Copyright © Anne Stormont
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The Fairy of Opportunity Smites the Obstacle Ogre
In Scotland the oral telling of traditional tales is still
alive in Scots, Gaelic and English, but it faces almost overwhelming
competition for attention in this multi-media age. I’m sure the same is true in
the rest of the UK – and is probably the case with written collections too.
The old stories are in danger of being overlooked and
dismissed as remnants of archaic culture and outdated social mores. Sometimes they’re
disregarded as they’re seen as not politically correct or inclusive of gender,
race and class. I don’t happen to accept these accusations and I’m afraid that
if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them. I think that would be real pity.
As a writer, storyteller and teacher, I find myths and
fairytales to be both fascinating and useful. The conventions, structures and
messages of such stories also seem to me be universal over geography and time.
Thus the tales of the European Brothers Grimm, for example will often turn out
to have very similar African counterparts.
Yes, there’s often a Prince who sweeps in at the end and
saves some pathetic and helpless female victim. The lowly born Buttons hasn’t a
hope of getting the girl in Cinderella. Hansel and Gretel could be seen as a
horrific tale of child kidnap and abuse. And, there are these happy-ever-after
So what do they have going for them? Well, I think they are
moral, comforting and affirming. I guess
the’ happy-ever-after’ aspect should be interpreted as Evil doesn’t triumph –
yes, there’s lots of suffering – but love (not necessarily the married sort)
and life itself win in the end.
Loyalty is tested and rewarded. Resourcefulness,
self-reliance and bravery pay off – even (or especially) for disinherited and
outcast females. To me the fairies are opportunities and the ogres and witches
Snow White finds a home, a job, a support network and
ultimately tricks her would-be murderer.
Cinderella works hard, bides her time, seizes opportunity when
it presents s itself and leaves behind an all-important contact detail when she
has to make a run for it.
Sleeping Beauty wilfully puts herself in danger when she
succumbs to the temptation of the spindle’s needle but those who know her won’t
give up on her and she is saved.
Goldilocks is her own woman – an intrepid explorer and
breaker down of barriers. She goes for what she wants, faces the dangers and
quits while she’s ahead.
Gretel saves Hansel by wit and ingenuity – she doesn’t
accept the role of abused victim.
Red Riding Hood recognises danger, keeps her wits about her,
recognises her limitations and gets help.
The above examples all contain messages that I’d want to
transmit to the young people I teach, and, indeed, to all our youngsters. Namely
- the so-called nanny state won’t take care of you, the world doesn’t owe you a
living and you’re a resourceful and lovable human being. Loyalty and kindness
do make YOUR world a better place. So be your own north star, take
responsibility and be bold.
With all of the above in mind – I decided to have a go at
putting some of the fairytales that were first told to me by my beloved
grandmother, into a modern context. I’ve completed five so far and I’m going to
be posting them here over the next while.
In all of them, I’ve
attempted to stick to the conventions and structures – hence there’s more
‘telling’ than ‘showing’, they use universally acceptable (for children and
adults) forms of language and they’re designed to be read aloud.
Twenty First Century Cinderella
Once upon a time – well, back in the year 2000 actually – there lived
a twelve-year-old girl called Cinderella.
She lived with her dad, her step-mum and her two step-sisters, Chantelle and Chardonnay. Cinderella’s
step-mother was the chief executive of her own multi-national cosmetics
company. She worked extremely hard for her high salary and hoped her daughters
would follow her into the business.
Cinderella’s father didn’t need a job as he was distantly related to the royal family and had inherited
lots of money. However he’d spent most of that money unwisely and now relied on
his wife’s income. He spent most days developing daft business schemes that
never came to anything. But he was always cheerful and Cinderella’s step-mother
said that was why she loved him. He didn’t have any ambitions for his daughter.
As Cinderella’s step mother worked long hours, Cinderella and her step-sisters were supposed to help around
the house. She’d drawn up a rota of after school and weekend jobs. Cinderella’s
father wasn’t included on the rota as he apparently didn’t know how to operate
a vacuum cleaner or a duster.
Chantelle and Chardonnay couldn’t really be bothered with doing chores. They preferred to do each other’s
hair in the latest styles or to try out new makeup. But Cinderella didn’t mind
helping out. She usually ended up doing her sisters’ jobs as well as her own.
She would hang out washing before she went to school and then, when she got
home, she would tidy up the kitchen and the living room as well as her own
bedroom. Sometimes she’d peel the potatoes and set the table for dinner.
