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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: White (10/29/09)

TITLE: Blossom of Hope
By Rachel Phelps


He kissed the back of her hand, feeling the fragile bones through the flesh.

“I will return, Carita.”

The hand in his quivered, but it was not from any recognition of his words. Henrik’s fiance’s entire body shook with the fever that raged within. Dr. Alban had been sent to the border by the German soldiers pouring into their country not a week since, and there was no one else in their village with the skill to heal Carita.

“Edelweiss.” The whisper escaped her bloodless lips on a ragged breath.

“Yes, dear one,” Henrik said soothingly, extracting his hand carefully.

Ever since the fever struck, the only intelligible word she had uttered had been edelweiss. The symbol of Austria, the flower of lovers and purity, the only link Henrik had to her once the fever laid claim. She had often teased that she would send Henrik after a wedding bouquet and let him stand the ancient test of the mountains. It was said that if a man could not climb to the high meadows were the flower bloomed and return with a blossom unscathed for his true love, he had not the fortitude to be a good husband.

He brushed a few damp blonde hairs back from her flushed forehead, kissed her gently, and left.

“State your business.” The guard at the gate of the village was holding a gun that looked like it could mow down the entire population in one burst of fire.

“I am off for a day’s hike,” Henrik said, gesturing vaguely toward the mountains towering to the east. He hated the thick accent of the Wehrmacht and the smug way they overran everything in the name of unifying Austria and Germany.

The guard eyed him speculatively. “You’d do well on the front lines, I think. Germany is in need of young men such as you to protect their mother country.”

“I am Austrian, not German.”

“It is all the same now.” The guard’s grip on the gun tightened. “Go, enjoy your hike, but pass by this gate when you return. I would have you speak to my colonel.”

Henrik mumbled what he hoped sounded like agreement and set off, covering the steep, boulder-strewn terrain as fast as he dared. Soon the foothills turned into stone slopes and the slopes turned into the sheer faces of the side of the mountain. He had climbed these rocks since boyhood, and his feet had not forgotten the crevices and outjuttings that paved the way up. It took more effort to make the journey than it had when he was but a stripling of 12 years. That was the last time he had gone in search of the edelweiss – the day he sought it to impress the golden-haired Carita, the prettiest girl in the village school. He had turned back that day. He could not afford to do so today.

The meadow was a strange break from the prism-like clarity of the snow above and around it on the mountain, the bright green grass nearly painful to the eye after the slate and white of the side of the mountain. Henrik looked around expectantly, brows knitting in confusion. This was the meadow, but something wasn’t right. He dashed to the edges of the grassy area, gulping at the thinner air. No clumps of edelweiss, no banks of flowers that looked like snow themselves. His heart plummeted painfully.

“Carita, I tried,” he whispered in a torturous tone. His limbs ached from the climb, and the prospect of returning to the village to face the Werhmacht was more than he could bear immediately.

He sat down heavily on a boulder, staring across the mountain range at the soaring peaks. “And so this is how Austria meets her end. Docile, no rebellion, no spirit.” He sighed, giving a humorless chuckle. “Even the plants know she is no more.”

Carita’s porcelain-tinted face swam before his vision, leaving his own pale in remembrance. To return without the flower would be cruel, but he could no more manufacture the flower than he could reverse Germany’s takeover.

He stood, leaning against the boulder for support. In the shadow of the stone, a tiny flower bloomed.

Henrik bent to examine it, hardly daring to breathe in case he was wrong. There, nestled in the soft ground next to the boulder, was a small, hardy-looking blossom with snowy petals and a yellow center. It was not the healthiest edelweiss he had seen from this mountain, but it was alive.

“Carita, I’m coming.”

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This article has been read 712 times
Member Comments
Member Date
BeckyJoie Oakes11/05/09
I'm intrigued by this story-it sounds like the beginnings of a great novel. In the short story, however, I am left wondering how he is going to make it past the guard on the way home. Will he make it to his lady or have to go to war? Way to go keeping your readers on the edge of their seats. :>)
Jan Ackerson 11/09/09
So good! I'd love to read a much longer version of this.
Barbara Lynn Culler11/09/09
I agree with the others! I want to know more!!!!
Ruth Brown11/09/09
Beautiful Story,more would be good!
Henry Clemmons11/09/09
You win my "Wow" award! I just made it up, but I am impressed. Excellent opening line. Some masterful writing, especially when Henrik reached the mountains. Loved the line, "Even the plants know she is no more." And the flower found by the "Rock"; GREAT touch.
Super job. You are destined for higher places than Masters in writing. You have both passion and talent.
Sarah Elisabeth 11/09/09
Oh wow, I had chills going at the end! When he arrived at the empty valley, my heart had already sank before his did. I was so wrapped in the story, I didn't want it to end. Yet when it did, I felt more than satisfied. You amaze me with your ability to put the reader right "in the scene".

I am not a qualified enough writer to critique this in any way, I couldn't find anything wrong with it!

BTW have I told you that you are one of my favorite FW's authors??? :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/11/09
Beautiful story--excellently written. I was curious as to what would happen when he came by the guard again.
Lenda Blackmon11/11/09
I really enjoyed reading this and I agree it would be a great novel.
Mona Purvis11/11/09
I agree with both Henry and Sarah. Your writing is indeed special. This is so rich.
You have what a "real writer" needs to tell a story. I look forward to seeing your work in stores on best seller lists. Keep writing. It will be there.

Laura Manley11/11/09
Very well written! Good story line which kept my interest throughout. Laura
Catrina Bradley 11/11/09
Your writing here is near perfection - masterful doesn't describe it. And the story was wonderful!
Beth LaBuff 11/11/09
This reminded me of one of my favorite musicals, "The Sound of Music". Your title is even a phrase from the song. You've written a wonderful story that kept my attention throughout!
Aaron Morrow11/11/09
Excellent work Rachel, I really have come to admire your writing style. The clarity of the detail is amazing. I found a couple of little things that threw me during this great literary romp through the German takeover of Austria.
When you mentioned that her only word had been edelweiss, the quotation marks were left off...and at one point the word "were" was used rather than "where", which flustered me a little. Regardless, another outstanding work, and for a history buff like me, pure ambrosia. Great job!
Leah Nichols 11/12/09
I love that you challenge yourself to write such different pieces. Your talent stretches in so many directions. Well done! And a well deserved placing! I wouldn't be surprised if it was quite high on the Top 40.
Marita Thelander 11/12/09
Very, very nice. It captured me from beginning to end. And the end...perfect. Congratulations.