When the mothers have been sauced, when the stepsisters have been cauldroned, we are left with the fathers. The fathers have never hurt us by way of hand, but they married the hurt, bedded the hurt, looked away when the hurt lashed out. They bought the hurt jewels and dresses and strings of pearls, while we slipped our feet into wooden shoes and learned how to fend for ourselves. We left breadcrumbs in the forest, followed trails of moonlit pebbles. Always a father waiting at home, delighted in the doorway of our entrance, leaning down and whispering, They made us do it, we begged them not to, while the stepmothers and stepsisters burned red and planned revenge.
We avoided them as best we could, found safety in the Juniper trees, the hazel bushes, made friends with the ducks in the rivers, but the hurt always found us in the end.
Now the mothers are gone, both step and not, and the siblings are minced into stews. The fathers have nothing left but us and they know it. We never wanted to, they say, and when that doesn’t work, We never touched you, and then they step in close.
Some of us marry princes like our fathers. Some of us don’t marry at all. Some of us marry good men but can’t believe it. We spend our lives waiting for the twist, the trap, the stairway smeared with pitch. And when our fathers visit, they say the same things they always say: We never touched you, we never touched you, we never touched you.
I know, we remind them, but you always looked away.
Samuel Clark is a 2019 alumnus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he graduated with his MFA in fiction. He is the recipient of the LGBTQ+ writer scholarship for The Muse & The Marketplace 2019, a partial scholarship recipient to Sundress Academy for the Arts, and a 2021 candidate for the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. He lives in Colorado with his adopted cat, Emily D.
Artwork: Catrin Welz-Stein, The Magician