Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aurora Speaks, By Lisa Fu

Note: I love that we see some point of view from the princess. I also love that the hero is not perfect.

My name is Aurora. I was born in 1793. My father so named me because he loved the Aurora Borealis, which he saw on a trip he once made to Norway. My mother was the Princess Heir of Fairies who would inherit the queenship but abandoned her realm for earth because she had fallen in love with my father, a young naturalist searching through the grasses of the meadow with his magnifying glass.

She kept the secret of her origin from him, but at a party thrown in celebration of my birth, three old fairies who had been her godmothers, and now intended to be mine in my turn, came disguised as humans. They begged leave of her to bestow upon me one gift each, and she consented – touched by their encompassing generosity.

Magdalene, who was the oldest, gave me beauty, for she very well appreciated an aesthetic pleasure. She kissed me upon my tummy. Marjoram, who was the second oldest, with a wrinkled, brow, bestowed upon me wisdom, and kissed me once upon my forehead. Margaret, who was the youngest, kissed my cheek with love and imparted to me kindness. When they had all three blessed me, they quickly departed.

But a fourth fairy arrived, Millicent. A hard woman of about thirty, she resented my mother for her abandonment of the realms, and what she saw as betrayal of her race. Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to my crib and cast over me a powerful spell. Going to my mother, she crowed, “She will be cursed for the rest of her bastard life. When she is not yet grown she will die from the prick of a sewing needle – hah! – the symbol of your slavish devotion as a wife to this lowly man!” And she whirled off through the night.

When my mother begged her husband never to allow me to come within a yard’s distance of a sewing needle, he perplexedly consented to comfort her. Henceforth she would do no more sewing, nor the servants mend the clothing in the same room with me. The secret of the forbidden needle was the one mystery of my life she would never answer but with a smile.

I grew up with all the traits intended by my fey benefactresses. They visited me again at my tenth birthday; all three joined their powers to mitigate the damage of the curse as much as they could. For several days afterward my mother drifted along the halls in an agony of despair, uncertain of the efficacy of the charm.

At one point in my sixteenth year, when I was quite alone, I heard a strange laugh coming from one of the chambers on the uppermost floor, and when I shyly pushed open the door, saw a woman with a hard, lined face, of middle age, sitting at the desk sewing a piece of cloth. The needle glittered, flashing in and out among the white cloth.

The woman beckoned me forth, in a kind but slightly rasping voice, and showed me her work, a white lace handkerchief with an “A” embroidered upon the corner. “This is for you, Aurora of the dazzling dawn,” she said cheerfully, and smiled, crinkling up her whole face.

And she swiftly pulled out her needle and pricked my arm, which had been outstretched to receive the gift. I was dazed. “Why – why did you - ?” I murmured, and fell down on the floor. Laughing the same hoarse, haunted laugh I had heard before, she made her way over my body and left the room. I knew no more.

Of all this I have been told: I slept for a hundred years in my chamber. In my deathlike sleep, my rose-and-ivory beauty actually blossomed and grew, so that I looked as alive as I ever had awake. My mother sat at my bedside every day, and said, “And here is my sleeping beauty,” as she came. All my loved ones and people known to me withered and passed away. My mother, with grace, was laid in the ground; my father, inquisitive, unconventional, and distracted, alongside her.

Over time the old house became neglected, emptied, abandoned, and boarded up; no one entered it. As the years slipped by the curtains around my bed drooped down, matted with cobwebs, and decayed.

But one day a young man passed by the old, deserted-looking place, and having heard some curious rumors about a ghost woman there, doubled back his steps and went in. He wandered along the hall and went up the stairs.

There, in the chamber at the end of the hall, he saw a woman of a mythical beauty, lying upon the bed. She looked in the fresh bloom of life, as though just about to part her lips and wake up with a gasp, eyes wide open. He looked upon her a few moments, then, shyly, feeling somehow as though he were intruding, gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, and took her hand, which was as warm as his own.

In an impulse, he bent over the bed, paused a moment, and kissed her gently on her rose-red lips, knowing somehow that she would not wake if he did.

But unexpectedly she did; her eyes fluttered open and settled on him like hazy moths. He smiled, a bit cheekily, a bit somberly, half-abashed, and said, “I’m Philip. Who are you?”

It was 1909, exactly a hundred years since I first fell into the deathlike sleep, and I married Philip. He had a cocky attitude, not particularly genteel manners, and was not dashingly romantic; he had a pent-up sorrow. It was a…counterintuitive love I had for him. But I couldn’t resist the feeling, sitting of an afternoon when the sun just fell through the window, of an explicable, unparalleled, and half-shy joy, which had only to do with him; and nothing to do with my past, so far gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment