Boredom set in and with it a feeling of rebellion new to Rose. Sitting by a dirty, still pool of water for three days without decent food or drink or the company of her animals, she thought about how she wasted her time here on some fool’s errand. She tried to be the good girl she had always been, but a few strawberries and morning dew sipped from leaves did not sustain a happy mood.
Rose took one last glance at the smooth surface of the pond.
“No more.” She stood and turned to leave. After taking one step, she heard a light splash behind her and a liquid voice spoke.
Rose turned back to the pond and saw a fish head breaking the surface.
“I watched your home with great assiduity,” said Rose, “and you did not acknowledge me until I decided to leave. You must be a male fish.”
“I watched you, too,” said the fish, “and you were quite boring.”
“I was bored.”
Rose and the fish stared at each other while flies buzzed along the grassy edges of the water.
“I’m hungry,” said the fish.
“I have no food for you,” said Rose. “I have not eaten for three days.”
“Why would you go three days without food? Are your brains addled?”
Rose bent down and picked up a handful of pebbles laying at her feet. She threw them at the fish. He ducked under the water before the stones reached him.
He peeked one eye out at Rose when the ripples settled. Seeing she wasn’t armed with more missiles, he came out more fully.
“Totally uncalled for behavior on your part,” said the fish.
“You hurt my feelings.”
“You behavior makes no sense.”
“Ma-sha told me to wait here for you,” said Rose, “so I did.”
“Do you always do what you are told, even when it makes no sense?”
Rose hesitated. She did not want to answer.
“Well,” said the fish.
‘Well, yes,” said Rose. She stamped her foot, then plopped down on the ground. She covered her face with her hands and cried.
“Oh, quit your wailing,” said the fish, “and tell me why this Ma-sha sent you here.”
Rose lifted her head. She glared at the fish. She wiped her nose on her dress sleeve.
He looked back without blinking (mainly because fish can’t blink.) A fly flew over his head just out of reach.
Rose sighed and shrugged a shoulder.
“Ma-sha told me to take you to the river.”
“I don’t want to go to the river.”
“This pool is dirty and lifeless.”
“It’s my home,” said the fish, “besides, I would die before we reached the river. You have no bucket.”
“Ma-sha said I must take you to the river to find my path in life.”
“I don’t know who Ma-sha is but I know your destiny is not to kill me,” said the fish. “How about this once you do not do what you are told?”
Rose leaned forward and reached out to snatch the fish. She lost her balance when it dove under. She fell into the fetid water head first. Brackish liquid went up her nose and down her throat. Green putrid slime threaded through her titian hair like ribbons bought at a witches faire. Her long dress, soaked and heavy, pulled her down, dragging her away from the surface. She lamented how she had never really lived just before she passed out.
The fish breathed a puff of air into Rose’s mouth. She revived and with the fish’s help, she reached the surface and the grassy bank. She lay half in and out of the water, gasping.
“Your blind obedience almost got you killed,” said the fish.
“I will leave you in peace.” Rose climbed out of the water. She wrung out her skirts.
“You won’t be back?”
“No, I will discover my destiny in another way.”
“Then I will grant you one wish. Prepare yourself for your new life.”
Rose turned back to the fish.
“I wish to break my isolation and ignorance by living and learning at the palace.”
Rose found herself looking at the kitchen door of the bailey.