Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Priceless

Week 24
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Karla V challenged me with "Her heart broke as she handed the pawn shop owner her remaining glass slipper. How had it come to this?"; I challenged wMe with "Write a story that incorporates death, your favorite pair of underwear, chickens, and avoids the use of the letter 'b' ANYWHERE in your story."


Yeah, it's been a while; I had my hardwood floors being redone (so had to move out for a week and a half) only to finally GET home and have my monitor die, so... Yeah... But that's a different sob story. Here's the one you came to read...



Priceless

She pulled the hood of her cloak tighter about her face, pulled more of her hair forward. Yes, she could barely see where she was going, but it also kept them from seeing her, from noticing her. She took a whiff of her sleeve, causing her to wrinkle her nose in disgust. Just enough of a stink to make her seem poor, but not too poor. The stolen cloaks' patches helped with the illusion...

But it would only work for so long. As she trudged down the dirty streets, the dim light of dusk hiding the hazards of the odd cobblestone and puddle of mud, she finally spied the sign: Ye Olde Pawn Shoppe.

Taking a deep breath, fingering the contents of her pocket, she went through the door, nearly jumping as a bell jingled near her ear.

Glancing around quickly--Good, empty!--she approached the counter, clearing her throat, even though she already had the owners attention.

She must be careful.

"Miss? You have some business I can help with?" The middle-aged man peered over the rim of his glasses, pen poised above his ledger.

She took a quick glance around the shop once more. "I have something... I need the money. I won't be back for it."

He waited for her to continue.

She knew as soon as she brought forth the slipper, all bets were off. If he was smart, he would wait until he sealed the deal before calling for the guards. If he was a shady-enough businessman, he wouldn't actually care except for what the slipper could bring him. If he was an honorable man...

They don't exist, her mind whispered.

"Miss?"

She gingerly--oh, so gingerly!--removed the glass slipper from inside the folds of her cloak and placed it gently on the table between them. She heard him gasp. She quickly placed it back under the safety of her cloak.

"Well?"

He stood, staring, open-mouthed. His jaw began working up and down, yet uttered no words.

"Listen," she hissed, reaching across the table and grabbing him by his collar, "you know who I am, you know what this is, and you know I don't have a lot of time. Are. You. Interested?"

He nodded.

"What can you offer?"

He pointed at her hand, still clutched about his throat.

"Oh, er... Sorry."

He shook his head at her, caressed his throat, then nodded. "Your highness--"

She reached out and slapped him before she even realized she was doing it. She recoiled, clutched her cloak about her and made ready to flee.

"I-- I--"

Realizing he was as shocked as she, she calmed slightly. "None of that talk, fool! Someone may hear you." She inclined her head toward the window to his side.

He nodded, his one hand now rubbing his cheek while the other still rubbed at his sore throat. "I-- I understand, your-- uh, Miss."

"Money. How much?"

"May I-- May I see it once more?"

She reached out again, this time keeping the slipper safely in her hands while he perused the item.

"This is actually it, isn't it? And you're actually her, aren't you?"

Her look, she noted, made him shiver. Perhaps she hadn't quite forgotten her stepmother's old tricks.

"Can I ask--why? Why did you kill the King?"

Why indeed? She had asked herself that many times over the past several nights, fleeing from the guards, the old king, the kingdom itself; sleeping in barns, old sheds, under the stars on cold, rainy nights; stealing clothing, food, shelter wherever she could.

But she knew why--what had started out as a fairy-tale-come-true had just been trading one hell for another: from being her stepmother's maid to being her husband's boxing bag; from sweeping out chimneys to hiding in them; from sewing up clothes so her step-sisters would have nice things to wear to sewing up bruises and cuts so she wouldn't bleed to death by her husband's hand; from the lowliest stone cottage to the highest towers, yet still a prisoner.

And that night, when he started beating their daughter? That was when her glass slippers became a weapon. When it struck the hard, unyielding stone walls and shattered into a thousand tiny knives, when the heel of her priceless footwear became the weapon to end his life, to end his reign of terror, to save her daughter from the hell she had never had a moment's peace from...

Yes. Priceless.

"Uh, your Maj-- Um, miss?" He practically curtsied, unsure of how to break her from her inner thoughts.

"What can you give me?"

"I'm not sure..."

"Look, I realize the type of customer you're used to can't afford something this nice. It may be one slipper, a single, but think of it--you are getting a piece of history! The Killer Queen's Glass Slipper! Pair to the one that killed the King!" She dropped her voice even further, so much so that he had to be nose-to-nose to even hear her. "You play your cards right, you could end up a very... very wealthy man."

When she saw his eyes light up, the same way her stepmother's used to light up at the sight of money, she knew she had him. The rest was negotiable...

Her heart broke as she handed the pawn shop owner her remaining glass slipper. How had it come to this?

How indeed... As much pain as those slippers had brought her, they had also brought freedom from her stepmother, had made her feel beautiful, had made her queen, for goodness sake! The happiest, yet shortest, days of her life...

***

She slipped out his side door and knew the clock was ticking. He wasn't a stupid man. He may wait an hour, maybe two, but that was all. Now that he had the slipper, now that she had her money, he would make sure she couldn't return for it.

"Ruby? Ruby?"

"Yes, momma." Her daughter crept out of the straw pile in the stable, just where Cinderella had left her.

"Come now, sweetie. We must leave this place at once."

Ruby obediently took her mother's hand, and through the darkness they walked.








Previous Challenges I have answered:

6 comments:

supermaren said...

I love, love, LOVE this story. Of course, I'm a sucker for fairy tales, but this was so awesome. You killed it again, Jason. :)

Cedar said...

Thank you, Jason. You know why. Just… Thank you my friend.

The Drama Mama said...

Wow. Jason, you never fail to steal my breath. Your spin on the age old fairy tale is fantastic. My mouth actually fell open when I read that she murdered the king.

I love the symbolism of the shoe you show at the very end. It really brought her loss into perspective because that shoe is so much more than glass.

I'm so glad you're back in the challenge. I missed you.

Carrie said...

I love it when a fairy tale gets a revamp. THis was so well done, I'd love to see it expanded to show the abuse, the birth of Ruby, the escape. Oh and how the shoe caused the king's death. Did she hit him with it, slit his throat with a broken edge, grind it up into his food so the shards slowly destroyed his gut??

great job!

dailyshorts said...

Great story. I, too, had to pick my jaw off the floor when I read she killed the king. I guess they didn't live happily ever after all.

Marian said...

this is just fantastic. really, whoosh.