He told me his name the day we met--
how else does one begin a conversation?
You exchange names, then small talk,
before coming to the heart of the matter.
I gave him a necklace,
and he spun a room full of gold.
I knew it wasn’t the necklace he wanted,
just as he knew the necklace—-
a cherished gift from my mother-—
was worth more than any jewel.
The king also made a promise:
roomfuls of gold and myself as queen,
or my life cut short.
I asked the dwarf to take my child;
not as payment, but in the hope
he would protect the babe better
than either of us could protect me.
On my wedding night I closed my eyes
and thought of straw-itched conversations,
quiet moonlit laughter, kindness.
It was almost enough to help.
There had to be a challenge.
He had to take the babe openly,
with no blame attached to me.
For two days I laughed inside,
hiding his name and my smile,
and dreamed of how my daughter
would live free of satin-wrapped threats.
But there are only so many names.
It’s true he stamped his feet so hard
a chasm opened underneath.
It’s also true, though not said,
that I grabbed my daughter
and leapt after.
We raised our child
to know the worth of gold,
and the value of straw.
Ashley is 32, married, and prone to make random chirping noises instead of actually speaking. She emigrated from the US to Scotland seven years ago, a fact she still finds startling. Currently she works as a library assistant for the University of Edinburgh. In her spare time she reads, writes, plays the piano, reads, goes swimming, bakes things made out of chocolate, and reads some more.