At first, I thought that they were roses, for they appeared as so. I was very young when the vines first arrived. They entered through my bedroom window and I remember waking up with them tangled around my feet. I was confused but unafraid; they weren't a threat to me in the beginning. I could see the flowers that were so intricately laced within the foliage; bright red and brilliant, peeking out at me like tiny stars. Their scent was sweet, so strong that I remember having to blink back a few tears, but I didn't mind. Instead, I smiled to myself. Maybe I didn't have to be lonely. I never thought that something so beautiful would have the potential to do me any harm. I believed that the vines were meant as a gift, so when they began wrapping themselves further and further up my legs, I let them. When I first encountered the empty feeling, I ignored it. I let the vines take over, my denial sending me further into a prison I couldn't escape. I clung to one question that thudded numbly against my skull; how could something that smelled so sweet ever have potential to hurt me?
Soon, the vines were covering my entire body, and I realized that there were far less roses than I had originally thought. The few that remained were wilting, the brilliant red reduced to the stain of dried blood. Now, when I look into the mirror, I see them for what they really are—a tangled mass of thorns. I can see them writhing on the surface of my skin, pulsing with each fluttering beat of my heart. They move like snakes on aimless paths, never settling for more than a second at a time. They leave me hating my reflection, a prisoner to the image that stares back at me. They are the source of the trembling in my hands and the hesitance in my smile. They have woven themselves so tightly around my throat that I scarcely remember the sound of my own voice. I never thought that I'd be so easily deceived. I never imagined that something so sinister could be disguised as something so pure. The thorns had transformed my reflection into something utterly unrecognizable, while all I could do was stare at the pretty flowers.
I have had to stay away from people so they wouldn't be ensnared by the thorns. They trailed behind me as I walked and would cling to anything that got too close. When my mother asked me why I was being so distant, I couldn't think of a reply. She would never understand that I was trying to protect her, that I didn't want to see her with thorns scratching at her ankles. Sometimes I think that I see the thorns in others. I'll see the empty flicker in someone's eyes or I'll see the marks that the thorns often leave behind on someone's skin. It was after I noticed that my younger sister had the markings that everything changed for me. She was too innocent. She deserved the sweet smelling flowers, but instead was surrounded by poison. I remember how my stomach lurched at the thought of my sister being wrapped in thorns. Her eyes were too bright and her laugh was too loud. I wouldn't let them take that away from her.
In response to my situation, I've decided to take up gardening. I don't know much about it, but I'm going to try to learn. Soon, I will pick up some shears and snip away all of the dark parts of myself. I will trim carefully, for I know that the pain that I have overcome shouldn't be forgotten. I know that the thorns shouldn't be killed, but rather transformed. They are a symbol of the battle I have fought and need to be recognized as so. I will free myself from the prison that I have been forced into. I will turn something hideous into something incredible. I plan to make a crown out of them. It will take time and patience, for I will have to bring a few roses back to life, but I don't have a problem waiting. I'll need the time to heal from the marks that the thorns have left all over me. I'll need time to find the person that they have stolen away.
I can almost see someone different in the mirror now. She is glowing, a tangle of vibrant flowers perched atop her head. There are some thorns, too, some rough patches, but she doesn't worry about them. She acknowledges the weight of the crown with every step she takes. It is her power, it is her light. The look in her eyes isn't the empty and unsure one that I've grown so familiar with. It is striking and powerful, as if it's encouraging the thorns to try and come back. The look is one of confidence and acceptance—one that I haven't seen in a long time. The reflection fills me with warmth as well as a new sense of urgency. I plan to reach her one day. Until that day, I will continue to plant new flowers in the garden that dances upon my skin. I will take care of it as it needs to be taken care of. I will proceed with determination while ensuring that the garden sees enough sunlight to flourish. I know that, some day soon, I will look into the mirror and she will stare back into my eyes with a look that wordlessly tells me, "you made it." Then, we will both be smiling.