February 25, 2021

Throwback Thursday: What Beauty Thinks, By Tasha Mandell

Editor's Note: A kiss. A curse. Lost years...Author, Tasha Mandell's tale from 2011, will make you think about the mind behind the dreamer.

One hundred years is a very long time.  It is time enough for a rosebush to grow into a wall of thorns. It is time enough for a castle to crumble under the weight of plants and myths to spread far and wide.  It is time enough for a young girl to grow old and die and for her children to do the same. 

I am not that girl.

It is my hundred and sixteenth birthday, and I have just woken up from a very long sleep.

I did not dream for all one hundred years, or if I did, I do not remember.

The prince says that he is in love. The face I presented when he first discovered me, a face free of cobwebs and free of worry with carefully closed eyes and unmoving hair, with the crown resting gently atop my skull- how could a prince not fall in love with this picture of a princess? And he did, or says he does, and therefore he has asked that we are to be wed.

I wonder if I am merely his prize for cutting through the thicket of thorns, his award for perseverance, or if he truly needs me, desperately needs this princess and her lands: he claims that he is the youngest son of three, out to find something to fight for.  I wonder if this is what the fairies who bewitched me were hoping for, that on top of their gifts of beauty, kindness, and cleverness, I would end up loved by another with a throne to sit on.

This outcome cannot possibly be what the wicked old fairy aimed for when she first cast her vicious spell.  I cannot image it, and yet-- I know the servants' whispers, now that they have woken and realized what has passed, realized that they too are alone in this world.  I know that I was originally supposed to die on my sixteenth birthday once the spindle pricked my finger and a drop of blood was spilled, but now a lifetime and a half have passed and I have not lived at all.

There is a part of me that wants to blame my parents: years missed and a realm neglected because of a forgotten invitation. How foolish, how slip-minded were they, how silly to throw away an entire century due to forgetfulness. I do not know how I will forgive them, even if they beg. This is a grudge that should be held.

“You are my Sleeping Beauty,” the prince says, brushing a tangled lock of hair away from my face. I realize that I do not even know his name. Clearly, he has no clue as to mine. “I am so glad that my love woke you up.”

“Do you know my name? Do you know who I am?” I ask him, lips close to his ear. He blinks, long lashes sweeping the top of his cheek, confusion apparent at this bother of a question.

“That is immaterial, my love.”  He pats my hand reassuringly.

And I must wonder: is this the true revenge of the fairy’s spell? To have me wed to a man who does not know who I am, only that I have a pleasing countenance and I awoke at his kiss?  I had thought it could not be, but perhaps the possibility… it should not be, the fairy could not have had the foresight, but it is a trap she set, and her trap I have been caught in.

The prince tries to make further contact, but I turn my head away.

Tasha Mandell lives in a very small Manhattan apartment with her parents and younger brother.  She spends her free time playing classical piano and watching old episodes of Doctor Who.

Cover Painting: "The Sleeping Beauty" by John Collier, 1921

Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

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