Cinderella also worked hard at school and, every evening, after she’d done all her housework jobs she would
get down to her homework. Chantelle and Chardonnay laughed at her. They said
she was daft to do so much housework. They said that was their mother’s job not
theirs and, anyway, she didn’t seem to notice if they didn’t do it. They also
said why bother with homework – the teacher couldn’t do anything if you didn’t
But Cinderella didn’t let their mocking laughter bother her. Of course her step-mother didn’t notice that
her two daughters hadn’t done their chores. That would be because Cinderella
did them. She also knew that doing her homework helped her with her school work
and she wanted to do well at school.
Cinderella’s best friend was Brian Button – everyone called him Buttons. They’d been friends since the
beginning of primary school and stayed friends all the way through high school
too. Buttons sometimes helped Cinderella with the housework and they often did
their homework together. Chantelle and Chardonnay poked fun at Buttons saying
he was a geek and a nerd. It was the only time Cinderella got cross. She always
defended Buttons when her sisters had a go at him. He also stuck up for her
when the sisters and their friends called Cinderella names and made fun of her
plain and dowdy clothes and lack of makeup.
The sisters failed all their exams. When they left school and didn’t even try to find jobs,
Cinderella’s step-mother was very disappointed and stopped their pocket money.
She said it was because she loved them and was being cruel to be kind. They could no longer afford makeup and hair
products and so they didn’t go out. Instead they sat watching daytime TV all
day. They got very fat.
But both Cinderella and Buttons did very well at school. They went to university to do business
And when the night of the university graduation ball came, Cinderella’s step-mother offered to help her
to get ready. Cinderella was delighted to accept the offer. Her step- mother did her makeup for her and
styled her hair. She told Cinderella how lovely she looked and how proud she
was of her and then she gave Cinderella a surprise present. It was a beautiful,
blue silk dress and a pair of silver high-heeled shoes.
Before Cinderella left for the ball, her step-mother hugged her and told her how much she loved her. Then
she said that she’d like Cinderella to come and work in her cosmetics company
and that she would like to hand over the business to her when she retired.
Cinderella was amazed and delighted. She’d always dreamed of running her own business and of having a
successful career. Cinderella kissed her step-mother and thanked her.
But her step-mother had one more surprise for her. She’d organised a pink, stretch limo to take Cinderella
to the ball. She told her to have a wonderful time and to stay out all night if
she wanted. Chantelle and Chardonnay were in a gigantic huff and wouldn’t even
wave Cinderella off.
When Cinderella arrived at the ball everyone gasped at the transformation. Normally she just went around
in jeans and a fleece. But here she was looking elegant and beautiful. Even the
guest of honour – Prince William – who had got his degree from the university a
few years before – couldn’t take his eyes off her. As he was on a break from his girlfriend
Kate, he asked her to dance several times. Poor Buttons felt miserable watching
the two of them dancing together.
The prince was so taken with Cinderella that, even though they’d just met, he asked her to marry him. He
told her she would live in the palace and be waited on by servants. She wouldn’t have to work and could have all the money and beautiful clothes she
liked. But Cinderella turned him down. She didn’t want to be dependent on some prince. She wanted the job her step-mother had offered her. She wanted to work
and be in charge of her own life. The prince shrugged and went off to dance with the other pretty girls.
Buttons was pleased to see the prince turn his attention to the other women. He asked Cinderella to dance.
They ended up dancing until morning and by then the limo had long since gone.
Buttons walked Cinderella home. On the way, he said that he planned to start his own cleaning company. He
said he’d always wanted his own business and all the hours he’d spent helping Cinderella with her chores had shown him he was good at cleaning. Cinderella
told him about the job offer she’d had. He was very pleased for her.
It was a very long walk home and, despite their exquisiteness, her silver high-heels were pinching, so
Cinderella had to remove them – and somewhere along the way she dropped one of
them. She didn’t notice the loss until they were back at her front door. She
was so dismayed that Buttons immediately turned back in order to look for the
lost shoe. He sent Cinderella a text an hour later to say he’d found it and
would call round that evening to return it to her.
When he arrived he was carrying a huge bunch of red roses in one hand and had his other hand behind
his back. He gave Cinderella the flowers and asked her to sit down.
Then he went down on one knee and produced the silver shoe from behind his back. He handed it to her and
told her to look inside. Cinderella did so. Something sparkly nestled down at the toe. She reached in and took the object out. It was a pretty, glittery
keyring with a key attached.
Buttons told her it was the key to his flat. He told her he loved her and hoped she would come and live with him.
