I've always loved the idea of rewriting well known fairy-tales. Let's see if you can guess which one this is! Hah.
The castle was ancient and had an air of enchantment around it. It was government property, but that was inconsequential to this particular group of teenagers.
They laughed and shoved as they neared the huge wrought iron gate that preceded the overgrown cobblestone path that would lead to the main entrance.
Sandra snorted. “Come on guys,” she said derisively, in that haughty tone she always used when she knew she was right, “We can't waltz through the front gate. Let me show you the real way to get in.”
The rest of the group followed her obediently. Sandra had leadership qualities none of them could match or challenge. Rarely was her will opposed - no one had resisted her idea to break into the mysterious landmark after all. Just like how Paul had been unable to resist her convincing argument on why they should be a couple, which they had been now for three frightening months, as Sandra was commanding and unapologetically domineering on her best days. The only reason they were still an item (much to the chagrin of the female population at Heights High) was because Paul was vapid and spacey and quite frankly, needed someone to tell him what to do.
Sandra led the group of wayward teenagers around the side of the crumbling castle, tripping over rocks and kicking up dust. The sun was on its departure and night’s reign was imminent. The dying sun caressed the girls’ hair and produced squinting eyes. Sandra stopped and craned her neck, a slender hand shielding her eyes from the fading light.
“I want to go all the way to the top.” She pointed at the spindly tower to emphasize her point.
“That’s if we can even get in,” Joanie whispered, rolling her eyes in silent defiance.
“Be quiet, minion,” Sandra barked and continued on until a hole in the wrought iron showed itself through the overgrown shrubbery. Sandra took off in a leaping run, and Paul, as always, followed suit. The group crawled through the hole, carefully, one by one, and found themselves standing in a despondent courtyard, devastated by time. Sandra laughed and spun around, arms outstretched, basking in her resourcefulness. Paul wandered over to a crumbling fountain, and sat on the edge, his long legs sprawled in front of him, as he stared vacantly up at the peak of the tower.
Sandra danced over and draped her arms around his neck, kissing him fervently. He responded as he usually did, which was lacklustre. Passion was not in Paul’s physical vocabulary.
Sandra pulled away and pointed to a broken window a few feet off the ground with a solid looking ledge.
“Onward, people! The castle waits for its queen,” she paused dramatically and smiled devilishly at them all, “which would obviously be me. Let’s go!”
Hours of gymnastic practice aided her in vaulting over the ledge which had withstood the tests of time. She turned around and found herself in a cavernous hall, with large holes in the vaulted ceiling, giving way to the winking stars above. At the castle’s prime, it must have been a lovely ballroom. Now the marble floors were stained and uneven, and a chandelier lay in the middle of the floor, a victim of gravity.
Sandra tip-toed around the broken glass and set her sights on the monstrous winding staircase. Joanie sighed audibly.
“Listen,” she started, staring at her hands, “as much as I’d love to continue playing sidekick to your Indiana Jones fantasy, my mom would kill me if she found out what I was doing. Like, grounded for life.” She looked up with an apologetic smile. “You know I can’t be grounded for this weekend. Bailey’s party is Saturday,,” she snuck a look at the slender redhead who had been quiet the whole time, “and all the hottest guys are going to be there.” Bailey smiled, as if this fact was obvious. Sandra stood with her hands on her hips, and eyebrow cocked.
“Go then,” she said coldly. “But next time you beg me to grace you with my presence, I may think again. Come on Paul.” He hesitated, clearly desiring his couch and Xbox 360. However, he grabbed Sandra’s proffered hand and stared longingly at the backs of the retreating girls. Sandra pulled him up the stone staircase, all the while muttering obscenities about her “best friends” under her breath. Paul opened his mouth to say something but Sandra jerked him particularly violently, causing Paul to drop his flashlight. They both stiffened as it crashed down the stairs, breaking into what sounded like a million little pieces.
They stood not speaking in the stairwell, the only sound Sandra’s heavy breathing, which was obviously suppressed anger. It was almost completely dark, the only light coming from a small window which framed the half-moon hovering low on the horizon like a wayward phantom.
“It’s okay,” Sandra finally said after she had calmed herself down. “We’ll just use mine. It’s smaller and probably shittier, but we have no choice now, do we?” She spit out the last words. As soon as she had pulled her mini flashlight out of her pocket, she dropped Paul’s hand. The flashlight was considerably dim in comparison to the one that lay broken on the floor. Paul followed behind her, saying nothing.
The stairs stopped briefly on a landing, and Sandra made her way down a long, wide hallway. A large picture - a tapestry - at the end of the hallway had caught her attention. It was ripped and dirty and the bottom edge seemed to be burnt and frayed. The picture interested her; it was a battle scene in front of a gorgeous white castle with fairy tale turrets rising up on either side, and a taller one in between. In that turret, a woman stood, blonde hair being whipped back by imaginary wind. Her eyes were closed and palms outstretched, as if beseeching help from the gods.
Paul came up beside her, resting his chin on her shoulder.
“Cool,” he said. “A battle.” He stared at the figures in shining armour, historical stereotypes of chivalry. Paul wished he could be brave and valiant but he was quite sure cowardice ran in his blood, programmed into his DNA. He longed to be fervent and interesting and passionate but the fact was there was nothing that made him feel that way. Or maybe he just couldn’t. His coaches, teachers, peers, even his parents all seemed to expect absolutely nothing from him except for his obedience. The only compliment he ever got was ,”You’re a good kid, Paul,” and he knew that the girls only liked him at school because he was blessed - or cursed - with generic good looks. He wanted adventure, to get his blood pumping, to feel alive and a part of this world! However, he was not blessed with eloquence, and so did never dare to voice his feelings to Sandra, even though she would be most likely to understand - if she didn’t just laugh in his face.
