“Khusi, enough fighting. We’re going to the Marriage Council tomorrow. Your sister has already finished her painting apprenticeship yet you …” mother gestured to the scores of wilted plants littering the yard—eventually disappearing behind the glaring-white gown draped over the wash-line. “Five Springs under that foreigner, and yet not a single bloom. Your master remains unwed. Her trade was even shut down yesterday—permanently. She has failed and we must hurry to get you apprenticed and wed lest you follow. You’re aging and a wilted corsage is soon cast aside.”
“Mother!” she fumed, “I’m no ornament. And Master—” Master had invented preservation methods for fruits imported to their desert homeland from the far South. The distance made fruits too rare and expensive for everyone except the Royals. Master’s processing created preserved fruit, baking extracts, liqueurs, and fragrances that everyone could afford. The Royals despised that and cut off her supply. So her trade “failed”.
”Khusi listen, your sister was proposed to again. This time by Najah the merchant… he admires her paintings and thinks her skill will help promote his wares. She likes him and he does good business so we wish to accept, but—”
“—but the elder sister must wed first.” Khusi concluded helplessly. “Yes sweetheart. The council will find you a decent husband. Now, clean up this mess then get your gown off the line. I’ll help you sew your bridal patterns.”
Master had taught her, “Great women only cry when they’re terribly sad or incredibly happy.” This qualified but still she held back her tears. Great gardeners didn’t waste water. She reached for the gown, but her heart skipped and she froze. Yes, hidden behind the fluttering gown—amidst the sea of wilted brown—stood a defiant pink bloom.
Hundreds of failed experiments. Five Springs. One bloom. She’d cultivated it! The only flower in the entire desert that was edible, fragrant, and drought-resistant even in the glare of her plain-white bridal-gown. Her tears flowed onto the flower—not wasting a drop. Now she just needed a certain preservation expert to help her share this desert khusi—no, desert ‘orchid’ in Master’s language.