SOUR APPLE : PART ONE
Snow White never expected her stepmother to be so bad, in such a delicious way!
Hair black as night, skin white as snow, and lips red as blood, a baby girl was born to loving parents. Years went by, and this beloved child, Snow White, grew more beautiful, more loved with each passing day.
As her beauty grew, as did her heart. It was said not only was she the fairest in all the land, she was the kindest. There wasn’t a soul alive in the kingdom that didn’t love and cherish the small princess.
Disaster struck one year after the young girl had reached an age of understanding certain things. Her mother died, leaving her alone in the world with her adoring, but lonely, aging father.
Time passed, and the father she loved slowly sank into depression. One day a lovely, charming young woman besotted him with kind words and tender touches.
A courtship took place, and the joy that had been missing from her father’s life suddenly returned. Life improved for Snow White’s father and in turn, the kingdom.
The same could not be said for Snow.
My father, at one time, treasured me, loved me far more than words could express. With the addition of his wife, my new mother, I was no longer the only light in his dark world. His smiles were no longer just mine. His love, now, was divided and shared.
Slowly the woman who was supposed to be my mother, love me as my father did, monopolized his time, and I felt alone, lost, abandoned in the world.
Yet, I could not hate the only woman since my mother to make him laugh with joy.
Tragedy struck once more for me when, after years of being happily married to my newest mother, my father, sadly died. Black depression descended on our household; a grief that was almost maddening gripped us all.
White candles were lit, and the dark colors of mourning were brought out to be freely displayed. It was a sad day for the kingdom, with the announcement of my father’s death, and a much sadder one as we all bowed our heads at his burial.
The sun was bright in a clear blue sky, almost blinding with its shine. Birds chirped loudly. The mockingbird sang its song flawlessly. A cool, spring breeze blew through the plains, shifting the grassy wheat that made my father’s beautiful kingdom so profitable.
Such a stunning day shouldn’t have been so bleak, but standing beside my weeping stepmother with tears rolling down my face, it was one of the saddest days of my life. This death hurt far more than my mother’s had.
Wrapping her arm around my shoulder, my stepmother pulled me close. Our shaking frames pressed together, and silently we wept over the great man we had both loved endlessly. Our hearts were broken into pieces that could never be mended.
I turned towards my stepmother and pressed my face into her neck. Her fingers came up, twisting in my hair to hold me close. Sobbing into her shoulder, I could smell lilies, a smell that had always been uniquely hers and intoxicating in its own way.
“My dear, Snow,” my stepmother said lightly into my ear. “It will be okay.” She tried to soothe me in a motherly manner, but it only caused me to sob harder.
How would it ever be okay again? My father was dead, and I was without the true love of a parent. Instead of voicing my thoughts aloud to the woman who had taken my father from me while he was alive, I only cried harder.
She held me tighter. I could hear the sharp intakes of her breath as she cried with me. There was no mistaking the feeling of hot tears landing on my exposed shoulder. She sobbed as hard as I did.
“Maura,” I called her name, clinging to the fabric of her dress like I was a child instead of one and eight.
Feeling the pull of her slender fingers as she untangled them from my hair, I looked up at her, but her face was covered by the traditional mourning veil. She would wear the dark colors for at least half a year.
“Come, Snow.” Stepping back, she took my shoulders into her warm hands, creasing my exposed flesh.
Looking around my father’s final resting place, I noticed that everyone else had left, and the sun that had once stood high in the sky was descending towards the horizon. It was time to go home.
Nodding at Maura, I turned to my father’s crystal tomb. He laid cold inside of it. There was no life in the body we laid to rest. Of course there wasn’t. That was the definition of being dead.
I kneeled before it to make my last goodbye.
“Father,” reaching out to touch the smooth stone, I started, “I will miss you.” Were those the only words I could come up with? Did he deserve more from his daughter?
I had no long speech prepared for this moment or things I wish I had said. My father, even when his time was taken by Maura, always, somehow, managed to hear what I had to say.
A few stray tears leaked from under my lashes, falling onto the ground I was kneeled upon. The moisture of one tear landed on one of the roses that had been laid out for my father, before it slid down the red petal, disappearing into the flower. Gone, just like him.
Standing from my position, I dusted my dress before turning towards the only family I had left. She was watching silently, but Maura’s expression was hidden from my view. I stepped away from the tomb. She stepped forward to say her final goodbyes the way I had.
Instead of standing with her to hear what she would say, I moved away towards another tomb, which was taken care of, but much older. Fresh flowers laid around it as well. Husband and the former queen were together at last. And I was alone.
Instead of kneeling before this tomb, I placed my hand on it, looking at the smooth but aged stone. Running my fingers over it, I smiled sadly, a feeling of nostalgia settling over me.
First my mother had been lost to me forever and now my father. They had both passed before their times, leaving me alone for the most part.
“Mother,” I whispered aloud. “It hasn’t been the same since you left us. Maura is great though. She made father very happy. You take care of Daddy now,” I spoke to my mother the same way I had many times in the past.
