I was never as naive as I appeared. The big, bright eyes and crimson lips were a facade, a masterpiece painted on an unfortunate and ordinary canvas – a charm. She’d known that well, once upon a time. That my nuances and faults were as real as the powder-white fairness of my skin. And unlike the rest, whose vision of me was crafted of pure fantasy, she’d loved me regardless.
So it’s important that you know: when she offered me the apple, I took it willingly. I knew that it was poisoned. I tasted the energy of its magic in the air, felt it the moment my fingers wrapped around its shined red flesh.
But I bit it anyway.
I looked into her eyes and bit so she’d know. I did it for her.
We’d been friends long ago, bonded by our mutual loss; a girl without a father, a wife without her king. But time had put a rift between us too great to cross. Time and that damnable mirror.
I clearly remember the day it arrived, wrapped in parchment paper, its gilded frame glistening a brilliant gold. We’d been playing hide and seek in the gardens. The sky had been a clear, blinding blue. Step-mother had been counting when the servants rolled the package out onto the balcony.
The moment they undraped it everything stopped. I peered over the edge of the giant topiary where I hid, frightened by the sudden silence. It was the same heavy stillness I remember when I received the news about Father’s death. Step-mother had crept toward it, her fingers reached out carefully to trace its intricately carved frame.
“It’s breath-taking,” she’d said, more to it than to any of us. “Who is it from?”
There’d been no sender. Only its sudden, inexplicable appearance.
“Place it in my bedchamber,” she’d said, and back turned to me, she’d lifted her hand, shouting loud enough so I could hear: “Seven. Eight…”
I shrieked and ran. She gave chase until we tumbled onto the grass in sheer exhaustion.
Life proceeded as normal from there – until one day, it wasn’t.
I don’t recall when I first noticed the dark circles under her eyes. One day she’d been the vibrant, youthful queen I loved, the next she’d been covered in shadows.
Our time together gradually dwindled to nothing. She refused to even sit with me at suppertime. More than once, I went to beg her forgiveness, to demand to know what I’d done wrong, only to hear her speaking through the wooden doors of her bedchamber. And I thought, for the briefest of moments, that there’d been another voice talking back.
When she finally resurfaced, she was not the woman I remembered. She was a shell made to look like her, to taunt us, filled with all the evils in the world.
I’d catch her watching me sometimes out of the corner of my eye. Her red lips would curl in disgust. Her dark eyes would narrow. The daggers she sent were meant for my heart.
I overheard the servants talk about the mirror. How it left them so unsettled. How they thought they saw something shift within the glass when they tried not to look. How on several nights they found the queen sitting frozen before it, staring at her reflection, murmuring unintelligible things.
She’d gone mad, they said. But they were wrong. It wasn’t her. It was the mirror.
It’s why I returned home, even after she sent the hunter to cut out my heart. Why I walked deeper into the forest following the wrinkled, hunchbacked old hag with the rotting teeth and the unkempt greys.
I am not naive. I saw her just as she had once seen me- without the charm meant to determine our faces. Deep in her eyes was my mother, the only mother I’d ever known. And she eyed me with contempt. With hatred.
She’d fallen victim to the lies, as all the others. Victim to my beauty.
She must have thought me foolish enough to believe she was this stranger. Or worse, she didn’t care that I knew the truth. Either way, I’d lost her.
Under those circumstances, what was I to do? Of course I bit the apple. And I did so with the full intent of taking my final breath.