The Rose Garden is a place of enchantment that lay across the street from where I lived in Northern California.
Sunny Hollow is not the town I grew up in, but The Rose Garden is the same place that served as playground, dreaming space, and shelter throughout much of my childhood years. To this day, I cannot imagine a more beautiful space in which to grow up.
When I first envisioned Entangled Moon, I imagined a world in which Heather, Eve, Mariah, Fiona, and Esperanza grew to understand the world from the vantage point of their Rose Garden–a world of heady scented heirloom roses, pine trees, and gently plinking fountains fanned out in little terraces or “rooms.” In the final version of Enchanted Moon, much of the prose involving the garden itself was omitted for the sake of speed. But here are a couple of passages.
It was Mariah’s favorite place. The smell of moss, roses, algae, and earth was a balm, and the gentle plink of the water soothed her. It connected her tumultuous soul to the earth and grounded her when she was detached, angry, or confused. On the way to the garden, the girls enter into a discussion about Jazmin that hints at the fact that their friendship is entering a more complex stage. The girls headed to the fountains, but once they got there, the moment had dissipated. The gentle sound of the water dripping from the fountains could not lift their spirits. In this land of magic, the real world had entered and opened a crack in their world. With mumbled “good-byes” and “later,” each girl headed back to their respective streets, their separate homes, and their solitary musings. It was a rare moment in which they disentangled themselves. The mood performed the task that no other could.
They were always quick to make amends though.
The roses shimmered. A gentle rain had fallen during the past two days and left tiny glistening drops on the fragile flowers. Each orb was a tiny world of light and pattern that danced and sparkled. Preferring to be outside, the girls had found the rainy days long and tedious but the wait worthwhile. This new world was intoxicating. Fiona snuck a pair of clippers in her purse and pulled them from their hiding place.
Esperanza sucked in her breath.
“Shhh. You’ll get us in trouble.”
“No, you’ll get us in trouble. You can’t pick or cut the roses.”
“Watch me, Espy. There are a lot of roses. No one will miss a few.”
Esperanza looked around guiltily to ensure no one was paying them any attention.
“Stop doing that. You look like you’re guilty.”
Fiona glanced at Esperanza as she snipped five perfect blooms from their hosts. She shook them lightly of their raindrops and carefully, reverently, placed them in her bag. She put the offending clippers back in the bag pocket and strolled nonchalantly towards the stairs. Esperanza followed looking around for any authority figure that might have spied their trespass. No one was in the garden today. She crossed herself in gratitude.
The rose garden remained their refuge, their turf. The mass of color and beauty was enough, but there was another quality that kept them coming back–its otherworldliness. The quiet of the garden sometimes left them awestruck, but at other times, the garden danced with life and they romped and reveled as if it were their playground, their childhood antics once more rekindled. More than anything, they sought its protection from the world around them, from their own youthful disquiet, and from the increasing restrictiveness of their parents. There was still reverence in the hallowed grounds of the Rose Garden. And it was theirs.
“You know, if we pick a rose we can proclaim our vows of secrecy and our devotion to Venus.” Heather was forever the romantic.
“You’re not allowed to pick roses, Heather.” Esperanza could think of nothing positive in picking the roses. It felt wrong, blasphemous even, and it was illegal. The Garden served as a special place to meet and she felt a sense of honor in its folds. Picking a rose was a defilement, a betrayal of some kind of trust. No doubt, the blue-haired ladies would know exactly who had broken that trust, and they would be forever banned from the sanctity of the Garden. Banishment was worse than death. Death meant peace. The Virgin Mary ensured it. There was no peace in banishment. Banishment just left you hungering for something you couldn’t have and what peace was there in that much forbidden desire?
“Fiona did it.”
“I know. But at least we left before anyone saw her.”
“So, we can be careful.”
Fiona rolled her eyes at both girls. “The roses belong to the fairies, Espy. They do not belong to the little ladies with the blue hair. And besides, I asked permission. You’ll wake up with a missing foot if you don’t ask permission.” Fiona’s mother still believed in fairies. A second-generation American from the Scottish Highlands, she talked about the things that animated the Old World. Fiona had always been enchanted by her mother’s stories. They were less immediate now but they reminded that there were still mysteries. It was the stories that bound her to her mother. The rest of the time, she had little patience for her mother’s infatuation or her flights of silliness.
The rose garden symbolized a place and time of innocence, but sometimes those are the most dangerous. When you cannot imagine the worst of things, that is often the weak chink that invites impending disaster.