Cinderella said yes and moved in with him the very next day.
A year or so later Buttons asked Cinderella to marry him. He said they would both continue to work hard at
their careers and then, when they had children, they would share looking after them.
Cinderella thought this sounded great and accepted his proposal. They are now married.
They have a lot going for them so it is reasonable to assume that they will most likely live happily ever
let down your hair,
Unplug the computer,
come out of your lair.
Facebook and android,
live messenger too
They’re ogres that hold you and I can’t get through.
You spend hours on
gaming, sealed off by your pod
strangers, but don’t think it odd
That you no longer
speak to friends that are real
Guarded by software,
was that the deal?
They want you
confined, deaf, dumb and blind
They want to control
you, your body and mind.
Once a long time ago,
I heard you sing
And I knew that I
loved you. I tried everything.
What lure did they
use to get you inside,
A pact, or a payment,
a trick or a bribe?
I failed to get past
them, get in at your door
And your window’s too
high, up on the top floor.
I so want to save
you, to bring you outside
Not to own you,
control you or, make you my bride
But to help you be
free of the demons in there
So please, dear
Rapunzel, let down your hair.
Saturday morning and Scarlet Hood
pulled the duvet over her head when her mother called up the stairs yet again
that she should get up. ‘Come on Scarlet, I need you down here now.” Scarlet
sighed and gave in. She put on her blue jeans and red hoodie and went downstairs
to the kitchen.
Her mum was loading the washing machine with one hand and the dishwasher
with the other. Scarlet’s baby brother was in his highchair, spreading the
contents of his porridge bowl all around the tray.
“At last!” said her mum, as Scarlet poured herself some cereal. “Can you
take Robin’s bowl away and clean up the mess he’s made?’
Scarlet made a face as she mopped up. “I’m not surprised he just plays
with it – disgusting stuff,” she said. The only person she knew who actually liked
porridge was her best friend, Goldie. Porridge sure seemed to play a big part
in her life.
But then Goldie was weird in lots of ways – nice but weird. Her latest
porridge-based adventure – if you believed her and most folk didn’t – was
that she’d gone into a deserted house in
the woods, trashed the place, eaten some oats, fallen asleep and been awakened
and chased by bears. The other girls at school didn’t know what to make of
Goldie. Some of them tried to bully her and mocked her stories and her appearance.
She dressed like someone out of a Disney fairytale – all gingham and ringlets
albeit combined with biker boots and a whole lot of piercing. But Goldie was
tough. She didn’t care what anyone thought. ‘I’m my own person,’ she’d say to
Scarlet. ‘I dress how I like and I do what I want.’ That’s what Scarlet liked
“I need you to go to Grandma’s,” said Scarlet’s mum.”‘I did some
shopping for her.” Her mother pointed to a couple of plastic carrier bags
sitting by the kitchen door.
Scarlet rolled her eyes, her mouth full of cornflakes.
“It’s not too much to ask,” said her mum. You can see how busy I am. And you like
seeing Grandma, don’t you? ”
“Mmm, but I was going to hang out with Goldie.”
“You still can. Maybe she could go with you.”
In the end Scarlet arranged to meet Goldie at Grandma’s house, since
Goldie hadn’t yet got out of bed when Scarlet texted her.
It was a couple of miles to where Grandma lived – just outside the
village on the edge of the forest. The girls agreed to cycle there and then
they could bike into town afterwards.
“Put your cycle helmet on and keep to the paths,” her mother called
after her, as Scarlet put Grandma’s groceries into her panniers.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Scarlet under her breath.
When she got to Grandma’s cottage, she propped her bike under a tree,
hung her helmet on the handlebars and unhooked the panniers. The forest seemed
very quiet – not one bird was singing. There was a sudden gust of wind as she
walked towards Grandma’s door and a startled, screeching crew lifted off from a
treetop. Scarlet jumped at the noise and then shivered. The forest didn’t normally scare her but
today it felt weird. She hoped it wouldn’t be long before Goldie arrived.
Scarlet knocked on the cottage door and went straight in. She expected
her Grandma to be sitting in the living–room, sitting in her usual chair, doing
her Sudoku – or on her laptop, updating her status on Facebook. But Grandma
wasn’t there. “Hello,” she called.
“Hello,” her Grandma called back. “I’m in the kitchen, come through.”
Scarlet was very surprised to see Grandma putting away grocery shopping.
There were still several full bags on the table. And sitting in a chair at the
table was a young man, sipping a mug of coffee.
“Oh,” said Scarlet. “Mum asked me to bring you some shopping but it
doesn’t look like you need any.”
