Her Warm Winter

A Gothic Short Story


PART 1

It was a cold winter’s day; the frost was sharp and had left many of the woodland creatures frozen by its bite. In the desolate woods, she sat alone on a bench. How she liked it. Her name was Blanche, French, after her birthplace. Skin a pale and creamy porcelain dream. Ghost like, as if it had not seen a day of sun since her birth sixteen winters ago. She shuddered, the chill flowing through her veins. Lips as smooth as velvet, petals of a red rose. Her hair was a dark fog, the eerie feather of a raven, thick and ever growing. She wore a scarf, the colour of blood, which gently trickled down her body, suffocating her tender neck. Crunched up in her left hand was a photo of a woman. She was said to be the fairest of them all; the epitome of perfection, a being to admire. Her aura of aesthetic beauty was what gave her most contentment in life.

Her beauty was her treasure. 

"Happy!” she yelled. Her shrill voice was a shocking screech, juxtaposing the beguiling glow of her face. Happy, nicknamed this due to his perpetual optimism, was one of Blanche’s seven brothers. Not blood related though; she found them alone one night, hiding in the darkness of a cave. She too was alone, it seemed to her that they were the perfect companions.

“Yes sister, are you okay? Would you like a blanket to warm yourself, or a mug of hot coco, or a…”

“Shut up!” she shouted.

“I am sick and tired of listening to the ugliness of your voice.” She was oblivious to the hypocrisy of her words, like daggers to poor little Happy’s heart.

“Get me some hot cocoa, and then get out of my sight!” He scuttled away back into the cottage.

The cottage was a tiny claustrophobic grotto of wood and bricks, home to Blanche and her brothers. A tall army of weeds towered over the pansies and violets which sprouted between the bricks, peering into the cracks. Vibrant winterberries swelled in the winter’s misty rime, glistening as the snowflakes crystallised on each berry. With a mournful sigh, she went towards her home, following the path which she had made of stones and marble. She laughed, “follow the yellow brick road,” her father used to say. Oh, how she missed him, and longed for him so. Her soul was a ruby then, a voluptuous gem to bestow, but since that fateful night when he left, her soul grew black, decayed into coal.

As she opened the creaky door, a line of termites followed behind her, but she didn’t mind this at all. What bothered her the most, was the weary cottage itself, it was on the edge of caving in, its tiles replaced by twigs and leaves. The roof was likely to collapse at any moment. All that decorated the home was some patterned wallpaper that had faded and was peeling off the mouldy walls.

Years ago, before that night, she would play in the garden, swing on the tree, play catch with her father, and hide and seek. They were a family back then. But, since that night, she changed, became quiet, reserved, preferring the company of her pet birds and bunnies, to the presence of humans. She considered her brothers below her, seeing as they were younger than her, she was wiser and pleasing to the eye, whereas they were ignorant and foolish trolls. She dreamt of meeting a boy as beautiful as she, who would free her from her mundane endeavours, and take her to the city. She spent the majority of her days walking in the woods, singing melodies her mother used to sing. But, as the days began to darken early, producing a sinister coolness in the air, she knew she had to stay inside; to face the tedium of nothingness. Her brothers were always so joyful (apart from Grumpy of course) and radiated gaiety wherever they were. Why can’t I be full of glee? She would cry to herself. The only consolation she had was her mirror, encrusted with gold and silver with the finest of diamonds. It was the only possession she valued; the embodiment of her worth. Whenever she looked at it, the edges of her mouth would curl; eyes sparkling. She saw in herself, her parents, it was all she had left of them. Within her eyes, those big, wild, dark eyes, she saw the soul of her mother and grinned. Her hair, as dark as the night sky, like her father’s. The murky dust that stirred inside her grew, like a baby in a womb, bigger and bigger, feeding off of her sins. Although her appearance may have hidden it, Blanche was beyond caring for anyone but herself.

“How could such a beautiful face be so deceptive?” people would say.

Rumours spread amongst town, speculations that she was not what she seemed.

“She’s just like her mother.” They would mutter, as she strolled through the street, “They say she has a frozen heart.”

