SLEEPING BEAUTY IS NOT WELL
HER GUILLAUME WENT TO THE DOCTOR, who found a mass the size of an apple in his chest. At the end, they could do nothing. He was seventy-five, and had been preceded in death by many of his friends. Who would miss him but his family?
Tick, crackle. Ah, it was rain on the windows, not the clock. If she were to open the windows, she could smell autumn leaves moldering.
The Grand Crudzmeemo was after her now, waiting to turn her into earth as well. She reached out her hands to the standing mirror, wiggled her fingers at him. In the shadowed corner, at dusk, he looked like a bear. He did not love her.
He had licked the face of her husband. Shoulders slumping, she turned away from the mirror. “I’m glad my parents are not here to see me failing, it would kill them. Ha. My Guillaume would smile and shake his head at me. If he were alive.”
Outside the courtyard was a little house, a house of pain: the wife had migraines and the man had a curved spine. And yet they lived. They did not show the white flag of surrender. Rosamond certainly would. Hers was not the House of Pain but the House of Despair.
She sat on the wooden chair and complained at the mirror. “They lied to me when they said I was a princess and therefore impervious. I am porous as rain, as pigeons shot in the air. ‘You will fall in love with a prince,’ they said. ‘You will be happy and beyond pain always.’”
Stories for babies. Pfft. Her nursemaid was the first to succumb, then her parents, then her prince. She’d had enough.
“There’s no salvation, no saving your mother, your brother, your daughter, your pet rabbit and beloved dog. My eyes are open.” She stared into the mirror.
“It can happen at any moment. Snap. Like that. Your house could go chilly in the snowstorm. Your beloved could slip on the ice. You could have a seizure in the middle of the night. These things happen. I’m here to tell you.” She pointed into the mirror.
The week before he died, she was planning to eat schnitzel and sauerkraut and spaetzle. She wasn’t German, but it reminded her of home cooking as a child. Her mother used to have a Swiss maid in the castle.
They say you learn how dear life is. She learned how the world does not need her.
Trust in the beauty of nature, they say. Well, nature is what did this to her. Birdsong, smell of roses, yellow birches, the crisp fallen leaves, the ghostly fog in the air, stars sprinkled against a black sky. She believed in the black void. She walked into the mirror.
He will kiss her awake, the bear promised. She remembered an earlier kiss. She had already wakened from a long sleep once. She didn’t need the bear’s kiss. Guillaume’s kiss was enough.
She put her hand flat against the mirror and pulled herself through.
CEZARIJA ABARTIS has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press), and stories in FRiGG, The Lascaux Review, matchbook, New York Tyrant, and Waccamaw. Recently she completed a crime novel. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.