JUST ANOTHER ONCE UPON A TIME

There are no evil princess-eating dragons in this story. Neither are there any fairy/godmothers or wise men. This is not a fairytale. But let us start it with «Once upon a time» anyway. Because where would you otherwise start a love story that does not want to be spoken of? ...

Well, we could start it with describing a starlit sky ... (thousands of diamonds sparkling in the dark that gazed down upon the –.. ) No. Too personal. Too cherished.

Maybe we could start with softly whispered words ... (slowly slithering truths that make the skies weep ...) No, those memories are deeply buried now, rotting beneath the weight of hurt and time.

Maybe with words left unspoken ... (their edges sharp like broken stars, their never-there footprints invisible and unheard, yet so heavy and bloodstained that they left small markings in Reality that cut right through -...) No.

And so we are left with "Once upon a time". Nice and impersonal. And just with a bit of magic to it.

So, once upon a time there was this girl (we cannot call her a princess. she was not one.). She was nothing special. Well, yes the teachers would tell you she was, that she was brilliant, a genius, but really, she wasn't. Never had been. And if she hadn't had this strong urge to believe in her uniqueness, other's would see that too (and sometimes when you repeat a thing often enough, and then when other people around you start repeating it too, you actually start to believe it, even though you in the beginning knew it to be false). She'd go around reciting books, acting important and deluding herself into thinking she really was unique, a genius, above such piteous things as uncertainty, shyness and love sickness while in reality she'd be just the same old plain little little girl, still unsure of everything she did, still yearning for affection like the lost kitten (the little lost creature strolling around in a storm that is too big and bad for it to comprehend) she had always been (and, well, aren't we all?).

There was a boy too (neither a night, nor a prince, and even less of a dragon). He believed her self-proclaimed reality to be true (because what is the difference between lies and truth, really?). And how could she not have been special? With those chestnut-brown eyes of hers (chestnut? really now, what happened to muddy, huh?)? With that wit that never seemed to run out (wit? what wit? oh, you mean the rehearsed comebacks...)? And that fierce temper! That was real, damn you! (yes yes, and sometimes when you close your eyes you can still feel the sting of her slap from third year, we heard you the first time.)

While there may be no real dragons in this fairytale, and although fairy-godmothers are also painfully lacking, there is an evil witch in this story (witch with a B. or a P, in this case. i mean, who chooses to name their child Pansy anyway? you can almost hear the doll-like perfection in it, the polished nails, the blond locks, the puckered lips, the outer hardness and inner warmness, the perfec- no, don't use that word.). Evil, truly evil (with blue eyes that shone with malice and blond hair that curled with resentment – or is that just another one of the girl's lies-made-reality, maybe? maybe malice was not what made those eyes shine, and maybe resentment had nothing to do with her locks. maybe, just maybe, Pansy isn't such a bad name after all...).

Witch-maybe-not-bitch was not a real fairytale witch in as much that she mostly kept to the sidelines. See, witches are supposed to be the ones offering the poison apple, push the princess down the stairs and hide the lost shoe, but doll-face did not do that. It's not really her fault things went as they did (she'd moved on to a new prince).

But in the girl's mind she seemed to always be present in her evil witchy spirit and plague the young couple with it (her presence was like a damp fog hanging around their feet rising up to put icy manicured fingertips to their warm hearts and make them stand still for a cold and painful moment of insecurity).

Oh, yes, I did say "the young couple". It was not really meant to be. (doll-face was supposed to stay with dragon-boy.) But the witch had left the boy (the girl never got a straight answer from the boy, as to why) and he had decided to choose the girl-not-princess as second best (or first best? or both?).

And they were really sweet together.

It hadn't been easy for the boy to get her, of course. (which was good. kept his mind busy. kept him from examining the wound the witch/doll, his doll, had left behind.) Her brown brown brown eyes (not blue, never blue) weren't as trusting as you'd think (especially not when under scrutiny from those previously so hateful gray ones). But he'd ensnared her (as he always knew he would), and she was soon showing all the obvious signs of being slightly smitten (blushing, stumbling, smiling unwillingly when he couldn't see).

