A Heart in Disguise

Chapter 9

Everything was dark. The air around was a bitter chill, yet it was disregarded by the strong heat emanating off of our bodies pressed into one. Warm lips were moving against mine in an overwhelming motion as if time and space had stopped infinitely. I knew this was wrong, but it felt so right as lips continued to collide with one another. My hand slid down the brunette's chest until it rested above her heart. I could feel it beating lively beneath my fingers tips and it grew louder and more prominent within those very few seconds. At that moment I swore I had her heart and she gasped aloud. My own heart fluttered at the sound, yet began to falter when she pulled back. Hazel eyes were wide with such terror and betrayal, and when I followed her gaze my breath caught in my throat. Thumping loudly between my fingertips was Snow's heart. I opened but mouth to speak, yet my tongue was swallowed by the sudden chill of darkness overtaking me, encasing me in an all-consuming cold that I couldn't escape. No stars. No moon. Nothing much darkness.

My eyes shot open to meet the eyeless dark, mouth gasping for air and receiving an all too wicked chill rushing down into my lungs. I couldn't breathe. I scraped my nails over my chest, aching as if my own heart had been ripped out, but the pounding of it said otherwise. I squeezed my eyes shut, but it didn't matter. I still saw that hazel gaze filled with unbounded betrayal that could never be forgiven.

I was the Evil Queen. I was the definition of deception, and this was truly my most prized accomplishment, but it had been a dream. I would have called these blissful dreams not so long ago, but they were an endless nightmare to me now that I never desired to live again, yet they haunted me each and every night.

The ache in my chest had traveled up my temples and I pressed my icy fingertips to them, realizing at the same time that my skin was covered in a sweaty layer. Regardless, however, I shivered and pulled the fur coat around me. Oh how I would have loved to relish in the warmth of the hot springs again.

I shuddered at the thought of it, remembering in vivid detail the kiss. Instinctively, I brought my hand up to my lips; the warmth of her own upon mine was still there like a ghost. I knew if I were to turn onto my side I would meet Snow who was sound asleep. Of course she was resting peacefully unlike me. The conflictions inside of my heart and soul only urged my head to pound more miserably.

I didn't want this. This was all of her fault as it always was. I clutched at my coat remembering that this fabric keeping me warm was also a gift from Snow. It was a conniving trick to with me over, to pull me into her heart as if I were a friend.

I felt it again. I could have sworn that my lips were burning. How could such a short, innocent kiss leave me to feel this way? But it wasn't innocent. She knew what she was doing as she had drawn closer to me. She knew that I was trapped and vulnerable.

It was just a kiss though. I had slept with too many men and women to be swayed by a kiss, but my reaction had proven otherwise. The night before, I had fled so quickly, ignoring Snow's calls from behind me. I don't even quite remember where I had gone. I had intentions of retreating into the tent and wishing for the night just to pass, but then I remembered nothing had been set up. Instead, I had walked onward until I heard her voice no more.

There were no stars that night which meant I was walking in complete darkness. That didn't quite bother me so much until I was trying to find my way back to camp a few hours later. The only reason I did actually find it was because of the small fire that was threatening to die out. The princess was nowhere to be found until I poke my head inside of the tent to find her sleeping. The last thing I wanted to do was crawl inside the small confinements with the woman, but what other options did I have? I would freeze to death if I chose to stay outside.

As I lay there in the middle of the night after awakening from that horrendous nightmare, I somehow managed to coax myself back into sleep. Restless of course, but sleep nonetheless.

When I finally awoke again, the sun was peaking through the tent. I rubbed at my tired eyes before turning over to find that the spot beside me was vacant. The next thing I saw was questionable, considering the lack of a goodnight's rest, but when I reached out to grab it I realized it was indeed a hot steaming cup of dark liquid.

Is that coffee? When did we get coffee?

Needless to say, however, I didn't quite care. I was in a much needed position for the warmth as well as caffeine. Once the hot liquid hit her tongue, I flinched at the taste. It was obvious that the grounds were cheap. Sighing, I pushed open the flap to the tent and looked around.

Everything had been tidied up and the only thing that remained were embers and ash in the fire pit. Smoke was still coming off of it and that's when I realized that Snow had probably made the coffee after boiling water.

Snow.

I glanced around and once again she was absent. She hadn't left me. Even if last night's event had gone awry, she still wouldn't have just picked up and left. Besides, the travel bag was still lying by the tent. Before heading out to find her, I packed up the last bit of things.

I wasn't surprised to find her at the springs. What did arouse my curiosity, however, was that she was holding onto that same necklace I had saw in the cave several weeks prior. As I silently edged closer, I realized just what the necklace was and I nearly dropped the metal mug in my hands.

Many, many years ago when I was married to the king, I had offered the young brunette a necklace of mine. I intended for the young princess to take it as a sign of kindness, to fool her into believing that I had forgiven her for the betrayal of trust. It was a simple silver chain that held a pendant of an apple embossed into metal. It was nothing extravagant and quite honestly I couldn't remember where I had acquired the piece of jewelry.

That moment of compassion, as deceiving as it was, had been lost in the darkness of my mind and the fact that the rogue princess was holding it between her fingers now astonished me. How had I not recognized it before? I must have made an audible gasp, for Snow turned her head and met my stare.

"Wilma, morning."

It wasn't the usual cheering voice I had grown used to; instead it held a particular hue of sadness. I gave her a curt nod in return and brought the mug to my lips. She watched me for a moment, as if studying me, waiting to see what I had to say, yet I remained silent.

"I…I hope the coffee is okay. I thought you might need it."

"Yes, thank you."

I realized that the necklace hadn't been hidden back into her shirt. She was still holding it between her thumb and index finger, rubbing circles around it as if it were a good luck charm.

