Maryalise’s Beginnings


            When I began writing Maryalise and the Singing Flowers, Mary Alice was a small girl, ten years old. She popped into existence in a creative writing assignment and began her adventure one chapter at a time. I did not know when I began where the story would end. Mary Alice led the way. Multiple friends told me I had a weak beginning. I eventually realized they were right. The story actually began in what was then chapter two and Mary Alice needed to be twelve. But since I still love the way that Mary Alice first entered my imagination, I would like to share that beginning with my readers.


I Hear the Flowers Singing

By Rose Owens


Chapter 1

            “There is foul magic here,” muttered Maryalise, “and it stinks.” Pinching her nose with one hand to fend off the foul odor, she used the other hand to wave away the mysterious gray swarm that swirled around her. Whirring wings in the dense swarm of gray particles created a shrill buzz that vibrated inside her head. The swarm was so dense that she could not tell wat kind of creature they might be. Maryalise felt dizzy and scared.  

            A gray shadow slipped by her and she squealed as something prickly scraped against her leg. Maryalise looked down and spied a spiky tail as it disappeared behind the garden shed. In an instant, the gray swarm, the shadow and the stinky smell were gone. She stared at the corner of the shed in disbelief.  

Mary Alice forgot that she was pretending to be Maryalise. Abruptly, she was no longer a tiny fairy, but was a mortal child. “What was that?” Mary Alice asked herself. “What WAS that? I know that I didn’t magic that. When I become Maryalise, I only do good magic. I would never magic or pretend anything like that.”

            Aunt Janet’s voice echoed in her memory. “Mary Alice, stop pretending. Mary Alice, it isn’t good to live in an imaginary world.”  Even though Aunt Janet was in the house, Mary Alice could visualize her angry stare and could almost hear her repetitive words, “Mary Alice, this is the real world.  Are you listening to me?” 

            Mary Alice had ignored Aunt Janet’s words before. Now she pushed the memory of them out of her mind. “It’s not imaginary. It’s real,” she said to herself. “When I’m being Maryalise I have magic—powerful magic. I bring my magic to the garden.” 

Remembering the garden, Mary Alice forgot about the gray swarm, the shadowy creature with the spikey tail and the foul smell. She wandered along the pathways, moving from one blossom to the next, until she arrived at the rose arbor. It was covered with faded brown roses on brittle stems. “What happened?” said Mary Alice. “Yesterday the roses were alive and well.” She leaned forward and fingered one of the roses. Lifeless petals drifted to the ground. Thorns caught at the hem of her drab brown dress. “You thorn monsters, let go of me! Let go of me, now!” Mary Alice demanded. She tugged and pulled until she was free and could continue wandering along the path.

Mary Alice listened to the chirp of a cricket, the cry of a mocking bird, and the song of the flowers. Gone was the memory of her Aunt Janet’s words, “Mary Alice, your job for today is to weed the daisies.” However, when Mary Alice saw the grass and dandelions crowded in among the daisies, she remembered.

“But I don’t want to weed the daisies,” said Mary Alice. “I like the garden the way it is. It looks beautiful. I like the dandelions, too. No one gets mad at me if I pick dandelions.” She began gathering dandelions with long stems. She sat down and piled the bright yellow blossoms beside her. She imagined herself as  Maryalise once again. She sang a special song as she braided the dandelion stems, weaving powerful magic into the floral crown. It seemed as if the flowers were singing with her. She rose to her feet and carefully placed the crown atop her brown hair. “I am Queen of the Flowers,” she whispered. “I place this crown upon my head.” Proudly lifting her head, she said, “I am Maryalise. I like being Maryalise. It’s a much prettier name than Mary Alice.” 

  Maryalise sensed that something was not right in the garden. She  listened intently.  A buzzing noise overshadowed the music from the flowers. “Where did that buzz come from?” She wondered. “Has the buzz from the gray swarm slipped into the flowers’ song? The roses are dead. Did their song die, too?”   

She looked at the dandelions growing among the daisies. Some of them had closed. They appeared to be dead, but she was the Queen of the Flowers, and she knew there was magic inside. Soon each withered head would unfold, like magic, and reveal a delicate, lacy ball of white. She touched each closed dandelion and whispered, “I give you magic, magic, magic. Maryalise gently plucked a dandelion that had already revealed its puff of white, lifted it high above her head and then slowly brought it back down. She closed her eyes and wished. Opening her eyes, she blew gently and watched each tiny white parachute float gently upward, carrying her wishes to the Queen of all the Fairies, the grantor of wishes. A cold wind whisked into the garden, snatched the wishes and carried them away.  

“What is happening to my garden?” thought Maryalise. “The flowers need my help.” 

She became Peony, the Garden Fairy, whirling to the music that she alone could hear. Granting the flowers color and beauty and fragrance, Peony danced her way to the crystal pool at the end of the garden. Surely the water sprites would help her protect the garden.

Maryalise stopped where the stream widened into a pool. She studied the rocks and pebbles on the ground, searching for one special gem to offer to the water sprites. She selected a small flat stone with blue speckles, and, cradling it in her hands, whispered magic words. Squinting her eyes, she took careful aim and threw the azure gem. She wondered how many times it would skip. If it skipped even once, she would know her offering was acceptable, assuring magical help for the flowers.

Splash!   The rock sank.

“There is foul magic here today,” Maryalise muttered.  

 She glanced back over her shoulder. “Good,” she thought. “I am alone in the garden. No one will see where I go.”