(why her, though? he may not have known it, but it had to have had a thing or two to do with the fact that she was, you know, her. the golden girl. the strong one. the stubborn, genius, so different from everyone else. (and if anyone could fill this hole his doll, his Pansy, had left, then she surely could.))

Surprisingly, it hadn't been easy for her to fight his charm. (which was not good. at all.) He knew all the right things to say (of course he did. he'd been a playboy before he'd settled for the witch, remember? he'd learned all the neat little tricks he might need. (and so the fog rises and cold fingertips brush against her heart while in her mind carefully coloured pink lips whisper the words of doubt in her ear)). He even brought her flowers. Wrote her a freaking poem! (honestly doesn't it sound just a bit too sugary? (doesn't it sound like he was trying too hard?(and again cold makes her shudder inwardly for a short second, but only a short one, because maybe it wasn't so odd to write poems to the strong (weak), independent (small), confident (kitten) woman she was))). No, it fueled her lies and it really was too hard to resist him.

(she did shortly wonder why her. but, well, since she was so special, it was no big surprise, really. (but again the cold fingertips would in short intervals remind her of the person he'd initially settled for, the evil doll who had managed to chain him to herself for so long, and again she'd get reminded that it was not his choice to leave her and that, combined with some of the natural instinct even lost kittens possess, would not let her completely relax her guard))

But still they were sweet together. There were moments of pure bliss. Golden strings of heartbeats and whispered words and content sighs, stolen from Life itself, written onto the worn pages of Time and then left there to slowly fade away until they were just dots and spots of happy impressions in Infinity.

He was the first to truly break. (the first to fall) He saw the little kitten in her. (the lost, plain, little girl in her.) And as he got to know that plain girl, (the soft corner of her smile, before it blossomed into that confident grin, the way she'd glance up at him insecurely, before she'd hide it behind a gryffindor visage) he began to love her for it.

«I love you,» he tells her one day. They had been sitting there, under the big oak, just chatting, and he'd seen that soft corner of her smile again, and it had just slipped out, and now it had been said, and he sees her eyes widen a slight bit as she stares at him in shock, and he realises that he's babbling, talking just to fill the silence, saying, that yes, it may be too early, and we don't really know one an other, and there's nothing wrong if you don't feel the same wa- …

She silences him with a kiss, and carefully avoids his eyes for the short moment she senses him waiting for her answer after they refuses to see the hope glinting in them. She refuses to see it slowly die out, and so she misses it slowly getting replaced by determination (determination to make that little girl in her feel the same for him, to wait for her, romantic and unbelievable as it sounds).

And so he waits. And waits. And waits. There are moments, when he thinks, he sees her getting closer to the Edge, maybe sees her stumble a bit, but she always catches herself in the last moments (as if shaken by cold fingers) and she never lets herself truly fall.

No matter how hard he tells himself, that it's okay, that he'll wait just a while longer, he is becoming restless. Flashes of blond curls begin reappearing. Blue eyes replace brown. And he longs after the absolute closeness he felt with his doll, maybe not there at the end (he sees now, they had been drifting apart for a while), and not in the beginning, but there, at the middle, when she would show him her true self (her own inner kitten and would curl up next to him) and he would feel free to let down his own many shields and masks, and be just as vulnerable.

The girl does not see she's loosing him. In fact, the last time she'd inwardly wandered over to the edges of that Cliff, where she knew the dangerous feeling of True Love lay beneath lurking, she'd realised something. It had been a while since the cold fingers of uncertainty had last touched her, and she had unknowingly been sitting on the very Edge of the Cliff, dipping her feet in the unknown wonderful river below. And then she'd somehow slipped. And she'd fallen. (and so she'd been the second to break)

When the boy tells her to come closer, she does not suspect anything. When he then envelops her in a strangely emotional hug and tenderly kisses her forehead (for he knows exactly the right way to do this), she feels loved, she feels safe and accepted (for that is what he wants her to remember) and she is close to whispering those magical three little words, so close that she already opens her mouth- …

He beats her to it.

