January 3rd: Fairy tales
Wicked
, by Sheena Williams

It’s hard to age. Watching day by day as your figure gets fuller, and your eyes gain those little crinkly lines around them.  It’s even worse when you’re a woman. If you’re a powerful woman, forget about it!  Heaven forefend, that you should be in control of anything.  You constantly have to watch your back, because there is always some virginal upstart trying to take your place. The days get longer, but time passes faster. Suddenly you notice you’ve become disposable. You just wake up one morning and find that you’re past your prime and very ready to be replaced. That’s what happened to me.  Someone else replaced me.

That wicked queen you heard about in fairy tales? The one, who did seemingly unscrupulous us things to get what she wanted? That was me at one time. I was younger then, and a fool.  I didn’t know who I was without that crutch called security, and I paid a great price for the knowledge I hold now.  Let me explain.

Very long ago I was a young maiden. Ruddy skinned and gypsy beautiful. I had long flowing dark hair, and large wide eyes. Of course, I was of a lesser royal family, so I had to prove myself by sleeping on several mattresses on top of a pea in a neighboring kingdom.  Tedious sounding I know, but back then being in a place where I could be safe and warm was all that mattered.  After all I was a child, and brought up to believe that every princess needed a prince.

Of course I played up the whole tossing and turning bit.  I wanted to be queen, but what really got me in the door was the fact that the soon to be king, Prince Charming, wanted me.  Now don’t try to say I slept my way to the top!  I was easy to look at sure, but I was also sharp, and he knew it!  The very next night after our wedding I was outlining ideas he would have been a fool not to listen to. As any good wife, I was an asset as well as interesting. I wasn’t just trophy-like window dressing. At least I had thought. Now I see that that was exactly what I was.

We were prosperous for a long time. The king and I were very much in love.

The whole kingdom loved us as we loved each other.  No one in our kingdom ever went hungry, and we flourished greatly.  I never examined his preoccupation with the maids, or the way his eyes lingered on the ladies of the court.  Like my mother before me I just put this off to him being a male.  It’s interesting how many things you can excuse because of one gender isn’t it?

We were happy, but as you know all good things must come to an end.  It was one cold winter morning. My husband had set out with his men to begin trading with a kingdom that his family hadn’t dealt with in years. I can still remember the soft promising kiss he gave me the morning he left.  By then our passion for each other had become comfortable, if not as energetic as it used to.  Of course we still made love nightly. I even blush to tell you even some mornings, but I was secure in the fact that we loved each other very much.  I should have known something was wrong when I looked into the mirror. I laughingly asked the darned thing who was fairest in the eyes of the king. The mirror fell to the ground, and splintered at my feet.

My husband at the time had just come up to the castle.  His pages telling him that briars and thorns blocked the door.  Of course naturally he sought to help, figuring this was the reason that trade had been inhibited.  I was told that night that he had fought through the thorns, and valiantly won his way through to the castle.  A feat a mere gardener could have accomplished, but diplomacy and being the good wife that I was kept me from saying such things.  Maybe I should have swooned louder.

He had made his way through to the top most towers. Needlessly to say he found the princess, and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips and she awoke.  Now frankly, I find this hard to believe.  Being now a women of the world, and not the innocent I never was.  I hardly believe that after this so called “hundred years” she had been asleep and being a virgin, she kissed him with anything that even resembled chastity!

He met the king and queen, and they told him that since he saved her and the kingdom, he could keep the princess.  Now really! Who just gives their daughter away like that?  What I suspect, and to this day I believe with every fiber of my being! Is that the so-called princess, was shall we say, morally loose? And they were trying to get rid of her so that she could stop embarrassing them.

My husband finally remembering he had a wife explained that it was not necessary and that he was happily married.  But his eyes kept falling on her as he spoke.  She looked up at him in that shy yearning way all girls learn how to do and he fell for it like a tone of bricks.  So after much talking and insisting, and building up his nerve with a lot of liquor he brought the princess home…to my home.

He introduced me, and as soon as I saw her I knew the mirror had been an omen.  I had to be careful. Seeing as how my husband couldn’t look me in the eyes, informed me that things had progressed even further down the dark passage of no return.  She kept snuggling and getting close to him, and even though I found it nauseating, he found it singularly flattering. He told me of her accomplishments, and of all things she could do and how much help she would be to me.

So, what did I do? I took my husband to bed, and made him forget her name for a time. As for the princess? I put her to work! She wasn’t a princess in my kingdom.  I made her work as a goose girl. She cleaned the ashes and cinders from the fireplaces, and led the geese out every day. So what if she got a callous or two? Hard work never hurt anyone! Plus as a bonus, she was kept away from my husband during the day. I, in the mean time made every effort to win my husband back.  I dressed well, made sure my make up was perfect, and learned a new trick or two from the girls.  Now if you don’t know any girls like that I suggest you find some they are very informative! I made sure that King saw the princess in her most common moments.  Not that it did any good. What I didn’t understand then was that not enough grandeur and pretty clothing could make up for the confidence I lacked within myself.

The princess of course hated this, and complained to everyone making me look like the bad guy. I personally thought she was being ungrateful. I allowed her to stay in my castle, and earn her keep. I even let the wretch sleep on mounds of feather mattress. So what if there was a pea or two under them? Her room was near the kitchen for heaven’s sake!  I did absolutely nothing that any women trying to keep her husband wouldn’t have done.  Things really began heating up then.  We were getting ready for a ball my husband was throwing, so that she could find a husband. I was only too willing to help her get dressed as she asked.  She went to the ball and flirted and danced.  I thought things were going well, but then the girl fainted, and said it was from the corset being to tight.  The king asked me about it, and of course I had to admit I had tied the corset.  Then the king yelled at me in front of the whole court.  I was so embarrassed it was horrible.  I felt that my whole world had just been snatched form beneath me.  Yet I still was not ready to face the truth.

