By Adya Agarwal Gupta

Odd-Flower was a unique flower. Each of her petals was a different shape and of different colours for which she was shunned by her flower batch. She tried not to listen to the taunts thrown her way, time and again. She went out of her way to try and fit in and be friendly with the other flowers. Whenever she could, she tried to be helpful. But to no avail. But, by and by, Odd-Flower realized that she would just have to ignore the rude comments and continue on. She hoped that someday the flowers would accept her. Until then, she endured the impertinence of her batch.

Soon the Flower Festival arrived! Every year, the Princess would come to Sherwild Garden and host a Carnival. All the flowers would dance for the Princess. Odd-Flower had practiced her dance long and hard, hopeful that this would be the change. She was the only one doing a dance alone, but was confident in it. With the last stitch of her magnificent polonaise, Odd-Flower entered the Festival and smiled. For once, she felt like a part of the flowers. But, Petunia, her biggest tormentor, soon ruined that. Petunia seized the opportunity to grab Odd-Flower’s dress while she wasn’t watching, ripping it slightly. Odd-Flower pursed her lips and tried not to cry at her ripped dress.

“What are you doing here, oddball? This is no place for loners!” Petunia taunted. Odd-Flower bent her stem mournfully.

“I am here to meet the… Princess.”

“The Princess? Meeting you? She would hate you. You miserable little oddball. Your petals are all over the place and so many colours that you look like a badly decorated Christmas tree! Go away, this is no place for you!” Petunia admonished, pushing Odd-Flower away.

Odd-Flower was stunned at Petunia’s words. Her eyes stung. As she ran out of sight, Odd-Flower fell back onto a stool and sobbed loudly. Her melancholic sobs were overheard by a flock of sparrows who flew up to the Pixie Tree, where Odd-Flower’s Godmother lived. Upon hearing the news, Godmother angrily fluttered down beside Odd-Flower who continued to sob uncontrollably.

“Calm down, dear. We will show them how unique and beautiful you are,” Godmother gently assured, stroking Odd-Flower’s petals. Odd-Flower nodded between her sobs, looking up at the pretty face. She wiped her tear-stained face and looked at the ground. Rummaging through her chest quickly, Godmother found her wand at the very bottom. Her words were delicate and swift as she mouthed the spell and swished her wand three times. Odd-Flower was too sad to understand what Godmother was doing. But, she realized it too late.

The laughter in the distance became softer and softer, until it disappeared. Godmother smiled, satisfied. Her spell had been cast. All the other tormenting flowers were now frozen! Yes, frozen! Now, Odd-Flower didn’t have to bear any more taunts. She could live peacefully. But, Odd-Flower thought very differently. She looked up at Godmother in shock and hurt. She had only just realized what had happened. Her sobs became more prominent now, as she yelled at Godmother through her tears.

“Why did you freeze them Godmother? Look what you have done! Now I have no more friends. Whatever will I do without them? This is too terrible…” Odd-Flower sobbed, uncontrollably. Godmother was perplexed. Odd-Flower explained that she liked the laughter and joy around her. It made her feel happy even when she was gloomy. Godmother looked at the ground and thought aloud.

“Well…” Godmother said aloud, tapping her exquisite pixie foot on the ground. “Well, there is no reversing the spell.” Godmother tried to think of a solution. She couldn’t think of one. She looked at Odd-Flower’s petals dejectedly. They were drooping because she was sad. Suddenly, it struck her!

“I know! If you find the petal that you have in common with them and tap each them with it, they will return to normal. Go!”

Odd Flower did exactly as she was told, until she had freed each and every one of the flowers! Petunia looked at the ground. She pursed her lips now as it dawned on her on what had just happened and how Odd-Flower had saved them all.

“Three cheers for Odd-Flower!” The other flowers yelled, taking Odd Flower’s hand pridefully. Godmother fluttered back up to her tree. Odd Flower turned her head. In the distance, she saw a shimmery eyelid winking. Petunia edged closer to Odd-Flower, apologizing for her wrongdoings. Odd-Flower was only too happy to embrace Petunia and be one with the rest of her Flower Batch. At last, Odd Flower was truly happy.

If only this happiness had continued, it would have been a brilliant life for Odd-Flower. But, that happened only in fairytales. Odd-Flower’s life was different.

It had been a few weeks since Odd-Flower rescued all the flowers. No one tormented her anymore. The other flowers yelled at anyone who dared to. The other flowers, especially Petunia, had grown excessively close to Odd-Flower. They didn’t want to part with her. One day, Odd-Flower and her friends were roaming Sherwild Garden together, laughing and reciting jokes. In the distance, a wicked pixie named Maia was flying. She was off to make more mischief in someplace, but hadn’t intended to stop at Sherwild Garden. There was a green mist in the air from where she had flown from, but it didn’t stop her from hearing the laughter and smiles on all the flowers’ faces. They were having fun! Maia had a long-lasting enmity with happiness. She squinted, boiling with wrath as the laughter pierced her peace.