Grandma smiled. “I told your mother last week that I’d make my own
arrangements to get the shopping. She’s been very good since I’ve had to stop
driving and they reduced the bus service to once every two months. But I know
how busy she is.”
“Right,” said Scarlet. “What will I do with this lot?” She held up the
“Never mind that now. It’s lovely to see you anyway. And let me introduce
you. Scarlet this is B.B.”
The young man looked at Scarlet and smiled. She stared back. His teeth
seemed too big for his mouth. And his outstretched hand seemed unusually large
and the knuckles were covered in hair.
“Pleased to meet you, Scarlet, ” the man said, grasping her hand in his
and shaking it vigorously. “B.B. Wolf’s
the name but everyone just calls me B.B.”
“B.B.’s the supermarket delivery man,” Grandma said. “It was great – I
don’t know how he knew that I needed my shopping delivered but he knocked on my
door and offered. All I have to do each week is give him my list and my bank
card and he does the rest.”
“Really,” said Scarlet. She didn’t like the sound of this and she didn’t
like the look of B.B. – all big teeth and hands. She frowned.
“Don’t scowl and don’t stare at B.B. like that. It’s not polite,” said
“I can’t help it. He has awfully big hands and teeth,” said Scarlet.
“Scarlet!” gasped Grandma.
B.B. roared with laughter. “Yes, you’re not the first person to say that
– but the teeth and hands come in very useful sometimes.” He smiled at Scarlet
– a sinister, chilling, ghastly grin.
But she knew she must keep her wits about her. She sensed she and
Grandma were in considerable danger.
“Grandma, how can he get your
shopping without your PIN?” Scarlet asked
“Oh he has the PIN. It’s okay, he only uses it for the groceries and
then gives me it back.”
Scarlet’s heart sank. She knew how trusting her Grandma was – always saw
the best in folk. And it had been Grandpa who always checked the bank
statements. Grandma wasn’t interested in that sort of thing. B.B. could easily
have cleared out Grandma’s account. She
decided to phone the police. She’d say she needed the toilet and then once in
the bathroom she could call them on her mobile.
Her hand went to her pocket. Her mobile wasn’t there.
“Looking for this?” asked B.B. holding up her phone.
“What? How did you-”
“I took it when we shook hands – thought you’d prove to be trouble.” He
laughed his horrid laugh, bared his horrid teeth.
“Give me it back,” said Scarlet. She didn’t let him see how scared she
was. She tried to snatch it but he stood up, towering over her and holding the
phone just out of her reach.
“He’s ripped me off, hasn’t he?” said Grandma. “How could I have been so
“It’s not your fault Grandma,” said Scarlet. “Go and get your coat-”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” said B.B. He took hold of Grandma’s arm and
pushed her down onto one of the kitchen chairs “I don’t think I can let you
go.” He got between Scarlet and the door.
Scarlet was determined not to panic. She needed to think of a way to get
her and Grandma out of the house and away from this creep. If they could get
outside, they could perhaps take a forest path to the main road. Someone they
knew was bound to come past in a car. She needed to keep him talking while she
figured out their escape.
“There’s no delivery van outside. How did you get here with all the
shopping?” she asked.
“Oh, I carried it. I’m very strong and I took a shortcut from town –
through the forest – I know the forest very well – every path, every hiding
place.” He reached out and grabbed Scarlet. He twisted her arm behind her back
and pushed her towards Grandma. Scarlet was very scared but she struggled and
kicked. She managed to get him in the shin. He let out a howl. “You little-” he
raised his arm and she saw his huge paw coming towards her face.
Crash! The kitchen door clattered against the wall. Scarlet heard
footsteps and shouting and Grandma screaming. “Get him constable!” came a
Before B.B. could hit Scarlet, his arm was grabbed in mid-air. A
policeman pushed him to the floor and handcuffed his wrists.
“Sergeant Woodman,” said the policewoman, going over to Grandma and
shaking her hand.
“Good kick!” said a familiar voice.
“Goldie!” said Scarlet and she hugged her friend. “When did you get
“Oh I was just behind you. But you know me. I like to look around the outside
of a forest cottage – peep in all the windows before I go in. Especially after
last time and you know…”
“Ah, yes the bears.” Scarlet smiled.
“Quite – and I was right to do so because when I looked in the kitchen
window – I saw this - this creature and
I didn’t like what I saw. I recognised him from ‘Crimestoppers’ – he’s preys on elderly ladies – cons them
out of their money.” She pointed at the snarling B.B. who was being bundled
“I’ll get him in the van ma’am,” said the constable.
