Short Story
          The Little Girl with the Thorns
                                                          By Autumn Skye


  Even though it was October, the sun’s warmth on my skin combined with the
sweet aroma of the autumn roses growing nearby lulled me into daydreams of
tropical islands and warm climates.  Hyde Park for all its pomp and
circumstance at times was still nothing more than a cheap family afternoon for
many in London.  But it was unusually warm for late October and most of the
tourists were gone for an ever so brief period of time and thus the park again
belonged to us Londoners.  

  I could hear the odd child laughing or possibly a small dog yipping but for
the most part it was a peaceful way to spend my Sunday out in the sun.  I was
laying on an oversized beach towel in a more remote part of the park,
purposely picked to avoid the wandering eyes of teenage boys and their fat
fathers.  I had the forethought to wear a pair of shorts and a vest under my
jeans just in case it was warm enough to work on my tan.

  I did attract a bit of attention taking my outer clothes off but once everyone
saw I was properly dressed underneath most of the stares went away.  If I was
lucky, I could get thirty minutes on each side which saves me about ten quid
at the tanning salon.  I was nearly asleep when I heard first heard her crying.

  It sounded like a little child so I didn’t even bother opening my eyes to
check on her as I assumed her mum or dad would be nearby.  However the
crying continued longer than I had expected so I shielded my eyes with one
hand and slowly open them to see where the poor thing was.  At first I couldn’
t see anything but eventually when my eyes adjusted I saw her sitting over on
the ground near the rose bushes, her curly blonde hair standing out amongst
all the green of the small thicket.  She couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4
years old.  I gave a quick look around to see if her parents were near but didn’
t see anyone even close to her.  I really didn’t have time to deal with her but
not being totally cold hearted I stood up and walked over to where she was.

  She saw me coming and looked up at me and I could see where the tears
had been running down her dirty cheeks.  But there was something about her
brown eyes that stopped me cold in my tracks.  There was deepness in them
or a longing or was it sadness?  Either way my heart just melted right there
on the spot and I ran to her as fast as I could.

  “Hi sweetheart.  Are you ok?” I asked.  As I stood over her I noticed her
white dress was a little old fashioned especially for being out in the park.  It
reminded me of something I had seen once in a photo when my nan was a
child.

  She shook her head no and she lifted her tiny hands to show me they were
both covered in blood.  I nearly panicked but composing myself so she
wouldn’t be more scared than she was I knelt down to examine her hands.  
Now that I was closer to them I could tell they both had several rose thorns
embedded in them.

  I quickly told her that I would be right back and I ran over to grab my beach
towel and brought it back over to the little girl.

  “Can I see your hands?” I asked.  She shook her little head yes and I took
one of her hands in my hands.  “How did you get so many thorns in your
hands?”

  “I was trying to pick some roses for my mum” she said with a rather precious
Irish accent.   Her voice so little and so sweet it was all I could do not to tear
up.

  As I started to gently remove the thorns I asked “What is your name?”

  “Nessa..” she timidly replied.

  “Where is your mum”?

  The poor thing just pointed over to a group of people about fifty meters
away with her free hand.  The people she pointed to seemed too far a way to
get their attention, so I continued to pull thorns from the girl’s hand.  

  Once I had finished the first hand I took a towel and wiped away all the
blood I could and motioned her for the other hand.  By now most of her tears
and stopped and she was watching me concentrate on removing the thorns.  I
gave her a smile and she smiled in return.

  “So Nessa are you feeling better now?”  She shook her head yes.  “Good
because I am almost done.  There that is the last one!”  She was obviously
very happy as she reached over and gave me a big hug around my neck.  
After she let go I asked her “Do you want to go over to your mum now?”

  “No, I am afraid she will be cross at me.  She told me to stay out of the
roses” she replied.

  “Hmmm well what shall we do then?  How about we both go over together
and I will even carry you the whole way?” She nodded her head vigorously in
approval.  “Ok then, I have to run back over where I was laying to get my bag
then I will be right back over to carry you ok?”  Again she nodded yes.  “You
stay right here!” and with that I quickly darted over to grab my bag and ran
back to the roses.

  As I returned I couldn’t see her so I figured she had either moved
somewhere else in the bushes or had started to walk over to her mum.  I
quickly surveyed the area and couldn’t find her.  I looked out towards the
group of people she had pointed to and still didn’t see her.  I was beginning
to get a bit worried and I could feel my heart beating faster.  Where did she
go?  I hadn’t been gone for thirty seconds.  Shit!  I had to find her.

  I quickly reached for my beach towel that I had left on the ground where I
was taking the thorns out of her hands and I felt my nails scrape against
something metal.  I picked up my towel and found a metal plate at the base of
the rose bushes with an inscription on it and as I read it my blood ran cold.
  
  “This Rose Garden dedicated to our Nessa who died here October 28,
1944 picking roses for her mum.  The bombs may have taken her from this
earth, but her warm love and gentle soul  remain with us all.”
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