Throwing the soapy, wet scrubbing brush on the floor, I sigh in frustration. My knees are red raw and ache from kneeling down for so long. None of the stains I’ve been trying to rub out of the wooden floor will go: sometimes even spreading further, adding to my growing irritation.
The blood spots look grim and menacing: like someone had been injured. The real truth is that I had a nosebleed, for the first time ever, and the blood had dropped onto the floor: by the time the nosebleed had finally stopped and I noticed the spots of blood, they had already dried up.
How can I be ready for the outside world, when I can’t even deal with a miniature nosebleed? I stuff the brush back into the bucket full of warm water, feeling more irritation when the water slops over the sides and drips onto the already wet floor. I pick the bucket up and nearly buckle under the weight; stumbling with it. The bucket bangs against my legs, and leaves red welts from where I held it. Sighing with anger, I notice my hair is beginning to mingle with the water left on the floor.
My light blue, knee length dress is also soaking at the hem. Groaning in annoyance, I thump the bucket down on the window and tip the water outside. I’m about to turn around and change my dress into a somewhat drier one, when I hear it.
“Argh!” The voice is mumbled, as if the owner is trying to keep their voice hushed. It comes from outside the window, originating from the green shrubs that reside right next to the bottom of the tower. Shivering a bit, I slowly edge my way to the window. When I reach it, I press myself up against the side of the window and peer out, my eyes scanning the now frosty floor and surroundings. I’m about to turn away, but then I see a tuft of brown hair, easily visible hidden behind one of the shrubs.
My breath comes ragged and uneven: and try my hardest to steady it. The silence is deafening. The person probably knows I’m there. What have they come for? Have they come to kidnap me? They might have come to kill me and cut of my blonde hair, which Mother said is what the people outside want.
I close my eyes and steady my breathing, wiping my sweaty palms against the skirt of my dress. Gulping, I close the window. It makes an echoing bang, making me jump and a shiver runs down my spine. I can just see in the darkness, so I half run ,half stumble to the drawer and grab the breadknife.
“I don’t know what you are doing here,” I whisper, knowing that the person can’t hear me. It seems to calm my fears. “But I’m not going without a fight.”
I take refuge in the darkness: I position myself so I’m crouched beneath the table. The cool knife presses against my palms, making it almost slide out of my grip. I’m still shaking. Outside the wind howls, battering my tower, and whistling in an eerie way. It doesn’t take long before I hear the heavy drum of rain coming heavy and fast on the ground. I lean against the leg of the table, keeping a firm grip on the knife. It gleams in the darkness. In its reflection, I see my face. My eyes are big and wide and frightened, my hair is tangled and messy and scattered all around the room. My cheeks are flushed, and I’m still shaking.
I look like a child.
I am a child.
I lean my head against the leg of the table, still shaking with fear, not stopping the first tears. The hot tears prick my eyes, making me hurriedly drag my hand against them. My wet dress hangs around me in a wet heap, making me feel colder than I already am.
Dare I move?
Sheer curiosity almost moves me once. But intense terror and cold binds me to the leg of the table, cowering away from reality.
Seemingly hours later, I hear a muffled shout.
It sounds certainly like Mother-but these people can trick you. I decide to remain in my growing uncomfortable position. My neck is aching, having not moved for hours, but I ignore it.
I wait again, and seconds later I hear another more concerned shout. “Rapunzel! Let down your hair, right now!” Slowly, carefully I crawl from out of the table. I try not to make a sound. The knife is clutched in my hand: the one thing that gives me courage. Feeling excitement, or fear, or europhia-or all three mingled together, I make a blind dash to the wall. I silently thank anyone listening when I make it.
I edge silently towards the window: making no noise. My feet begin to warm, and the feeling is welcome. When I can just open the shutter from where I am standing, it is thrown open with such a force that I fall backwards.
There, standing in air, Mother looks at me icily. It looks kind of eerie: Mother stood unmoving, frozen in mid-air, but I have learnt to not question it. A bird flutters in the darkness behind her, chirping merrily.
“Mother!” I exclaim, dropping the knife with a clatter and running to embrace her. A feeling of relief rushes through me, blossoming from my stomach and spreading warmth throughout me.
Mother holds out her hand, and I stop running. She walks onto the brittle window ledge, and down onto the floor. The shutter closes and the candles suddenly all flicker on from their positions around the tower.
“Why,” Mother asks, stressing each word, “Did you not answer me?” She looks so much more foreboding: a cold, icy fire in her eyes and she seems to have grown much taller. She towers above me.
Mother bends forward and picks up the knife, gently running her finger against it. I don’t answer her previous question, I remain standing mute. She surveys me, and I awkwardly move from foot to foot. Saying questioningly, she asks,
“What happened? Why was the shutter shut, and why didn’t you answer me? Most importantly, why were you holding a knife to open the shutter for me?”
My words all come out in a blurt: sounding ridiculous next to Mother’s silky voice.
“Well, you see there was someone down there this morning. I didn’t see who, but I panicked and hid with a knife, so no one would try to attack me. I closed the shutters and hid beneath the table so they wouldn’t find me. When I heard you shouting, I thought it was someone tricking me-but I decided to check, and take my knife with me. What would have happened if it were someone evil?”
The entire situation sounds childish and over exaggerated.
“Rapunzel,” Mother says harshly, “There was nobody down there. Nobody.”
“I’m certain there was!”
“Well then, how did you know? What exactly made you think it was a person?”
“I saw a tuft of hair, you see, next to th-“
Mother laughs, a cold, thin ringing sound. I wince, feeling inferior below her and amazingly stupid.
“You saw a tuft of hair? That could have been anything, Rapunzel. Your imagination gets the better of you sometimes.”
“And I heard a shout.” I say defensively, bracing myself once more.
“It was most probably an animal, with no interest in you. You see, this is why you are not ready for the outside world. The slightest change in the wind makes you run and hide. How could you ever manage learning magic or tackling the world outside? You are a child, Rapunzel, and you have to learn that. Not an adult. You are not ready.”
The words are blunt, and cut into me like a knife. I blush crimson, and lower my gaze to the floor. Mother’s stony expression remains and her gaze reaches the blood spots in the corner.
“Oh, do tell, why is there blood on the floor?” Mother says scathingly, raising a thin eyebrow.
“I-I had a nosebleed. That’s all.” My voice sounds too quiet, and shaky.
“And you didn’t think to clean it up afterwards?” Mother presses, patronizingly.
“Nothing worked. I tried, honestly.”
I’m expecting more harsh words, or another retort, but Mother’s expression seems to soften a little. Striding over to me, she cups her cool palm around my cheek, making us have eye contact. I look into her eyes, trying to feel defiant but failing. Mother smells of rosewater and soap: smelling comforting.
“Oh, Rapunzel,” she murmurs, “Whatever are we going to do with you?”
Nice words would have done, I think. But I spread a smile on my face and enquire in a different voice: “What would you like for dinner, then?”