“Your friend did well,” said Sergeant Woodman. “She called us when she
saw what was going on – gave us an excellent description. We knew it had to be
the guy we’ve been looking for.”
A few weeks later, Scarlet and Goldie both received bravery awards from
the police and Grandma got a spot on Crimewatch warning other elderly people
not to be taken in by doorstep conmen.
And when they grew up Scarlet became Head of the Fraud Squad and Goldie
became Chief Constable – after a successful career as a detective investigating
vandalism and burglary.
Once upon a time – it would have
been about five p.m. on a
sunny, May afternoon – a young woman named Bianca Snow, was in the living-room
of the house where she lived. She’d just sent a text message to one of her flat
The sunlight pushed in through the slats of the partially closed blinds.
Bianca sat back and relaxed on the big, old sofa. She stretched out her legs
and pushed back her long, black hair. She smiled as she looked around the
pretty room. She loved how she’d got it all cottagey looking – the chintz
armchairs and the old dresser.
For a city girl she had a strange affinity for country cottages. She
reckoned she must have lived in one in a previous life.
The boys didn’t really approve of the décor, but they were prepared to
tolerate it because they all loved Bianca.
Bianca enjoyed this time of day. The housework all done, the dinner
cooking and a little bit of time to herself before the lads got home. She
looked around the room, feeling smugly satisfied that there wasn’t a speck of
dust to be seen.
Just then her phone beeped. It was a message from Grumpy Graham. She
smiled. Poor Graham – he wasn’t really grumpy. He was just plain knackered a
lot of the time. He worked long hours as a nurse at the local hospital. The
message said that he’d be home around six. He’d be picking up Sneeze – Simon –
to give him his real name, which no-one did. Sneeze worked in the allergy
testing lab at the same hospital as Graham. Then he’d also pick up Doc and Baz
from the Uni. Doc had a PhD in mining engineering and Baz was a geologist –
they both worked as researchers in the Earth sciences department.
Bianca went through to the kitchen and popped the casserole she’d
prepared earlier into the oven to heat through. She also put the finishing
touches to the apple crumble. She smiled as she thought of how the boys would
tease her when they found out what was for dessert. Most of the puddings she
made were apple-based. She adored apples – couldn’t resist them – raw or
While she was setting the table, Harry and Pipes arrived home. They
worked together in their own plumbing and joinery business and travelled
everywhere in their white van. Harry – known as Happy to his mates on account
of his laid back outlook and the fact he was always whistling, especially when
working – was the carpenter and Pipes, was the plumber. Pipes was Polish and
his real name was Stefan.
“Hi, Bianca,” said Harry, going to the sink to wash his hands.
“Hi, Bianca,” said Pipes, sitting down at the table. “Dinner smells
“Hello you two,” said Bianca. “The food will be ready soon. How was
“Hard going, “said Harry. “But hey, ho – it should pay well.”
Just at that, there was the sound
of another key in the front door. In walked Clogs – Colin, who was a teacher
and very clever. Colin took off his crash helmet – he rode a scooter to and
from school – and laid it on the table.
“Ahem,” said Bianca, raising her eyebrows and looking at the helmet.
“Not on the table.”
“Sorry,” said Clogs, picking it up and taking it out to the hall to
stash in its proper place by the front door.
It wasn’t long before the other four arrived home and everyone – Graham,
Sneeze, Baz, Doc, Harry, Pipes, Clogs and Bianca - was seated around the table. As usual, the
lads tucked in as soon as they were served. Only Graham paused to speak.
“This is delicious, Bianca,” he said, smiling at her.
She smiled back. “Thanks, I’m glad you like it. Everyone else okay with
There were various grunts, nods and thumbs up as the others kept on
Bianca put down her cutlery and took a moment, from her place at the
head of the table, to look around at ‘her’ boys. She loved them all like
brothers. She’d been so lucky to find them – or rather –they’d found her. She
shuddered when she thought what might have become of her if they hadn’t. Graham
leaned over and put his hand on hers.
“You all right?” he asked. “You’ve gone very white.”
Bianca gave a little shake of her head. “I’m fine,” she said. “It’s just
sometimes, you know, I remember-”
Graham squeezed her hand. “I know. Try not to think about it – you’re
None of the others seemed to notice this little exchange. Pipes was
already helping himself to the apple crumble. “Leave some for the rest of us
mate,” said Harry.
