Cecilia: A twist retelling of "Rapunzel" and "The Lady of Shalott"
Smoke left Cecilia without any body. Cecilia could feel her arm reaching out, she knew it was for she willed herself to do so, but it felt as if her eyes and her thoughts weren't agreeing. Even squinting, trying to see through the tiny particles floating through the air suffocating her in the small closet box she hid myself in, Cecilia couldn't make out the door handle.
Got to get out.
Father said he'd find me, Cecilia thought, clutching her fist to her chest. It was just a game. A game we played everyday on my birthday. A game where I'd wait and then be found.
Cecilia waited and waited. Smoke filled the room and entered her throat. She waited. Father...what was going on? By now, Father should have found out where she was hiding. It was the same place every time behind the white wooden door at the back of her room. It only took a few minutes to cross from the entrance to the closet. Sixty seconds. Cecilia counted. Now, it has been over 200 seconds.
Got to leave. Have to find Father. Perhaps the game had reversed – Father was probably the one hiding and Cecilia have to go find him.
There are wooden chips scratched from the doorframe, piercing the soft layer of her fingertips. But instead of feeling pain, surges of delight filled her. Scrambling onto her knees, Cecilia leaned forward, her forearm pressed against the door. Bang! The door rattled. Bang! Cecilia's arm was piercing as if it was hitting against the edge of a sharp knife. Bang! Her fingers skimmed the frames. She pressed her thumb into the caves that were cut into the door. It was close. Round and solid. It was close. She knew it.
Cecilia hand molded onto the knob that stuck out. She sighed, but it only caused her to have another round of coughs. Tears blinded her more than the smoke and were just as hard to wave away. It just kept coming.
"Cecilia!" A voice hidden in the darkness screamed. Cecilia banged against the door, her shoulders aching after each hit. Her fingers twisted around the knob, trying to open the blasted door, but Cecilia's body did not connect with her mind. She could sense it. Even though she was in a panic, Cecilia could still hear herself trying to think things through. Still… she noticed how her body did not respond to her thoughtfulness.
"Mother," Cecilia's voice creaked. With all the darkness around, she figured her voice would be like the light and Mother would find her. "Mother...I'm here. Mother!"
"Cecilia! Sweet Cecilia!" Mother said, her voice becoming more distant. At that second Cecilia's head seemed to explode. Her thoughts came in fragments; it was difficult to piece it together, like puzzle pieces where all one has were those darn tiny pieces all of the same color.
What should she have done? Cecilia needed to get out of this confinement, but even though she knew, even though she had the handle in my hand...she couldn't open it; something must have been pushed against it, blocking the exit. Cecilia needed someone to save her.
"Mother." Cecilia closed her eyes, the cool trail on her cheek itchy. Cecilia leaned back, hitting the back wall. The ends and sleeves of her clothes that hung in the rack above her cut Cecilia's body in half. Her shoulders curled. "Father. I'm in here."
The feeling of regret clutched hold of her. It was strange and frightening. It did not make sense. The last time she had felt like this, as if her heart was put on a hook and sunk down into ice cold waters, was when her teacher found her pet frog in her canteen and he accidentally drink from it. When Cecilia saw the way he looked at her after he had calmed down from the initial shock, she knew she was in trouble. Her laughter stilted and she became frozen as he sneered, "Princesses with silver blond hair do not match well with frogs."
Cecilia clutched the hem of her dress, pulling it up where her hip was. Cecilia's arms shook, her elbows hitting the sides of the closet. Frogs are princes in disguised. Cecilia only had a frog because Mother told her that, but when Father received the frog Cecilia's teacher found, her pet was put in the oven. She cried and cried. Just like how Cecilia was now. And Mother...she'd find and wrap her arms around Cecilia, soothing out Cecilia's silver blond hair her teacher sneered at. Cecilia hiccuped, remembering the chant Mother would say whenever she would try to calm the child down. "Cecilia, Cecilia, let down your hair. Let down your hair."
Cecilia glared at the ruffled darkness and leaned forward, banging at the door, shaking the knob until it rattled in beat with the thumps. Her voice rose. "Cecilia, Cecilia! Let down your hair! Let down your hair!"
Nothing. A crashing noise bellowed behind the doors, but other than that no one answered her calls. "Anyone...please," Cecilia's voice was barely audible. She closed her eyes and leaned back, her energy drained. Cecilia arms limped to her sides, her head supported by the sidewall. The baby pink skirt of Cecilia's dress dampened and stuck to her skin. "Anyone. Father. Mother. I'm in here."
A throb pulsed at her temples, which was difficult to ignore for there was nothing else to distract her with. "Cecilia, Cecilia," She muttered, imagining Mother saying those words to her. Wetness traced Cecilia's cheek as she twisted her finger around the pink ribbon that held her braid together. "Let down your hair to me."
Cecilia sat up confused. She shook her head. No, that overlapping voice...someone was still here?
