The Fairytale Princess Gets Over a Break-up
When the fairytale princess breaks up with the fairytale prince, she moves back to her old cottage. Someone has been taking care of its upkeep — maybe the dwarves, maybe the mice she used to talk to. Maybe even the genie. She doesn’t question it.
She didn’t bring any of her gowns with her and so she puts on her old peasant dresses. She twirls in front of her magic mirror, asks who the fairest of them all is. When he says it’s her, well, it doesn’t give her the same satisfaction it used to.
“You’re probably going to get back together,” one of the dwarves tells her. The fairytale princess shakes her head and makes a face.
“I just want to focus on my weaving,” she says, but she can’t stop herself from smiling.
The wicked witch calls her over for coffee. She’s suspicious, but all the witch wants to do is chat about her ex-husband.
“I used to be just like you,” the witch says. There’s still a picture of her ex-husband, the bridge troll, on her mantelpiece. “I was little miss perfect. I gave and I gave. And you know what it got me? A shack on the edge of the swamp.”
The witch takes a sip of the scalding hot coffee and narrows her eyes. The fairytale princess would have flinched when she was younger, but she’s not scared anymore. “Never let him see you upset, little girl,” the witch says. “That’s how they win.”
If love at first sight is real, the princess thinks to herself one night, maybe the three blind mice have the right idea.
The princess decides to cut her hair right after the breakup. She props her magic mirror against the claw-foot tub and watches as locks of her golden hair fall to the dirt floor. When she is finished, she stares at herself in the mirror. She thinks how strange it is that most of the hair he once climbed is now laying in the dirt.
“I don’t understand what happened,” she wails to the fairy godmother. She can tell the fairy godmother is bored — everyone is bored. But she can’t stop herself. “It’s like he never cared about me at all!”
The fairy godmother stifles a yawn. “Sometimes it’s just like that, sweetie. Sometimes we don’t see the warning signs.”
“There weren’t any!”
The fairy godmother smiles. She knows there are always warning signs.
The first time they see each other after the breakup is awkward. The princess is still trying to grow her hair out — it’s too long in the back, too short in the front. The prince has gained a little weight, but he still looks the same.
They meet in the market, their hands both going for the same fresh loaf of bread.
“Long time no see,” he says.
“Yeah,” she says and runs her fingers through her bangs.
“I like your hair.”
“What have you been up to?”
The fairytale princess looks away, embarrassed. She hasn’t been weaving. She hasn’t been dancing. She hasn’t sung with the birds at all. What has she been doing? “I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends.”
“I think they came to my ball.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. How’d it go?”
“Not so great. I didn’t really want to throw it, but my dad insisted. I got you an invite — did you get it?”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t have gone anyways —”
He nods. “Of course, you’re probably pretty busy. Plus it takes a while to get to the palace from your cottage.”
“I still have your pin.” She blurts it out before she can stop herself. She thinks of the emerald pin laying on her desk and how he stuck it to her blouse the first time they ever met. It had pricked her skin a little — she hadn’t noticed until hours later, when she found a little red dot of blood on the inside of her shirt.
“That’s okay. You can keep it.”
They fall silent. It’s familiar — they were always falling silent.
“I’ve gotta get back,” she says. He gestures towards the bread.
“You take it,” he says. “I’m not so hungry anymore.”
She goes on a blind date four weeks later. Her stepsister sets her up with a talking frog — “But he’s a real prince!” — and they have a picnic in the glade. When they kiss at the end of the date, he does not change back into a prince.
The fairytale princess stumbles upon the genie’s lamp out in the forest. She rubs it with her lace sleeve and slowly he unfurls, his body a swirl of purple and pink. He has hair the color of snowdrops and eyes still half-asleep.
“You have one wish,” he says.
“I thought it was three.”
“We don’t do things in threes anymore,” he says. “Not in this kingdom. Not in this economy.”
“I wish —” She pauses. She thinks. The prince’s face floats through her mind and she nearly says his name. But suddenly it disappears and she says something else.
“I wish I could weave straw into gold.”
“To find a prince?”
She shakes her head and smiles. “No.”
The genie doesn’t understand, but he rubs his hands together. Later that night she fills the cottage with gold, but it’s actual weaving that makes her the happiest.
Much later, she hears the prince has remarried. She hears it was a quick wedding. She hears they had a son right after.
But she doesn’t hear much else over the sound of her hands skimming over the loom. She keeps making gold, has started up a little business. She’s begun to sing again and the princess keeps the window open, just in case a woodsman might want to stop and listen as he walks through the forest.
Things are good for the fairytale princess. She thinks, maybe, that this is the happy ending.
And, at the very least, she never got turned into a bird.
Ashley Burnett is a writer living in California. Her work has previously appeared on The Toast, Split Lip Magazine, and Wyvern Lit, among other publications. You can find her at ashleyburnett.net or on Twitter @AshleyDBurnett.
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Art Ivan Bilibin Public Domain