Mary doesn’t want a fairytale.
Ib loved fairytales. She used to read them with Mary when they were younger.
As the afternoon turned to evening and the stories came to an end, they would be lying on Ib’s bed. Under the warm sunlight of dusk pouring through the large windows, Ib’s mahogany fall was a lambent red, pooling around her lovely face.
They would discuss the laughably simple-minded plot, and Ib would speak in the quietest voice. The older girl never did talk much, so Mary was happy to listen whenever she did.
Ib loved fairytales.
Therefore, Mary also loved fairytales.
The seasons changed with restless haste and the years sped by, already they were entering high school. Growing up next to her dear Ib, Mary had learnt many things.
The dry math and boring literature.
Common sense and pain.
She’d learnt that the world was never as simple as a fairytale.
“Brochure, young lady?”
Mary looked up from her thought to the elderly man in his immaculate three-piece suit. Though time had colored his hair with salt and etched lines of crowfeet into the amiable crinkle of his eyes, his grey gaze were still shrewd behind the thick pair of glasses.
“As always, Bob,” she gave him a smile and took the leaflet from the man’s wrinkly fingers.
It was the key to being safe.
Mary went up the white marble steps, the hard soles of her boots tapping softly, but vividly in the silence of the gallery. Over the years, the number of visitors coming to see her ‘father’s’ world had dwindled to a mere speck of the former crowd. Times changed, and people moved on so quickly.
But not Ib.
Her sister still remained the fairytale loving girl who read Mary stories and hugged Mary to sleep. Ib especially was fixated with the story of the Sleeping Beauty. There was something so very precious about the notion of the princess waking up even after such a long time, Ib had confessed with a rare smile and faraway gaze.
After a recent case of theft, the museum had moved some of the paintings around. Wherever it was, Mary hoped that black cat would teach the thieves a lesson. Thank god, her ‘big sister’ wasn’t taken. She stopped by the woman in red and said hello before moving on to the end of the hallway.
Coming up to the lone portrait resting majestically on the white wall, Mary was tackled by a dizzying turmoil as she took in the features of the man’s sleeping face, depicted in the artful brushes of her ‘father.’ On the one hand, she was glad he was still here. On the other part… Oh why, why, why couldn’t he have been the stolen painting?
“Hello, Garry,” in a whisper she said, keeping her distance. Every time, he remained motionless; but every time she still felt as though those limp arms would shoot straight out to drag her back in if given the chance. Underneath the fabric of that ragged, unflattering coat were muscles capable of inhuman strength and she shuddered at the thought of harm unto her fragile human body.
In the recent years, she had taken to visiting the man. The more she grew, the more what had happened tore at her insides. She knew there was no making up for his sacrifice, but when she came to him, almost ritualistically, it eased her conscience. So that she may live the next few weeks with a sound mind.
This time, however, she felt urgency to see him. To see that he still slept, and the status quo was maintained.
“Ib has been a bit distant lately, Garry,” she played with the belt of her one piece and shuffled her feet. “You thought she was detached before, you should see her now. She just shuts off—I wonder if it’s just the senior year or if it’s…”
Mary pressed her lips into a light pout, the leaflet in her hand bent and twisted. The gallery rarely ever let its victims go, and when it did, the survivor’s memory would be wiped. What was intended as cruelty and selfishness had turned out to be kindness. She thought it was best Ib didn’t remember this man. If the soulless stare as the little girl had stood before he whose rose had wilted was any indication, Mary was sure Ib wouldn’t be able to live with the memory…or Mary.
Mary was a selfish, selfish girl.
Mary would love to give Ib a happy ending like in the story, but not at the price it cost. She feared the return of what had been forgotten.
Wasn’t it great that real life made a mockery of fairytales?
The princess should just keep on sleeping, undisturbed by time and pain, so that all the princes wouldn’t have to lose their lives to the forest of thorns, and the foolish wisewoman would be allowed a second chance. Everyone would be happy.
Tears prickled the corner of her eyes as her vision glazed over, blurring the name of the painting. She bowed deeply in front of him. “I’m sorry, Garry. I want to live…together with her.”
When she deemed it was enough a wait for a permission that would never come, Mary lifted her head and looked at his impassive form. The man still leant no slouchier in the cradle of vines and roses, and his hair still that odd flamboyant mess. But she dared think his expression was softer, and that he understood her plight. She dared think he had forgiven her and was encouraging her to live her life the way she wanted to.
It was going to be fine, he seemed to say.
The young girl stepped out from behind the large contorted sculpture, pulling off her hood that had concealed a straight fall of brown as she watched the retreating figure of her dear sibling. Her heart was hammering inside her chest, aching for reasons unknown.
Why? The words that had been whispered in the dead of sound echoed in a manic cacophony.
Something was telling her she shouldn’t, shouting at her. But slowly, she came up to the portrait whom her sister had talked so animistically with.
The girl froze, stunned.
It was the calmest of blue, outlandish and impossible.
And it gripped at her chest with a violent crush.
- the idea has been sitting around even longer than the one for Dream