“I heard that she enslaves her brothers.” 

“I’ve seen her do it,” another voice answered. “She beats them, with a stick, makes them do the housework, the cleaning, cooking. She acts like royalty.”

“But with that face, you would obey her. Worship her. She has power, with that face.”

PART 2

The clock ticked and ticked and ticked until it hit the next hour.

“Only 6 PM” said Grumpy, “the day goes so slow.” Grumpy was the only brother that understood Blanche, being the second oldest, he remembered Blanche’s sorrow on the night they first met; the fateful night when Blanche’s heart was ripped apart.

“What shall we do with all our time?” asked Dopey, the third youngest of the brothers. The only entertainment they had was the television, but the monstrous weather was so strong now that they were prevented from watching anything but a screen of blurry lines. They sat on the settees, like statues. It was quiet, too quiet. She heard her breath increasing. KNOCK KNOCK, a loud bang on the door. Eagerly, Blanche got up, relieved to have something to do. She waited a while and thought for a moment that perhaps the visitor had departed, when suddenly she could hear a sharp, painful noise, like nails scratching against the wood of the door and the dragging of heavy boots against the ground.

For a few moments, there was silence. Blanche was about to take her seat again, a little disappointed, when she heard the scratching noise once more. Finally, a pause. Blanche’s mouth was dry. She gulped.

“My name is uh, Bella—Bella Donna” a voice squeaked, “please, Blanche, may I enter your home?”

Blanche was speechless and a little frightened. How does she know my name?

Blanche opened the door, catching a glimpse of the yellow moon, full and large. As she did, a thin, hunched back old woman, with a look of desperation painted on her frail face, shakily stepped through the doorway. Shadows prowling in the darkness of the night seemed to follow the old woman and circle Blanche. Her squinted eyes strained to look at Blanche, like cloudy marbles, obscured by the cataracts, and almost blind. Her excessively wrinkled and creased skin clung onto the skull. She had a small chiseled head, with silky white hair and whiskers shooting out of her pointed chin. It seemed absurd to ever imagine her in youthful days. She wore a gold ring, with an emerald stone inside. Blanche’s eyes would not meet those of the elderly woman. She was disgusted, repulsed by such a sight, the absence of beauty and youth sickened her. But the old woman’s eyes were open, not once a blink, fixated on Blanche. She looked terrified, as if she had seen the darkness of the girl’s soul. This petrified Blanche, for she had a feeling she had never felt before, terror. The only way she could describe it was a hand squeezing her heart. Tightly.

She held in her hand a long wooden stick, or rather a broom, as it had twigs sticking out of its end. Who was this peculiar woman standing before her? Blanche was reluctant to find out.

With a raspy sigh the woman took a step further into the hall of the cottage.

“Where do you think you’re going? Get out of my house now! Leave!” She felt a sense of panic, a sudden feeling of danger lurking around her. One of the brothers sneezed, walked up to Blanche, a little shakily, and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Blanche,” he said, “maybe we should let the poor woman inside, she seems to be very unwell, it would be a good thing to do. She can sleep on my bed, I don’t mind at all. I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“Good idea,” said Sneezy, the second youngest brother, “she can have my blanket, and I can make her some soup. That will warm her up.”

Speaking was an unfortunate choice, for the boys’ words made Blanche furious. Her face mutated, she was as red as her scarf, trembling with anger.

“HOW DARE YOU!” she screamed. “This is my house. This house belongs to me, meaning I make the rules and I choose who is welcome inside. How dare you think you can tell me what to do. I am the queen of this house. You listen to me. Understood?!” They stood still, heads bowed. Defeated. 

“I said, Understood?!”

“Yes, sister.” One brother managed to spurt out, whilst the others remained quiet, one more word from her and they would have burst into tears. They ran to their bedrooms.

“Now, as for you. I thought I told you to leave.”