Maia was happy once, but her entire village had marked her as an outcast because of her purplish green skin. Ever since, she had vowed to not sleep until she could make the entire World miserable for what her village had done to her. Sherwild Garden was a place of tranquility and Maia knew this, but she had always heard Odd-Flower’s sobs over the rest of the laughter. She had felt happy that someone else too was as miserable as her. So what was different today? Zooming in closer, she landed at the tree opposite to The Wise Animals of Sherwild. The Wise Animals were very intelligent and were the guardians of all the flowers residing in Sherwild Garden. Maia landed beside their log and disguised herself as a pretty little pixie, seeking help.

“Excuse me?” Maia called out, in a dainty voice. The Wise Animals came scurrying out. There were three squirrels, one fox and eight sparrows.

“What has brought you here?” The Wise Animals asked, perplexed, as they hadn’t seen this stranger. Maia’s black magic was too strong for them to recognize her.

“All the flowers are laughing. They seem so happy, but why?” Maia confirmed, trying not to sound angry at their happiness. The Wise Animals all exchanged strange glances praised Odd-Flower and narrated the un-freezing story. Maia smiled wickedly, rushing away.

She changed back into the ugly pixie she was. As she landed once again in the centre of Sherwild Garden, she moved towards the batch of flowers. Petunia turned to look at the ugly sight and shivered.

“There’s someone coming, Odd-Flower!” Petunia whispered urgently, pushing the flower batch further and further from her. But, Maia ran after them, chasing Odd-Flower with her eyes. She had spirals in her eyes, slowly hypnotizing Odd-Flower. Petunia tried to break the trance by holding Odd-Flower back for long, but Odd-Flower hissed and broke free. She was like a magnet, the way she was helplessly drawn towards Maia. All the other flowers rushed forward, trying to save Odd-Flower. Petunia even snatched up a vine to tie Maia to a tree, but the vines were no match for Maia’s power. She snatched Odd-Flower and the two flew away, far, far away.

As it flew away, the flowers commenced pacing the garden in panic. Petunia’s petals had turned white with panic. She frantically thought about Maia. Maia would certainly not let Odd-Flower go so easily. She was the most feared sorceress! Petunia thought about this, again and again and something struck her on the seventeenth thought! The Wise Animals! They would surely know a way to get Odd-Flower back. Petunia ran towards their log, followed by the others.

“Wise Animals of Sherwild Garden, are you home?” Petunia urgently asked, keen to meet them. The animals rushed out, listening to her frets carefully. They only kept nodding. Petunia panicked further with each nod, but left them to discuss their plans.

They talked for ten hours, forty-three minutes and seventeen seconds. At last, they emerged from their log and dispersed across the garden. All the sparrows were informed of the plan. So were the trees. The Flower Batch was summoned and asked to produce all the pollen they could. By and by, the flowers understood that they would make Maia cough and sneeze with so much pollen that she couldn’t breathe! All the sparrows immediately tied the pollen pouches loosely around their necks. They flew ahead, dispersing pollen everywhere. The trees started swaying to let the pollen travel. The pollen travelled farther than they could see, disappearing into a stony tower that was known as Maia’s lair. The flowers, the sparrows and the trees had all done their job and now prayed their hardest for the plan to work or for a miracle to happen.

For a while, there was silence. Suspense hung in the air. Had it worked? There was pin-drop silence. No coughing or sneezing to be heard. But, suddenly, a high-pitched sneeze was heard, followed by many unstoppable coughs. This went on and on for some time. Everyone, waited tensed for a reaction. Any reaction!

“Odd-Flower!” Maia yelled finally, reaching her nails out to grab her stem. “Help me!”

Odd-Flower at first thought this was a virus and hoped she wouldn’t catch it, but soon understood that it was all part of a plan when she saw massive clumps of pollen stacked in every nook of the house. She understood instinctively the wisdom of the Wise Animals in the plan. Odd-Flower pretending to help added her own pollen into a tissue and gave it to Maia!

Maia grabbed it and tried to blow her nose, but instead just sneezed more and more. This was the straw that killed the camel’s back.

“Stop it! Stop it! Please, let me be!” Maia screeched, when she was able to catch a breath. She couldn’t breathe. She was struggling. Her sorceress powers were failing slowly and steadily. There was no reply. More pollen shot up her nose and more coughing was heard. Finally, she received a message from the Wise Animals and the other residents of Sherwild Gardens, at the hands of the famous messenger pigeons.

Return Odd-Flower or be condemned to sneeze to death! Maia took one last desperate look at Odd-Flower as she squinted, and thrust her out of the window. Odd-Flower plummeted down onto the downy backs of her feathered saviours who flew her back home safe and sound.

Everyone cheered! At last, their Odd-Flower had returned. She hugged her friends and thanked the Wise Animals of Sherwild Garden. Ah! Finally! Although late, the hapless concatenation had given way to an everlasting happy ending!


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