Thievery: Red, White, and Silver
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have a gorgeous, gory fairytale from Holly Garrow.
There were still stitches on her chest, black thorns twisting over her heart. She ran a finger over the crude threads as she looked at the thin, snowy dress waiting for her and hoped that the stitches wouldn’t show beneath it.
Bring me her heart, her stepmother had said.
And so they had.
Whatever beat in her chest now was different. She could feel it, hear it, all the time; each thump and pulse, the constant thud.
She slipped into the dress and swept her hair over her shoulder, falling like an ink-spill down her chest.
Bring me her heart.
She wondered what her stepmother had done with it. Was it now entombed in a trinket box, drained and dried and dead? Had she tossed it straight into the fire and scattered the ashes in the snow? She couldn’t shake the image of her stepmother sitting at the table, red hands and bloodied chin, sinking her lovely white teeth into her heart.
The doctor opened the door with a single sharp knock. He held out a length of red chiffon and a cream lace mask. She took them without a word and turned to the cracked, rusted mirror in the corner. She tied the silk ribbons of the mask, adjusting it around her dark eyes and draped the veil over her head, turning the world crimson.
She haunted me. That’s why I wrote this story. She haunted me until I did.
The first time I saw her I had been reading out fairy tales to myself. It’s a lingering ritual I suppose I’ve held onto since childhood. Stressed, sad, happy? Read some fairy tales! The gritty, bloody, scary world of the Brothers Grimm works just as well as a hot bath and a cup of tea to help you unwind.
So, I read ‘Snow White’ that night and then I saw her.
I knew her right away; the snow-skin, the blood-lips, the ebony hair. But she wasn’t the sweet girl from the fairy tale I had read or the animated film I had seen. The girl before me had an unforgiving stare and a Frankensteinian beauty. She was bitter and vengeful, with stitches on her chest.
Of course, I thought. She made a lot more sense to me than the passive, naïve Snow White. If my stepmother had tried to kill me and eat my organs, I’d be bitter and vengeful too.
Over the next few days I would try to write, or walk, or work and she would keep slipping into the corner of my eye. She was a shadow in all of my dreams, always asking me what her story was. But I didn’t know.
Eventually I just did it. I sat down and wrote her. I wrote the first draft in about half an hour and it was exhilarating to have words pour out so simply, a story forming on my laptop screen without me agonising over it for days. She weaved easily from tale to tale, those familiar scenes taking on a new shape.
Now, if there’s one thing I love more than fairy tales (those gritty, bloody, scary ones, you know?) it’s Frankenstein.
And what I wrote happened to be this twisted version of what I love. I stitched up some fairy tales -complete with cannibalism, murder, and blood – and made it into a new story. I’d love to tell you that it was my intention all along, but it turns out my subconscious is just a lot more creative than I am.
‘Red, White, and Silver’ can be read in full at Holly’s website.