It was a cool night in early spring. They were sitting peacefully around the fireplace, Ava knitting a shawl for Rose- or rather, re-knitting it. The old one had gotten ripped as her rambunctious daughter tried to teach her timid sister how to climb a tree. There was a large tear, but Ava had managed to unravel it and tie the pieces together. Yarn ends from some of the knots stuck out, but Ava correctly guessed that Rose wouldn't notice, or, if she did notice, she wouldn't care. The tree-climber herself sat on the rag rug in front of the fireplace, dominating the imaginary game she was playing with Snow. Snow was loyally following along as her sister explained the conditions set out by the magical fairy godmother (played by the wooden kitchen spoon in a gorgeous doll's dress that Snow had carefully fixed on with yarn) in order for the two beautiful sisters, Rosamund and Snowbell, to go to the ball.
"But when they do go to the ball, what will they wear?" exclaimed Rose.
"The fairy godmother will give them pretty dresses, right?"
"Yes, of course," said Rose, rolling her eyes, "But we're in charge of the game and so we have to find something for her to give them." Her face suddenly lit up. "Oh, I know. I'll be right back." Rose carefully propped up the fairy godmother and Rosamund, then ran to the back of the room and scrambled up the ladder into the attic where the girls slept.
Snow, who played her sister's imaginary games quite frequently, was very familiar with this process and sat patiently. Ava had to laugh.
"What's funny, Mommy?"
She smiled at her daughter. "Nothing, sweetheart."
Rose, meanwhile, was in the attic. The furniture consisted of two low beds and a storage trunk, and the girls really had very few possessions, but Rose was quickly making the little they had look as voluminous as possible by spreading it over the floor. When she found what she was looking for, she glanced around, envisioned what their mother would say, and quickly stuffed it all back into the trunk. Then she ran to the ladder, because she was anxious to go to the ball.
And then it happened. A knock. Rose froze. No one ever came to the cottage, except Bern, and he only came in the winter. And when he knocked, it didn't sound like that. This knock was crisp, clean, professional. Whoever was knocking was serious.
Rose didn't analyze the knock, of course, though she was scared and decided to stay upstairs, where she could get a limited view but it was unlikely that they would see her. Ava, however, did analyze the knock. And she was even more worried than her daughters, because she had the benefit of knowing more about all the bad things that go on in the world. But being the adult also made her the responsible one.
The firelight shone through the cracks in the shutters - there was no way she could pretend not to be home. She stood cautiously at the door. "Who is it?"
"Is this the home of Miss Ava Kenston?"
Mrs, she corrected mentally, automatically. She hesitated. "Yes," she said, finally.
"I have a message. Please open up."
If he knew who she was, he could not be a thief, she reasoned, since he would now she had nothing to steal. So she decided to comply.
She opened the door. "Yes?"
"Yes, but I am married," she put a protective hand on Snow, whose desire to be safe next to her mother had overcome her desire to stay as far from the stranger as possible.
"This must be the child."
"Yes," said Ava. Her voice sounded defensive, which nagged at her. She hadn't wanted to sound defensive, she had wanted to sound assertive. This was her home and her daughter; what business was it of his?
"I, Lord Dedrick, come on behalf of King Darius, ruler of the kingdom of Kastile."
Ava could feel her entire body become lighter. All the struggle, the sadness, the loneliness of the past six years dropped away. Darius had finally, finally come for them. She couldn't help smiling.
"I have been sent to inform you that-" he paused and looked at her. She looked like she was glowing from the inside out, so beautifully and innocently that he couldn't help feeling guilty, even though this was the approach everyone had agreed upon. "Oh, dear, this is terribly awkward."
"What?" There was a nervous edge to her voice now, making the happiness flicker with her discomfort.
"I never would have believed it of him, and you living alone with just the child and all..."
"What?" Now she was bordered on yelling. Whatever it was could not be as bad as this buildup.
Lord Dedrick took a deep breath. "The King says... he no longer loves you or desires to see you."
She had been wrong. It was so much worse.
Ava was stunned. She didn't know what to think, how to react... her body began to cry as her brain stared at him, unable to take it in. Darius didn't love her anymore. He didn't want to see her. She had spent six years, six long years, struggling, raising their children, trying to deal with the judgement of the town, and she had only managed to hold on because of her belief in Darius. Her belief that he would come back. Ever since that day when he had left, ridden off into the sunset, looking back at her anxiously, she had believed.
Now she felt broken.
This is a piece of the prolouge from a novel I've been working on which is an adaption of the fairy tales "Snow White" and "Snow-white and Rose-red"