“If you thought leaves in your shoes and lumpy milk was bad,” the small girl said, “just you wait.”
“Wait?” she whispered.
“Wait until your tongue turns black, until spiders make nests in your ears, until-”
“Stop it,” she said. “What do you want?”
The crown. But she wanted so to keep it, more every day. She wanted to hold it, to wear it loosely on her fingers, to kiss it.
“It’ll only get worse.”
“The need for it. It’ll consume you. It’ll be the most important thing in the world to you. More important than food or shelter or any living creature.”
“I don’t believe you.”
She sat on the box. “Smart move, that.” She knocked on the lid. “Brass latch and hinges.”
“My mother gave that box to me.”
“My mother gave me the crown.” The girl looked so sad that all the heat in her cheeks turned blue.
“What if we share it?”
She looked at her with impatience. “Pixies keep what’s theirs.”
She started to cry. “I’ll miss it too much.”
“You’d miss your pinkie toes more.”
She hiccupped again. “Huh?”
“Oh.” She put her arm on the dresser, laid her head on it and wailed.
“I’ll give you something for it,” the pixie said.
“There’s nothing else I want!” She hiccupped and cried.
The pixie hopped off the box and whispered in her ear, “My name’s Anemone.”
She kept crying but flipped the latch and opened the box. She couldn’t bear to look.
When her tears were all used up, she wondered why she’d been crying at all. She wondered why, too, her jewelry box was open. She wondered at the leaves in her shoes, the knots in her hair and the smell of burnt toast coming from the kitchen.
From that day on, wherever she breathed, anemones grew. They sprang up in country gardens, in concrete city blocks, in window boxes and flowerpots. They grew in sun and rain and snow and ice.
They were gold and ruby and sapphire blue, emerald and onyx and pearl veined with light.
All the colors of a tiny crown she could never again quite recall.