“Some of you don’t need any more,” said Pipes grinning and winking at
Harry. “Isn’t that right, Clogs?”
“What do you mean? You saying I’m fat?” said Clogs.
“Well – it’s not like you get much exercise sitting in that classroom of
yours every day, is it? And we’ve got our big match coming up Saturday,” said
Pipes, still grinning.
“Oh yes,” said Bianca. “I’d love to see that. It’s the final isn’t it?
Seven Dwarves versus the Handsome Princes.” The boys all played in the local
five-a-side-league and had had a very successful season.
“We’re the ‘Under-Five-Foot-Sevens’ if you don’t mind – not the Seven
Dwarves,” said Doc. “That’s just an evil nickname put about by those posh
posers – ‘The Handsome Princes’,
handsome – my-”
“Are you serious about wanting to come and watch?” asked Baz, blushing.
“Yes, yes I am,” said Bianca, smiling at him. “I’d love to see you
scoring goals – I’ve heard from the others how talented you are.”
“Oh, I’m not that talented – it’s just been luck really.”
“Don’t listen to him, Bianca. He’s just being Baz, the bashful – as
usual. He’s a brilliant striker and he’ll show those soft lads how it’s done on
Saturday. Won’t you?” said Harry, giving Baz a playful punch on the arm.
“Yeah, you should come and watch,” said Clogs. “You’d be quite safe.”
“All of us will be there. It’ll be fine,” said Harry.
“Yeah, they don’t know you’re with us and even if they did, they’re not
going to try anything in a public place and it’s five a side – so two of us
will always be with you,” said Sneeze.
“You’ve not been out of the flat for ages – with us all off to work so much. It would be good for you,”
Bianca blushed and bit her lip.
Clogs frowned at her “What’s wrong? What did I-”
“She’s been out,” Graham stood up, pushed back his chair, ran a hand
through his hair. “You have, haven’t you? You’ve been out alone – in spite of
everything we said. In spite of promising you wouldn’t.” He thumped his hand
down on the table.
Bianca couldn’t look at him. She nodded her head. “I’m sorry,” she said
“Sorry!” Graham shouted. “How stupid can you get? Don’t you understand
how dangerous these people are? Don’t you?”
“Steady, mate,” said Happy, putting his hand on Graham’s arm. Graham
shook Happy’s hand away and walked out of the kitchen. Seconds later the front
door of the flat slammed shut behind him.
A sob from Bianca broke the
ensuing silence. Sneeze reached into his pocket and produced a white
handkerchief which he passed to Bianca.
“Thanks,” she said.
“It’s just because he cares – that’s why he gets Grumpy, said Doc. “He
promised the police we’d keep an eye on you until they catch those people.”
“Where did you go?” asked Baz, softly.
“The park – I went to the park. It was such a beautiful day. The birds
were singing. I wanted to feed the squirrels and the ducks and smell the
flowers. I was really careful and I took my phone.”
“Look, don’t worry,” said Happy. Grumpy’ll get over it. I’ll have a word
with him about the match. It will all be fine.”
And it was. Later that evening Graham returned. He found Bianca in the
kitchen and apologised for shouting at her.
“It’s just that I get scared, you know?” he said.
“I know and it’s nice that you care – that you all care. But part of me
wishes they would show their faces – that they would try something and get
caught once and for all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really grateful that Woody
didn’t kill me when he was ordered to. He took a big risk – had to go on the
run himself. And it goes without saying I’m thankful to all of you for taking
me in. But I just want a normal life – have a job, meet someone, settle down.”
“Yeah, that would be nice,” said Graham, smiling at her.
“Come here you,” said Bianca, holding out her arms.
They hugged each other. Graham looked serious for a moment, like he was
about to say something important, but they were interrupted by Happy.
“Glad to see you two have made up,” he said.
And so it was that on the Saturday, Bianca and
her seven flatmates were at the playing fields for the final match in the Grimm
Brothers’ Brewery Football Cup.
Graham had alerted the police that Bianca would be out and they had a
few plain clothes officers scattered throughout the spectators.
Bianca was on the touchline flanked by Happy and Doc. The boys looked
good in their football strips, complete with the logo of their sponsors, the
Myth & Fable pub, across their chests. Happy and Doc had just been
substituted by Graham and Pipes.
The ball came bouncing across the line
and landed at Bianca’s feet. She stooped to pick it up. As she took hold of it
two hands covered hers and she looked up into a most handsome face. It was the
striker from the Handsome Princes. As they stood up, both still holding the
ball, they looked into each other’s eyes.
