Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 6
She hid the candle under her mattress and tried to forget about it.
For the most part she succeeded. She did her best to distract herself over the next few weeks. She explored the palace slowly, and started to map all the rooms. Or at least all the rooms she had found; the palace seemed endless, and each room brought some new delight or wonder. On days she didn’t feel like walking she’d have fun with the silver bell and try to think up new things to summon with it. She had it bring her intricate jewelry, exotic fruits, extravagant dresses–
–just about the only thing it couldn’t conjure was someone to talk to.
The bear was gone almost every day now. Which was fine. He was just a bear after all. A kind, playful, and charming bear. But still a bear. Possibly a troll, she reminded herself. Not that she really thought he was a troll. Still, on the rare occasions she did see him, she didn’t feel as comfortable around him as she used to. What exactly was he? She was too afraid to ask. What could he possibly say to reassure her? A troll would deny being a troll too if he was just fattening her up to eat. And what if she asked and he said that he was a troll? What could she do? It’s not like she could outrun him.
So she didn’t say anything. She didn’t play with him anymore either. The bear seemed somber lately as well. She was pretty sure she knew why. He was worried that she would to look.
And so was she.
She told herself she wouldn’t. Every day she reminded herself about how happy she was. She had everything a girl could want. There was no way she was going to risk it all just to satisfy her curiosity. It would be foolish in the extreme.
But when night came, and she woke to hear quiet breathing in the dark, she felt differently. Some nights it took everything she had to keep herself from reaching for the candle. To pull it from it’s hiding place, light the wick, and finally see for herself. It wasn’t because she was scared. I mean she was scared; terrified, actually. But she didn’t really believe that the bear could be a troll. Not deep down. She was just so lonely. She had everything a girl could want…except someone to hold. Someone to laugh with. Someone who would stand by her side, and never let her go. And she was terrified that she would never have that. She needed to know. Who was the bear? A troll? A man? Did he love her?
Would he still love her if she looked?
She didn’t have the nerve.
So she spent her days vowing not to look, and she spent her nights trying desperately not to. Until one day something strange happened. She woke up couldn’t find the will to get out from under the covers. She just stared at the empty chair at her bedside. She stared, and wondered, until a voice deep within her said “I’m going to look tonight.”
She told herself that she wouldn’t. She went over all the reasons not to. She recited them from top to bottom until she was satisfied that looking would be the stupidest and most irresponsible thing she could do. Then she got out of bed, and summoned breakfast. All through the day she renewed her vow not to look. With every step she took she swore she would just go to sleep and ignore any nightly voices. That evening, as she crawled under the covers, she congratulated herself for staying true to her promise.
A few hours later she woke to the sound of steady breathing. She thought very hard about all the reasons she shouldn’t look. And then she calmly slid out of bed and fetched the candle from under her mattress. She stepped outside of her room into the pitch black hallway, and quietly made her way downstairs to the great hall whose fireplaces never stopped burning. She lit her candle and made her way back to her room. She only paused a moment at the door. This was it. Time to find the truth.
She opened the door.