the kingdom was shaking. the wind was rising. her mother was hissing threats and exhortations beside the thornbushes—
when rapunzel and her prince ran, they vanished.
they sold his fine horse on the far side of the wood. her tears had healed his sight, but not enough, so he talked her through checking the coins for forgeries. the merchant told his wife about them, later, the blind warrior and the little maiden with her sharp eyes and clever fingers.
they sold her wedding ring on the slopes of the biggest mountain she had ever seen. they sold his before that mountain had faded from the horizon. they kept tarnished coins hidden here and there on their persons. her hair grew out, unnaturally fast, some last gift of her mother’s, and she chopped it off and sold the long golden plaits at the towns they passed. she liked it best to curl around her ears, fluffy and light as corn silk. she was tired of that weight hanging from her.
wishes are children. so was she.
rapunzel would flinch at crowds for the rest of her life. it took them years to find a place that was theirs, with doors that locked and walls that blocked out the noise of the world. she found that when things got too loud the closest thing to safe strong walls was to curl up in her prince’s lap, her forehead pressed against his collarbone, his arms warm and close around her. she counted his heartbeat and tapped her fingers out against the rise and fall of his chest.
she ran away once, left her prince sleeping in a hollow with a note tucked into his loose fist. it terrified her, the idea that she was building her world and safety into the flesh and bone of this man, the way her mother had tried to build things in her. so she took half their coins and ran. rapunzel walked through cold copses of trees and over dry creek beds, asking herself questions like she was stuck, tar on the soles of her slippers.
somewhere a baker and a princess were telling children that no one was alone. red slept by the coals of the hearth fire, so when she shook herself awake she would see the red-lit beams of the bakery and not the inside of a beast. in jack’s worst nights the thuds of his heart were the footfalls of a giant that was coming to get him. in his dreams, he always survived. in the worst ones, no one else did.
rapunzel was cold and hungry. she would never live within sturdy stone walls again, just wood and straw and mud. she didn’t know what she wished for, but she did know what she wanted. maybe that was alright. maybe she would make it alright.
when she came back to the hollow where she’d left him, her prince was still there, snoring, and she laughed aloud until he stirred and blinked up at her. he never could get up before noon without her help.
she reached down and pulled him to his feet with muscles that were learning that the world was so much bigger than pacing the round stone floor of her tower room and hauling witches up by her braid. she didn’t stop laughing. when he kissed her, in that cold copse, she was carrying no weight but her own choices.
child, your hair is not a ladder. it never should have been.
your voice belongs to a girl and not a songbird. your home does not live in your mother’s ribcage no matter what she says. you are home— your feet on the ground, your hair like a bird’s nest. you can pick it up and take it with you when you go.
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