She is flying with wings of gossamer. Soaring high above the mountaintops, the greatest oak trees were but dots below her. Fluffiest clouds swirl listlessly overhead and the cheery sun warms her back. Wind of the most rejuvenating sort caresses her face and black hair streams behind her. Her arms are spread open wide, embracing the world and her grin is wider than the galaxy.
She flies with all the contentment in the world and she smiles, smiles, smiles.
A door bangs open and a rough voice spits acid.
She keeps flying. She keeps smiling.
Here, she is brave, a gallant knight. A dragon appears before her, encased in flames; eyes red like the hottest lava and tongue slithering in and out like smoke. It opens its mouth and its teeth are sharp as daggers with a girth like stalagmites and it roars, roars with mighty lungs and belches out fire with its breath. It would bring the strongest and bravest men to their knees.
But she is not the strongest. She is not the bravest. She is more.
She is unconquerable, indomitable. Her courage shines like gold and her heart is as immovable as the earth.
She brandishes her sword and soaks in the power. With a great cry that moves mountains, she turns toward her adversary, adrenaline pumping through her body. But her heart remains calm.
And although she comes out with a black eye, a bruise on her left knee, and a long, long cut on her side. Although she screams bloody murder and she is left on the cold, tiled floor, her blood dripping with great abandon. Although she is badgered with questions from people who feign concern.
She knows the dragon is slain and the hero always wins.
He has eyes that are like the deepest midnight and hair like the sunset. His smile is as bright as the sun and his teeth glow like pearls.
She is a knight, but under his gaze, she is a princess.
It doesn't matter that he is rough. It doesn't matter she refuses him. It doesn't matter that he ignores her protests and advances toward her.
It's supposed to be magical. In a way, it is. Tears slide silently down her face and his breath smells of need. She feels a little nauseous.
But, it's okay. Because love conquers all.
There is a parade in her honor. Trumpets blare and confetti is thrown in the air. The people around her dance for she is their savior and peace has come at last. At last.
The sun sets in the distance and the world is bursting with colors. She observes this all with pride and knows she has won and smiles through it all.
When she closes the book, her smile melts away because she looks up and sees the dragon, smoldering in its evil, grinning at her with malicious intent. The bruises and cuts slice at her heart and her armored gallantry flies away with her gossamer wings. And she drowns in the acid and burns in the fire until she is left weak and panting and pathetic.
She struggles and crawls with her teeth and her nails until skin singes off her bones. Until her heart is torn from her chest. Until she bleeds and bleeds and nothing is left.
She opens the book.