“Well, hallo,” said the handsome one. “I’m Charlie – known to my mates
as Charmer.” He smiled a gorgeous smile. “What’s your name, pretty lady, I’ll
bet it’s something as beautiful as you are?”
“Bianca – it’s Bianca Snow.” She was surprised to find herself scarcely
able to speak. Her usually acute radar for this kind of mushy nonsense seemed
to have broken down and her witty comeback lines had deserted her.
“Well clear your diary, beautiful Bianca Snow, because from now on
you’re my girl.”
“Oh, I, I-”
“Mine!” shouted Graham, running up to them. He grabbed the ball from
their grasp. “Our throw in,” he said glaring at Charlie.
“See you later, my lovely,” called Charlie as he ran back onto the
The score was one – nil to the Handsome Princes.
Bianca stood grinning. Happy and Doc were rolling their eyes and shaking
their heads. They teased her about Charlie, but were soon engrossed in the game
Bianca had been surprised by Charlie’s declaration and she’d enjoyed the
compliments. He was very nice-looking. However, her radar had kicked in again
and she saw the chat up line for what it was – something he probably said to
all the girls. But it had been fun having someone flirt with her, and to tell
the truth she was a bit bored by the football.
Then she heard it. “Toffee apples, get your lovely toffee apples here.”
She turned. A few yards away an old woman had set up a stall and already there
was a small queue. Before she knew it, she was walking over to join it.
When it was Bianca’s turn to be served, the old woman smiled at her.
“Ah, I have a special one for you, my dear. I can tell how much you enjoy a
good apple.” She reached down and produced a gorgeously plump apple dripping
with soft, golden toffee. “For you,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Bianca. She bit into the apple as she handed over her
money. It tasted gorgeous. She was so absorbed in the beautiful taste that she
didn’t notice the two men approaching, didn’t hear the old woman’s deep, low
laughter. She felt light-headed, then she started to choke and then –
“You saved her life, Graham,” the
doctor said, as he checked on Bianca. “That was a powerful toxin they put on
the apple. Your friend Simon’s report just came through – and he confirms it.
It made her throat swell – if you hadn’t been there to keep her breathing till
the paramedics arrived…”
Graham looked at Bianca. Three days, he’d been at her bedside and she
hadn’t regained consciousness. She was as white as the hospital sheets. She lay
so still, it was hard to believe she was alive. But the beeping and tracing of
the monitors confirmed that she was. Graham had prayed that Bianca would be all
right. He promised that if she survived, he’d try to be less grumpy, he’d not
get in the way if she wanted to go out with that Charlie, he just wanted her to
live and to have a happy life.
“Is she going to be all right?”
“I hope so.” The doctor, who was a friend and colleague, squeezed
Graham’s shoulder. “Take a break, mate,” he said. “Let one of the others take
I’m not leaving her. Are the others all still here?”
“Yeah – cluttering up our relatives room – they’re refusing to leave.
And that other bloke – Charlie is it? He’s hanging around as well.”
Graham turned to look at his colleague, instantly forgetting the deal
he’d made with God. “Can he not take a hint. He’s wasting his time. Bianca’s
“Oh, isn’t she?” The voice was hoarse and very quiet but it was her
voice – Bianca’s voice.
Graham turned back to Bianca, his heart thudding. She was holding the
oxygen mask away from her face and trying to sit up.
“I thought he was rather nice actually,” Bianca whispered.
“Bianca – you’re awake!” Graham turned to the doctor. “She’s conscious!”
“I can see that,” the doctor laughed. “Now go and tell the others and
let me check my patient over.”
A little while later, Graham was back, seated at Bianca’s bedside. The
others had just left, having reassured themselves that she was okay. Even
Charlie was gone at last. Bianca had asked to see him on his own and now it was
Graham’s turn. He didn’t know what she’d said to Charlie and he tried to tell
himself it was none of his business.
“So, how are you doing?” he asked, softly stroking her hair back from
“I’m doing fine – thanks to you.”
“Oh, I didn’t-”
“Yes, yes you did. You saved my life. I’m so grateful, Graham. The boys
told me. They told me how you realised immediately what was happening – that
they – that they’d found me and had come to kill me.” She gave a little laugh.
“I wish I’d seen everyone’s faces when you rugby tackled the old witch.”
Graham smiled. “Yeah – and Baz and Doc made a good job of flooring her
“So they’re really no longer a threat.”
