Home of a mother, wife, writer

Story a Day: Day 19 – “One Touch”

I’ve been working on a twist on the Snow White fairy tale for a while now. it’s one of my side projects, and one that I’ve struggled with. I’ve been hoping to have it ready to submit to an anthology by the end of October, but not sure that’s going to happen. Still, I’m enjoying it. So, anyway, today’s prompt was kind of perfect. I’m not quite up to this point in the story yet, but getting close. I’m not sure why I went with Welsh names for this one, but Eira = snow & Tarian = shield. And, yes, this is an f/f twist on the story.

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Eira hummed while she rolled out the dough on the counter. She’d already swept the floors of the little cottage and had nearly everything else clean. Or at least she had before she’d gotten the urge to make a pie. Now, she was going to have to clean the kitchen again before the brothers or Tarian got back.

They had all done so much for her. Saving her, letting her stay here, making her feel welcome. And that didn’t count everything Tarian had given her, had shown her. She had to give something back. This was the least she could do.

She fit the dough down into the bottom of the pie pan, cutting off the extra and adding it to the rest on the counter. She’d gathered a basket of apples the other day while she’d been out in the forest with Tarian. The other girl had teased her, saying she could have brought them to her with a little bit of magic. But, even though Tarian had taught her how to focus the magic that seemed to be in everything around them, it didn’t feel right to use it that way. Though, it came to her easier when Tarian was with her. Like she broke down any walls Eira had.

She wasn’t going to use it to finish this pie, either. It felt too much like cheating and would defeat the purpose of doing something special for them. So, she carried the basket to the sink and washed each apple before peeling it and slicing it up. Once she had enough for the pie, she mixed up the filling and carried the bowl back to where the crust sat. She’d just filled it when she heard footsteps outside the cottage.

That couldn’t be right. The brothers wouldn’t be back until the sun started to set. And Tarian had said she probably wouldn’t return much before that. No one should just stumble upon the cottage. It was protecting from just that happening. Tarian had assured her of that.

Eira moved cautiously toward the window and peeked out. her heart slowed as she saw the red hair falling down the woman’s back as she reached for the door handle. Tarian was back early. She was being silly, letting fear twist her up like this. She was safe here. Tarian had promised her that.

She moved back over to the counter and started rolling out the second crust to cover the pie. Her heart picked up its pace as she heard the cottage door open. Not out of fear this time but anticipation. She didn’t want to let it show, though.

“Oh, Eira? Where are you, darling?”

A shiver went through her, but she wasn’t sure what had caused it. Something didn’t feel right. That was Tarian’s voice, sure. but, she’d never once called Eira ‘darling’. Usually it was that sarcastic ‘princess’, a title Eira was used to hearing and should effect her. And yet, when Tarian called her that, there was something more to it.

Eira turned toward the doorway just as Tarian stepped inside. Something wasn’t right, but she just couldn’t quite put her finger on it. The other girl wasn’t wearing her cloak. She always had it on, usually with the hood up until she got into the cottage. Except for the time she’d given it to Eira.

“I didn’t think you’d be back yet,” Eira said, trying to hide the pie behind her. This was supposed to be a surprise. Dark gods. The curse had all her thoughts stilling. Obviously Tarian was rubbing off on her more than she thought.

“I wanted to surprise you,” Tarian said and pulled her hand from behind her back. her face shifted, too, the scar on her cheek actually moving. No, that couldn’t be right. Eira had to be imagining things.

Tarian held a large green apple out to her. “I saw this and thought of you,” she said. “I know how much you like these.”

Well, that was sweet of her. Eira reached out to take the apple. As soon as her fingers touched it, she had the sensation of worms wriggling under the skin. She jerked her hand back, even as her mind told her that couldn’t be right. The apple looked absolutely perfect.

Nothing that looks perfect is any good, princess.

She knew Tarian had told her that at least once. Or maybe it was more like a dozen times. She looked back into the other girl’s eyes. No, those weren’t her eyes. They were Eira’s stepmother’s. No, that definitely couldn’t be right. The queen couldn’t find her here. This was Tarian. It had to be.

“What’s the matter, precious Eira?”

That broke her out of her daze, and she took a step back. Tarian would never call her that. Certainly not in that sickingly sweet voice.  No, no, no. This wasn’t right. But, her head was spinning, and she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong.

Tarian started to laugh, and Eira couldn’t figure out what was so funny. She felt sick and weak, and she grabbed onto the counter to try to stay on her feet. “What’s the matter?” Tarian asked again. “You don’t like my gift?” No, that wasn’t Tarian’s voice.

Eira looked up again, but the girl in front of her had already transformed into an older woman. No! She thought she’d sobbed the word as she hit her knees, but the woman didn’t react. So maybe it had stayed in her head. Tarian had never been here.

Eira’s stepmother had always used the things she loved against her.

“One touch,” the woman said now as Eira sank to the floor. “That’s all it takes, and I’m finally rid of you. And the one you love did it.”

“No.” But, the word was weak, her lips barely able to form it. Then, she was alone. And dying. She knew it even as her mind tried to fight back. She wasn’t going to make it until Tarian, the real Tarian, got back. The last image of her would be what her stepmother had twisted their love into. That thought alone might be enough to end her, but Tarian had been the one who taught her to fight, to remember she had strength.

If only that was enough to fight off the poison in her blood now.

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