There was, of course, no answer. It was reassuring to think that when I spoke, my mother heard me.
After speaking to her quietly for a few more minutes about things that held no importance, I turned, looking for my stepmother. Standing a respectful distance away, she waited on me to finish with my mother.
I moved towards her and picked my skirt up to make walking easier. Once I stood next to her, we both looked towards my father’s grave before together moving away from it. Reaching down, she wrapped her now gloved fingers with my bare ones.
The silk of the glove was smooth and cool to the touch. Briefly the thought of what the silk would feel like on my naked torso entered my mind before I shook it away.
Those thoughts were wrong, and it would be a mistake. She was my stepmother! Anything with her would be highly inappropriate. Knowing that didn’t stop me from squeezing her hand and smiling sadly. Clutching my hand back slightly, she didn’t speak.
We held hands as we moved through the grounds wordlessly, choosing to walk back to the castle instead of taking a carriage. Looking around the fields, it only saddened me more to see that with my father’s death, nothing had really been affected.
Life would still go on, even if the people who had loved him would miss him dearly. The kingdom would not fall under the absence of my father. I might though. Maura might. How would we live without him?
I sighed. The walk was slower without a carriage, but the air was fresh. The walk also gave both of us time to think and mourn in private, even if we were together.
Comfort in the silence of a companion was a rare thing to have. I had always been comfortable with Maura, whether my father was present or not.
She had an easy personality, kind and genuine in all aspects of life. Pausing in step, I faced my stepmother when she paused with me.
“Now that Father is gone, will you stay?” I questioned, knowing that she could leave if she chose.
Releasing my hand, she lifted her veil, finally exposing the green of her eyes and her chocolate colored hair. She extended her free, gloved hand and fingered a dark curl.
Letting the wisp of my hair wrap around her finger for a moment, she smiled. Her lips twitched slightly before settling into a slight grin. It was as if she knew a secret I did not.
“I wouldn’t dream of leaving you, Snow,” she whispered, letting the curl she held onto fall onto my collarbone. The tresses tickled me slightly, causing me to roll my shoulders and dislodge it. After the annoyance had been removed from my skin, I smiled slightly at my stepmother.
“I am glad,” I told her, looking off around our surroundings. “The castle would be lonely without your presence.”
It was an honest assessment of our current situation. Pulling the gloves from her hands, she motioned for a guard who was walking slightly behind us to approach and take them.
Once her hands were clear of the gloves, she reached up. Her warm hands braced either side of my face as her thumbs stroked my face slowly. Her hands were as smooth as satin. The warmth was a comfort I wanted to bow into.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the guard back away then turn to face the direction in which we came in order to give us a measure of privacy.
“I wouldn’t dream of leaving you, Snow,” she said, leaning forward to brush her lips against my head in a practiced, motherly gesture.
Soft, plump lips lingered on my flesh, allowing me a moment to breathe in Maura’s smell once more. She was temptation and madness to which I could not surrender. A sigh almost escaped my lips before I bit them, silencing the sound of contentment.
Pulling away from my stepmother caused her to drop her hands from my face. After a moment, I smiled shakily at her while straightening my dress.
“I’m going to walk the rest of the way alone,” I told her, nodding towards the path before us. She looked towards the path herself.
“Guard,” she called the man who had offered us his back. Turning, he bowed slightly before approaching and handing off the gloves he had held.
Taking them, my stepmother pulled them on. Her creamy skin was covered by the silk fabric, before she placed her hands behind her back. She had always stood so gracefully.
“My queen?” the guard questioned when the task was complete. No longer smiling, Maura motioned to me. Looking my way, the guard seemed to understand her unspoken request. He moved to my side and waited on me to make the first step.
“I don’t need a guard,” I told her, hoping she would allow me to carry on by myself. Touching the curve of my neck where it met my collarbone, she ran her finger over it lightly.
The feel of cool silk caused goosebumps to appear on my flesh, run down my shoulders, and cover my arms in a visible reaction to Maura. Glancing at the reaction then at me, she made no comment on it before dropping her hand.
“Your father would insist,” she said, knowing I wouldn’t argue with that logic on such a day.
Huffing, I nodded before smiling sadly. I went down the path, leaving her. The guard followed behind me at a respectful distance as I thought over the events of the day.
Now that my father was dead, all I had was Maura. She had always been more like a friend than a mother. It would be an adjustment in the household, in the kingdom, with the shift of power moving from my father to her.
Letting my feet carry me and not worried about where I would find myself as I walked, I found a little peace. Memories of my father and mother assaulted me, and I smiled even as a few tears leaked from under my eyes.
Pausing, I wiped my eyes, noticing for the first time I was within the maze which my mother had always found comfort. Following the lead my feet had started, I soon made my way to the middle of the maze. Flowers and a fountain graced the space as well as a number of benches.
Taking a seat on one of the benches, I looked at the flowers before I started to inspect the level of the castle I could see. As I glanced over the windows, I found that there was no extraordinary new sight for me to take in.
