Because I woke up one decade and discovered I was surrounded by steel and concrete.
Because they crawl down their lanes and parkways and alleys like rats and there is no piper to call them away, no puck to tease them with wandering lights, no monsters besides myself to make them shiver and shake in their synthetic shoes.
Because the way to my castle grows thick with briars, but every year they come closer to it with their strollers and frisbees, pressing against my glamours. I watch them, peering through my leaves, as they jog past in tight clothes dyed colors that have never existed in nature. I watch as they hold hands and kick balls. Their dogs sometimes smell me and whine or inch away, but more often the beasts don’t know I’m there. My scent used to ride on the wind, call out in storms and rumble with the trembling earth. At least the cats spread word of my being, and they come when the sun sets.
Because its petals were the same color as her hair.
Because I tried to leave my sanctuary, but found myself cut off from all escape by the iron running below the ground. Steel trains and tracks, tunnels with pipes connecting the horrid dead buildings like a web of fire.
Because the boy pushed past thorns and thickets, leaving a trail of blood from the open park to my garden and he was so tired and pretty that when he collapsed against the birch trees I took pity on him and sent squirrels and sparrows to offer water, bread, and lend a blanket. They twittered and pinched his cheeks, waking him to press the cool bowl to his lips. His eyes were hollow and I saw how young he was, but how much he knew.
Because when he was refreshed he glanced around my crumbling castle and smiled. He scrubbed his filthy hands on equally filthy jeans and said, “Thank you.”
Because his gaze lit upon the velvet beauty of it, and he reached out with his grubby fingers and tore it from its stem.
Because when I reached for him and grabbed him by his neck my claws dug into his thin flesh and blood trickled onto his collar. He screamed and failed about, but I stood, hauling him into the air and away from my body so that all his kicking and punching came no nearer to me than I to the iron city. “Leyla!” he screamed.
Because he swore he’d only grabbed it because it was just like her, beautiful and red and tender, and he was alive and wanted to bring her something so she’d believe him about this garden. It was just like her.
Because I am alone, and do not wish to be so.
Because years of hating and watching have hardened my skin and made my hair coarse. My eyes are terrible and my fingers twisted. I have teeth like a lion, that cut my own mouth. Once beautiful features are blackened and cracked – wicked, sharp, untouchable. Once delicious voice, once pristine lips, once gentlest touch: now ruined, crumbling, destroyed by my iron cage and my iron heart.
Because he was afraid of me, but begged me to let him see her again.
Because I released him, gave him the rose, and told him to go and bring her here, so that I could see this girl whose beauty shone in his eyes.
Because she did not need my help to find the path to my castle, and because she looked upon me with fear trembling on her skin but said, “I owe you, tell me what you want.” Her hair was the shade of the petals, blood purple with scarlet at the tip, roots pale auburn like the thorns.