Continuing with the fairy tale retellings. This week, a different take on Sleeping Beauty.
“Try it,” my cousins say. They are the perfect princess trifecta, all in pink, peach, and plum.
I hesitate. I don’t trust myself. Not around things that are sharp. My mother, the queen, has banned all things pointy—embroidery and knitting needles, even crochet hooks, but the object in the corner of my room is different.
“Come on,” Plum says. She holds up her cell phone, ready to take a picture while the other two urge me forward. “You know how she is.”
I do. So does my mother, who always intones, “Never trust a woman whose only goal is to look as young as her teenage daughters.”
My aunt’s gifts have a way of backfiring. Last year, she gave me an elixir that makes your lips red like cherries and your cheeks glow like apples. I refused even to try it, but my cousins guzzled it down. At that evening’s ball, fruit flies swarmed around them the entire time.
What I really want for my birthday is a baseball bat and glove. I want to round up the pages, cajole the scribe into keeping score, and play until the sun hovers low in the sky and it’s too late to bathe for a formal dinner, never mind the ball afterward. But my cousins tremble; if they don’t get proof that I’ve at least touched the present, their mother will rage. Pity compels me forward. Besides, compared to last year, a spindle is downright practical. I reach out. Plum’s cell phone camera clicks.
Three seconds before I hit the stone floor, I think: my finger is going to hurt all day long.
Chaos roars around me, but I can’t wake. A narcoleptic slumber is no way to spend your sweet sixteen. My mother thunders at my cousins, and they cower, all quivering tulle and satin.
My finger still hurts.
The sobs subside. Yawns fill the air. Courtiers sink to the floor. Page boys slump against the wall. My cousins, too, sleep. My mother tucks a blanket around me and kisses my forehead before taking to her own bed.
For one hundred years, we lie dormant. This wouldn’t be so bad except my cousins, they snore.
Heavy boots stomp. A sword rattles. The door crashes open. The scent of blood and sweat fills the room. Something looms above me, something I think means to kiss me.
I worry about one hundred years of neglected dental hygiene. But really? He’s the one with dragon breath. Volumes have been written about epic first kisses. This one? I’m not sure it rates a Facebook status update.
My eyes spring open, that kiss the living embodiment of caffeine. A boy I don’t recognize kneels by my bed. I worry about being nearly one hundred years older than he is. We will have to rename the village. Cougarville has a nice ring to it. First, we should probably get to know each other.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
I blink. I’m sure he’s many things. Clearly, he has mad skills in the sword-wielding department. But I was on the receiving end of that kiss. Charming?
Not so much.
“Shall we marry at sunset?” he asks as if he already knows the answer.
Shall we … what? He squeezes my hand. Pain shoots through my finger, and I yank free. Marry? For real? I’d rather swing a baseball bat … or a sword. And Charming does look tired. (I hear dragon-slaying is kind of stressful.)
After all this time, the spindle still sits in the corner of the room. I point to it.
“Can you bring me that?” I ask, all princess-y innocence. I should feel bad about this, but I don’t.
Charming only manages a step, spindle in hand, before he crashes to the floor, armor clanking loud enough to wake the dead. But everyone sleeps on, and Charming’s snores blend with my cousins’. It’s a fairytale match. They can fight over him once everyone wakes up.
I fashion a new notch in his belt, and then I attach the scabbard and blade around my waist. I pull on my own boots and pick up his shield. It feels good in my hand. I tuck a pillow beneath Charming’s head and leave the room.
My finger no longer hurts.
In the master suite, I pause next to my mother. A serene smile lights her face. I tuck the comforter around her shoulders and whisper, “I’ll be back.”
After I’ve slain a few dragons.