She quickly parted the cascading branches of the ancient willow tree and slipped inside. “This is my secret place, my thinking place, and no one knows of its existence but me,” said Maryalise. “Powerful magic protects this place so evil fairies and dragons and monsters and . . . . and  . . . and shadowy creatures cannot enter here.” Thinking about the gray swarm, the shadowy creature with the spikey tail, and the lifeless roses made her uneasy, so she examined the circle of magical stones surrounding her secret place. “All is as it should be,” she told herself. “The circle is complete, unbroken, and the magic spell on these stones is still in place.” 

Maryalise knelt by the roots of the tree. Brushing aside the dry leaves, she reached into the hollow between the roots and brought out her treasure chest. “Magic protects this chest,” she said. “If any mortal should chance to find it, they will see a wooden box with a hinged lid. Only I can see the fine carvings and the gold trim. No one except me can see the invisible lock.” Last week, when she had found the treasure chest, she had not been able to open it. She had wished for a key, and she had been delighted when a gold key had appeared in her hand.

Now Maryalise invoked the magic, and the gold key once more appeared in her hand. She inserted it into the hole and twisted it. After the lock clicked, the key vanished. She lifted the lid. Some of the objects inside had been there when she found the chest. Maryalise had added other special items. She touched the tiny blue fragment of a robin’s egg, a crystal sphere, a magic feather, and a small pocket knife. She fingered each treasure in turn and carefully placed them at one end of the chest. She lifted out a pink stretchy cap and pulled it on. “I need my thinking cap today because I have come here to think,” she said. “I have lots of things I need to figure out.” 

The silence of her thinking place enveloped her as she recalled yesterday’s conversation. “I was Dandelion, the fairy messenger. Disguised as a mortal child, she had slipped through the garden and hid near the porch. She heard voices.

“That child!” Aunt Janet had said. “She’ll be the death of us yet! She never listens. She never remembers.”

“Now, now, Sister,” Aunt Lillian had said. “She’s only a child. She marches to a different drummer.”

Forgetting that she was Dandelion, Mary Alice had moved forward slightly and peeked around the corner. A twig snapped. Aunt Janet’s head turned and her angry eyes had glared at Mary Alice. Mary Alice wondered if Aunt Lillian was mad, too. As she had looked at Aunt Lillian, she thought she saw her Aunt Lillian smile.

“Why there’s Mary Alice now,” Aunt Lillian had said. “Are you ready for lunch?” 

Now she told herself, “I think that conversation was important.” She scrunched her eyebrows and pondered Aunt Janet’s words. “How could I be the death of Aunt Lillian and Aunt Janet? I’m only ten. I don’t have a gun or a knife. I know that I would never cast a destroying spell on either of them—even if they do make me mad sometimes.” She concentrated harder. “Maybe there are evil fairies who are trying to kill Aunt Mary and Aunt Alice so they can get me.” Thinking about this, she decided, “I must save them. I need to devise a magic protecting spell for them!”

Aunt Lillian’s words were also confusing. “How could I march to a different drummer? I never march. I dance or run or skip. Sometimes I fly. It all depends on who I am. But I never march. And I never hear drums. I listen to the magic song of the flowers. But I never hear drums.”

A voice intruded into her thinking. “Mary Alice!   Mary Alice!   Where are you?” 

 Mary Alice pulled her thinking cap farther down on her head and attempted to ignore that voice. “I’m not Mary Alice right now,” she thought. “I need to be Maryalise so I can finish thinking.”

 But the voice kept calling, “Mary Alice! MARY ALICE!” 

“Oh, all right,” sighed Mary Alice. She placed her thinking cap back inside the wooden chest. She closed the lid, listened to the click of the lock, and placed the chest back into its hiding place. She pushed leaves over the box until not even one corner of it was visible. Then Mary Alice exited her secret place on the side farthest from the house and didn’t stand up until she had crawled quite a ways from the tree. Mary Alice ran through the garden, up the steps, and into the house.

“Here I am,” she said as she entered the kitchen.

Aunt Janet was standing by the kitchen table. She looked at Mary Alice’s tangled hair, her dirty hands and skirt. “Mary Alice!” scolded Aunt Janet. “Just look at your dress!” Mary Alice looked at the drab brown dress that she hated. There was dirt on the hem and lots of little rips where the thin, sharp fingers of the thorn monsters had clutched at her.  

“I guess I caught it on the rose bush,” she confessed. “I’m sorry.”

The trace of a smile flickered in the corner of Aunt Lillian’s mouth as she stepped towards Mary Alice. Aunt Lillian took Mary Alice by the shoulders, turned her around and pointed her toward the stairs. “Go change for supper,” she said. As Aunt Lillian released Mary Alice, she leaned down and whispered, “Don’t worry. I can fix your dress.”

The next morning, when Mary Alice woke up, she saw her brown dress laid out on the end of her bed. The dress was clean. Every tiny rip had been mended and embroidered white flowers hid the stitches. The flowers looked like they were dancing up the skirt of her ugly brown dress. She thought, “It almost looks pretty.”

 As she gazed at the dress, she realized that it was the color of fresh brown earth. “Earth is magic because it helps the flowers grow,” Mary Alice thought. She became Maryalise as she reached out and touched the dress. Now it seemed to be  made of earth-colored velvet and each tiny flower was a magic charm that would protect her from the thorn monsters and the evil fairies.  

“Maybe Aunt Lillian has magic,” she thought.  Maryalise tucked that thought away to think about later—the next time she went to her thinking place.


Copyright 2012

Rose Owens