Still I looked at them, knowing each room in my home had a special memory of some happier time. I let my eyes settle on a window to the East and peer at it. The curtain was pulled, and a woman stood in front of the window, overlooking the kingdom.
Even from my distance, I could see the brown of her hair glisten from the sunlight that shone into her private chambers. Peering out over the kingdom that was now hers, she wrapped her arms around herself in self-comfort.
Bowing her head, I could only guess the sight she could see from her window perch. I felt pity for her. The running of a kingdom was no simple task, and many men had failed at it. A woman doing it alone and doing it well was almost unheard of, but not impossible.
“Guard,” I called the man who now stood beside the bench on which I sat. Peering down, he waited for me to continue. “Do you think my stepmother will make a good ruler?” I asked him for his honest opinion.
Looking outwards as if he had to think about his opinion, he shifted on his feet slightly.
“The queen will make a fair ruler,” he began, “if given the chance, I believe.”
For a moment I wondered about his comment before my eyes were drawn back to Maura. Still standing in the window, her head was rested against it in a very un-queenly manner.
Smiling at the sight, I knew it was one of the things that made her whom she was. She always had the ability to be queen and still a common woman. It’s what appealed to my father.
I stood, and with one last look towards the window, I moved towards the exit of the maze. I picked my skirt up to make better time, and the guard followed behind me at an easier pace.
Soon enough, after a number of turns, I left the maze and moved onto the walkways that led into the castle. Instead of looking for Maura, I headed towards the kitchens.
The need for comfort food was a strong thing, and I had the craving for something sweet to ease my grief. As I walked, the guard followed along. Pausing in step, I turned to him, smiling easily.
“I’m safe here,” I told the man.
Nodding, then bowing low, he moved away. I continued onto the kitchen and looked over the rooms and halls I passed through. In each room, the mourning colors were displayed, and someone was crying over the death of their beloved king.
The few that spotted me offered their condolences. Accepting them with ease, I shared my own with them. I wasn’t the only one here who would grieve my father.
I entered the kitchen where a few maids snapped to attention at my sudden appearance. It wasn’t often that I would come into the kitchen. Quickly, they scramble around to accommodate me.
“Please no.” I held my hand up to still them in their panicked haste. “I will serve myself.”
Walking towards the table, I spotted one of my favorite fruits. I reached forward and wrapped my fingers around the smooth, red apple. Picking it up, I dusted it on the black fabric of my dress.
Shining brightly, the red fruit looked delicious. I turned it over in my hands and looked it over for any imperfections. Finding none, I moved towards the counter where a peeling knife sat.
I picked it up and began to peel the apple before nodding towards the scullery maids.
“I’m going to take this.” I informed them about the knife as well as the apple. They made no objections to my taking it.
Exiting the kitchen, I moved through the halls blindly, as I was used to them. Not watching where I was going, I soon found myself in front of the entrance to my room.
With the apple peeled and the knife long ago handed off to another maid, I had enough free hand to push open my door. Taking another bite of the apple, I stepped into my room.
It was the same as always. The bed was in the center with a wardrobe and mirror on the walls. Instead of going to my bed, I walked around it, heading towards the doors to my terrace. Pushing them open, I bit the apple again.
I placed my free hand on the railing and looked out over the dark waters my room faced. Finishing the apple, I looked below at the sharp drop off. I tossed the apple core, watching it sail through the air before dropping and disappearing into the water below.
Knowing the apple was gone and would never come back reminded me of my father’s similar situation. He was dead, and I would never see him again. Tears leaked from my eyes as I looked down.
I didn’t hear my door open or anyone approach over the sound of my sobs. When a soft knock sounded from behind me inside my room, I jerked up, clearing my tears. I turned to find Maura smiling sadly. The evidence of leftover tears hung onto her lashes.
Approaching me, she wrapped her arms around my shoulders, dragging me into her body for the second time today. Settling into her embrace, my tears slowly subsided.
Finally no longer crying, I pulled away from my stepmother, ready to thank her for her support. She tilted my head up to look at her and stared down at me. The green of her eyes was murky and lacked their normal, bright shine. Reaching up, I rested my hand on her cheek.
“You loved him dearly?” I questioned her, even though I already knew the answer.
Of course she loved my father, even though he was almost thirty years her elder. Why else would she marry him? Her expression was guarded as she placed her hand over mine.
“Your father loved me.” Her eyes traveled away before coming back. I knew my father loved her of course. She had made him happy when it seemed no one else could. It seemed with her answer that there was more to her story.
“But?” I asked, hoping she would continue. Dropping her hand from mine, she looked over my shoulder before her gaze traveled back to me. I removed my hand from her face and waited for her to continue.
Instead of speaking, she reached up, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me against her. I couldn’t speak as her lips descended, calming mine in a kiss.
Gasping in shock, my mouth opened to her, and she took advantage of it. She slid her tongue into my mouth and tasted me, and I could taste her.
I felt the soft curl of her tongue around mine and didn’t know how to proceed.