Jessica, a determined little fairy, put her hands on her hips and stood in front of Nicholas, blocking his way.
"I can too do it," she said. "I've watched you and Nina, and I know exactly how it's done."
"No, Jessica," Nicholas said, his patience wearing thin. "Watching is one thing, doing is another. You have to practice with a teacher before I can trust you to open the rose petals alone. That is very delicate work. Nina and I don't have time to teach you now. Maybe next year."
"But I don't need practice and I don't need a teacher. I've watched you and I know how to open rose petals. I do, I do, I DO!"
Jessica stamped her little foot so hard the dust flew up into Nicholas' face.
"A-choo!" he sneezed. Without saying "excuse me," he looked sternly at Jessica.
"For the last time, Jessica, the answer is no. Maybe next year we can manage it. Right now you have another job. I don't want to hear any more about it."
Nicholas gently pushed Jessica aside and went his way.
Jessica, her fists clenched, watched him disappear. "Oooooh!" she said. "What does he think I am, a baby? I can too open the roses!"
Scuffing her feet in the dust, she started down the path, muttering to herself. She passed a bush and, without thinking, pulled off a leaf.
"Ow!" yelled the bush. "That hurt!" What did you do that for?"
"Oh - I'm sorry," said Jessica. "I wasn't thinking about you. I was thinking about something else. I hope I didn't hurt you too much."
"Well," said the bush. "It does hurt, but I suppose it will stop after a while. What were you thinking about that made you yank off my leaf the way human beings do? Do we have to start being afraid of fairies now?"
"No, no, no," said Jessica. "I told you it was an accident. Nicholas says I don't know how to open rose petals. He says I have to practice. I've watched him and Nina so much I don't need practice. He never lets me do anything."
"Hmmmm," said the bush thoughtfully. "Being a currant, I don't know many roses, and I don't know much about opening them. But it seems to me that it would be a rather delicate job. I shouldn't imagine that anyone but the most experienced fairies have ever been allowed to do it."
"They haven't," agreed Jessica, "but that's no reason not to let me try. I know I could do it."
"Be patient," advised the bush. "Haven't you got enough work of your own? " Why do you suddenly want to open roses?"
"Because it's fun," answered Jessica. "I'm sick of doing my same old job all the time. You know what? I'm going to open some roses anyhow, when nobody's looking. Then when Nicholas sees what a good job I did, he'll let me do them all the time. And he'll be sorry he said I need practice."
"Oh, Jessica, I wouldn't do that," said the bush. "You'll be asking for trouble. What if you do it wrong? Think how furious Nicholas will be."
"But I won't do it wrong!" Jessica stamped her foot again "I know how to do it and I'm going to show everybody. And you're just being an old fuddy- duddy ! "
With that, Jessica tossed her head and flounced down the path. The bush watched sadly, quite sure that no good would come of this.
That night Jessica tiptoed to the rose garden. The full Moon made it easy to see.
"Hello, roses," she said. "I'm going to open you now, and is Nicholas ever going to be surprised!"
"What?" shouted the big white rose. "What do you mean, you're going to open us? You're not the rose opener. And it's the middle of the night. We don't open at night."
"What difference does that make?" asked Jessica. "I'm as good a rose opener as Nicholas or Nina, even though nobody knows that yet. But they will!"
"Jessica," said the white rose, "don't be silly. You can't open roses the way you open bean pods. We have many petals that have to be gently unfolded in their proper order."
"I know that," said Jessica impatiently.
"And you can't unfold roses without practice. You haven't had any practice."
"Oh practice, schmactice!" interrupted Jessica. "First Nicholas and now you with that practice. I keep telling you I don't need practice. Get ready. I'm going to open you first."
"Jessica, no!" exclaimed the white rose. "You don't know what you're doing You can hurt us badly, and get yourself into a lot of trouble, too."
"I'm not going to hurt you." Jessica was angry. "You're an old fuddy-duddy like the currant bush. He thinks I can't do it either."
"The currant bush is very wise," said the rose softly." You should listen to him."
"Pfiffle!" said Jessica rudely. She reached up and pulled down one of the petals. The rose jerked away, and the petal snapped back up.
"Don't do that, Jessica," begged the rose. "That hurts. That's not the way to open a rose. You're not doing it gently enough."
"Of course it hurts if you jerk away. You're making it hurt, not me. Hold still and cooperate and you'll be open in a few minutes."
Jessica pulled the petal down again. When it tried to snap back up she pulled harder, and it tore off in her hand.
"Jessica," the rose said softly. "That hurt very much. Won't you please stop before you make things worse?"
"I'm sorry," said Jessica. "But that was an accident. Next time it will go better. Don't worry."
Before the rose had a chance to say anything more, Jessica pulled down another petal. It tried to snap back up too, and the only way Jessica could make it stay open was by creasing it. She tore several more petals off and made holes in several others before she finished.
When she finally said, "Well, I guess you're as open as you're going to get," the poor rose looked terrible and felt worse.
Jessica was not very pleased with her work either. She had to admit to herself that the rose did not look nearly so good as she had thought it would.
But aloud she said, "Some of your petals tore off. Im sorry about that, but you can grow more. You're the first rose I ever opened. I'll do better with the pink one*"
"No, Jessica," groaned the white rose. "Please leave the pink rose alone. She's only a baby. This is her first year in the garden. It's bad enough that you hurt me, but I can take it Please don't hurt her."
"I won't hurt her," said Jessica. "I really do know what I'm doing now. I won't tear any of her petals."
The little pink rose, who had watched in horror while Jessica was working on the white rose, began to cry.
"Don't cry, pink rose," said Jessica. "If you hold real still I'll just pull your petals down and it won't hurt at all."
She pulled down one little pink petal. It stayed put, but it ripped just a little on the bottom, and the rose cried harder.
"Oh, that was just a little rip. Nobody will even notice," said Jessica, pulling on another petal.
The little rose sobbed piti fully, but Jessica went right ol. trying to open her petals. She tore one off and ripped some others. But all she said to the poor little rose was, "You're being very silly to cry like that, you know. If you'd stop crying you'd look better."
When Jessica finished, she tried to tell herself that she had done a good job. But deep down inside she knew better. The ground was covered with petals she had torn off, and the petals that were left drooped every which way and made the roses look wilted.
"Oh, dear," Jessica said to herself. "That's not how roses look when Nicholas opens them. What'll I do now?"
At that moment, someone grabbed her arm and a furious voice said, "Jessica! What are you doing?"
Jessica had never seen Nicholas so angry. She whispered, "I was opening roses."
"Opening them " said Nicholas. "You ruined them. How could you be so disobedient?"
"Oh, Jessica," said Nina softly, her arms around the baby rose who was still crying. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
"I'm - I'm - I'm sorry," stammered Jessica, starting to cry too.
"SORRY!" roared Nicholas. "You go to your room and stay there till I send for you. I don't want to see you here. GO ON!"
And Jessica, shoulders drooping and tears streaming down her face, trudged back to her room.
Nicholas and Nina did what they could to make the two roses feel better, and promised the other roses in the garden that such a thing would never happen again. The white rose said he understood, and could always grow new petals next year. But it would be a long time before the baby rose was to smile again.
Many hours later, Nicholas sent for Jessica. "Well," he said, "what have you to say for yourself?"
"I'm sorry, Nicholas," she whispered.
"Yes, I suppose you are," Nicholas said, sighing. " But your being sorry doesn't help those poor roses, does it?"
"No, sir," whispered Jessica.
"Why did you disobey me after I said you were not to open roses?" Nicholas asked.
"Because I wanted to show you that I could open them, so you'd be sorry you said I needed practice," answered Jessica in a low voice.
Nicholas sighed again. "And are you proud of your work?" he asked.
"No," said Jessica, looking at the floor.
"What made you think you could open roses without practice?"
Jessica squirmed. She was very ashamed, and it was hard for her to think about how sure she had been that she knew what she was doing.
"Well, it looked so easy when you and Nina did it. And it seemed silly to practice something that looked so easy. - Nicholas," she burst out, "I did a terrible thing and I'm really sorry - hon-est I am. I should have listened to you. I don't know everything like I thought I did. I understand that now. Next time I'll listen to you - I promise."
Nicholas looked at her for a long minute. Then he said, "I believe you, Jessica. I think you've learned your lesson. But what about those poor roses you harmed? You did a terrible thing to them."
"I know," said Jessica. "I wish I could do something for them, but I don't know what. I can't give them back their petals."
"No, you can't," agreed Nicholas. "You destroyed something you can't replace. Besides that, the baby rose is afraid of all fairies now, just becauseof what you did. It seems to me you have a lot to answer for."
"Nicholas," whispered Jessica, "what can I do?"
Nicholas sighed again. "Do you want to be friends with the roses now?"
"Oh, yes," said Jessica.
"Then I suggest you show them that zou are sorry and want to be their friend. lust how you go about that is something you will have to work out for yourself."
Jessica did not have too much trouble convincing the white rose that she was sorry. He had lived long and knew many things, and he understood that little fairies sometimes think they know much more than they do. He also understood that Jessica had learned a hard lesson, and would be a much more responsible fairy from then on.
But the little pink rose was so afraid of Jessica that Jessica couldn't go near her. Jessica wanted to help the little rose get ready for winter, but even when fall came she was still so afraid that Nina said it would be better if Jessica stayed away.
It wasn't until the next summer, after Nina had gently opened her petals and the little rose saw her beautiful pink reflection in the garden pond, that she stopped being afraid.
She called Jessica to her and asked, "Do you think I'm a pretty rose now?"
"I think you're a beautiful rose," answered Jessica.
"Would you dust off my petals?" asked the rose. "A lot of dust blew through here yesterday."
Holding her breath, Jessica carefully dusted the little rose's petals.
"Thank you," said the rose, "that feels much better."
And after that, Jessica and the little rose became the best of friends.
It had been a hard year for Jessica, but she never forgot the lesson she learned. From then on, she always listened to the advice of fairies who were older and wiser. Whenever she had a new job, she made sure to learn everything she could about it ahead of time, so that she would make as few mistakes as possible once she got started.
--Rays from the Rose Cross Magazine, April, 1975, page 189-192