Cecilia gasped, surprised by the voice from the other side of the door. She shook the handle and tried to scream, but the smoke filled her throat. It was harder to breath. The door rattled.
"Princess!" A set of coughing fits interrupted the call. "Cecilia."
Slapping footsteps neared. The door swung open; a gust of hot wind bustled through, warming Cecilia's tear stained cheeks. She looked up, squinting through the haze only to make out a vague image of a boy standing hunched over before her. He dropped to one knee, his breathing deep and scratched. He finished his whispers, a smiling relief in his voice, as he held out his arms to the crying child. "Let down your hair to me."
Cecilia jumped out, wrapping her arms around the boy's neck. She could feel a tug from behind and felt a tickling sensation brush her arm as her braid let loose. His grip around Cecilia tightened, his face nuzzling into her hair as she kissed his neck. The warmth of his body canceled out the flames and smoke behind them.
"I found you, Princess," the boy whispered in Cecilia's ear. She nodded, wrapping her arms around him tighter and covering her eyes against his black stained shirt to hide the view of falling pillars and peeling portraits off the wall. "We need to get you out of here."
"What's going on?" Cecilia asked. "Why are we burning?"
The pressure around Cecilia tightened. She wanted to look up, to see her rescuer's face, but it was shrouded by shadows. All the girl could make out was his black hair, outlined by the fire's red lines from behind. "Neci."
He let go of Cecilia, leaving her sitting there in a daze as the name he said echoed. Neci. So the witch did this. She caused the fire...but why? Why on Cecilia's twelve birthday? On the day where things were supposed to be good and happy? Why did Neci, Nyx, Ondine, Carew...whatever one would like to call the witch, do this?
Movements caught Cecilia attention. The boy reached into his back pockets and pulled out a white cloth. It seemed to glow the longer she stared at it.
"You look like a porcelain doll," he said. Cecilia looked up at him, startled by the comment. "Smooth, powdered white skin that never seen the light of day," he brushed her cheek as he reached forward. "Wide brown eyes." Everything became dark. There was a tight tug at the back of Cecilia's head and heaviness around her eyes. She couldn't help but think how the white, bright cloth could produce such darkness when pressed against her.
Wide rough hands grabbed Cecilia and pulled her up. She gasped and reached out, only to feel her feet being swept off the ground. Heat from sweaty hands held her from under her knees and around my back. "Hold on tight, Cecilia. We're going to make a run for it."
"Why cover my eyes?" Cecilia asked. She wasn't sure if he heard her; it barely came out as a whisper. But his face must have been close enough to hear for he answered back, his breath sweet against her skin.
"I don't want the smoke and fire flakes to enter your eyes," he said. The darkness made his voice sound rough. Cecilia didn't say anything. The boy grunted and ran through the castle; Cecilia curled against him. For the longest time she just rested her head against his chest, holding on with her fingers dug into his neck. She tried to imagine what was happening around her, to figure out where exactly in the castle she was in and how much further they have to go until we make it to the rose garden. But all she could visualize was the fire, reminded by the hot and livid wind brush against her, and the outline of the mysterious boy Cecilia depended her life on.
"Who are you?" She whispered.
Before the boy could answer, an intense pressure, like a hot invisible hand, pushed them back. Cecilia screamed but felt no pain. The boy groaned beneath her. Cecilia reached over, feeling his ear. Cecilia inched upward, trying to feel for his face so she could grasp some understanding of his condition. His jaws were locked, stiff. His eyebrows furrowed together.
Cecilia slowly moved to get off him, afraid she was cutting off his air, but a grab and pull of her wrist pulled Cecilia toward the boy. Her cheek pressed against rough cloth, the boy's chin resting on top of her head. Pressing against him, Cecilia tried to wiggle out but he held on. The girl didn't understand. He wasn't a bodyguard. From the skinny outline of his body, he was probably fifteen years old, three years older than she was. He must be the errand boy. That was right; who else would be in the castle otherwise? But what Cecilia couldn't understand was why he was there, protecting her. If he was the errand boy, he should be running for himself. And even if Cecilia was the princess, was she worth saving? To him, was Cecilia worth it?
How did he know the things Mother said to her?
"Bah, bah?" Cecilia whispered. Cecilia's eyes widened; they scratched against the cloth covering them. "Black sheep."
She wasn't sure if he smiled, but somehow the air around them relaxed and Cecilia knew she was right. "You're my Lamb, aren't you?"
"Princess," Lamb grunted. "I don't think this is the time to make fun of my name."
Cecilia gasped and covered her mouth with her hands before searching his face again with it. Her fingers fluttered around him, nervous. "Sorry. I'm sorry. I- I know this isn't...but I where did you come from? What's going on? Why is Neci here?"
And at that moment a crackling laugh was heard behind them. Before Cecilia could react, the whispers, the noise, the heat, the feeling of being held...disappeared.