Lilly embraced her mother in return and promised to return the next day with her aunt. She was a bright child, and since she had been forced to observe the world without participating in it for her entire life, there was much that she had seen and heard, tucking her knowledge and experience deep within her heart.
As promised, Lily returned the following day, bringing Roslyn’s beloved sister with her. Nona was overcome with the mixed emotions of joy and heartache at seeing her niece healed and whole, while her sister was to remain a prisoner within the walls of this beautiful garden. She understood the sacrifice, however, and was more than willing to help in raising her sister’s child, for she had no children of her own and had never married.
Before Nona and her niece left that day, the white faery appeared again. Nona was filled with trepidation as she met the ethereal being, for she distrusted the use of magic and those who had powers of which she did not understand.
“You are welcome to visit your sister as often as you wish,” the faery addressed Nona in her serene manner, then turned to both women in turn. “But there is one thing which I have not yet explained.”
Roslyn and Nona looked at each other with concern.
“No one must know about this garden. The child will be permitted to leave whole and perfect, but only if the secret of our magic is kept safe. Tell another soul, and the spell on the child will be lifted and she will become as she once was.”
Nona swore to the faery that the mysteries of the garden would never be revealed. The white faery made a slight bow of her head, accepting the woman’s oath.
Nona brought the young girl back to the magic garden every few days to visit with her mother. Although Roslyn’s heart broke every time she said her good-byes, she never regretted her decision to stay. Watching her daughter grow and develop, and listening to all the experiences she was at last able to enjoy all made it worth the sacrifice. Upon discovering her incredible ear for music and hearing the crystal clear voice of the child, Nona employed the finest tutors of the kingdom to teach her niece. It did not take long before the sweet cadence of Lily’s voice became the talk of the kingdom and she was invited to perform at parties and social gatherings. Although her voice was that of a child, innocent and pure, it also contained a depth of sadness in experience and emotion which exceeded her years. Longing for her mother’s presence colored her performances, mesmerizing all who listened and reminding them of long-forgotten childhood memories, tender first kisses, and forgotten love.
As the child blossomed into a young woman, Lily’s visits with her mother grew further and further apart. Although Roslyn was still dear in her heart, the ache of her loss was dulled through the passing of time and the distractions of her new life. Between her social engagements and performances and the extensive time required by her tutors and instructors, Lily did not have the time for visiting like she did as a small child. Roslyn missed her daughter terribly, but was also proud of the life Lily was creating for herself. She cherished every moment spent in quiet conversation with Lily on the smooth rocks by the pond.
Roslyn spent long days working in the garden, maintaining the plants and befriending the magical creatures who also lived there. She lived in a tiny hut which was nestled deep in the forested section close to the exterior wall. But her favorite part of the garden and where she spent the most time was near the entrance and the pond, where she was certain to hear if Lily came for a visit.
One day, shortly after Lily's eighteenth birthday, she returned to the magic garden bringing news of pleasure. She had met the prince at a grand gala held at the palace, and had even been given the opportunity to sing for the king and queen. Roslyn's heart nearly burst with pride as her girl described the evening, complete with all the royal finery, pomp, and circumstance. She felt that Lily deserved no less attention, for she had truly turned into a beauty. Her brown tresses fell long and shiny down her back, her green eyes sparkled with joyful imagination, and her voice was that of an angel.
It came as no surprise, then, when Nona brought news of her niece's engagement to the prince not long after. Roslyn felt at peace, certain that her beloved daughter would have the happily ever after that any mother could dream for their child. Her joy was bittersweet, however, as she thought of missing her daughter’s wedding day and never meeting the man who had captured Lily’s heart. The wedding took place, and Nona described every particular of the event to her sister in such detail that Roslyn could almost imagine being present for the happy occasion. Lily was radiant and so in love. Her prince adored her and it looked as though they would lead a beautiful life together.
