Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 7
Dim candlelight poured into the room, softly illuminating the outline of the bed and chair. She could see a figure sitting in the chair. It had two legs, and two arms, and its head was tilted back in sleep. Other than that she could not tell, because it was too dark. She listened carefully; his breathing did not change. He was still asleep. She stepped forward and raised the candle high. The light shone upon him and she could finally see his face.
She saw the sleeping face of a young and handsome man. He was dressed in fine clothes, and it seemed to her that he was as lovely a prince as you could ever wish to see. The only strange thing about him was his hair which was as white as snow. She stared at him, unable to move. She was completely entranced. Some people say there is such a thing as love at first sight; perhaps there is, and perhaps not. But what do you call it when you see the face of an old friend for the first time? She could see it in him. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that this young man was the bear, the gentle and strong bear that she had come to know. And love. As she watched his sleeping face like that of a resting angel she knew that she loved him. She was drawn to him. She thought that if she could not kiss him right there and right then than she would not be able to live a moment longer. So she leaned forward and gently kissed him.
However, when she leaned over the candle tilted and three drops of tallow fell onto his shirt. She opened her eyes, and saw his eyes staring back. She jumped away in fright. That peaceful face was now filled with shock and fear.
“What have you done?” he cried. His voice was like the bear’s, only not as deep or rough. It was full of sadness. “Now you’ve made us both unhappy forever. If you had only been able to wait…”
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! What do you mean wait?” She felt frightened, and guilty.
He slumped down in the chair. “I am under a spell, bewitched by my stepmother to be a bear by day and a man by night. If you had been able to last a whole year without seeing my true form then the spell would have been broken forever. I would have been free. Now I must leave here and return to her, and marry a troll princess with a nose as long as my arm!”
“What!” she shrieked. “No! Stay with me! I’m sorry I looked but you can’t leave me now.” She grabbed him and buried her face in his shirt. “I…I think I love you.”
He looked down at her. He looked surprised, and then sad. He slowly ran his fingers through her hair. “I didn’t know that. This would be easier if you didn’t.”
She felt like the whole world was falling apart. Everything was moving so fast. “What would be easier?”
She looked up at him, and gasped in shock. His face was slowly fading away. She held on to him tighter. “Don’t go!”
“I can’t stop it. The spell is taking me home now, to my mother’s castle.”
“Then take me with you! I’ll do anything.”
He shrugged, sadly. “I can’t. The spell won’t let me.”
“If you tell me where you’re going, I can try to find you. Please.”
He stared at her. She could see the wall behind him through his fading body. “I suppose you can do that. The spell won’t stop you. But there’s no road to where I’m going. The castle lies east of the sun and west of the moon. You’ll never find your way there.”
“I can try! I will try.” She could feel tears form in the corners of her eyes.
He gave her a sad smile. “I’m glad. I love you too.”
And then he was gone.
She fell to the floor in shock. How could this happen? She started to cry. At first she tried to stop herself, but then she just gave in to it. She buried her head in her hands and sobbed. She wept until the candle finally burned itself out, and when she cried so long that she had no tears left in her she curled up on the floor and fell asleep in the darkness.
She awoke to sunlight, and the sound of birds. She opened her eyes. Her bedroom had dissapeared. She was lying in a green field in the center of the forest. The palace was gone. The silver bell was gone. Her dress was gone, replaced with the rags she had worn when she arrived. She was totally alone.
End of Part 7