with a bunch of rosebuds, “I picked these buds for you, mother.” Catherine smiled but disquiet sat in her eyes when she replied, “Thank you, my sweet girl. It’s impossible to have a dull day around you. You lighten up any room! I hope you’re hungry for some delicious shepherd’s pie.” Chloe glowed with delight. She loved shepherd’s pie. “Shouldn’t we wait for daddy?” She peered at her mom with a curious look as she tilted her head to the side.  “No, honey. Daddy will be home later. Come, let’s eat for now,” her mother suggested. Although there was evidence of warmth in her voice, her eyebrows were a tiny bit creased with worry. Chloe was unaccustomed to see such anxiety written on her mother’s face.

 

     The distress she saw there mirrored that of Mr. Andrews earlier. I wonder if mother and Mr. Andrews have the same thoughts. Something’s up, I can feel it …but what? …  maybe mother would tell me if I asked.  Picking up on the trepidation in the air but not knowing how to address it, Chloe cupped her elbows with her hands and asked her mother, “Is something the matter?” Catherine let out a deep sigh as her heart paused for a beat. She was tempted to explain what had been published in the evening newspaper but, she did not want to worry about her daughter’s little eight-year-old mind. “No, will be all right,” she replied. She couldn’t quite believe her own words as she sat across from her daughter's cute, puzzled face.  Despite Catherine’s platitudes, Chloe wished she could read her mother’s mind. I bet it’s the Queen. Everyone knows it’s true that she’s been sick for a while now, it is also true that she doesn’t make appearances anymore. Chloe’s mind then revisited that thought that haunted her nights. She eased her mind with the former thought. Surely it can’t be, it must be some bad news about Queen Anne.

 

 

     Her mother sat at the dinner table with her cooking apron on. She checked the clock and he was late. Her food tasted like dust in her mouth, so she placed her spoon on a napkin next to her dinner plate. She turned her gaze to the evening sky and stared ahead into the gray skies outside the kitchen window as the street lamps came on. “May I be excused, mother?” Chloe asked as she brought her mother’s mind back to the present. “Yes, darling. You may,” Catherine replied as her eyelids drooped with worry. She didn’t notice that Chloe never touched her shepherd’s pie either. Chloe’s steps were rather heavy—she no longer skipped with happiness as she did earlier. She dragged herself to her bedroom and prepared for bed. Like her mother, Chloe was unsure of what this night would bring.

                                                                ☼

       Catherine looked down at the table and saw Chloe’s untouched dinner. She sighed, understanding her daughter too well. She checked the clock again, and her heart weighed down with worry. Catherine sat up and waited for her husband. Meanwhile, Chloe remained in her bed and dwelled on that other thought. what if dad’s in trouble? What if those nightmares are real? Mom definitely knows something but she won’t tell me because she thinks I won’t understand. She thought up ways to take her mind off the wave of thoughts that clashed her mind. She picked up her favorite book on botany, but it only piqued her interest further. It was her favorite subject.

     

         

         She got out of bed and walked out of her room to check on her mother. She plodded into the kitchen and stood in the doorway. “Is dad home yet?” she asked. “No. What are you still doing up?” her mother asked. “I couldn’t go to sleep,” Chloe told the truth. “Me either. Come here.” Her mother cuddled her. “Why can’t you sleep, mom?” again, Chloe wanted to know the heaviness that had fallen upon the night.  So, Catherine decided to be as honest as she could. “Well, I am waiting for your dad to get home. Once he does, we will know more for sure.” Chloe let out a yawn and adjusted her position in her mother’s cuddle. They snuggled up with the beautiful quilt that Catherine had just finished the day before. They drifted off to sleep.

                                                                ☼

          As thunder clapped angrily in the distance on a rainy morning, someone barged into the Roses’ cottage in a hurry. This caused both Catherine and Chloe to jump up from their sleep.  “Daddy!” Chloe leaped out of her mother’s embrace and ran straight into her father’s arms. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t make it to dinner last night. I promise, after this, I will take the whole day off just for you. What do you say?” Michael asked as he searched his daughter’s eyes for an answer. “I haven’t told her yet,” Catherine confessed. “Told me what?” Chloe asked. “We have to protect Wilmoton once again. I have to protect you from the villains next door (Langerfield battle was two years ago, battles are often named after whoever stirred it up. This Moorefield battle was stirred up by Moore, for that was his name).

 

       I worked all night to map out our strategy. I didn’t want to leave without bringing a goodbye kiss with me,” Michael expressed as his smile spread across his face. Michael was a hero to everyone in Wilmoton. When he led and won one of the greatest battles between Wilmoton and Cottondale, he became even more popular. Michael looked every inch the courageous warrior, with strong, broad shoulders, glossy hair, and bronzed skin. His facial features appeared as though every detail had been chiseled to perfection, and he had a strong kindness to match. He kissed Chloe on her forehead and placed a pink rose in the palm of her hand. He then turned to Catherine and warmly embraced her, with a kiss to her forehead, too. “I will be back before you know it, Chloe.” He declared. “I know, Daddy. You always come home.”

Michael embraced them again and dashed out straightaway. He hated saying goodbye to his girls.

 

 

 

 

 

VB

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All Rights Reserved. 2019. Veronica Butler - Chloe Rose and the Enchanted Maze

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