The first day in the tower was enjoyable. She was still small, and it was like a vacation. She had sweets and toys and a little porcelain doll with china blue eyes. "Like your eyes sweetling," the old woman had said, before leaving her to play. She put the doll in a white wooden chair painted with pretty pink flowers. They had a tea party together, with real tea, and little cakes with icing roses on them. She'd never had a real tea party back in her little cottage! Then she took out the ivory-handled brush from the pocket of her dress and stood in front of the tall gold mirror, taking turns combing the dolls hair and her own. She had her own little cot to sleep in, with a lacy blanket, and a crib for the doll to sleep in.
The second day was almost as nice. The old woman came up to give her more sweets and take away the messy plates of the previous day. She had no desire to go back home, why should she? She had everything she'd ever needed or wanted. She'd explored the nooks and crannies of the tower room, and to her delight, she'd found a closet. It was full of beautiful dresses! There was one that was a deep purple that shined like starlight when she put it on. It had puffy sleeves and the bottom twirled around just perfectly, like her long blond hair, so that she looked like a little flower. It was so beautiful, she decided she would never take it off as long as she lived, not even to put on the other beautiful dresses.
The third day, she began to grow tired. "When do I get to go home?" She'd asked the woman when she came up with a fresh tray of sweets. Her teeth hurt and she missed the geese in the pen behind the hut. There was a little gosling there she'd been meaning to name. He looked like a William, she decided, and once she got back, she would tell him that so the other goslings wouldn't call him the wrong name. "I would come back and visit!" she said, her chubby cheeks smeared with sticky goo from the middle of a jelly cake. But the old woman had just smiled and patted her on the head before going back down the winding stone stair to the bottom of the tower. She always locked the door after she left, so Rapunzel was left to play with her toys. She soon forgot her desire to go home, why should she go? She looked so beautiful in the purple dress, combing her long hair in front of the mirror. Her parents didn't have a pretty purple dress for her, nor did they have a pretty gold mirror she could look at herself in.
A year passed, and things had gone basically the same way. Now, the old woman brought other things too, not just sweets, but fruit and cabbage. "It is magic cabbage, to make you grow big and strong," she said. She ate it happily, along with the other goodies the woman brought. One night, she brought up a plump roast goose! "It came from a peasants hut nearby," she said. It was such a beautiful goose, cooked golden brown with herbs all around it. They ate it together in the tower and talked. The woman told her that, if she wanted, she could become magic.
"Like the cabbage?" she said, licking the dripping juices from a succulent wing.
"Yes," the old woman laughed. "Like the cabbage."
"I'd love to!"
So now, in addition to bringing her food and new toys, she brought books. Big, dusty, old books, with cracked covers and funny words in them that she couldn't understand. The woman stayed for a while now each day, teaching her what the words meant, running a gnarled finger along the lines of type. After a while, she could no longer keep track of the days or weeks or months that passed, she lit a fire in her room by saying the funny words. The old woman wasn't angry that she had burned all her toys though, she was proud, and she brought her extra toys, and a big tray of chocolates.
As more years passed, she grew taller, and her hair grew even longer, but the room changed very little. There were still toys for her to play with, there were still sweets and meats brought every day to her. Now, she was tall enough to see out the little window in the room. There were people out there, dirty people, working and playing, but they didn't matter to her. She had her dolls, she had her mirror, she had the old woman and the books she brought to keep her company. Now the old woman said it hurt to climb the stairs, so Rapunzel let the woman climb up her beautiful blond hair that she let out the window. It pulled at her head, but she was happy that she was helping the old woman who had helped her so much. The old woman said it was silly that Rapunzel kept wearing that dress. It was too small, she said, she was tearing the seams, she said. Rapunzel just laughed, because she knew the words to make it bigger. So she did, whenever she grew too big for her beautiful dress, she said the words and made it bigger. She could do more with the words now, she called a bird to her window and she could make it go away or fly a loop de loop. The old woman was proud of her, and brought her more books, with bigger words and fewer pictures, and she mastered them all.
One day, the woman didn't come. She looked out the window for her, she waited on her cot for her the whole day, but she didn't come. She leaned her head out of the window, and as much as it repulsed her, asked one of the urchins that were constantly getting into the old woman's garden. "Where is the old woman, the one who lives here?" The filthy children were shocked, she had never said a word to them before, why should she?
"The witch is dead, and good riddance." The children continued to laugh and play and stomp their dirty feet all over her beautiful cabbages.
Time passed, and so did her grief. The woman was gone, but the books weren't. The books had words that told her how to make sweets, or cabbages, or anything she wanted appear out of nowhere, so now she ate whatever heart desired, whenever she wanted. She kept her hair in a braid that was so long it snaked around the edges of her circular tower room. After sunset, she would take her hair out of the braid and look in the mirror as she combed it out. She was so beautiful. Sometimes she took the beauty creams she had and spread them on her face, although she didn't need them to be beautiful. She would take sparkling gold powder and dust her eyelids with it, then put blood-red lipstick on her lips and marvel at how pretty she was with her makeup and her purple dress and her long golden hair.
"Rapunzel Rapunzel, let down your hair." It was a voice that Rapunzel didn't recognize, but she knew who it was. It had to be the old woman, she'd come back, to bring more books, or more food. She flung her rope of hair out the window and eagerly awaited her coming. But it wasn't the old woman. It was some man, wearing a strange frilly shirt and short blue pants. "What the hell are you?" he said. He wasn't staring at the beautiful princess he'd been promised. There was a woman, she had to be at least thirty and at least two hundred pounds at that, but she was wearing a little girl's dress that was too small for her. The silky purple color of the fabric was nearly entirely obscured by smears of cream and icing and crumbs coated every part of it. Her face was clumsily coated with too much makeup, as if a toddler had done it for her, and the tower room was cluttered with broken toys and torn stuffed animals. There was a crib next to a cot that was much too small for a grown woman, with a china doll in it. It was cracked and its dress was tattered and coated with food, like the woman's.
"I am Rapunzel," she said.
"You can't be, you're not a beautiful princess, you are an ugly old woman. This intruder wasn't a day over twenty.
"I am Rapunzel," she shrieked. "And I am BEAUTIFUL!" She bared her crooked teeth and pushed him out of the window. He fell into a wall of thorns that had grown around the tower. Maybe he died, why should she care? She turned to her mirror and slowly began taking out her braid. She was so beautiful.