Should I have known that day?
I should have known well before that day.
I should have known when my father’s new bride wanted nothing to do with us. When she shooed us away from her on the wedding day. We had only wanted to congratulate our new stepmother, to greet her and let her know she was welcome.
She did not want our grubby hands all over her beautiful white wedding dress, she said. We believed her. We stayed away.
I should have known when we were barred from the dining room at dinnertime. Because she wanted to have “one meal in peace with her husband” without “those noisy brats.” When we found ourselves picking at leftover scraps in the kitchen, split between the twelve of us, I should have known.
I should have known when my brothers disappeared without a trace. When mournful silence filled the halls of the palace and I found myself alone.
When she offered to help me with my bath, I should have said no.
I stood before the looking glass that evening, my eyes on her reflection as she stood behind me, unwinding the braids of my long, dark hair and slowly, carefully brushing it out.
I could see it then; the malice in her expression. The desire to destroy whatever perceived obstacle stood in her way. That was all I was to her. No longer merely a child. Now an obstacle.
Should I have known, reader? That she hated me? That she sought to destroy me?
I did know, reader. I knew.
Then, you ask, why did I do nothing? Why did I let her draw that poisoned bath, filled with frogs and snakes and filth? Why did I let her?
Because, reader, sometimes the desire to be loved is greater than reason. Because when you’ve never had a mother, you have hope for the only surrogate you’ve ever known.
When father married her, I had hope. That she could love me. Or that she could come to love me, over time. When you’re young, hope comes easily. And disappointment comes hard.
That night, I still had hope. I thought that maybe, just once, I could look into the mirror – could look at her reflection and see something there – affection or kindness, perhaps. Anything other than the cold calculating hatred I saw.
I knew, reader. For all I didn’t want to know.
Sometimes hope is stronger than knowledge.
And sometimes hatred is stronger than hope.
For those of you unfamiliar with this particular fairy tale, you can find the rest of it here:
Here’s the wikipedia article, if you just want the overview:
(write for) 20 minutes * original female character * glass
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