Once upon a time…
In a land, far far far from here, a girl sat silently staring out the window of her bedroom. The girl, once a happy and joyful, had now grown cold. As the years passed by, nothing had made her cold heart melt. The sight from her castle tower was wide and she could see far beyond the borders of the kingdom. Below her, the old city lay. The wind made the wooden buildings creak, it seemed like the city’s clock tower was about to bend over and break. The people in the city were all in a hurry, trying to get last minute groceries for dinner and some even getting presents for their loved ones. She sighed, sometimes she wished she was one of them, and her life would be normal. The fate of the kingdom lay in her hands, and she wished more than once that it wasn’t her fault that the kingdom was this way. For years, she had tried to fulfill her prophesy but nothing had helped.
As the sun set beyond the mountains in the neighboring kingdom, a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. The peaks of those mountains, that was how this land was supposed to look, covered in a layer of white snow. It hadn’t snowed for years, ever since she was eleven and her fate was prophesized. It had been eight years, eight years of dry soil. With each year that passed the soil had grown less fertile and the harvest had been less that the year before. The kingdom had become poorer and poorer. Once they had been a large kingdom with one of the largest harvests every year. The snow had been their secret weapon, it had made the food grow bigger and better. Now, her father had to sell parts of their valuable land to other kingdoms in exchange for food.
When Elzi was eleven, her parents had called her to the throne room, where an old woman was waiting there for her. The winter was almost over and not a single flake of snow had fallen. So the King and the Queen had reached out to the old lady that lived far in the hills past the lake, she had been known for her wisdom and magical abilities. The lady named Olipha, had seen the future and Elzi’s fate. Until Elzi, as the only and true daughter of the king and queen, had found true love, the snow would keep away. The way to break this curse, as Elzi had referred to it many times, she needed true love’s kiss.
Her parents had been sceptic at first, so they didn’t do anything about it the first year. Elzi was only so young, after all, she wouldn’t need a prince at eleven. Maybe the lack of snow had only been bad luck and Olipha was just a little crazy. But after a year, there had still been no snow and the harvest had been disappointing for the second year in a row. A drastic change in the royal pair’s mindset had happened. The King invited fellow kings from nearby kingdoms, and the Queen invited all of her royal friends. They were all asked to bring their children. Elzi had spent weeks with the princes and royal boys, but nothing happened. The blonde boy from the kingdom of the mountains, had laughed at her sweetly. The short kid, son of the Queen’s best friend, had been shy and played catch with her. The boy with the eyes dark as the night-sky, had held her hand when they chased the ducks to the pond. But nothing beside that happened. She didn’t fall in love, she didn’t even want to kiss them. As a goodbye, ever one of the boys bowed and kissed her cheek, Elzi’s eyes were focused on the sky all that time, hoping for snow. But not even a drop of rain fell.
Years went by, years in which she was visited by every royal boy or prince her father and mother could find. Every visit started in anticipation but ended in disappointment. Every kiss, lead to nothing more than a goodbye. She had gotten love letters from all around the land, of boys talking about her eyes as bright as the stars and her hair as beautiful as the prettiest autumn leaves. Every one she had read, and answered with a single note saying “I am sorry.” She had grown cold to them, not even one of them had made her heart pound faster, not a single one had made butterflies spin in her stomach. After hundreds of dates and visits, Elzi hated them. Still, the only thing her parents could talk about was the state of the kingdom and the love-less life of Elzi. They kept sending every boy they could find to her.
In the weeks before Christmas, when there always had been more visits, as her parents were getting more desperate, she had locked herself in her room. The days she spent looking out of the window and trying to escape in books, the nights she spent staring at the ceiling. When the sky was at its darkest, she sneaked downstairs to steal food from the large kitchen. The whole land was asleep, but she wasn’t. When she returned at her chamber and filled her empty stomach with food, the guilt of every bite made a bitter taste in her mouth. She prayed to the gods for snow. She prayed for this curse to be broken, but she never got a response. Not even a whisper to acknowledge her existence.
