Kate Greenway, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes 1881
“Ring-a-ring-a-roses; A pocket full of posies; Hush-hush, Hush-hush; We’re all tumbled down!”
“She can play like this for hours,” Mary sighed.
Alice gazed at the child, who with arms spread wide to the sides, continued to spin about the garden’s green, dipping a curtsy at the final line before going back again to the first. Her pitch was perfect and her voice was sweet, but the bouncy ringlets and pinafore over a knee-high calico dress only highlighted the oddity.
It was adorable when Rosie was six years old. The girl was nearly thirteen.
“How’s Rosie’s schooling coming along?” Alice tried.
Mary’s smile faltered for a second before a placid screen unfurled over her face. “Just fine,” she breathed. “It’s coming along just fine, dear. Did you try the rose-petal marmalade? Mrs. Hannah outdid herself this year.”
It is like watching a wind-up toy, Alice thought. She never could get her sister to speak candidly about the child. None of them could. They all knew much was wrong, yet it was nigh impossible to discuss it. There’d been some concerns before the accident, of course, though Rosie had been very young then and much was explained away as the idiosyncrasies of an only child with an active imagination.
Then the accident happened and it was as if Mary had stopped the clock. On her own life as well as Rosie’s. The child seemed content enough, delayed and mostly mute outside of singing as she was. But how much did any of them know about the child’s true reality and potential, and how much was her mother’s doing, impeding her growth?
Rosie’s singing rang in Alice’s ears and suddenly she could not stand it any longer.
“Mary,” she pressed, “I know this expert …”
Her sister raised a delicate hand. “We have all we need, Alice.”
Alice shook her head. “No, you don’t. I love you, and I know you love Rosie dearly, but she’ll be a woman soon … and she can’t stay six forever. Let me get the both of you some help. It’s not about trying to force her to do what she cannot, if she cannot … I mean, I know she’s a little …” her sister’s eyes stopped her. Brittle. Angry. Warning.
“… I … I can see she seems happy,” Alice inhaled and paused, hoping for a relenting crack in her sister’s eyes.
There was none.
“Indeed she is happy,” Mary clipped. “And we shall keep it this way, shall we?” She turned her head a tad, so that her eyes rested partially on the closed wing of the manor where the stone would forever be a bit dark, and partially on the child she’d frozen in time. The sweet girl who did not need to know more than what she’d known the day before she had tipped a candle onto paper and accidentally, fatally, set fire to her father’s study. “Now, about that marmalade!”
For the SoCS prompt: Rhymes with rosy