Julie of Story A Day suggests we start a story with a character finding himself or herself in unfamiliar surroundings. Since I’m all about the fairy tales and am still in that mode from yesterday, this:
by Marian Allen
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I touched the tip of that spindle. He didn’t know what he was getting into when he kissed me awake.
He says, “You looked as if you had just gone to sleep yesterday. Everything else was dusty, but your room was clean and bright. So I kissed you.”
His face twitches when he says that, but his control isn’t quite good enough to hide the revulsion. Well, I can’t blame him. He’s much older than I was when I went to sleep but younger than I am now and, I can tell from the glances of the maidens and matrons in this — I forget what he says it’s called, so I’ll just call it a public banquet hall — that he’s quite handsome. Not what we would have called handsome when I was a girl.
When I was a girl! A month ago. A hundred years ago.
I excuse myself, saying I want to get another plate, but really needing to visit the privy. Amazing, how clean and sweet-smelling privies are these days! When I’m washing my hands in water nobody has to fetch, I try not to look in the mirror, but I can’t resist. A crone stares out at me.
“Your breathing changed,” he told me. “Your eyelids fluttered and rose. Then…. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Why did you even wake up when I kissed you, if I wasn’t the one?”
“Oh, you were the one,” I said. “When fairies laid a curse on you back in my day, they laid it well. My godmother softened the death curse by saying I wouldn’t die, but would sleep for a hundred years, then be wakened by true love’s kiss. Nobody said I wouldn’t age by as long as I’d been asleep.”
The crone in the mirror blinks back tears, thinking of my family, my friends, the innocent servants and animals and even vermin who woke with me, aged with me, and died of old age in an instant. I, being pampered and healthy and well-fed, lived, along with a child or two who were suddenly old in bodies they hadn’t grown into.
I shuffle back out, put a few morsels on a plate that, in itself, is almost too thick and heavy for my trembling hands, and rejoin my companion and guardian.
He asks if I want him to bring me anything, and goes for his second plate.
He had bought the grounds, intending to tear down what we called a mansion and he called a fort, intending to build what he calls a private retirement complex on the grounds. He hadn’t expected to find clients already in residence. I knew right where my father kept the grant and patent to the land and the proclamation that named me his successor — what this boy calls a “will.” So the land, any antiques that didn’t crumble with age when I woke, and the jewels and coins in the treasury are all mine.
But this world into which I woke is foreign to me. Frightened, baffled, I signed whatever he put to my hand. Even now, I’m not certain what I still own and what rights or goods I transferred to him.
At this point, I don’t really care. It looks as if I don’t need to. I have a private room in his home, but he says I’ll have my own cottage on the grounds where my father’s mansion was, grander than the rest, with a woman who will come to cook and another who will come to clean.
Every few days he takes me out, saying he wants to acclimatize me to my new world. He always apologizes for kissing me. I remember what my looking glass showed me before my sleep: I was very young and very beautiful. His cheeks redden when he stammers his shame at kissing a sleeping stranger. Apparently, women today are to be respected, even when they don’t have men around to insist upon it.
It seems very odd, but very charming. Possibly unique to him; I wouldn’t know. I just count myself fortunate that my grandmother stipulated that I could only be awakened by true love’s kiss. This man’s budding romantic love for me withered — and rightly so, I say — when my beauty blossomed and shriveled, but there’s bodily love and there’s love beyond the body. He may regret that kiss, but it proved his heart is true.
When he apologizes, I’ve begun to ask, “I could have been asleep and ever fair or awake and dying. Which is better, do you think?”
He has begun to answer, “What I did was wrong. Whether or not you benefited from it isn’t my question to answer. What do you think?”
And I repeat what I’ve heard him say into a device that he says carries his voice across vast distances: “Let me get back to you on that.”
I’m posting today at Fatal Foodies about an old favorite, revived.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: 2 seniors, an all you can eat Chinese buffet, and an Apple Secret Product.