He sighed and removed his chin from her shoulder. She turned around.
“If you’re done being sentimental, can we continue?” He nodded and whatever warm feelings he had temporarily felt towards her disappeared.
Sandra turned back to the staircase and they continued up several flights of stairs, stopping occasionally to peer into abandoned rooms. The moon climbed lazily in the sky.
There was a sudden sharp turn in the stairway and the passage narrowed significantly. Sandra felt a bit weak with claustrophobia, but absolutely nothing could make her turn back now.
“Sandra,” Paul half-whispered, for there was a hush upon the place and he wasn’t one to disturb the order of things, “this staircase doesn’t look safe. Look how it’s crumbling right there. I - I think we should go back down.” Sandra turned, disbelief plain on her face as she shined the flashlight right in Paul’s eyes. He closed them.
“You want to turn back? Now?” Her voice had a hysterical lilt on the end. She cleared her throat and lowered her voice, enunciating her words with a soothing lull. “Don’t you want to see the view from the top, Paul?” He hesitated. “It will be so romantic…” she wheedled. He conceded with a frown. Sandra was about as romantic as a lion was before eating its prey. But he couldn’t just leave her here alone, and he wasn’t so sure she would follow if he turned around.
Sandra steadied her hand on the stone wall as she stepped over a particularly demolished step. Paul followed reluctantly.
Even though he would never admit it, he felt a strange desire to go to the top of the turret as well. It was almost magnetic, as if his fate was waiting for him at the height of the stairs.
“It can’t be far now,” Sandra huffed, slightly out of breath. “How many friggin’ stairs have we climbed anyway, a million?” They turned the corner, for what they realized must be the last step, and found themselves faced with two doors. Sandra opened the one on the left and found it was the roof, the top of the turret. The stars beckoned to her.
“Oh Paul, look!” Genuine excitement was glowing on her face. “Oh it’s just how I imagined, look, I’m queen of everything!” She bounded through the doorway and it creaked slowly shut as Paul stood with his hands in his pockets.
Well here he was, once again faced with a choice. To follow, or to find. He stared at the two doors alternately. He looked at the stairs. The stairs they would have to climb down to get out of this relic. He sighed, frustrated. Why had he let Sandra coerce him into going along with this stupid scheme? He was so tired of playing court jester to her self-proclaimed Queen. He was very done with obeying everyone’s orders. His teachers, his girlfriend, his parents…even his friends routinely, and probably subconsciously, barked orders at him.
He thought of the argument him and his father had that very morning. His dad was dead set on him attending college after he graduated in three months. Paul instead wanted - and now planned, with his newfound defiance - to take some time off and decide exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
He could hear Sandra shouting happily through the door, something about owning everything. He stood up a little straighter and pulled his hands out of his pockets.
He walked slowly to the second door, on the right. There was probably nothing too interesting behind it, but it was the principle of the thing. By choosing this door, and not automatically following Sandra through the first door or running back to his parents, he was ushering change into his life. The dawn of a new day. He reached his hand out to grab hold of the aged ornate doorknob, smiling satisfactorily to himself. The door did not open as easily as he had thought it would and he ended up grunting against it with his shoulder. Finally, after one particularly frenzied push, the door crashed open.
It revealed a small room, a bed chamber. A canopied bed stood in one corner of the room. The moonlight streamed in through three slender windows, illuminating the stone. A trunk and a small bookcase stood beneath the windows. He wandered over to the first window to see if he could see Sandra on the roof. That was when he saw her.
She was lying in the bed, the tattered canopy curtains stirring gently in the light breeze. He froze, unable to process why someone else would be up here, and sleeping nonetheless! He took a careful step forward, afraid to wake the girl. Or was it even a girl? Another step and he could make out tousled blonde hair glowing slightly in the moonbeam.
His heart grew cold as he realized she was perfectly still. Was she…dead? Unease traced a tingly path down his spine. After a deep calming breath, he walked right up to the girl, or the corpse.
She was astoundingly beautiful. Long thick eyelashes rested against pale creamy white cheeks. Her pink lips parted slightly, pouted and almost moist. He outstretched a hand to touch her face and then remembered that she was definitely not alive and withdrew his hand quickly. There was no obvious sign of death, but she was definitely not breathing. He reached in his pocket for his cell phone. He should get Sandra over here, he thought, and then the police. But as soon as his hand closed around the hard plastic of his cell, an urge took him by surprise. He pulled his hand from his pocket, staring at the beauty’s face, as if mesmerised. An idea…
He leaned forward, slowly, forgetting even to breathe. Time seemed to slow, the moonlight seemed to brighten… His eyes wide open, he kissed the slain maiden on her rose petal lips and a whimper escaped him.
Something in the room seemed to stir, and it was a moment before he realized it was something beneath the thin coverlet over the girl.
He looked back at her face just in time to see her eyes move beneath her lids, and then flutter open, revealing pale blue orbs the colour of shallow pools. He was still bent over her, their noses almost touching. She smiled, and it was heartbreaking. A fair, slender hand came to caress his face.
“You came,” she whispered, and the new day began.