“Leave?” Cried the old woman incredulously. “But I have nowhere else to go. You see, I got lost in these woods, and as it is winter, I thought I’d better find a warm place to stay, I have no money for a hotel Miss Blanche and I thought you’d be kind enough to—” Suddenly a bitter taste was present in Blanche’s mouth, her tongue was dry, dehydrated. An intense taste of blood emerged. How was it that this old woman, whom she had never seen, let alone met, was immediately knowledgeable of where she lived, and her name too? The old woman remained in the hallway, her feet cemented firmly on the cracked wooden floor. Blanche was not sure what to say, or do. Should I push her out? She pondered, fear rising to her chest, like a snake slowing tightening around her throat. She had not been so terrified for a long time. There was a moment of silence, Blanche was staring at her acquaintance. It seemed that this was out of choice, however, she felt compelled to turn away, but a state of paralysis would not allow it, her neck tight and frozen.

“Get out! You, you, you, old witch!”

“Take this apple,” mumbled the woman, “please.” She insisted, gently moving her bony hand towards Blanche, a bold crimson apple in her palm.

“GET OUT!” The thorns of Blanche’s words pierced the old lady’s ears, sending her to the floor. A painful cry pervaded the air, the tears leaving harmful vibrations as they splashed onto the floor. The woman got up, blood dripping from her left cheekbone, bruised and scratched, and rushed out of the house. Blanche watched at the door as the woman disappeared into a muggy atmosphere of mist and fog. Slamming the door, she walked away, brushing her smooth hands against each other.

PART 3

In the morning Blanche woke with a strange feeling, she attributed it to the nightmare she had, but it was such a prominent feeling. She got up, brushed her teeth until they sparkled, and spent the next hour or so looking at herself in her favourite mirror, her mother’s mirror. Blanche knew very little of her mother, who died when she was six years old. The one thing she did know about her mother was that she was an exquisite beauty.

Blanche spent hours each day sitting in her room. She would just sit and stare, looking at the face she saw in the mirror. Beauty. It was so precious to her. It gave her worth.

“Would you like blueberries with your porridge, sister?”

“Yes, get me some blackberries too.”

“Oh,” said Sleepy, taking a deep breath in. He gulped, and then, slightly yawning, replied, “we, uh, ran out of blackberries.”  

“That’s fine.” she sighed, “I’ll go to the garden and fetch some myself.” She felt odd, tired although she had just got out of bed, and couldn’t find the energy to get annoyed.

Sleepy exhaled a sigh of relief, thankful not to be kicked, or hit, or yelled at.

“Blanche, I uh, I have to tell you something.”

“What? I’ll be very angry if it’s not important. I have a lot to do today an-”

“You remember that creepy old woman who came to our house last night?” 

“Yes, I’d rather not, but yes. What about her?”

“Well, she’s dead. Her body was found this morning. In the woods." He stopped and whimpered a little, “They say she froze to death, Blanche.” With a yawn, he left the room.

Blanche was angry. Not at Sleepy for telling her this. Nor at the old woman for, well, dying. But at herself. She wasn’t sorrowful, she didn’t feel guilt. But she wanted to. Oh, she deeply wanted to. Waiting to feel a tear splash onto her cheek. But it never came.

She grabbed her red raincoat and tied it up with a pretty bow at the back. Hurriedly, she ran into the garden, her hood hugging her cheeks.

A few minutes later, she reappeared, a bit breathless. She was ready to continue her breakfast when suddenly she saw that her brothers were gone.

“Hmm. Sleepy? Happy? Dopey? Anyone?” No answer. She sat down and started to eat her porridge, gross. She spat it out, it was cold so she ate the berries without it, sitting in silence. Boredom began to permeate the air; she walked over to the fridge, her eyes searching for something to eat. Nothing. She knew she had to get her brothers soon, or else the boredom would kill her. She found them upstairs, sitting in a circle that created an effect of a wall.

“What’s up boys? What are you looking at?”

“Happy’s ill,” cried Grumpy, “he’s been sick.”

“Oh no, let me see him!” Happy lay on a chair curled into a ball, his heavy head resting on a cushion, and his once rosy cheeks a pale blue, with skin cold as the snow on the roof of the cottage.