«… I'm sorry, but I think we should end this.»

First she doesn't comprehend.

«Wait. What?»

But in the time it took to blurt out those two words, she'd grasped the meaning behind his gray eyes and she doesn't need an answer any longer. Instead of waiting for useless explanations she poses the only real question that matters.

«Why?»

She asks it in a strong voice convinced the answer will be something on the lines of 'you are too good for me' and prepared to tell him just how silly such a notion is. His next words come as an ice cold shower, as the cold cold cold claws of the witch, that had always swayed at the edge of her conscience, grab a hold of her heart and squeeze.

«I … I've been spending too much time thinking about … Pansy, and I don't think it's fair I'd be with you, if I'm thinking of her.»

She stands before him. Back straight, gaze determined, and cold, cold concrete walls behind her eyes. And no matter how hard he looks he can not see the little girl inside her that just broke down sobbing in both shame, heartbreak and rage. (me? ME? a mere rebound?)

«Alright,» she says, all collected, all sure of herself. «I will be leaving, then.» As if in a dream she looks around his dormitory to find her shoes. Hurriedly she puts them on. Ties the snares into neat knots. She stands up, her back to him, takes care to walk confidently as she makes the few steps to the door. She fumbles with the door handle (stupid door handle, cooperate now!) and is about to leave, forget, let go.

As she's mid step, half way out the door he suddenly asks: «Would you like me to walk you out of the dungeons?»

She hesitates.

A story that starts with Once Upon a Time is supposed to end with a Happily Ever After. The girl is supposed to say no. She is supposed to slam the door on her way out, she's supposed to scream at him, tell him she loved him, and that she'll never forgive him. He is then supposed to realise his mistake and come begging to get her back, and after giving him the cold shoulder for a while, she is then supposed to forgive him, and they are to get the happy ending.

Or the girl is supposed to say yes. She is supposed to walk next to him, but then break down half-way through the dungeons, she's supposed to choke out the words «But I love you, dammit!» and then let him hold her as she cries her heart out, let him realise his mistake, let him realise that he did not have to wait any longer, and could jump straight to that blessed middle, where they could both be themselves, and he'd kiss her and tell her how sorry he is, and then he'd carry her back to his room, where they'd ley curled up as innocent little kittens, seeking each others warmth.

Or she is supposed to coldly tell him he's a bastard and show him the hurt inside her eyes, so he'd later remember that look and come running after her, finding her in a dark alcove where she would be sitting, quietly gazing out at the starlit sky, tears drawing silent lines down her cheeks. And he would know, know, that she did love him, she did fall, and realise that he too still loved her and then after a few more twists and turns they would get their Happily Ever After.

But she has dedicated too big a part of herself to keep the big lie of her strength alive. She can't let that power base crumble (can't let him see, can't let herself realise, can't be that wounded princess that needs saving).

So, while she wants nothing else but to say no, slam the door, and walk up to her bed and cry herself to sleep, she can't do that. That would show how emotionally unstable she really is, how much this ordeal has hurt her. So she says yes. But she does not break down. She walks beside him. And she does not show how much it hurts, does not tell him he's a bastard. She even makes a joke that she can't remember, but that makes him chuckle halfheartedly (brokenly, desperately, but she does not hear that).

He thinks she was prepared for this all the while. He thinks, for her, this really was a rebound. He thinks she actually did manage to stay emotionally detached.

She thinks he lied. She thinks all he said and did was fake. She does not cry that day. Or the next. Or the next. It comes weeks later, she almost has to force it out, because the tears just won't come on their own. (and perhaps that is what makes her special. the fact that her inner kitten is locked so deep inside, she can barely hear its cry for affection anymore.)

So, no, this Once upon a time has no Happy Ever After. And let's keep it impersonal, shall we? Let the girl remain just The Girl. She does not want to be named. And let the boy remain The Boy. He is better off not knowing what he did to that plain, yet so special, little girl of his.