There's a fantasy story out there, one with a princess who finds her happy ending. There's another story out there, with an evil queen who always searches, and never finds. The queens are the ones who keep fighting, who never stop, who try to find their happiness any way they can. They're the ones we're told to be like, so maybe they're not so evil. Yet we want to be the princess. Beauty prevails over strength.
There's a little girl, whose hand is wrapped around her father's. It might be 'I love you Daddy,' whispered in his ear. It might be a 'sweetheart' whispered in hers. The mother is the one that's smiling, looking at the father and daughter she watched grow over the years. One here is the princess, and one the evil queen. This isn't a fairy tale, where there's a happy ending. Nor is it a tragedy, where hope will never shine through. It's a guessing game, where you are the detective.
The little girl grew older, despite her belief that age had to make people younger. They get smaller, she had always thought, and only youth could make you small. At thirty-nine, she had long realised that age could not make you younger. She lamented the wrinkles growing on her face. She felt them when she smiled; which she often did at the little child she had now as her own.
This is where in the fairy tale, the girl would coming running up, throwing herself into her mother's arms. But the mother was alone, staring at her face in the bathroom. She had once considered the straggly brown hair as neat, and the blue eyes as striking. Now she didn't know what to make of herself. If this was a tragedy, she would go out to the kitchen where a noose awaited hanging from the chandelier. But they couldn't afford a chandelier.
Instead she went out to the kitchen where the bags sat ready to be organised. It would be cans there, vegetables here.
A ring of the doorbell comes. If this was a mystery, a murmur of 'now who could that be' would be heard. But there's only the shuffling at the door.
There's a woman that she hasn't seen in twenty-three years. It's her ring this time, the special way she had told her about.
The eagerness as the door is opened is not seen by the person waiting patiently. It wasn't her ring, it was never her ring. One day she'll change the doorbell, and won't have to keep bounding every time the chime comes.
"I won this in the meat raffle, I'm never going to eat it all."
The old little girl smiles at the neighbour, the one that she had always taken her idea of aging bringing smallness from.
"Thanks, we we're going to be going veg tonight but I guess not anymore." They talk, they smile, they part. She was barely listening during their idle chat, her mind on the doorbell, on the ring it made.
"You'll know it's me because it's my ring." The little girl at the time, was going to hear it that night. "It takes a lot of time to make a ring just right, when it's ready you'll hear it, but you have to be ready to." Forever would be a long time to practice.
The old little girl still hoped the ring would come. One day, she would hear the ring that would be the special way she rung. She did nothing but wait.
She cooks the dinner, and waited for the door to open. Her daughter came, she smiled, and set her with her toys. If this was a romance, her husband would come ready to swish her off her feet, roses in hand. But her husband arrived with sauce on his tie.
The old little girl lies in bed, and thinks about the daughter in a nearby room. It's the little moments that make her smile; the small squeals, the jogs down the hall because she's too impatient to stand still. They were simple for a child, yet they brought delight for the older. She looked forward to the morning, when she would produce a new shining pink backpack, ready for the school's day.
And the delight when indeed she produces it was tremendous on the child's face. Around she twirls, dancing with the bag on her back.
It was time to go for the proud new owner.
The father surrounds her in a hug. She squeals, pulls free.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" He asks of her.
He takes her hand and she plants a delicate kiss on his cheek.
The old little girl smiles above them, and knows that father and daughter will always be happy together.
As the child sits in the back, the mother manoeuvres through the roads. If this was a drama, a car would run a red light, and the child would never show her friends her pink prize. But the old little girl watches as she displays it to all her friends.
There had been no doorbells yet that day, no bags to unpack and no looks in the mirror. There had been no crash, no roses, no murmur, no chandelier and no running child. Not for her at least, not on that day.
Twenty-three years ago there had been a bunch of roses sitting on the table, a murmur of a promise, news of the husband dead in the crash, a chandelier swinging from the weight. And a little girl running to the mother whose feet she could not reach.
On that day she had whispered into her father's ear, "Has Mum bought my pink backpack yet?"
He had leaned in, as close as he could be. "It's in the cupboard, but you're not meant to know." There had been nothing special about the moment to remember, but she never forgotten. She had only ever opened the cupboard once, to take the backpack to give to another.
There was the princess that day, and the evil queen. You were the detective, did you find it, hidden I the depths of their emotions. The evil queen was the mother; the one who tried to find her happiness, in any way she could. The little girl was the princess; the one that never tried to find comfort, and waited for it to come to her.
But now she's realised that it's never going to.
There was a hook, where the chandelier used to be. Our princess would always look to it, and feel closet to the evil queen. Perhaps it had been a part of the same rope that she now uses. Perhaps not. There's something she hears, as her eyes begin to fade. The doorbell. She knows it's the special ring.
"It takes a lot of time to make a ring just right, when it's ready you'll hear it, but you have to be ready to."
This story isn't a tragedy, nor is it a fairy tale. There's hope now, but no happy ending. It's no longer a guessing game. It's a transformation. One where the princess becomes an evil queen. Where she stops waiting, and starts searching.
Except maybe now, she's not so evil. Though in their own eyes, the evil queens' never are.