They found a skeleton this morning.
I don’t really want to talk about it. Then again, I don’t really want to talk about him either. But I’m going to anyway.
He doesn’t look anything like you. His hair reminds me of yellow feathers, wispy and vulnerable to wind. Your hair is black, sticking up like the ends of a broom, never lying flat no matter how much I run my fingers through it. His eyes are green, like the emeralds your father used to trade. Yours are black, shiny like fresh ashes. Black hair, black eyes, and somehow I still see more color in you.
Do you remember when you were ten and your father used to visit the castle with jewels? And you snuck off to the gardens? I was scared that you— a boy from a faraway land— had been sent to scold me for avoiding embroidery classes, but you looked so lost. So I took you to the fort I’d created from bushes, blankets, and pillows, and I made you a crown out of flowers. You told me it was more precious than one made of jewels.
I think that was when I knew I could one day love you. But even at that age I knew I wasn’t allowed to love like other girls. And so I told you the truth: as soon as I turned sixteen, I would fall asleep for one hundred years. I thought that was enough to make you never hope for a future with me.
The skeleton they found this morning was in our gardens.
I call the man who woke me The Prince, even to his face. I know what his name is, but I refuse to use it.
The villagers love him. They say he woke me up with true love’s kiss, but really he sucked the cursed spindle out of my thumb. Imagine waking up to a man you don’t know sucking your finger.
The Prince is smart. I’ll give him that. A hundred-years-worth of princes trying to be heroes and he’s the first one to figure out about the spindle in my finger. He wants me to marry him. Something about finger-sucking is romantic to him. I think a part of him wants to believe in that true love’s kiss story, even though he knows very well what really happened.
He doesn’t know about you. He doesn’t know about the second time we were in the garden together and you broke your arm trying to pick the reddest, shiniest apple for me. And the third time when you let me step on your feet so you could teach my clumsy, embarrassed self to dance.
And the seventh time. When you put a hand on my face, my cheeks burning under your callouses. But before your chapped lips met mine, I turned away and reminded you. My days were numbered. Before I could even finish my sentence, you kissed away my warning.
My fairy godmothers thought they saved me by making the rest of the kingdom sleep alongside me. They didn’t want me to lose everyone I knew. They didn’t tell me about their plan. But they should have. Because little did they know, the one I loved wasn’t from my kingdom.
It was your skeleton they found this morning, Thuy.
The Prince doesn’t call me by my name either. He calls me Sleeping Beauty. I hate the nickname, but now the whole kingdom uses it. Maybe, because he’s the one who woke me from the sleeping curse, the kingdom thinks he can call me whatever he wants.
How many days did you spend in that garden, Thuy? Did you ever live your life? Did you just so happen to be visiting when you died? Or did you spend the rest of your life in a sleeping kingdom, studying my eyelashes until you could convince yourself you saw them flutter?
I buried you alone. I cradled you in my arms, placed you in the ground, and adorned you with a crown of flowers. But, Thuy, you are the one who is more precious than jewels.
Maria Dones is pursuing an MFA at the University of Kansas. She likes to write about magic and the things that go terribly wrong with it. When she’s not reading old fairy tales or obsessing over Korean dramas, you can find her trying to befriend other people’s cats.
Artwork: Alex Krizhner, In the Mind