Petal-Eater by Ranylt Richildis

She steps lightly down the burnished hall, its boards wide and long and polished. She’s hungry, but there’s so little that she likes to eat, and she’s distracted by the grand shapes and fabrics that stuff her home—by the salmon drape that curtains some intimate closet along her path. She stops, rubs her face against the sagging velvet. She likes to take her time when she heads to the kitchen, where the chore of eating interrupts her restless survey of Mama’s collectibles.

Yet even in the kitchen the furniture is grand. Silks and damasks loll over the edges of highboys. Great fat cookbooks plump out of shining wooden cases. A table reigns that room, a mesa laden with enormous fruits, gleaming ceramics, and a strew of tempting objects she will investigate another time.

Mama is good. There is a meal set out for her daughters—proper food, chosen for its wholesome attributes. Petal-Eater considers it, but proper and wholesome don’t speak to her. They speak to her sister, who (proper) eats the prescribed meal without complaint. Her sister is fastidious, her hair short and neat, her toes clean.

Petal-Eater prefers her own mussed state. Her hair streams in the air as she walks, and her last bath may have been a day ago. The thing of it is, she is beautiful, and as such breaks rules without effect. Her light hair is gossamer and her eyes—eyes like the feathers of the brightest teal reflected in the brightest pond—sometimes unsettle. They don’t quite fit the sum of her head. They are slightly off their axis.

She passes her complacent sister, who barely glances up from her food. Her meal is elsewhere. It’s on a sideboard, in fact. It fills an enameled dish. It’s not intended for her—an accident—but she breathes over the dish, inhaling subtle rose, then puts a petal on her tongue. Another, this one white. Another, this red. Petals Mama let wilt in the dish disappear down a gossamer throat. It’s better to taste than to see or smell. To one side, her sister swallows meat without comment. Petals sweeten her mouth and sow a garden in her shrinking gut.

Now higher up, to Mama’s prize vase, where she will take her drink. Parting the stems of roses Mama chose to leave in water, she finds the nectar they live in and sips. The water has a brownish flavour but it also has a pearly note. She laps, unconcerned about the state of Mama’s flowers. Quenched, she exits the bouquet. The vase rolls and falls and breaks—destined for Mama’s mosaicking orts, fragments reconstituted into a different prettiness. Her sister watches, tense. She moves away, on to the other thing, the next fragile thing wanting her attention. There is a houseful.

Somewhere nearby Mama invokes Petal-Eater by her other name, exasperated. Unimportant. What matters are the pearl and silk on her tongue and the rarified meal in her narrow belly. This last takes root—not to nourish but to ennoble.

Ranylt Richildis is a writer/editor whose fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Ottawa Arts Review, Postscripts to Darkness Volume 2, Myths Inscribed, Pavor Nocturnus, and The Haunted Traveler. Her film and book reviews have appeared in the NYC-based online magazines In Review Online and The Second Pass. Her short story, “Long After the Greeks,” earned an honorable mention in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Ranylt is the founding editor of Lackington’s Magazine.

Her strangest craving is a spoonful of fig preserve from time to time, and the meal she always hungers for includes olives.

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