“I said let me see him! Are you all deaf?!” They sat like statues, silent and still as stone, backs facing Blanche. They’d pushed her out. She decided to escape the annoyance of her brothers, after all, why should she care about Happy, all he does is irritate her. So, she ran out of the door, out of the house, staining the white carpet with muddy footprints.

“Well, I know when I’m not wanted.”

She grabbed her bicycle and went off into the woods. It was usually her favourite place, an escape, a place of nature and life, yet on this particular morning, on her bicycle as she went past tree to tree, there was a sinister mood about it that pervaded the air which entered her nostrils, tickling the tiny hairs in her nose.

Something compelled her to turn back, stay away, but she kept going, cycling deeper and deeper into the woods until she forgot why it was she left in the first place.

PART 4

Hours had gone past since she left home, “I wonder if the boys are worried about me being out this long. Well, if they are, I hope they’re crying, shivering with pain, weeping at the thought of how angry I am going to be when I get home. It serves them right for being such foul creatures, ignoring me!” Blanche saw in the distance a small brook, with little ducklings swimming aimlessly. “This’ll be fun,” she muttered.

Blanche bent over and starred into the water, looking at her reflection. She blew a kiss and smiled with delight. She hunched her back even more, bending her spine, looking further and further into the water, at herself, in awe of her appearance.

Abruptly, disturbing her from her frolicking, something shoved Blanche, causing her to fall, head first, and splash. Wet and cold. “Oh shit! Who the hell did that?” 

She walked out of the water, looking like a monster rising up from a swamp.

She snatched one of the ducklings and let it go, meeting its delicate body with her boot, and kicked it into the sky.

She laughed.

The bird smashed onto the ground and was surely dead as it lay, motionless. The smile on her face widened. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the bird started vibrating, so fast, as if it would explode at any moment.

Blanche stared. She lifted her hand, her fingers juddering, and touched its beak. The bird stopped. As she looked at it once more, she noticed that this time, the bird was deformed. Different. It had changed. She knew what was in front of her. She couldn’t believe it.

The duckling was now a crow.

It couldn’t have been the same bird. She couldn’t accept that it was. It was covered, now, in thick black feathers, dark as the night. Horrified, she knelt down, resting her knees on the damp leaves, allowing the mud and dirt to entrap her, and found herself face to face with the bird. It smelt awful. If she hadn’t killed it herself, she would have thought it died weeks ago, for it smelt of mould and decay.

“Blanche…” A shrill voice came from behind her and seemed to speak directly into her ear.

She had imagined it, of course, for when she turned around, the only thing there was the crow. Its black seedy eyes wide open seemed to be looking into her eyes.

“Blanche…” considerably louder, the whisper made her jump this time. 

“Aaahh!” she screamed. It felt closer, last time it was just near her ear, but this time, it seemed to touch her shoulder. Trying to regain her control, she brushed the dirt off of her knees and whimpered.

“Whoever’s there, leave me be, you’ll be sorry. Just go away.”

This must be a dream, she said to herself.

Only—how could it be? For I never fell asleep. The thought of this petrified her. A chill shot her in the heart and found its way through her whole body, down the spine. She shuddered. For the first time in her life, she missed her brothers.

“That’s it,” she groaned, “I’m going home.”

PART 5

As she zoomed like a wasp, light and airless, the sky above her had turned black, darkness loomed over the surroundings. She glanced up at the sky, only the moon to give her company looked down at her, voluptuous and annular.

She cycled on, trying to ignore the mysterious noises that encircled her. Surely, they were only the sounds of the animals of the night.

So, she kept going, following the path, towards home. She heard the whisperings of lost souls, cries for help. All was inky and still, the black shadows of the night seeming to stop in their movements as she passed. She knew better than to listen to the whispers. If you listened to their miserable moans, you would never get out. She had entered the deep woods, a place she was never allowed as a child, especially alone. There were myths that permeated her mind, memories of the stories she heard as a child, haunting tales. Murders that occurred in these woods. Witches that were hung on these very trees. Drowned in these very rivers.

She cycled for hours, her scarlet coat flowing like blood down on the ground, as she swept through the forest. Ghostly cries echoed and wailing howls of wolves followed her as she moved under the moon’s glow. It was getting darker, the air had turned icy, smoky, making her view vague. Dying trees came alive to grab her, their branches reaching out for the edge of her skirt, ripping it into pieces. The pungent odour of decomposing wood, filtered through her nose, it twitched with irritation. She was following the path. Or so she thought. It was a never-ending path of twists and turns.

Another hour passed. The night got colder. She wished she was home. She wished to be anywhere, anywhere at all, but the woods.

Blanche stopped. It was no use. She knew she wouldn’t make it home at this rate, not until sunrise. She decided to sit on the moist ground, and sleep. She had to find the right spot. So, she cycled deeper into the woods, until she came across an old cemetery, which would provide some shelter.

She walked towards one of the gravestones and sat leaning against it.

Hunched up, her knees to her chest, her eyes searching the surroundings.

“This is all just a bad dream,” she told herself, crying, “a bad, bad dream.”

PART 6

When Blanche awoke, she felt refreshed and calm. It was just a nightmare, she was stupid to think otherwise. Thank goodness it was a school day she thought, she couldn’t bear to go through another day, doing nothing, and she couldn’t go into the woods, not after her dream.

Even if it was just a dream.

As she moved, her hands fell upon the metal frame of the bed. That’s strange, my bed is wooden. Confused, she rose, blood rushing to her forehead. Her body felt tight and rigid. Her wrists began to sting with soreness. She looked down at her arms. They were cut and scabby. It hit her like a stab to the chest.

It wasn’t a dream at all.

Blanche was panicking now. This was not her home.

“Where am I?!” She screamed. The door started to creak, and she knew someone, or something, was about to enter. "I have to get out!”

She made an effort to wriggle out of the bed, but she was stuck, almost glued to it. At this point, she was shaking so much that the bed also moved.

Then, a figure formed, vague and dark, and glided into the room.

Blanche sat there, in the bed, stiff as wood.

“Who are you?” Blanche felt sure she knew this person, experienced their presence before, there was a sense of familiarity.

Something about the eyes, she recognised the green, squinting marbles, old with wisdom.

“I know it’s you, you’re the evil witch that killed my parents, the old woman that came to my home!”

“Well aren’t you clever my dear?” a voice hissed. The vague figure became clearer, one leg, two legs, revealing herself, out of the shadows. It was the old woman, she saw at her home, the same ring bore on her slender hand, green as ever. But how could this be, she died in the forest that cold night. The woman’s hair was now a vibrant auburn colour, hot as the sun, locks of flames resting by her cheeks. The wooden stick remained on her right side.

“How could this—? I thought. But you… you’re meant to be dead.”

PART 7

The woman had bright orange hair, with curls that settled on her shoulders. She was certainly beautiful, and had a warm and caring look about her. Yet there was sorrow in her eyes.

The woman walked speedily towards Blanche, with a mournful look painted on her face. She wouldn’t look at Blanche, and kept her eyes on the wooden cracks of the floor.

“I did not kill your parents.” admitted the woman, “I am not guilty of that. It was a stronger force than you and I.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Shouted Blanche, slowly regaining her confidence.

“I’m so sorry to tell you this, Blanche.” The woman was genuinely melancholy, she looked so pale, lips as white as the lilies in Blanche’s meadow. “Your mother, she—she did a selfish thing. A crime. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, Blanche. I really do. But I must speak the truth. That’s the least I can do, my darling.”

“Why are you calling me darling? And why am I here, why am I strapped up like this?!”

“Let me say my piece, please, Blanche.”

"Who are you? How have you got so young? Your hair was grey and you were small and hunched and you and now and—” Blanche stared deeply into those green marbles, they were hiding something. Blanche was beginning to feel sick. The kind of sick feeling, at the bottom of the stomach, that rose to her throat, stinging. The feeling when she found her parents. Dead. She felt it closing, so that she couldn’t swallow and hardly could produce any words.

“Let me go! I want to leave now! Let me out!”

“She killed your father, Blanche. And her beloved sister.” Blanche sat up, utterly shocked. In fact, it wasn’t shock. It was horror.

“My mum?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes, my dear.”

“Did you say my mother?”

“Yes, yes!”

“You, you, you’re lying. How could she possibly leave me—she wouldn’t have done that—you’re a lying old bag. You are lying! You were jealous of her, weren’t you? You wanted to be like her, have her looks, and you knew you could never be as beautiful as her, so you killed her, and took my dad too.” The woman just stood there, very close to Blanche now, her shoes nearly touching the edge of the bed, but she wouldn’t look at Blanche.

Blanche started to feel dizzy. Deep down she understood that the woman, the stranger, whoever she was, was telling the truth.

The woman sat next to her and gently touched her dark locks. Blanche looked up, moving away, nearer to the top of the bed as she did.

“You always did have lovely hair, black, like your father’s.”

“It’s you?” Blanche’s cheeks turned rosy, brighter than her usual rosiness. She hadn’t planned to speak the words, but they seemed to leak out from her mouth.

Her instinct was right. The unnerving feeling in her stomach that rose to her throat. She was right, all along. This woman sitting next to her, she knew only too well.

The woman sighed with relief, then raised her hands and placed them on Blanche’s lap.

Blanche continued, “When I was a little girl, aged six, my mother left me. So, did my dad. They went shopping, like they normally did, every Saturday afternoon. I used to get scared. I would get worried, that a werewolf would come to eat me, or a ghost would come to haunt me, or a witch would come to kidnap me. But then my parents would come back, and all my fears would evaporate. But this day, this particular instance, they never came back. They left me with all the fear, all the terror. I waited and waited for them to arrive, I stayed in the lounge for four days straight, staring at the front door, waiting to see their faces again. After a while, I gave up hoping. So, that’s when I decided to go look for them. I went to the woods, and that’s when it happened. I saw a woman, with flame-coloured hair, towering over two bodies, she looked at me with surprise, and ran into the depths of the woods. I tried chasing her, but she escaped, she was so fast, almost flying. I walked up to the bodies and they were my parents. That’s why I recognised you, you, you’re the woman, who murdered my parents, killed them, then fled.”

“No Blanche, no, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m your mum. It’s me. Have I been away for so long that you’ve forgotten what I look like?”

“Again, you lie to me. How could it be you? You died.”

“No Blanche, I’m not. I didn’t.”

“But I saw you, lying there, with dad.”

“Blanche, I need to tell you something. And I don’t want you to hate me, just please, don’t hate me.” Blanche was so overcome with emotions, hate could not be one of them. She was passed hatred.

“The woman you saw, lying there, beside your father, was not me. She may have looked very like me, but she was not me.”

“So, if you were alive all this time, why didn’t you come back home. I lived two whole years all by myself! Until I found my brothers. They were orphans, like me, I found them, without a home so I took them in. I loved them so much, back then.”

“I was afraid, that you wouldn’t forgive me, for what I did, for what I’ve become.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I am a murderer. But I am also your mother. The day your father and I went shopping was the day I found out a horrible secret that your father had been keeping. I had a twin sister, darling, called Agnes. Agnes and I, well, we were identical twins; she was intelligent, but I saw myself as superior, I had self-confidence. The day I left was the day I found out that your father, and Agnes, were—were, together. They were seeing each other, in secret. I couldn’t live another day knowing that they were doing this. Knowing that your father saw my twin as the beautiful one above me. I was enraged. I killed them. It was I who you saw in the woods, behind the big oak tree. I wanted to go back to you, I really did Blanche. I loved you. And I still do, of course.”

“So why didn’t you. Why didn’t you save me? You were my hero. Not anymore. You know what, I do hate you.”

“Your father’s mother, was a sorcerer so when she found out that I had killed, poor, oh poor Andrew, she cast a curse on me, that I will look old and ugly for eternity, until I get you to love me, like you once did. Then I would be free from the spell. That night I visited you, I was in my cursed form, an old, ugly hag. Every day when the moon comes out and the sun goes in, I must face my punishment. Succumb to age and ugliness.”

