Rose Madsen couldn’t risk staying out much longer. She still felt the paddle blows—what her mother called “appropriate corrective measures”—from the last time she’d disappeared for too long. But the chill of the spring morning had eased following sun-up, a full two hours after Rose had risen to do her pre-breakfast chores, and now the high desert sky was a cloudless blue. When she got back, she’d have to bathe, dress, and feed Becky, a chore she didn’t mind doing, but right now all she wanted was to wade in the creek and feel the sun on her face. Becky could wait a little while longer.
“Recalcitrant,” her mother often said, referring to her seventh daughter. Rose rolled the word around in her mouth, but the term had too many sharp edges. Other folks in town didn’t use words like recalcitrant. Children were either good or bad. She’d overheard people say Mother’s vocabulary was too prideful, a sin that needed correcting, and struggled with the thought of Mother as a sinner.
Rose dipped a hand into the stream and marveled that just a day earlier it had been dry as a bone, nothing but fine sand and loose rock. But then the snow high in the mountains had melted, delivering a clear, cold flow that Rose knew would quickly disappear.
She dabbed at the milk splotches on the hem of her ankle-length cotton dress. She’d been milking cows for over ten years, but no matter how often she squeezed those velvety teats, she could never avoid splashing her clothes. Rose scrubbed at the almost invisible stains on the sky-blue fabric knowing that Mother would probably spot them no matter how hard she worked. She’d be shut up in that tiny room in the barn, forced to study her dog-eared book of scriptures and go without food because “dirty clothes proved one harbored dirty thoughts.” No matter how often Mother said that, Rose had no idea what it meant.
She removed her Nikes and socks and stepped into the current, bunching her skirt with one hand, lest the garment trail in the water providing proof she’d sneaked away. The water rushed around her legs, numbing them to mid-calf. She shivered. It was exhilarating. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sky. If only she could stay here as long as she wanted.
She drew in a deep breath of cool, desert air and started to step back out onto the creek bank when a rock beneath the sparkling surface caught her eye and drew her hand into the flow. The stone was egg-shaped, spotted with the remains of multi-colored pebbles. She remembered learning in science class that stones like this were made up of smaller rocks that had been forced deep into the earth, melted, and fused together, only to reemerge countless years later to be washed and tumbled by the river, edges softened, rounded. She held the stone in her palm and ran her thumb over its smooth surface.
How long had this transformation taken? Mr. Wayland, who had proudly passed his rock samples around the classroom, might have known the answer. But he was gone, and the school was closed. Large goats had eaten away the greenery that once surrounded the building that housed the classrooms. A sign above the doorway still read Colorado City Unified School District #14. Trash littered the grounds that were hemmed in by a chain link fence. The Prophet had decreed that all children should be home schooled. And so they were.
Rose wanted to keep the stone, but that was impossible. The telltale smoothness of the rock would surely shout out that its life had been spent tumbling in the riverbed, one of the many places Rose was never allowed to go. Mother had warned her repeatedly about the terrible flash floods that could barrel down the mountain without warning, sweeping away everything near Short Creek. Rose wriggled her toes in the frigid stream, then sighed and dropped the stone back into the water where it landed with a plunk.
Anne Montgomery’s new YA novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain will be released on March 28, 2017. The book’s launch will take place at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore at 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, Arizona on April 2, 2017 at 2:00 PM.