Flash Fiction Friday - Stay With Me
Author's Note: This piece contains spoilers for my story “The Spinner” from the collection Grimm Truths, but has an alternate universe ending that I am working on for an upcoming project.
The Spinner's heart was the first to be broken. He had taken pity on the forlorn maiden trapped in the king's dungeon. To make up for her father's ambitious lies, he had turned them into reality: spun the straw into gold, saving her life in the process. He had visited her night after night to help her: providing his good company, his cheery conversation... something to make her forget her troubles as well as solving them.
They had fallen in love - or so he believed. They'd expressed that love physically to one another, with her taking the initiative... sharing one night of perfect bliss before he had to flee with the sunrise, narrowly avoiding the palace guards. She promised to follow him, to find him, as soon as she could.
When he heard that the prince had offered his hand to The Spinner's beloved in exchange for the riches, he knew that she wouldn't betray him. Powerful or not, surely she wouldn't marry the son of the manufacturer of her misfortunes? But she had. Seemingly willingly, all too happy to play the pretty princess. The moment The Spinner found out, his stomach sank like a stone. Blinking back tears, he pleaded to her in his mind, hoping she would somehow hear.
Stay with me. Stay with me.
When the child was born, he knew it was his. His darling one wasn't a cruel woman: she wouldn't deny their son the opportunity to be with his true father. Once he arrived at the palace under cloak of night and met with her, she'd see the error of her foolish ways and finally come away with him: the three of them living happily ever after as a loving family.
The perfect scene in his mind wasn't the one that played out. Instead, his unexpected return had led to arguments and stupid bets, and finally, his downfall: that seemingly eternal, agonising second she had guessed his unique, unusual name in front of the entire court, forcing him to go away forever to honour his own word. As the guards dragged him away, he had gazed into her sapphire eyes one last time, sending out his last frantic message in vain.
Stay with me. Stay with me.
Unknown to her heartbroken rescuer, the princess had paid her own price that day. The prince, his suspicions heightened by recent events, had peered carefully into his son's cradle, and for the first time, spotted his distinctly unhuman features. The evidence of his eyes was reinforced by hearsay: reports from the servants about whispered conversation between the princess and the intruder behind closed doors. Talks of paternity. Offers of marriage. She had refused them all, they insisted, but to the prince, knowing that his wife had come to their bed impure, had borne that... that creature's child.... utterly horrified him.
He had her arrested at once, annulled their marriage, but there was still enough loving mercy in his heart not to sign her death warrant. Instead, she was banished from his realm, ensuring he would never have to see her beautiful blue eyes again. On the fateful day of her exodus – her jewels and fine dresses confiscated, her person roughly bundled into the back of the carriage that would take her to the border – she had cried out to him as the doors were slammed shut.
“Stay with me! Stay with me!”
His disgust made him deaf to her cries.
He chose to keep the child as a prisoner: an unique oddity within his collection among his other treasures and relics. It was innocent in all of this, hideous though it was. He had it locked away in the West Tower: had it taught to spin so it could pay for its own keep with the gold it created.
Curious, he even called upon it once or twice in his remaining years after his coronation, though it was hard not to be repulsed by its form. What even was it? Half-goblin? Half-gnome? Dressed in old curtains, it walked on two legs, growing to about five feet in height. It could hold a conversation, passing the time of day politely, but the King didn't like to linger in its presence... even though he could sense its desperate want of company. The words, though never spoken, nevertheless hung in the air.
Stay with me. Stay with me.
Seasons came and went. The king died. His daughter by his second wife – a cruel, cold-hearted young woman named Metella – ascended the throne, passing repressive laws upon her people. When the brave maiden Lenora had dared to venture into the royal vegetable patch... her family starving as her father was too ill to work... the Queen demanded she pay off her debt by spending the rest of her days as a scullery maid - sleeping in a tiny, filthy cell in the West Tower.
When Lenora had heard the footsteps above her, climbing the stairs in search of the secret walker, she had come across the creature, and taken pity on him. Now, she visited him nightly: bringing him books so she could read to him, and teaching him how to do so for himself. The myths she recited led him to choose a new name based on his abilities. He was no longer “The Abomination”. Now, he was “Midas”.
Midas knew that he was falling in love with this beautiful, caring human: the first person in this world to ever show him kindness. Still, it was useless begging Lenora to stay with him any longer than she already did each night: she had to get back to her post to ensure her safety. For now, he could only dream that the vile Queen Metella would be overthrown, and that he and Lenora would both have their freedom.
If that wondrous day ever came to pass, and if Lenora loved him back, then from that moment on, he would never leave her side.