“Under Glass,” by Heidi Dreiling

I. Snow White

We notice the girl’s lips first. They’re the color of raw meat or a cut throat, splashed like blood across the salty white of her face. Her limp hair is a nothing shade, falling into the dull place between ash and sand, and the frightened eyes are flat as charcoal. But that obscene, hungry red sinks into us, makes her beautiful. There are others looking, too: the bakers, the blacksmith, the woodcutter, all waiting to see who will pluck the ripe cherry of her mouth.

A look passes between the baker and his wife, and then the man moves slowly forward, a sweet roll in his extended hand, flour in his beard, blackness in his eyes. Snow White’s empty belly sees only the meal, and the door swings heavily shut behind her.

After, they make the girl wash the sheets.

II. Sleeping Beauty

The prince’s hands are clumsy-rough, scraping between slim thighs like he’s grinding flour or digging roots. Briar Rose doesn’t stir; eyes and self glued shut by the spindle prick that throbs, tight-infected-pink on the pad of one thumb. The curse pulses through her inner cords and valves, capillaries expanding and contracting slow, so slow; her blood so thick. He presses close, fumbles with the heavy velvet folds of her gown, eases inside. She sleeps. He doesn’t wonder if she dreams.

III. Cinderella

Mice come out of the walls and from under the sofa, slip beneath the crack in the door. They nibble all her hems to lace and they sing while doing it. They’re worse than moths that way.

“Let us help,” the tiny pink ones squeak through the dense mist that clogs her mind. Blue tongues the size of maggots wash her face and ears; her underarms; the tender place below her navel. They nip her throat, unlace her bodice.

“This color is all wrong for you. Try the green muslin; you’re an autumn, afterall.”

She shivers under their scaly tails, but the mice are right, they’re always right.

IV. Beauty and the Beast

Beauty can appreciate the irony, even if it’s bitter. She should’ve caught the metaphor, or at least the parallels; should’ve trusted her fear instead of her pride. The rose in its crystal jar was a warning. Hell, the whole damn castle was a flashing red sign that read “GO BACK!” She’s the literate one, so why couldn’t she read that?

It must say something about her that she could only trust a man who wore his monster on the outside. She thought—oh, she thought if someone as beautiful as Gaston were horrible, then surely the opposite must be true. Patterns build toward a theme; character flaws have to be balanced by strengths. If her life were a story, this would be the moral: art imitates life, and not the other way around.

Behind her husband’s newly-smooth skin and sweet face, the beast is somehow easier to see. The castle doors locked shortly after the wedding.

Beauty knows when a story’s over.

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