A year passed, and then another, with no contact from the new bride. Roslyn missed her daughter terribly. She tried to explain away her long period of absence, certain that her new life with a new husband and royal duties must be to blame. Roslyn consoled herself imagining Lily roaming the royal gardens, entertaining dignitaries in the opulent drawing room of the palace, and losing herself in the endless books of the library. But still she did not come. Nona returned periodically to the garden to tell Roslyn how happy and busy Lilly was, but her eyes betrayed a subtle sadness which her sister could not explain. When Roslyn begged her for more details of her daughter or asked why Lily had become so remote, Nona simply burst into tears and ran from the garden, staying away for longer periods of time.
One evening, after Roslyn had retired to her little hut in the forest, Lily opened the garden door cautiously and set her elegantly-slippered foot onto the lush green grass within the garden wall. She breathed in the enticing scent that hung heavy in the air, closing her eyes to let the sweetness enfold her like a warm embrace. Moving further in, shining bright in the moonlight, she noticed a large grouping of flowers which had not been there at her last visit. They were lilies, standing tall and firm, their pure white petals opened wide and inviting to reveal a deep red center so vivid it was almost like the heart of the plant. Although she had seen flora and fauna from all over the world cultivated and displayed in the royal hothouses, Lily had never seen a flower of the like. She could not resist to reach out and touch the velvety softness of a single petal.
Without a whisper of sound, the white faery rose from her seat positioned on a smooth stone by the edge of the pond. It was almost as though she had expected company that evening. Her movement startled the young woman, who had supposed that she was alone.
“Your mother grew those flowers,” the faery said in her slow, serene manner. “It is her love for you which gives them life.”
Tears poured from Lily’s eyes, dropping on to her exquisite green silk gown.
“My mother has sacrificed so much,” she said in a strangled cry.
“Indeed, she has,” was the faery’s response as she looked long into the young woman’s eyes. “But this is not why you have come to the garden today, to visit your mother.” It was more of a statement, rather than question.
Lily shook her head, unable to bring her eyes back to the faery’s penetrating gaze.
“My mother has given her life working in this garden, all to provide a beautiful life for me, full of magic and love. I have been a selfish creature these past many years. She did not raise me to be such, but I took her and my aunt’s sacrifices for me for granted. For the first time in my life, I was sought after, admired, adored. It was intoxicating. My freedom and independence were worth more to me than those of my mother. For that I will forever be ashamed.”
Lily hung her head, several tears glistening brightly on her cheeks. After several moments pause, she continued.
“My child…” Lily said, her voice breaking. “My daughter, Emilia, is very ill.”
Amid tears and halting breaths, she then proceeded to tell the white faery about the last two years of her life. She had conceived a child shortly after her marriage, but lost it midway through the pregnancy. Lily was very ill following her loss, but managed to conceive again. Her weakness persisted, however, and she was bedridden through the length of her confinement. The child was born, a tiny daughter whom she named Emilia, but the baby was weak and was not expected to survive much longer. Lily had forbidden her aunt to tell Roslyn any of what transpired, for she knew that her mother’s heart would break with the news and the knowledge that she could do nothing from the garden.
Finally when Lily’s story was complete, the faery asked in her slow, melodic voice, “What is it you ask of me?”
Lily hesitated for a moment, then plucked up her courage and looked the faery directly in her eyes.
“There is magic in this garden,” she said with determination, “magic so real and powerful I was able to run and play, dance and sing, and live a life I had never dreamed was possible for a lame, mute girl.” She paused for a moment, then continued on. “Madam, I wish to use that magic for my daughter. Please remove the healing force from me and apply it to my dying child instead.”
The faery looked at the grieving mother with compassion. Although she was still beautiful, her frame was shrunken from being confined to her bed so many months, her eyes were dark and weary from sleepless nights, and her once lustrous hair hung dull and limp down her back.
Finally the faery spoke. “My child, the magic which makes you whole is precious and powerful because it comes from your mother’s love. It is her love, and that which she pours back into this garden, which makes the magic work.”
Lily could not help but interrupt. “Then let me work beside my mother in the garden. We can work together and make the magic even stronger!”
The faery only shook her head. “Magic to heal is powerful indeed. But magic to give new life requires a much higher payment. There is no magic without a price.”
“Please, I will do anything.”
The faery spoke in a slow and solemn voice. “My dear, magic to give new life, requires a life.”