“Tell me a story, Lucy,” Alice murmured, staring skyward, watching the clouds form dragons or, possibly, cats. “And give it a happy ending this time, please.”
Lucy shrugged and lay down her pen aside, deep in thought as she plucked blades of grass from the summer lawn and twirled them between thumb and forefinger.
“Would you like to hear of Goldilocks and the three bears?”
“Anything, as long as it doesn’t involve Rapunzel. I am sick to death of her and her tower.”
“Suit yourself,” she said, her slim shoulder rising and falling in another shrug.
“Once upon a time, there was a golden haired girl,” she began, her voice soft as she flung the sliver of grass aside and drew a new one from the ground, perhaps searching for one shorter. “She drew a line across her wrist every time she had the twitch to take a knife and make a slit…”
“Dark stuff, Lucy. Where did that come from?” Alice asked with a shiver.
“Shush, you’re interrupting. I was going to end the story with a twist.”
“Ah. I see what you did there. Clever. But please, start over and make it a proper story, Luce,” she pouted.
“Fine. Once upon a time, there was a golden haired girl who lived in a far off land. She worked in a tavern as a serving wench. One night, after everyone else had gone home, she and the other serving wenches sat around a table and shared a bottle of wine…”
“Girls that young should probably not be drinking.” Alice injected, somewhat sanctimoniously.
“She wasn’t truly a girl. It’s obviously an affectation on my part.”
“Droll of you. Besides, I already know this story.”
“Then you tell it!”
Alice sighed and put her arms around her friend, resting her chin upon her shoulder, her lips brushing her ear and whispered.
“You know it doesn’t work that way, love. Go on. I’ll be quiet.”
“Thank you. Now, as I was saying, she’d been drinking. She might have been a bit tipsy when she decided to depart. One more glass and she knew that she’d not be able to handle the reins of her carriage.”
“There’s going to be a happily ever after to this?”
“No, Alice. You know better than that.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I want to hear about Rapunzel.”
“It ends just the same, you know. The monster scales the walls of her tower and corners her. He rips her apart with his claws and robs her of all that is precious before fleeing back into the shadows.”
“But the King’s men hunt him down and capture him, right? There’s a beheading and everyone lives happily ever after, right Lucy?” Alice clapped her hands softly together, feigning delight.
Lucy just shrugged once more, flicking the blade of grass away, this time plucking a rib from her chest before falling backwards, staring up at the ever changing clouds as she lay on the fading lawn, blood seeping from her wound.
“Yes, Alice,” she sighed, clearly exasperated. “It ends just as you said. The king’s men hunt the beast down and drag it back to the palace where the King takes his sword and chops its head off and they all live happily ever after. It’s a tale as old as time.”
They sat in silence, the summer sky looming overhead, bear shaped shadows floating over the meadow, Alice picking out sailing ships and flying salmon in the clouds while Lucy plucked at grass and bone until nothing but dirt remained.