The liliads only grow in one spot, because it is the spot in town that gets both the most rain and the most sun. They are hard to reach because they sit on a cliff overlooking a river, which is lined by sharp rocks and in fact, very far down. The cliff face is both steep and narrow, so it is hard to get there.
The liliads themselves are quite beautiful. Their petals are pinched like a dragon snap’s, only they open up at the tops and fan out like a daisy’s. Their coloring ranges from deep purple to lavender to pure white. They stick up out of the ground like cornstalks, and their round green leaves stretch desperately up towards the sky.
Of course, lots of other flowers grow in the village; red roses and blue tealeads and bright yellow gardelians. But none of them are purple, and none of them are liliads.
I don’t know why I love them so much. My mother liked them, too. And my grandmother. I would ask them, but I never met my grandmother and my mother died when I was young. She named me after them, you know. All the women in my family are flowers. My grandmother was Rose. My mother was Lilac. And I am Liliad.
When I was little, my father used to take me out to the cliff where the liliads grew, at the edge of the city. Back then my feet were small and I was light, so it was easier to walk along the cliff face. When my mother was sick, that was the first time he took me. He told me to pick one of the flowers and throw it over the side. If it landed in the river, I could make a wish. Over and over and over again, I tried. I went back every day to throw a flower at the river, until I finally got one in. And by then, I could only think of one wish;
for my mother to come back.
By now, my father is old and sick too. And since I am turning nineteen this winter, I have to get married before he dies. Not after. It’s tradition, see. That’s just how it works. It’s stupid, but it’s still tradition, no matter how much I dislike it. By the time you turn nineteen, everything changes. The girls have to start meeting with suitors, and the boys have to find a bride, because we’re supposed to start a new life. We rarely leave town though. That’s what the wall is for.
Some people want to marry me already, but you can’t get married at eighteen. At least, Guinevere told me they want to. Guinevere is a pretty girl like me, but she is a gossip and a flirt. Sometimes I wonder why we’re friends. She is funny and likes to talk. Me, I’m just the girl without a mother, the one who follows Guinevere around like a shy puppy.
at least, that was how it was two years ago. When you’re sixteen, people start to notice you, and not for the things I want to be noticed for. When people look at me, they just see a pretty face. They see two bright blue eyes and pale skin and burgundy hair. But I’m smart, and fast, and strong. Only, no one seems to notice that. One boy said I looked like a princess. But the year before, he said I moved like a sloth and yelled at me to hurry up, so I didn’t believe him.
Guinevere thinks I could get married early if I wanted to, but we made a pact. Us and Kai. Kai is a boy, but not that kind of boy. He’s our friend, and the three of us made a pact together that we wouldn’t get married officially until the rest of us had someone to marry as well. We didn’t say anything about the matchmakers, though.
The matchmakers are just all sorts of wrong. I told Kai once and he said “just because they matched the two of us together doesn’t mean they’re wrong.” The boys get their lists before the girls, because that’s just how it is. If there’s a reason, I don’t know what it is. The boys get their lists on the first day of school and the girls get theirs on the last. “When you’re old enough to learn how to make babies,” says Guinevere, “that’s the year they give you your list.”
The lists are names. Just names. Twenty of them each year. Five who are a year older than you, five who are a year younger, five who are the same age, and five from the big city down the road where they send you to university. That’s the only way they’ll let you leave.
The people in the city are all rich and beautiful, and Guinevere says I’m pretty enough to have any one of them head over heels for me. “That’s not right, though.” I told her. “The point of the matchmakers is to find someone you’ll fall in love with.” Guinevere just wrinkled her freckled nose. “Well, if they know so much about love, why don’t they come out of that old tower once in a while?” And since I didn’t know what to say, I just shrugged and went back to my book.