Dr. Weber never told us how cute the little Toadflax would be. This one has a chubby pale-green nub for a face and a mouth that snaps open like a baby trout. The way his lower lip protrudes tells me it's a boy. In just a week he'll grow into the bright yellow and orange candy coating that marks an invader. There'll be no way to hide him then.
"Moma?" he repeats.
"Hi," I whisper, trying to remain calm. Once you identify a Toadflax, the rules are: 1. Remain calm 2. Note the exact location 3. Report the invader to a member of the Aquilegia tribe. I focus on rule number 1. "I'm not your Mom. Be quiet and I'll try to help you, okay?"
"What's that?" He points to the water.
"That's the stream."
"Is that Moma?"
"No, little guy, your mama is somewhere around here, let's look, but we have to whisper because it's very dangerous."
"You're pretty. Who are you?"
"I'm Fuchsia of the Brook Primrose tribe. Now you have to be quiet, okay?"
"MOMA!" he squeals and points up. I cover him in more moss and throw a stone into the stream for good measure.
The sun is coming up fast, forming a circle of light in the Grove. The towering Aspen surround us, marking the edges of our community where Toadflax are outlawed.
This baby won't survive the day without my help.
"Fuch, you're up early." Mom startles me from behind.
"Mom - I'm just, I couldn't sleep."
"I know sweetie." She wraps her long arms around me and squeezes. I hug back trying to block her view of the ground where the baby Toadflax is shifting in the moss.
Mom lets me go and crosses her arms. "That nasty new neighbor found some Toadflax near the property line. She actually accused me of harboring fugitives, just because your dad works in immigration. Can you believe it? I mean I'm all for being open minded but I'd never endanger our community like that. Now those damn guards are going to be tromping through here all day."
Mom pulls something out of her robe pocket. "Here, you're going to need these." She hands me the fluffy tufts of Cottonwood seed for my ears. They muffle sounds and bring good thoughts. I make a note to share some with the baby, when Mom's gone of course. My parents would freak if they knew what I was up to. The punishment for treason, as that is what it means to not report a Toadflax sighting, is death by Sunangel injection.
"Honey, before you put those in your ears, I have news - about Lemon."
"Oh?" I fidget with the loose hair blowing across my face, and I'm grateful for the fresh breeze off the brook. Whatever the news, I promise myself to be nice. I count the stones in the water to calm my breathing. The baby has fallen asleep against my leg and his body sighs quietly with each breath.
"She's not out of the dark yet, but because it happened during the festival and Arnica healers were on the scene, Lemon received immediate help, which is promising. I know this must be terrifying for you but I wanted you to hear it from me. You know how rumors spin."
"Oy! Excuse me Ma'am, this your property?" A Columbine guard has sidled up to our fence and he leans his hammy arms over it.
"Yes, Officer," Mom calls. She hugs me. "I have to make sure they don't chop down every blade of green we have in the process. You go get ready for your meet, honey."
I had almost forgotten, my swim meet is today. I have all the energy of a heavy river stone. The morning sun now clearing the Grove will give me the strength I need to compete. But much more urgent than creaming Rosehill High, I have to get this Toadflax baby out of here now, before the guards kill it.
YOU ARE READING
The Grove is a Wattpad Featured Story. Fifteen-year-old Fuchsia speaks like an average teen navigating the usual drama, but her community of tribes called The Grove is an even more terrifying place to be than the halls of high school. The two major...