WHAT: As part of my narrative design independent study, I wrote the following short story in Scrivener, a useful writing tool that helps an author organize character and location descriptions, outlines, and more.
GOAL: My main goal with this fairy tale - aside from learning the basics of Scrivener as I wrote it - was to show that romance doesn't always end in honey and sunshine. Initial infatuation is exhilarating and certainly not dull, but the aftermath can sometimes be disappointing and downright scary. However, in the end, people can end up stronger after enduring the experience.
- Manon des Sources (Manon of the Springs): 1963; second part of a French novel by Marcel Pagnol about a girl who seeks revenge on a family and a town that drove her father into an early grave
- The Virgin Spring: 1960; black and white Swedish film by Ingmar Bergman that tells the story of a young girl who loses her way on her journey to deliver candles to a church
- the fairy tales of Charles Perrault
As a child I wondered why the cherry blossoms bled white in spring, and to answer that question, my mother told me this story.
When the grass still grew high and before the great war pelted the lands with iron rain, there lived a girl named Manon. She was not one for stories, but she surrounded herself with flowers and trees that whispered of years before her birth and of adventures to be had long after she returned to dust. She wore a locket of radiant gold that contained faded images of her mother and father. Unlike the others in her village, seduced by the cheap charm of progress, the raven-haired Manon had not grown too busy to listen. Each day she ran her palms over the tall grass, walked the 3,937 steps to and from the village well, and tended her mother’s cherry blossom orchard, as she had promised to do many years ago.
While Manon had long performed her tasks in solitude, she had just reached her 16th year when she realized she was no longer walking alone. She had noticed a tall man lingering ever in her shadow, his eyes wide in study of her nimble movements and solemn ritual. Such a companion Manon had not expected, and so she was startled when, on the third day, he finally asked her name.
“Manon,” she said simply, thinking only to answer the question and return to her work. This did not seem to satisfy the young man, whose hands - she noticed - were soft and untarnished by weather or wear.
“Do you not wish to know me?” he pressed, leaning so close that she nearly lost her footing among the roots in the ground when she instinctively stepped away. “Do you not find me handsome?”
Manon looked at him carefully. She suddenly recalled his face from a schoolroom from what seemed like a lifetime ago, and his face was strong and square - handsome, certainly. Thin, platinum blond hair fell to his shoulders, encircling his countenance so as to make him look nearly pure. Perhaps he was sent by the goddess.
“You remember me, then. I am Gaspard, the duke’s son. There is to be a ball in four days, you know. Will you not be mine, fair Manon?”
Before Manon could answer, the two had returned to her mother’s cherry blossom orchard, and Manon had to water the trees. “I have to water the trees,” she said simply, and closed the gate behind her.
For three more days, the man asked her the same question. Will you not be mine, fair Manon?
For three more days, Manon said nothing. She found his persistence charming and luxuriated in being the object of such a handsome, wealthy man’s affection.
On the fourth day, the man did not ask the same question.
He did not ask any questions at all.
The man grabbed Manon firmly by her right arm, startling her so severely that she dropped the tapered clay jar she used to carry the water for her mother’s orchard. When the jar hit the ground, it shattered beyond repair.
Gaspard dragged her to his father’s tailor and had her fitted for the ball. Manon stood in silence as the seamstresses measured everywhere, again and again. She never met the man’s gaze, though he watched.
Once dressed in something painfully white, Manon felt the same giant, soft hand firmly take hold of her arm and lead her into an ornate carriage, adorned in billowing white satin with gold trim. Through the window, she could see her mother’s cherry blossom orchard fade into the distance as they approached the duke’s chateau.
Manon did not remember stepping from the carriage, but she must have done so.
Manon did not remember dancing, but her legs later ached.
Manon did not remember talking with anyone, but Gaspard told her that she had been charming.
Manon did not remember getting married, but she did not go home.
Many would have been happy being a duchess. Manon felt guilty when she looked upon beggars in the streets from her gilded window, but then she remembered the weight of her finery.
Gaspard visited her sometimes, but he did so less and less as the summer months waned. She had gotten fat, he said. She had become weak from no longer carrying water to and from her mother’s cherry blossom orchard. How she longed to return! She had no skill in dancing or sewing or anything in which women were supposed to have skill. She had no interest in the tiresome intrigue of the scheming aristocrats. After he reminded her how lucky she was to have been chosen by a duke, Gaspard would leave for days, often not returning alone.
Manon endured this existence in silence, but she, too, was not alone. Her handmaiden and most trusted confidant, Anaïs, would watch her mistress suffer no longer. After the first snow, Anaïs told her mistress of a flower that blossomed only in her village, seven days south as the crow flies, whose nectar could induce deep, paralyzing sleep. She did not tell her mistress that the flower could kill because she did not think it would make a difference.
Anaïs procured the flower and carefully placed three drops of the nectar in her mistress’ tea. By the stroke of twelve, Manon was no more.
Manon awakened beneath a cherry blossom tree in the center of a golden field with a locket and a note in hand. A nearby cottage puffed weighty smoke, and a ruddy woman beckoned to her. The woman wore an apron soiled from baking and wisps of her gray hair attempted to escape from a tightly-curled bun that Manon had seen before. Manon smiled when she found a new, sturdier jug for watering the cherry blossom tree waiting for her inside.
Little is known of what became of Gaspard. There are whispers of ghosts and weeping in the dark.
Little did Manon think of Gaspard. She had her future, her freedom, and her white cherry blossoms, bleeding white.
Copyright Alexandra Lucas 2015