Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happily Ever After

“I hate fairy tale endings!” Rose threw the child’s coloring book into the fire place designated for burning princess memorabilia. She stooped to pick up a sheet of stickers and waved them in her husband’s face. “Look at her! Look at her! Does that look like me at all? Do I have blond hair? What kind of Nordic whore do they think I am?”

She threw the stickers back into the fire and grabbed a torch from the sconce on the wall. “I. Am. Sick. Of. Happy. Endings.”

“What happy ending?” Gavin asked, relaxing back in his chair with a cop of coffee and a newspaper ten months out of date.

“The one we’re supposed to have! The one that left us here!” She let loose with a stream of invective she wouldn’t have dreamed of using a few centuries ago. Time had been a bad influence on her. “I want to die!”

She flopped into her ornate chair and stared at the banquet in front of them. The same banquet they’d been eating for the last four centuries, or was it five? She’d lost count somewhere along the line.

“You can’t die,” said Gavin in a mild tone. “Dying isn’t living happily ever after.”

“I hate happily ever after.”

“We haven’t happily ever aftered in quite some time.” He looked over his raised mug at her with a lifted eye brow.

Rose blushed. They’d been quite happy, for a few years. But there were no children in happily ever after. No visits to friends. No improvements on the castle. No wrinkles. No lines. No death.

“It wouldn’t have been bad if we’d aged. That’s what normal people do. They get wrinkles and they die and sob over each others graves.”

“Old age isn’t happily ever after either.” He flipped the page. “Oh, look, we missed another concert.”

She glared daggers at him. “Concerts aren’t happily ever after, dear,” she replied sarcastically. “Neither are cell phones, hot running water, or cars.”

Frustrated that she couldn’t get Gavin to fight with her, Rose stormed off to her room and started her letter writing campaign again. To every known book seller and movie maker she wrote the same plea: Kill Beauty at the end of the movie.

Wouldn’t it be dramatic and sweet if she died saving her beloved? Preferably before her beloved became that guy she couldn’t stand because they didn’t have anything in common but a stupid flower and some wishful thinking.

The only daughter of the widower school master was meant to be an old maid, dispensing charity and maybe entering a convent before she died. She was not meant to marry some forgotten prince of a kingdom no one had ever heard of. Deep in the bone, Rose knew it was the truth.

She looked out the window and the spiky vista of pine trees and mountains, and considered how many people she would willingly kill to go see a beach. Swimming! Beaches! Surfers! Visitors told her about such things, but no where in happily ever after did any author ever mention the second honey moon, or family vacations.

While she watched dark clouds rolling over the pass and young woman hiked into view carrying the now very familiar outline of a lap top case.

“Visitor!” Rose screamed, rushing downstairs to wait for the inevitable knock. “Gavin! Get dressed! We have a visitor!”

“You never used to complain about me going naked before,” he grumbled.

“That’s because you were covered in fur,” she snapped back. Rose sighed in exasperation. “You aren’t answering the door like that.”

“I hate codpieces, they pinch!” he whined.

“Do I look like I care what they pinch?” And she let the joke die there, pursuing it any further would start another castle burning fight. It wasn’t really Gavin’s fault. He’d been deeply in lust when they met, not love, and princes as a rule just weren’t genetically programmed to be monogamous. Was it any wonder he’d gotten bored with her? Or her with his… “No more jokes,” she told herself.

The inevitable knock came.

Rose threw open the door to show the slightly surprised looking young lady. Maybe not so young, there was a definite pudginess around the midline and confidence in the smile that suggested the girl wasn’t still in the first bloom of youth.

“Welcome to our castle,” Rose said with a painfully sweet smile.

The lady smiled back. “What a fabulous costume! That must have taken days to make. But why pink, did they have pink in the fourteenth century?”

Rose looked down at her rose-pink gown and lied. “It was red, but the dye faded.”

“Well, I guess that makes it realistic!” the girl beamed at her. “Hey, I hate to beg and all, but can I borrow your phone? My car broke down coming over the pass, I coasted as far as I could, but no dice. I just need to call a repair truck and maybe a cab, since this thing’s a rental.”

“We don’t have a phone here,” Rose said. “And our cell phone reception-“

“- sucks, I know.” The girl sighed and looked back at the long drive. “I know this sounds psycho, but could you drive me somewhere? I just need to get over to the next town. I’ve got a map,” she said as she started to rummage through her bag.

“We don’t have a car,” Rose said, her teeth gritting together. Did vampires have it this hard? If she ever met one, she’d be sure to ask how they lured unwary travelers inside. “Won’t you come in?” she tried.

“You don’t have a car?” the girl asked as she stepped through the door, not noticing as Rose slammed it shut.

“The car’s in town at the moment,” Gavin lied smoothly as he walked out of the breakfast room wearing the perfectly tailored blue coat he’d worn the first day he’d been human again. Rose liked the coat. It brought back found memories of a time when she didn’t know what happily ever after meant.

“Okay. Um, well, do you guys mind if I hang out here? I can pay admission if you take credit card.”

Rose looked to Gavin for help.

“No need to pay! Usually groups book the castle for exotic vacations, but this us our down season.”

“And the boss won’t let you wear jeans? Geez, what a curmudgeon.”

“Indeed…” Gavin fumbled then picked up his lines again. “And what is your name?”

“Em, actually, Emina, but everyone calls me Em.” She dropped her lap top bag and looked around. “This is a gorgeous place, just like a fairy tale castle, you know?”

“We try,” Rose said. She left out the bit that they were trying to forget, but, you know, to each his own. “Where are you from, Em?”

“Hmm, oh, America.” She blushed. “The accent gives me away, doesn’t it? I know some German but it comes out like that… this…” she said, switching languages and mangling the German terribly. “I speak much poor.”

“Thankfully, we speak English just fine,” Gavin said wryly.

“Come in,” Rose insisted. “You can stay here until the car gets back.”

The girl smiled. “That’s so kind of you. I hate to impose. Just shove me in a corner, I can write.”

“You’re a writer?” Rose nearly squealed with delight. “Really? You write books?”

“Um, yes? Is… is that wrong?” The girl looked around to Gavin in confusion.

Gavin shook his head. “No. We like writers.” He smiled, showing his teeth, but the girl didn’t pick up the threat. “What do you write?”

“Horror. And some urban fantasy.”

Rose considered that. Well, it wasn’t perfect, but hopefully she’d finally get to die.

It took two years for the book to get published. Rose loved the red rose dripping blood on the black cover. She flipped through, and laughed at the dialog on page two fifty one. She sauntered down to the dungeon, kicking aside the remains of some forgotten bride who had rented the castle back in the forties.

“Are you down here, Em?”


Rose heard the little writer whimper. “I’ve been reading the book.”

“And?” Em scuttled to the back of her dungeon cell.

With a wicked smile Rose flipped open the book to the offending page and read, “Help me! The crazy princess has me chained in the basement! Somebody rescue me! I’m off of route seven! In the big castle! Bring guns!” Rose tsked. “You aren’t chained, dear. I would never chain you. And you can’t complain about the food.”

“Wedding cake for two years?” Em snarled. “I hate wedding cake!”

“Try eating it for a few centuries!”

Up the stairs she heard the wooden door shatter. Commandos dressed in black stormed down the stairs.

“No!” Rose shrieked. “No! Em, stop it! Change the book! You don’t want this kind of happily ever after! Save yourself!”

Gun fire felled the demon princess.

Em smirked and pulled a hidden chapter from under her straw mat. A ruggedly handsome hero stepped in to take her away. “Cross-genre epilogue, B****, the author always wins.” 

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