Swallowing, I push open the shutters. Warmth greets me, gathering me into a strong embrace. The air smells fresh, and outside it’s a warm, bright day. I crane my next out below, and see the same tuft of hair: the same person came back again.
Last night was a rush after Mother came. She had to forfeit dinner again, leaving me alone to eat cold chicken rations, so after an hour of stale conversation Mother told me she had to go, and disappeared into the night. I don’t know where she goes, and I don’t need to. I still haven’t forgiven her for treating me like a child last night; as the outside world was probably as big and frightening to her when she was my age, when she was cooped up inside, alone.
I watch the same shrub for a while, leaning against the window ledge. My knees grow tired, and I have to move them every now and then. Eventually, the tuft of hair moves to the side a bit, and then disappears completely as the person ducks behind the shrub.
“I know you are there. There is no point in hiding. Why are you here, and what do you want? I’m not afraid of you.”
My voice, masking braveness and determination, cuts into the silent air. I’m beginning to think that the tuft of hair must be an animal or another plant when I hear rustling: and before my eyes, someone stands up.
He must be my age. He’s dressed in finery: a deep purple cloak is draped around his shoulders, lined with fur, and his clothes seem to tell me he’s wealthy. His face is friendly, and soft. His eyes are a light, interesting green and brown curls fall around his face. Not the face of someone evil, like I was expecting. I narrow my eyes, watching him suspiciously. He shivers under my glare, and his expression grows humble.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to alarm you.” His voice is gentle, and sweet: sounding musical and rich with grace. “My name is Hans. Hans Seidel?” He throws the name up at me, as if it would change my opinion of him dramatically. Hans wrings his hands, which are red raw.
“What do you want, Hans Seidel?” I keep my voice measured, drawing my face back into the warmth of the tower. Hans walks directly below the tower, so I can see him. My neck begins to hurt, and I rub at the nape of it, keeping my eyes on Hans. My hair, draped up on the beams, is invisible to him. Obviously, Hans Seidel does not get a hint when it is thrown at him.
“I don’t want anything, as such. I-I just saw, one day, when I was riding my horse through the countryside. I saw this beautiful tower, and I stopped by it to catch my breath. And then, you opened the shutter and I could hear singing, and it was so sweet and beautiful. I came back, every day, to listen. A few days ago, you were sitting, reading your book-and I saw you for the first time. It was like-well, never mind. How-how did you get your hair that long? Anyway, that’s not the point.” Hans draws in a breath. “Why do you never come outside? Who is that woman who visits you every night?” Hans’s voice is earnest, and he sounds genuinely confused and concerned. For me, an absolute stranger.
The part about my singing seems to stir something inside me. My voice is the opposite of beautiful; but the thought that someone was listening to me, and knew I existed is something so curious I want to carry on talking to Hans. But his story is intensely frightening: how long has he been watching me, while I have been unaware?
I make the weighty decision that Hans can be trusted. For the first time, I am talking to someone my age. Well, the conversation is stilted and awkward, but I am so lonely. Hans could be my friend. The idea fills me with happiness and hope.
What would Mother say? I know exactly what she’d say. But the idea of doing this by myself may just prove to her that I am mature, and a complete individual. I can cope with outsiders. Hans will not hurt me-his demeanour seems to confirm this, and I’m suddenly excited to know someone other than Mother, who admittedly scares me sometimes. Knowing someone who doesn’t patronise me would be marvellous.
“My name is Rapunzel,” I say, “And shouldn’t you come inside? Before something happens out there?”
I curse myself for stupidity, as Hans looks shocked. He quickly masks the feeling, but I prepare myself for his flight and to never see him again.
Hans widens his eyes, but nods. “However shall I get up?” He asks in earnest.
I grin slowly, knowing Hans has not seen the full length of my hair.
Walking back inside the tower, I gently pull my hair down from the beams. It falls to the floor with a soft sound. I loop my hair around the hook, hurriedly, and throw it down. I walk back to the window ledge, watching Hans peer curiously at my hair which spills down the length of the tower. “Is that-is that your hair?” He questions, his voice full of wonder.
“Of course,” I ask, sounding puzzled, “Everyone who has blonde hair has to grow it out, correct?” I’m genuinely surprised. Mother told me that blonde hair is precious, and cutting it is an evil act.
Hans narrows his eyebrows, his brow crinkling in thought. “I have never seen hair as long as this,” He muses.
“Now, Rapunzel, how exactly am I getting up?” Hans queries, arching an eyebrow.
“Well, just hold onto my hair and climb up. It’s not hard,” I promise, “And I can always pull you up if you fail.”
Hans begins to walk towards the tower, and gently holds onto the first fistful he can find. He moves his foot up to the first gap, and then the second. I close my eyes and lean back as Hans slowly scales his way up to the tower.
I close my eyes, questioning what I’m doing. Swallowing back any thoughts of concern, I open my eyes and see Hans. His head is in full view of the window. Hans grins cheekily, but his face is pained as he tries to climb onto the window ledge.
I rush forwards and grab Hans’s hands, pulling him forwards. He swings his leg up to the ledge, and strains to mount it. He clambers up, laughing as he relaxes and leans against the wall.
“Well, that was certainly an adventure!”
I edge backwards from him, still a little weary, but Hans sees and steadies me.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Hans promises me, his voice full of warmth. Jumping down from the ledge, Hans offers a hand out to me. “I didn’t mean to startle you yesterday-I saw you saw me, and then panicked. I was going to tell you-but I was…well, entranced. You don’t look out often…and if you don’t mind me saying, you are very beautiful.” Hans blushes, drawing his hand back. He looks up through thick, black lashes at me, and I feel trust towards Hans.
“I know,” I say, waving my hand dismissively. “Now, tell me Hans…whatever were you doing outside?”