“No – they’re in custody, under arrest and the police say they’ve plenty
evidence to convict the lot of them. It’s over Bianca. It’s over and you’re
free.” Graham’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat and looked away before
continuing. “You can get a job and that place of your own that you’re so keen
on. You can even go out with that prat Charlie.”
“Yes, I can, can’t I? It’s a great feeling. I’m free. My life’s my own –
a job, a flat, romance. Brilliant isn’t it.” She beamed at him.
Graham tried to smile back, but didn’t quite manage it. He was so
relieved she was okay, but he knew there was a price to pay. “Yes, we’ll miss
you though – when you move out.”
“Oh, I’ll be back for lots of visits – checking up that everyone’s okay
– all eating properly, keeping the place
“At first maybe – but you’ll forget us – you won’t have time for us.
You’ll have a new life – and you’ll want to be in your own place and spend time
“Yeah, my visits will probably tail off. And it’ll be cool setting up my
own home. But you’re wrong about Charlie.”
“Am I?” said Graham.
“Yes – I told him – thanked him for the flattery – but told him I wasn’t
“You’re not? But why – he’s a good looker – so I’m told – and he’s got
lots of money, apparently.”
“Yeah – but he’s shallow, self-obsessed and sees women as princesses.
Not for me. What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing – nothing at all. I’m just happy you’re all right.”
Bianca recovered from the attempt
on her life and she decided to train as a nurse because she liked looking after
people. She got a student placement at the hospital where Graham worked and
they used to meet up for lunch whenever they could. If it was a nice day they’d
take their sandwiches to the park and have a bit of a walk. She missed all the
boys now that she had her own flat but it was Graham that she missed most of
One day, as she and Graham strolled back to hospital after one of their
lunchtime walks, Bianca grabbed hold of his hand. “Stop,” she said. “Wait a
minute. There’s something I want to say.”
Graham stopped and the two of them stood facing each other.
“What?” said Graham, looking down at their linked hands and then back at
“Actually, I don’t want to say anything. I want to do – this.” And
Bianca stepped closer and kissed a surprised – but very happy – Graham right on
the lips. “I think it’s time we went on a proper date, don’t you?” she said.
“I thought you’d never ask,” said Graham smiling.
And ever after? Well, that’s
It’s my party and I’ll die if I
want to. Yeah, yeah, they warned me about alcohol and drugs. Had all the talks
at school. But I know what I’m doing. I can handle it. And anyway, life sucks.
It’s not like the party was my
idea. It was arranged ages ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents have been
planning it since I was a baby.
And what’s with the guest list? All these ancient relatives – all twelve
aunties invited. I know the old dears have been good to me – the gifts, the
money, the trust fund, the endless advice. ‘We
love you Bonnie. You’re our little Princess.’ Hello, no – I’m not!
Between them and the parents I have no freedom at all. They just want to
fence me in. I can’t go anywhere or see anyone without them interfering. ‘Where have you been? You can’t go there.
You can’t do that. You can’t wear that.
We just want to protect you.’ Yeah, right.
And what’s with the ban on Auntie Treiza? The way they talk about her –
like she’s some evil old witch. It all goes back to my christening. They say
they forgot to invite her and she got upset and they all fell out over it. But
I’m not stupid. I’ve heard them talking about her, about how she’s no good. She
got in touch on Facebook – wanted to meet me. And she’s really cool – not an
old witch at all. She’s got a great apartment and wicked stuff. She lets me
smoke and drink and she can get you any kind of gear – whatever drug you
want. She got me to try some said they
were fun, made you feel good, said she wouldn’t
tell the parents. She’s even given me stuff for my mates – as long as
they pay me and I pay her – I can have mine for free. And they do make me feel
good – well they did – some of the time.
I just hope Mum hasn’t invited nerdy Neil to this party. Just because we
were friends in primary school – that was then. I wouldn’t be seen dead talking
to him now. If I’m not alone when he approaches I just blank him. None of my
mates know we used to be friends. God, I hope they come and he doesn’t and that
we can sneak away.
Neil knows about the drugs. He got me on my own. Told me I’d end up
dead, that I’d become like a zombie – as if I was asleep all the time. I got
really angry, told him to eff off. But no matter how much I try to avoid him,
no matter what barriers I put up, he finds a way through. He says he’s
determined to save me, knows people who can help. He says he’s my friend and I
do kinda miss him but… It’s too late now, isn’t it?
I can hear people starting to arrive downstairs. My mother calls up to
me. But I’m so tired and it all seems so pointless. I pick up the needle from
my bedside table. I lie on the bed, push the needle into a vein. As I fall
asleep, I hear Neil calling my name.