"I've never noticed that necklace before," I said to break the silence.

"Oh," she pursed her lips, "an old friend of mine gave it to me."

"Someone close?"

I watched her face fall as she shook her head with a sigh.

"We used to be, but I fear she is long gone."

She spoke of the original owner of the necklace as if they had passed from this world. I took a daring step towards her, yet kept my gaze downward, for I was unwilling to look her straight in the eyes. The visions from my sleep had yet to fade and neither had the feeling of the kiss.

"You cared for her?"

"I'm afraid so…if only enough people cared for her then perhaps she wouldn't have turned out the way she did."

Her words hit directly my heart; I couldn't tell whether they hurt or warmed it. This time I did look up when she turned towards me completely. Her hazel eyes contained a ache that pained me to look at.

"I considered her family back in the day. She wasn't that much older than me. When she gave this to me," she held the necklace up, "it was one of the last moments I remember when she truly had a heart before the darkness took over. When my mother passed, she kept me company. I keep this as a symbol of hope that maybe one day she will change. That maybe she will be able to show that beautiful smile she once had."

My feet were frozen to the ground as she spoke, staring at her for the longest time as she sadly smiled at passing days. I hadn't asked her if it was the queen she spoke of, but she knew I had picked up on it.

She took an awkward step away and glanced over at the steaming waters, asking if I wanted to take another dip before we moved on. As lovely as it sounded, as soon as my eyes fell upon the hot springs, my mind instantly flashed back to the night before. A shiver ran through my and I shook my head, pursing my lips.

"I…I think not," I drew the last bit of coffee between my lips, "we should head on."

There had been a wall between us before but never like this one. Upon instinct to gain bodily warmth against the winter air, one of us would end up walking so close to one another, without thought, and our fingers tips would brush against another. Instantly, my hand would recoil. My mouth would open to utter an apology, but my throat would instantly become dry.

If I were to ever vocalize such admissions of guilt it would be for far more things than just a touch…more than just a kiss. I blinked away the thoughts, denying heavily the burning at my eyes, but when I did so I saw her hazel eyes once more burning into mine with betrayal.

"We've had coffee this entire time?"

My sudden voice was like metal hitting metal. I kept my face neutral, trying to attempt at small chat in the best way I could. Such things I hated with a burning passion, but if it were a distraction then so be it.

"Not much," she pulled the supply bag up her shoulder, "It was rather expensive at the market, such things a rare to the tongue, but I bought a small bag for special occasions."

My eyebrow shot up into the sky. This morning was a rather odd occasion. I didn't make note that the flavor of the beans were rather bitter for being so expensive. My mood was sour, but not that sour. Instead I gave a short "Mm. I see."

I could have asked her more about the necklace, but I didn't. In its place, I looked upward towards the white sky, my eyes falling upon a drifting frozen flake. Soon enough the few snowflakes turned into several. Not heavy, but enough to make me pull up my hood.

An hour or so passed on and the new layer of snow had made the walk more slippery than before. My feet beneath me would loose traction for just a moment, but I would instantly pick up into a quick walk to downplay the little trip. Snow wasn't a fool however and I caught her silently, but not silent enough, laughing to herself.

It was when the path began to grow steeper that walking became a real issue. If it was already this bad, how was it going to be when a layer of ice froze over top tonight? Lost in thoughts of how much I hated fate, I felt my foot slip once again, but this time I went down with a large crash. Face down I went into the freezing snow, yelping as it slipped down my neck.

Snow gasped and was instantly kneeling down, reaching down to pull me up, but when I felt her hands touch my shoulder I stilled. Disregarding a burning pain in my ankle, I pushed myself up and shoved her back with all the power I could muster.

"Don't touch me," I snarled while looking up to her. She opened up her mouth, hurt etched across her pale face.

"I'm sorry…I was just trying to help."

"I don't need your help, princess."

I brushed the remaining snow off of me and went to stand, instantly letting out a cry of pain once pressure was added to my right foot. With my balance shot to Hell now, I collapsed again, but only to be caught by the brunette. I struggled against her, muttering curses, but when I tried to walk on my own, I found myself leaning back onto my companion.

"You're hurt."

"I'm fine."

"…Wilma."

"It's just a small sprain, dear" I held my breath when I tested weight against my foot again, "I'm fine to walk."

It was a battle she wouldn't win. She knew that from the beginning.

"We'll take it slow then, but if you need to stop we will."

Words couldn't explain how embarrassed I was at my clumsiness. That was the last thing I ever was. What had this journey done to me?

We began to walk again, slow this time, and even though I wouldn't vocalize it out loud I was thankful for the pace. The younger woman remained closer to me than I would have liked, in case I were to stumble again, but I wouldn't let her touch me. Every now and again I would glance over from the corner of my eye to see pain shadowing her face.

Something inside of me wanted to pry, but I let the other side win. Besides, I was already certain I knew the reason for her sorrow. That being said, it shouldn't have taken me by surprise when she spoke her next words. They were soft, not in kindness but fear.

"Wilma," I didn't reply to the name, "What happened yesterday…I shouldn't have done that. I—"

"What's done is done, princess."

I refused to vocalize another word on the subject as I picked up the pace of our hike regardless of the screaming pain in my foot. Never would I admit I was in pain. Never would I confess to myself, and to Snow, that my heart was conflicting with my head as we treaded onward through the icy, infinite mountains.

Infinite.

That strange word struck me. Infinite were my thoughts, emotions, and desires that I could no longer pick through. They all collided with each other like fire and ice, smoke flying around my eyes as if chaos had been unleashed. I bit down on my lip, biting back words that I couldn't dare to speak, for my tongue was unreliable. It got me into this mess and I would find a way out. Somehow…Someday…

Away from these chilling feelings that entrapped my soul.


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