“So, you don’t even love me, you’re just using me. That’s it isn’t it. You don’t care about me. You never did. You just cared about your looks. You wanted to be the fairest woman in the village, and when that was taken from you, you abandoned me. No, I don’t love you. There, I said it. I don’t think I ever really did. It was your face, your smile, your being, that I loved, I admired your grace. I looked up to you. But now that’s gone too, when I look at you now, all I see is that ugly old witch, the one who I met that night, when you tried to take me the first time.”

“But Blanche, I love you. Stay with me, and we can live our lives together. Two beauties in the same house!”

“No mum, you don’t. You love yourself. I’ve found you, finally, after years of longing, but I wish I never did.”

“No, no, please, darling, don’t say that. I’m your mother, I’m your mother, Blanche. You do love me, I know you do. Just say it, speak the words, say them aloud and then I can be with you, like this, with my beauty intact, and we will be happy.”

“Happy? I haven’t been happy most of my life because of what you did, I’m pretty used to being melancholy, I think I can cope with living the rest of my life without you.”

Blanche’s mother was dumbfounded, but she wouldn’t show it, not in front of Blanche. She stepped off of the bed, and unstrapped Blanche from it, then moved her arm, gesturing to the door.

“Go on then, I’m letting you go, leave my house. You’re right, I don’t deserve you, after what I’ve done. I don’t blame you. All I deserve is a life of loneliness. I shouldn’t have come to you, it was selfish of me, I was foolish. Forgive me, Blanche.”

PART 8

Blanche was discombobulated. She couldn’t understand what she was feeling; she had dreamed of this day for so long, every night the same. She would close her eyes and make a wish that her parents would come back to her, and they would be reunited, and live happily ever after; why reject it when it is so close? But it was impossible, her father was gone, that was certain, and her mother, well, she wasn’t the mother she knew, the mother she loved.

Her mother was gone, too.

“Just do one thing for me Blanche, that’s all I want from you. Then I’ll leave you alone. I am your mother after all, despite everything. You should thank me really, I’m the one who blessed you with your face. So, eat this apple for me. It will, make things—easier for me. For both of us.”

“How? What is so special about these apples you keep offering me? Oh, I get it, they’re cursed too, you poisoned them, didn’t you? To help you escape.”

“Um no, that isn’t the reason Blanche.”

But Blanche knew it was, her mother was selfish. And Blanche was becoming her mother. She had to do something. To stop herself from becoming what she saw in front of her. A monster.

She wished this day had never happened. Guilt pervaded the air like fire, singeing her heart. Her brothers had been alone for hours and she missed them. Happy would always know how to cheer me up, she thought, and Bashful, he would make me laugh. She wanted to laugh, scream, smile, but she was too numb.

“Goodbye mother. I am sorry that I cannot make you happy, even if I said I loved you, that would never be enough—you’d always want more, and I have nothing else to give you. I realise now that one day I may regret what I am about to do, but at this moment, I feel it is the right thing to do. For once, I am considering the consequences of my actions, and although it will sadden me, I fear it must be done. I love you mother, but not the woman you’ve become.”

Blanche got up, shaking the rope off from around her wrists, although a little sore, she rubbed them, then made a swift movement towards her mother’s face. She took a deep breath and whispered into her mother’s ear.

“Why, how could you?” Screamed her mother, as her sunset rooted hair, ruby lips, and creamy skin faded before Blanche’s eyes. When the screaming finally came to a halt, her mother collapsed to the floor, her eggshell skin cracking into smithereens, as it touched the wooden floor. Blanche blinked, then reopened her eyes. All that was left was a bit of ripped red cloth, her mother’s wooden stick, and an apple. She kicked the apple and watched it roll under the bed. Hidden. Out of sight.

Blanche ran out of the house, as fast as her legs would go. A dove flew free from its cage, wings wide, flapping at a rapid speed. A tired heart in pain, but it was growing. It was warm.

At last. A tear.

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