Rose teared up. "I know you will take very good care of Buttercup," she said softly. "You are such good friends to try to keep me from being too unhappy."
'We don't want to lose you, Rose," Peony said. "If you go, you could get hurt."
"Oh, but I am very wise and very good at magic," Rose pointed out. "I'm not afraid. Besides, what good is it to stay here? I'm not needed here. I'm sure I will soon find another Enchanted Meadow, one with more boys in it. Then I will find my Prince Charming and settle down very happily. I will send word to you if I can but don't worry about me. I am taking a vat of honey, all compressed into a jar, with me. If the way is too long and hard, I will come back here. I have to try!"
Rose carefully chose her spot and activated her talisman. "You might want to step back, unless you want to come too?" That last part was said hopefully. It would make her feel much better if one of her friends came with her. Since both Lavender and Peony immediately jumped back, Rose realized she really was going...alone. Well, so be it! She was off on a wonderful journey to a much better life. If they didn't want to come along, that was their loss!
Well, maybe it wouldn't actually work? That was her last thought as a sudden flash obscured the Enchanted Meadow. Her journey had begun.
Rose went home, trying to keep from crying. She didn't do a very good job of that but at least no one could see her cry. All the other girls were clustered around her Prince Charming.....planning to marry him!
The other girls didn't believe she would actually leave but she would! She could! She had studied the portal keeper's portal and had a family treasure, something called a 'transponder'. It wasn't a portal but it would allow her to slip from one reality to another. This, she guessed, was a very risky thing to do but right now she was so mad that she didn't care. She was going to go out and find herself a real Prince Charming. There had to be one somewhere!
Lavender and Peony came by early next morning, just as Rose was ready to set off. She was leaving her hive!
"You're not really going to leave the Enchanted Meadows, are you?" Lavender asked. "Think about it! Sure, the portal keeper was nice and fed us sweet jam but will she be nice when she knows you are all alone? Even if she is, how will you find her? It may be generations before she comes back here."
Rose's determination stiffened. She had been thinking about staying home....maybe just moving to a different part of the meadow, or even just taking a trip and coming back to her snug little hive. Now she really had to go. She just couldn't back down now, not in front of her best friends! "I will find the portal keeper with this!" she told her friends, showing off her talisman. "This will take me into different dimensions. I have a whole vat of strong, sweet honey compressed into a single jar. I've enough honey to last me for months! When I find the portal keeper, I will trade wisdom to her and she will show me an Enchanted Meadow that is even better than this one! We fairies are clever as well as wise. I studied her portal and took a reading. This is a record of some of the places she goes to. Don't you see? If she went there it must be safe. Even if I don't find the portal keeper, maybe I can find a wonderful new home all by myself. Maybe there are lots of Enchanted Meadows where I can search for a true Prince Charming. I'm sure to find one."
"Will you stay for our wedding?" Peony asked. "Lavender and I, along with another Lavender and Peony and two Roses will be marrying Buttercup in three days time."
"You're both marrying Buttercup, along with four other girls?" Rose couldn't keep the hurt from showing.
"We do want to marry," Lavender said apologetically. "It's not what we wanted. We wanted to have a Prince Charming or a Knight in Shining Armour all to ourselves. But! There just aren't many boys this season. If we don't marry now, we won't have babies this winter. Our wonderful Enchanted Meadow needs babies, needs more girls to take care of it."
"He will get fat from all that honey," Rose snapped.
"We won't let him get too fat," Peony said reassuringly. "Once he is married to us, we will take good care of him. We won't let him eat too much, or wander off, or do anything foolish. Boys will be boys but girls always know what's best. We will take very good care of our darling Buttercup. You don't have to worry about him."
As she made ready to leave her home, all she could think about was Buttercup....surrounded by girls who would lovingly prepare a bower for him and a wonderful wedding. They would stock his bower with honey and jam and the finest of silks. When the wedding season was over, he would go home with one of his wives to spend the cold of the winter snug in her hive. That fortunate wife could have been her! But it was never to be and she wouldn't have a beautiful baby girl to cuddle and love this year. Oh, her baby might be a boy but her baby was more likely to be a girl. She really wanted a little girl to love and raise.
She told herself that she only thought she loved Buttercup because her wedding hormones were intense right now. When the season was over, most girls no longer cared about the boy.She'd even heard stories of boys who had been abandoned to die of cold and hunger because they were bad husbands and the girls wanted to keep all their honey for their babies. They would forget him in the pleasure of cuddling their babies. Of course, SHE had been different. She had really loved Buttercup and even when she had her baby she would still have loved him. She would have taken very good care of him...always. But it was too late now. She would never marry Buttercup and have beautiful babies. Oh, there would be other seasons. This was just her first season, after all. But she would have to marry some other boy and where in the world would she find another boy as wonderful as Buttercup? It was simply impossible!
"Maybe you had better step back," Rose warned. "You might get drawn in beside me." Rose had hoped they would come with her. It would be so comforting to have a good friend beside her. Both Lavender and Peony jumped well back, instantly. Rose realized they would never willingly leave the Enchanted Meadow, not even for a Prince Charming of their very own. So, be it! She could do this! She would find a boy much better than Buttercup and would have much better babies! So there!
Rose activated the talisman and saw a blaze of silver crackling in front of her and splintering her reflection in a totally bizarre manner. She suddenly realized that she hadn't actually expected that talisman to work. She'd sort of hoped it wouldn't. But it had and now she had no choice. She had to go through with this or everyone would say she was a coward and a braggart. She stepped forward into the dizzying malestorm and was gone in the blink of an eye.
"You should come with me!" Rose said. "If we hold hands we can go together!"
"Oh, we couldn't abandon our beloved Buttercup!" Lavender said quickly. "He would be so dreadfully unhappy!"