The last straw came for me when one night, I passed her a plate of apples, and the little idiot choked on it, saying it was poisoned. Now, personally I think you have to be a special type of stupid to forget to chew, and I told her so.  She blushed of course and the court tittered and chuckled, but my husband glared at me the whole night.  I felt satisfied being catty, and continued being so.  It was an empty type of satisfaction, because even I saw how shrewish I had become.  The whole court saw that I had become, a jealous harpy that couldn’t keep her husband. I was mortified, and made a resolution to end it that evening.

In bed that night I told him how I felt. How embarrassed and betrayed I was that he would reprimand me, and in public no less! I reminded him of all the wonderful things I had done for the kingdom, and how I had been a good wife to him. When I was finished I ended with an ultimatum. It was either she or I. I issued the challenge of course because I was quite sure it was to be me. What a fool I was then. He looked at me a long moment and my heart fluttered nervously. He looked away, and I knew everything was lost. He started telling me how they had fallen in love. How she told him that they were soul mates. After all he was the one who awoke her from her slumber of a hundred years. He told me that I had changed, that I wasn’t who he married. Not to mention that I had gained a few pounds.

I just stared at him while he finished his speech. I watched him fall silent. He asked me to say something, and that’s when I lost it. Now you must understand. I was quite distraught. Here I was loosing everything that I had worked for and loved, and he wanted me to say something. So I did. I went completely mad. I started screaming and shouting, and just generally loosing my mind. So you can imagine how I looked when the guards came in. My hair was everywhere. I was all red and puffy from crying and breathing heavily. I looked an utter fright. It was too easy for the king to denounce me as a witch and have me taken away.

At my hearing the whole court watched as the king announced my exile from the kingdom. The bastard couldn’t even look me straight in the eye the whole time. The princess just sat there smugly as he told the court that I had always been a witch, and that the princess had broken my spell over him. I watched as he signed my life away on a piece of parchment paper and hand it to the guards. They wouldn’t look at me either. Mumbling apologies for the farce that they knew it was. Then the king being the coward he was waited till they chained my hands to bend on one knee and propose to that strumpet called a princess. I just numbly watched the whole thing as if it was a satirical play of my life.

I left the kingdom. Not knowing where to go, I traveled. I realized that I had a lot of learning to catch up on, and if I wanted to survive I had better learn. I can’t say that all of the years were kind, but in the end they brought me an inner peace. I didn’t gain gems or riches, but I gained myself. I danced in the flames, and prayed cloaked only in the night near lakes and rivers. I became a dream spinner. I did wonderful things with the knowledge I gained. I helped maids lost in the forest into palaces. I taught princesses to take control of their kingdoms, and become nobler then any king. I helped those true of heart and courage to accomplish great things while I tricked the mean and cruel to their doom. I became the fairy godmother to children of the cinders. Showing them that there was so much more that could be theirs if they were brave enough to take it. I warned those fool hardy and pompous of the danger of their ways.

I can’t say what it was, but something drew me back to my old kingdom. I had gained and learned so much it seemed silly. But go I did. What I found there brought me no end of joy. Not because the catty part of me was screaming I told you so! It was some of that, and the way one feels when they see divine justice exists in all things. I had learned that the years had not been kind to my king and his little princess. The kingdom had fallen apart, and had been for the most part deserted. The king became angry and hateful. I wondered how I could have missed this part of his character. Though I knew as soon as the thought left my mind it was because of security. You could ignore a lot if you didn’t have to be responsible for yourself. The king had a daughter who he imprisoned in a tower, so that none could look upon her but him. In the end he wanted to make sure that he was never left behind again. He became stooped and old, as time had worn on. His hair was gone except on his arms and legs. I stopped to talk to him and he growled at me. His words were lost and incoherent as he shuffled to another part of the castle. He looked like any ogre from a child’s book. I hoped that in my travels I would meet a strong and just man that I could send to help the princess, and set the king free of his misery.

I stopped on my way out of the kingdom to talk to one of the few towns people left. Of course she didn’t remember me, but she was quite fond of gossip. She told me shortly after the wicked queen had left the kingdom the king and his new wife began to argue bitterly. She flirted with younger men and he became quite jealous. She ran off with his head knight, only to realize that his promises were untrue. He abandoned her as soon he heard of another princess in far off lands with a kingdom of her own. She didn’t learn from her mistakes and became embittered. She didn’t grow and come to know the world as I had. She became a dark and twisted crone who took pleasure in the misery of others. She became the type of women who slinked into young men’s bedrooms. Seducing them with promises of gold and wealth. Only to eat them and throw them away when she had her fill. She became one who left spindles for girls to prick their fingers on, and kept them from going to the ball. She filled the world with stories of whispers in the night, and turned princes into frogs. Turning girls to birds and holding them in her castle. She became the nightmare that is only done away with once some bright child bakes her in her own oven.

*

Sheena Williams’ creative writing work has previously appeared in, Gothic Fairy Tales for Melancholy Children, and Mirror Dance. Her non-fiction work includes the book, Computers 101, published by Adapt Companies, and as a monthly contributor for CampusJobXpress.Com magazine.


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