The Texture of Flower Petals

Anwyn Li

Contrary to traditional feminine ideals, there were no flowers in the cottage. Instead, it smelled like fresh linen with two scales in each bathroom and a collection of dresses ranging from size zero to two. Shiny arithmetic books sat on the bookshelves along with empty picture frames on the walls. The woman’s estate would serve as a sanctuary for successful, beautiful girls who could grow up proper and ladylike.

However, Minka’s own body decayed. The mirror reflected a crooked face with an off-kilter, flat nose and a bulging chin. Impurities, all of them and more. Impurities that she spent an entire life trying to smother. Minka set down her makeup and began to correct her image.

Despite it all, Minka weakly smiled at her reflection. Hers was the face of the Queen’s liege entrusted with the most important task in the queendom. Queen Melisende. Yes, Queen Melisende in the democracy of America, who out of every qualified citizen somehow decided to pick a broken, ugly woman like her.

Thus, Minka wanted to spend every second devoted to caring for the infant Princess Aeon. With soft, dusty brown curls and eyes like a sea, Aeon was an angel, far too good to be true. Each of Minka’s days were filled with pleasantries like afternoon tea, long promenades by the ocean, or dress-up. Today, Minka’s plans would be just as fair.

It started with breakfast: a low-carb, sugar-free peach porridge. The fragrant smell wafted from the kitchen, but the Princess was silent. Wonderful royalty, Minka mused. Training for the crown required the most fine-tuned etiquette, and a heart of logic and steel. Minka would raise that baby to surpass each and every one of the Queen’s expectations. But she very well knew that would never happen: Minka had her own expectations to apply first. They hurt people. Broke them.

If Minka trusted her memories, a teenage girl once lived in the cottage before Princess Aeon. Every time Minka turned to look at her, the girl would fade in front of her eyes. Well, that was good, because the girl’s face was nowhere near lovely. Flat nose. Monolids. She looked far too much like Minka. She wore a leotard, and spoke of unflattering things from a past long gone, and never met Minka’s reasonable standards. Minka detested that girl like she did herself. Worst of all, she didn’t smile.

Only God knew what to do with women that didn’t smile.

In reality, the real reality, Minka coaxed the baby to eat. The spoon stopped at the baby’s sealed lips, because Princess Aeon never grew hungry, and wouldn’t ever be a pound too fat. She sighed contentedly – All that mattered in the world was in front of her. The Princess’s would be a light that burned every bloom.

As Minka ate, her past wormed its way into her mind. Before Queen Melisende, there had been the letters. “Lenna” sent them, someone Minka wanted to forget in her years alone. Lenna spoke for their “family”. Minka remembered an entire youth scorched by harsh words, flames that ate the bones of her heart. Her youth became a Cassette tape playing back each infraction her mother spurned her for, all through a cloud of Versace perfume.

Minka woed those pretty smells for their ugly memories attached. She never tried to think beyond the initial flash the scent triggered. Maybe she saw bloody ballet slippers, or felt phantasms of scalding coffee against her skin.

Towards the end, Lenna had written of a baby Princess Aeon’s age. The main difference was that that baby was their younger sister who’d been dead for twenty seven years.

While reading, Minka had drowned in an onslaught of memories: twisted symphonies of girls screaming and crying. Words, tears and shrieks melded into one. It wasn’t your fault, a ten-year-old Lenna had begged. Minka, the baby’s death was an accident. I’m sorry we couldn’t convince mom, so she wouldn’t have hurt you.

But an accident? It had been a delusional act stemming from trauma at her mother’s outbursts, and from her father’s magical act of shifting the truth into make-believe. Minka did not pretend-play. Unlike Lenna, she was old enough, and knew what she saw. Her parents made it clear she didn’t deserve redemption.

If Minka could delete that day, let her little sister grow up to become a brilliant young woman, Minka would. But the butterfly effect dictated that to save her, Minka would have to embody her parents’ ideals of slender bodies, stellar grades, and womanly manners first.

It didn’t matter. Her parents said she would never be good enough, and after they’d cursed her life, they asked her, the family bloodstain, to come home.


Minka hadn’t read after that. She’d made her home away from all of them, because who in their right mind would want to stay with their assailants? Minka could devote her life to raising a baby with all the love she never got. How good it was, because her Royal Highness never cried.

Minka regretted burning those letters, only because the smoke smelled like petunias.

Why couldn’t Minka have been born as Princess Aeon instead? The baby was faultless. After all, Aeon didn’t talk or move. Her body fit the ideal proportion, and it could be posed and adjusted to people’s liking. Her smile shone permanently, and without the ability to formulate a personality, she couldn’t ever ruin herself. Most miraculously, Minka owned Princess Aeon, that blessed object of ideal. Minka revered that baby, a sinner breathing in the sweet air of salvation.

Minka looked up; the clock ticked to eight o’clock. It was time for their morning walk. Minka picked up the Princess effortlessly and secured her into the toy stroller, pausing to admire her face.

Oh, the Princess’s face was as soft as the texture of flower petals.