No promises, no pressure.
Given the current circumstances of my life, I’m not going to claim that this is the same quality of writing that I usually strive for. I might not even finish it.
This story kept repeating itself in my mind, so I’m writing it down.
Set in an alternate world where everything would totally happen as described.
Alice stirred and turned, half opening her eyes at the morning light that streamed in through the window. For a moment she thought she saw a boy’s face and a bright red jacket before the haze of sleepiness overtook her again, and for a few minutes longer she drifted back into the dream world. When she managed to rouse herself from her bed, she walked over to the window to gaze out at the trees and wondered if the vision had somehow been part of her dream. The branches were sturdy enough, but at four stories high she had a hard time imagining anyone climbing up to catch a glimpse of her. Just when she was about to turn back into the room, there was a crash and she caught a flash of red on the ground.
There was a knock on her door, and she slipped on her dressing gown before calling for her visitor to come in. Warden Hackett entered with the breakfast tray, which he set down on the small round table near the door then seated himself in one of the two chairs. Alice hadn’t realized that she had slept in, but she readily joined him and poured them both glasses of orange juice out of the paper carton.
“I thought I saw something just now,” she said after taking a sip. “A boy, outside my window.”
“Possibly. There has been a rumor going around with the locals that there’s a princess locked away in here,” Hackett replied.
“A princess?” Alice snorted. “Me?”
“You’re starting to look the part,” the warden answered, unusually focused on buttering his toast. “Now that you’ve dropped the motorcycle punk act.”
Alice blushed and compulsively glanced towards the one tiny mirror in her room. It had been about five months since she had last bleached her hair, and the pink dye had completely faded. Makeup, of course, was completely out of the question, though she did like the way that her face had recently taken on a healthy glow. But still, she couldn’t imagine anything remotely princess-like about herself.
“You should publicly announce the truth and put all the rumors to rest, then,” she said sullenly. “That I’m actually a murderess, and I deserve to be here.”
Hackett grunted, but didn’t reply. Something about his averted gaze made her feel guilty and wish that she could take her words back, so she remained silent as they ate breakfast together.
Alice still struggled to understand what sort of effect Hackett had on her, despite the fact that he had been her only companion for four months. He was the warden of the prison, built in an old castle that was surrounded by an even older forest, and while he had pulled a number of strings to place her in a private and comfortable room, he had never made any sort of advancements toward her that would explain the preferential treatment. On the contrary, the first time that she had met him she had attempted to seduce him to win a favor, but he had calmly zipped back up the front of her pleather top and said, “I hope that one day you learn how to conduct yourself with dignity.”
She had been humiliated and outraged, and vowed that she would hate Hackett till the day she died for spurning her so coldly. Damon had come through for her shortly afterwards, and the two of them had escaped and ridden free for a few weeks, until …
It was the word ‘dignity’ that had drawn her back to Hackett and accept her incarceration. It had repeated itself over and over in her mind, and created a deep and unknown longing inside of her heart. Dignity.
“You have a prenatal appointment in an hour,” Hackett said as he placed his fork down on his empty plate. “I’ll be back to escort you after I make my rounds.”
Alice nodded, then asked, “Is the board going to let me keep my baby?”
“They haven’t decided yet.” Hackett stood. “There’s only one way that you can guarantee it.”
“What’s that?” she asked eagerly, standing as well.
“Recant your confession and tell the truth.”
This time Alice looked away. “I’m not ready yet,” she said, her voice sounding faint to her ears. He liked to bring the topic up, and somehow she still failed to see it coming whenever he did. She wondered if he cared so much about justice that he would nag her endlessly until the real murderer was found, then thrust her out into the real world with nothing to support her and her unborn child – it was the real world that terrified her now, so she clung to the walls of her tower and the safety of solitude, where there was no one around to know about her. She was not going to recant until she absolutely had to, and the system was obligated to keep her until it was undeniable that she was innocent.
Hackett carefully set everything back on the tray and counted all the cutlery before he picked it up, not bothering to say goodbye as he left.
Alone, Alice busied herself with getting ready for the day, though she couldn’t help but look at the window repeatedly as she washed and brushed her hair. There were no curtains, and before she hadn’t thought them necessary, living in a prison in the middle of an ancient forest. But she had seen the boy’s face clearly.
She walked over to the window and looked out. She wasn’t very good at judging distances, but she guessed that it had to be twenty-feet to the fence that marked the perimeter, and the branches of the tree stopped well before that point. It seemed very far away now that she was thinking about it. Had she really seen his face?
Alice decided that she would ask Hackett for some curtains, to reaffirm her sense of privacy.
She, a princess … It was an absurd idea.
Alice stopped as she looked at the rack of clothing that had been provided for her. Instead of the usual prison garments, she had been given a few plain white dresses, loosely cut so that they easily accommodated her pregnancy, and the exact opposite of what she had worn before her incarceration. When she had asked about it, Hackett had replied that it was for the “psychological effect,” and left it at that. In the beginning she had felt so uncomfortable and vulnerable in them that she had wondered if he had meant it along the lines of “psychological torture.” With a few months to grow accustomed to them, she had stopped thinking about her clothing entirely.
Dressed in white.
Locked in a tower.
Alice laughed then. By confessing to a murder that she hadn’t committed, she had found herself in the center of a fairy tale. Albeit a strange one.