Oooh, this is a prompt I love — fairy/folk tale rewrites. I don’t know where the idea for this one came from, but it came together quickly (which is nice).
The twigs and leaves and needles, all dry and crackling, broke under her feet as she ran through the woods. Her breath came harshly as she went. It was late, but the moon was high and illuminated a path for her to follow.
She didn’t know where she was going until she got there, but suddenly the trees parted and there was a small cottage in the middle of an only slightly larger clearing.
It was quaint and pretty with a thatched roof and heavy windows, but none of those characteristics sunk into her mind as she approached it.
Knock, knock, knock at the door, but it was met by silence.
She knocked again, harder, but there was still no response.
She glanced over her shoulder, but could not see or hear anything from behind her.
In a moment of desperation, she grasped the door knob and turned. To her surprise, it opened and, without pausing to consider the implications of her actions, she slipped in and closed the door behind her.
She leaned back against the door, panting, and took stock. The room was much as one would expect from a cottage of this sort. There was a heavy sofa with plaid upholstery and a couple of matching armchairs. A large, square wood coffee table sat amongst them.
There was a stone fireplace, the fire very low, almost out.
And, through an archway, she could see a table and chairs. Probably the dining room.
“Hello?” she called and waited, but there was no response.
She walked through the living room and called out again. “Hello?”
The dining table was partially set, with three steaming bowls of … it looked like a stew of some kind, she wasn’t sure. She leaned over and gave the nearest one a sniff.
Mmmmm. No, it was curry.
She loved curry.
Glancing right and left, she picked up the spoon and took a small amount.
Ouch. It was too hot. She looked speculatively at the other bowls.
She took a spoon from the second bowl, but it was oddly cool and not all that pleasant.
Trying the last one, she found it to be just perfect. Without intending to, she found herself eagerly eating the whole bowl’s worth.
It had been a long day.
As she ate she looked around the cottage more carefully. From the dining table, she could see into the kitchen. It was a large room, larger than either the living room or the dining room, and it had a rough wooden table and chairs, but also three rocking chairs that were pulled up near yet another fireplace.
This was an awfully nice cottage, she thought.
Looking at the empty bowl, she felt suddenly guilty and took the bowl and spoon through to the kitchen to wash up at least.
Once she had cleaned them, she looked over at the inviting rocking chairs. She sat down in the first, the largest of them. The cushion on it was hard, though, and it was not as comfortable as she would have thought.
She almost didn’t even try the next one, the squishy looking cushions were as unappealing as the hard ones of the first chair.
The last chair was a little smaller than the other two, but still large enough for her. She sat down and rocked back and forth. It was truly very comfortable.
She relaxed for the first time in a long time. What was she going to do? She hadn’t thought much about that when she had left. She had reached her breaking point and that was it, there was nothing more for her to do other than leave.
She had known it was coming, but she had not anticipated just how soon it would be.
And now here she was, in this quaint cottage that…
Her thoughts were broken into in the most rude way as the chair cracked and she jumped up.
Oh no. One of the lower struts of the chair was broken.
She suddenly felt exhausted. Everything that had happened since she woke up that morning until this broken chair that was not hers came crashing in.
She needed a nap.
Wandering out of the kitchen, she found two small bedrooms in the back of the cottage. In the first there were two beds that had been pushed together.
She laid down on one side, but it was hard and uncomfortable. She rolled over to the other side, but it was squishy like the chair had been. Sighing, she hauled herself up and went into the other room.
There, there was a small twin bed with a striped comforter on it. She laid down and was almost instantly asleep.
“Mamma! They’re in here.”
The sound of heavy footsteps came and she sat up with a start. Staring at her from the doorway of the small room was a little bear, who was looking at her warily.
“Mamma!” the bear called again and was soon joined by first one and then another adult sized bear.
“I see!” said one of the adults.
“Oh my,” said the other.
“Who are you?” said the young one.
She sat up and shook her head. She didn’t know what to say.
“I…,” she began hesitantly. She wasn’t sure if she should give them her real name or not.
Not that it was likely that Char would know them, but you never knew.
“Yes?” said the other adult.
“Goldy,” she said. “Look, I’m really sorry and all. I’ll just leave. I shouldn’t have come in here. That was wrong.”
And she got up and straightened her clothes, trying to look competent.
“Why are you here?” the more soft-spoken of the adults bears said.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry. I’ll go,” she repeated like a mantra.
“Why don’t I make you a cup of tea?” said the other adult bear.
She nodded, afraid that if she said anything she might start to cry. She felt that she ought to leave, but she did not know where to go.
While the one bear went to make tea, the other led her into the living room.
“Sit down,” the bear said, indicating one of the arm chairs.
“Thank you,” she said, with as much dignity as she could muster. “I am so sorry,” she began again.
“No, no,” the bear cut in. “You seem very upset. Is there anything we can do to help?”
The kindness of the question was almost too much.
“I don’t know,” she said faintly.
The other bear came in with a tray of tea and cookies and accompanied by the young one. The bear put the tray down and began to serve.
As the tea was served, the bear said, “We should introduce ourselves. I’m Cathy and she,” indicating the small bear, “is Ellie. My partner is Amanda.” Amanda nodded.
“Hi. It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Goldy, as I said. I live… I used in the castle at the edge of the forest.”
There was a gasp from Amanda. “I thought you looked familiar.”
Goldy blushed. “Please. Things are not what they seem.”
“What on earth is the matter?” Cathy asked.
“Char, that is, Prince Charming, he isn’t the person he appears to be. Tonight was the last straw.”
She noticed Cathy looking at her carefully. “Is that a bruise on your arm?” she asked.
And that was it, the dam burst and Goldy began to cry as she nodded.
“Did he do that to you?” Amanda said with a slight ursine growl.
She nodded again.
“You’ll stay here,” Cathy said with certainty, “as long as you need to.”
“You’re safe here,” Amanda said.
And there, in the warmth of the cottage, Goldy felt herself finally relax.