It was the night before Christmas, and she was repeating the process she had done every night for the past weeks: stare at the ceiling, get food, pray, before her eyes fell shut. She dreamed of snowy landscapes with Christmas trees lighted behind windows, with families together having a dinner with long tables full of food. She dreamed of full stomachs and the sound of footsteps in the snow.
Roughly awakened by a knock on the door, her eyes shot open. Light, coming from the window, filled her room. Her window had been open all night and her toes were frozen. She hurried to close the shutters and started making a fire in the fireplace. Another knock at the door. They should know by now that Elzi wouldn’t open the door, she hadn’t opened the door for anyone for weeks. The fire started crackling as the knocks turned into pounding.
“Please, Ellie, open up,” her mother was at the door, and she used the pet name she hadn’t used in years. Elzi always hated her full name, Elzibeth Maryan from the house of Ainward. She had always preferred Elzi, but her mother had always shortened it to Ellie when she was only a little child.
“Why are you here mother?” Elzi didn’t trust it, she never came to wake her up. And now she was also calling her Ellie? Something was up, and Elzi didn’t know if she wanted to know what. “Are you setting me up with another prince you’ve found from a far-away kingdom?”
“Of course not, sweetie, it’s Christmas! Please come downstairs, I’ve got a surprise for you.” Her delicate footsteps revealed that she was already walking away. A surprise? Her voice had sounded joyful, but were surprises ever good? She couldn’t just stay here, she needed to know what it was. So, she put on her dress, and ran downstairs. When she entered the great hall, she was surprised by her parents sitting near a gigantic Christmas tree. Underneath it, three presents, one for her father, one for her mother, and the largest one for her.
Her mother and father stood up at the same moment and walked up to her and pulled her in a warm group hug. “Dearest Ellie, we’re sorry for the way we treated you. We were desperate, and forgot about you in all this prophesy trouble.” Her mother’s voice was soft, her eyes filled with tears. Her father continued. “We won’t do that again, ever. I promise. You’re more important to us than the wealth of the entire kingdom. We’ll find a way.”
“I know we can’t make it up to you by giving you a gift, but maybe this will soften the pain a little.” He let of Elzi and her mother follows his example, “now go open your present!” He points at the large box, wrapped in red and gold. She slowly walks to the box, still hesitatively. A peeping sound comes from it, and her eyes shoot to her parents, “Mother? Father? What did you give me?” but she doesn’t get a response, only a big smile from them both.
A small pull from the laces and the box opens. The thing that’s inside is fluffy, hairy and is still peeping. All of the sudden the little ball of hair turns and shows its nose with two black eyes like pearls above it. Elzi let the little dog snuff her hand before picking him up from the box. She places his little paws on the ground, that immediately slip on the tiles. He stumbles before walking a few meters and hiding behind a chair.
“Come, doggie? Come,” she tries, before turning to the maid and asking for some food for the pup. The dog is still in hiding until the maid returns. With a piece of bread in her hand, Elzi slowly moves to the dog. Half a meter in front of the dog she stops, kneeling for the dog with her hand outstretched. With a little patience, the dog eventually moves to her hand to sniff and sneakily steal the bread from her palm. As if the dog has made up their mind, he makes a run and jumps in Elzi’s lap. She hadn’t expected that so she falls over, the dog still on her chest. She laughs, the first laugh in a long time and her frozen heart skips a beat. “Oh Prince, what are you doing?” she cries out, still laughing. With every laugh her hearts melts a little more. The dog, who is now named Prince, answers with a lick on her cheek. They roll for a while before Elzi’s eye reaches something else, and she stops in the middle of her laugh. She gasps, “look!” she screams, “It’s snowing!”
She runs out the door, on bare feet, with Prince only a few steps behind. Her heart, warm and undone of the layer of ice, glowing with happiness.
… And they lived happily ever after.
I loved writing this Christmas/love themed story, it was so much fun! It is a bit longer than the other stories but I just needed to add more 🙂
When you’ve written your #shortstorysociety story please send it to me. I’m going to make an overview post again. Because the last few weeks had been a little chaotic, I didn’t do it yet. But I hope to do that this week again.
What did you think of my story? Constructive criticism is always welcome!
Did you know that in Holland we have a second day of Christmas? So merry Christmas (and Boxing Day)!