Hello and welcome to another serial short story! This time, we’re pleased to introduce you to HL Carpenter, the writing duo behind the middle grade mystery; The Ghost in the Gardens. This short story is bonus material from that book. So without further ado:
The leaf was as long as my palm and as light as the breeze that blew it off the rose bush. I might not have noticed this particular leaf at all if my initial had not gleamed across the greenness. I leaned back on my heels and traced the brown slash of the “Z” with my fingertip.
“Finally,” the rose bush said.
I dropped the leaf. “Did you—did you talk?”
The rose bush was silent.
Of course the rose bush was silent. Plants do not talk.
I went back to crawling around the school garden. I scraped the trowel over plant roots and dug out the weeds and grass that were trying to choke the life from the roses. I sweated and wiped my face and shoved my glasses back up.
I hated to sweat.
I hated even more the smirks of the kids walking by. Billy Watson was going to be in big trouble for telling Mrs. Abrams I yelled at him and getting me stuck in detention. So what if I had yelled at him? I always yelled at him. He never listened to anything I said otherwise.
When I paused to wipe sweat out of my eyes, a breeze smacked hot air across my damp face. The rose bush flailed, spearing long curved thorns into my arm and drawing blood.
“Quit stabbing me!” I dropped the trowel and grabbed the pruners. “You’re going to pay for that.”
The rose bush bent in the breeze as if reaching out to stab me again. The leaf with the “Z” twirled upward, flattened against my leg, and clung to my sticky skin like plastic wrap to cookies. One more reason to hate sweat.
I settled my fingertips into the long edge of the “Z” to peel the leaf off.
“Don’t drop your shield again, Zinnia,” the rose bush said.
I scuttled backward, clutching the leaf. “You did talk!”
I held onto the leaf. “What—who—?”
“Thank you for not dropping your shield. You’re clumsy, but at least you can follow a direct order.” The rose bush stood straight and tall in the now-still air. “I’m pleased to finally have your attention, Warrior Princess Zinnia. I am Rose, your servant.”
Was I dreaming? I pinched my arm. No, I was wide awake. Maybe I had sunstroke.
“You don’t have sunstroke,” Rose said. “And you’re not dreaming.”
What the heck? I gulped a deep breath of air. No thinking. This plant could read my mind.
“Not exactly,” Rose said. “Your shield gives you the power to communicate with me.”
“I believe you refer to your shield as a leaf.”
I turned the leaf over in my hand. Green and brown, with saw-toothed edges, the leaf was like every other leaf on the rose bush, except for the slash of color forming the letter Z. This was no shield. Shields were made of thick metal armor and carried by olden-day knights on sturdy horses.
Rose said, “The Z represents the royalty of the Queendom of Plantae. You are Warrior Princess Zinnia of the Daisy line.”
Rose did not.