On September 9, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a new recipe, sudden silence, and thread.
This enormous Fairest freebie story came to me as a result, one I’m telling in segments…
No. Not her. Not here. She still trembled in aftermath of the song’s sweetness, yet it had filled with the sentiment Quartz himself expressed.
The silence was sudden and somehow menacing.
The girl shivered and hugged herself, listening. Yes, she could hear the light tread of feet, so much lighter than the seven dwarves’s boots.
Her heart pounding, the girl went to the door and flung it open.
“A good morning to you, my pretty maid!” An old woman with a weathered countenance beamed at her, all her wrinkles wreathing into smiles. As if they could hide her true face or her voice. “Will you look at my wares? I have a comb to straighten those lovely raven tresses, a girdle to tighten around your slender waist, and an apple to bring color to your pale cheeks.”
“Oriana,” the girl whispered. There was no mistaking that striden, yet silken tone which seduced every ear. “I see you’ve found me. I wasn’t sure if you’d look.”
“You think I didn’t care enough to look?” The illusion of wrinkles didn’t pass from Oriana’s cheeks, but they were marks of care, misery, and heartbreak as much as age. “I see you scorned the consideration of others when you scorned my heart.”
“Your heart?” Oh, to have a tongue for sarcasm and harsh laughter, like Quartz possessed! Not this weak, soft murmur which was almost an echo of Oriana’s own. “I saw your true heart when you tried to rip mine from my breast.”
Such a terrifying creature of wiry muscle, claws, and teeth, yet it collapsed so easily within its own poison. The sight of the hunter still haunted the girl’s nightmares.
Oriana said nothing, simply dropped her head, clutching her basket in her wrinkled hand. Why did she persist in this illusion of age, the beautiful queen who’d fallen so in love with her own reflection to the exclusion of any rivals?
Just how much of it was illusion? How much time had passed in the Forest of Tears? The girl had been so lost in the ritual of daily cooking and cleaning, using it to block out a sense of anything else. Just how long had she been at the seven dwarves’s cottage?
“You tried to kill me.” Oh, why couldn’t she raise her voice, show a hint of a witch’s hate, a witch’s power, the things Oriana claimed were hers? The girl who’d once been Princess Blanche saw little evidence of that strength now. “You tried to take my heart from me, tearing it from my breast.”
“You ran away from me.” How soft and broken the queen’s voice was. “I felt as if you’d already ripped out mine.” She lifted a hand, her free hand in the direction of her princess, stretched out imploring seeking fingers which clutched only air. Such delicate, dainty palms, yet roughened with daily labor as the girl’s were. “I couldn’t escape from you. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was you.”
“Not every time.” The girl who’d once been Princess Blanche lifted her chin with an echo of the bleak authority she’d once possessed, but why was she bothering with such pretenses? Better to turn away but she couldn’t, could she? She’d never been able to turn her back on Oriana. “You must have seen a life of wealth, a golden crown, perhaps even the king himself.”
My father. She didn’t say it. She no longer believed it even if he was the man who sired her. Quartz was her father, the chosen father of her heart. The crown and all the pretenses it represented be cursed along with those whom coveted it. Such irresponsibility. Princess Blanche had been born to that crown, yet the girl denied this identity along with everything else Oriana tossed her aside for. Such selfishness, such darkness. She was no longer sure how much was Oriana and how much was herself.
Oriana lifted her head, gazing at the girl, perhaps seeing some of this darkness for the first time mirrored back at her. For one who gazed so often into the glass, the queen could be surprisingly blind.
“I tried to be what I was supposed to be, to want what I was supposed to want. Perhaps I achieved my wish or thought I had.” Oriana blinked teary-blue eyes at her. “My Blanche, my beautiful snow-white princess, I couldn’t be your lover without bringing you shame.” She clutched with her free hand at the basket under her other arm. “I thought I’d try to love you as a mother instead. My mirror suggested as much.”
“Your mirror?” A prickling unease lifted the hairs of the girl’s arms.
“You saw its magic, its revelations.” The queen bowed her head once more. “The cruel truth it offers whether you wish to see it or not.”
“Quite the cursed treasure.” Blanche almost glanced back at the seven dwarves’s cuckoo clock, too often rude and vocal, now engaged in an almost sinister silence. “Where did you come by this mirror?”
“An imp gave it to me as a gift. He heard me weeping when my own stepmother locked me up, trying to keep me apart from you.” Oriana studied the basket, fingering the weave, smiling at something she couldn’t see. “He bade to look into it long enough and it would show me visions of my heart’s desire.”
“It showed you me,” the girl who’d once been Blanche murmured. “It showed you myself.”
“It suggested an answer, to change the nature of our relationship. To charm and beguile everyone so they’d no longer suspect us.” The fair-haired maiden bit her lower lip. “To woo them into accepting our love without suspicion.”
“And you decided to do that by seducing the king.” The girl sighed. “And you became queen yourself.”
“It was what countless girls dream of marrying a king, becoming queen. It was unbearable.” Oriana let her hand slip from the basket. “You disappeared. I am barren, barren as my love for your father turned out to be. Other arrangements have been made for an heir.” The queen shook her graying golden head. “Not that I care about such things, not any longer.”
“Sad to see a queen and a princess no longer caring about a land they should both love.” The girl who was no longer Princess Blanche, who no longer deserved to be Princess Blanche sighed. “Let me show you what I do care about.”