“Stories are important too. Stories help make sense of things. They make you believe you can do things. They help you imagine that things may be different, that if you just have enough courage... or faith... or goodness... you can change things for the better.”
“No story was just a story, though. It was a suitcase stuffed with secrets.”
“Had she been broken and healed all awry, like a bone that had not been properly set?”
“Dortchen was called the wild one because one day, when she was seven years old, she had got lost in the forest. She had wandered off to a far-distant glade where a willow tree trailed its branches in a pool of water. Dortchen crept within the shadowy tent of its branches and found a green palace. She wove herself a crown of willow tendrils and collected pebbles and flowers to be her jewels. At last, worn out, she lay down on a velvet bed of moss and fell asleep.”
“The bare branches were silvered with frost. The berries of the holly tree looked white with rime. Old Marie said that all holly berries had once been white, but that the crown of thorns had been made of holly, and the berries had turned red when touched with Jesus's blood. She had a story to explain everything, Old Marie.”
“Dortchen ducked through a gap in the trees, following a winding path to a small grove of old linden trees, their branches hanging with heavy creamy-white flowers. A hedge of briar roses, with delicate pink-white flowers blooming among the thorns, shielded them from the eyes of anyone walking past.
The garden was alive with birdsong. A blackbird looked at her with a cheeky eye, then hopped away to search for worms. The scent of the linden blossoms was intoxicating.”
“A small grove of linden trees grew on the far side of the lake, below the palace. Dortchen made her way there carefully, not wanting to be seen so close to the King's residence. The trees were in full blossom, bees reeling drunkenly from the pale-yellow flowers that hung down in clusters below the heart-shaped leaves. Dortchen harvested what she could reach, breathing the sweet scent deeply, then picked handfuls of the wild roses that grew in a tangled hedge along the path. She would crystallise the petals with sugar when she got home, or make rose water to sell in her father's shop.
She plucked some dandelions she found growing wild in a clearing, and then some meadowsweet, and at last reached the ancient old oak tree she knew from her last foray into the royal park. Here she found handfuls of the sparse grey moss, and she hid it deep within her basket, beneath the flowers and herbs and leaves.”
“The dried yellow petals of St. John's wort, which Old Marie called 'chase-devil' for the way it could drive the megrims away. Gaudy calendula, bright as the sun. Sweet-smelling lemon balm, guaranteed to lift the spirits with its aroma alone.”
“The whole reason for telling the fairy tales is to awaken the heart. To help people believe that misfortune can be overcome and evil conquered.”
“The scent of linden blossoms hung heavy on the air. Dortchen made a sharp, jerking movement, as if to walk away. But she hesitated, then turned and went down the long, winding path, past the tangle of briar roses and into the secret grove of linden trees. She picked a blossom and held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. Then she sat on the grass, the blossom cupped in her hand, leant her head back against the tree and closed her eyes. All she could hear was the soft sough of the wind in the leaves, and the humming of innumerable bees as they gathered the nectar from the creamy-white flowers.”
“A lark began to sing in the tree above her. Dortchen opened her eyes and looked up. It was such a small, plain, grey thing, yet its song was so full of joy. She could see its breast swell, its thin throat tremble. It lifted its wings, as if seeking to draw more air into its lungs. Song-notes were flung into the air, like golden coins thrown by a generous hand. All the lark's strength was poured into its music, all its joy.
Dortchen took a deep breath, so deep that she felt her lungs expand and the muscles of her chest crack. She wanted to live like the lark did, filled with rapture. She stood up, looking up at the bird through the sunlit leaves. It flung its wings wide and soared away into the sky. She wanted to fly with it.”
“I was afraid this day would never come," she whispered.
He cupped her face in his hands. "I told you love works magic.”
“So before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world. And all of us against the infidel.”
“Heaven itself is just a little less than perfect: for perfection, by self-definition, is a static condition, and anything truly static has deceased its purpose.”
“And I think that if I started to tell someone how I felt I’d never be able to stop so it’s easier just to not feel anything because that way there’s no issue.”
“Life isn't just about darkness or light, rather it's about finding light within the darkness.”
“I decided to masturbate with shampoo instead of conditioner today. Because yolo. Things Jesus never said.”
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