Never volunteer to clean wells.

Submitted for Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a proposal. ... view prompt


Jul 15, 2020


Erik was sitting at the edge of the well, looking into its waters. He had followed the voice to a small town, even though it had killed most of his party. He stared at the statue adorned on the top of the well. She was beautiful. He wished he could trade places with her.

"Excuse me, young man, do you mind helping me?" An elderly woman stood near the edge of the well with a bucket of sudsy water and a grim expression. "Princess Christina is coming to help in a while, but I don't know what I can do in that time."

"Uh, sure. Always happy to help." Erik hopped down from his spot on the well and picked up her bucket. Thirty minutes later, he was regretting saying yes. The little old woman had taken up his spot on the well and was talking at him as he scrubbed the well.

"So, Wilfred asked if he could go see his daughter again this week. I told him that there's a reason his daughter lives in a cottage in the woods, and it's not because she loves her town. So, he got mad at me and told me that I was an ugly old hag. Luckily he has that wife of his. If it weren't for her, I would think that he would respect his elders. I'm his mother in law for goodness' sakes. If only he were a respectful young lad, like you." She picked at something in her teeth and looked down at him with shrewd bright eyes.

"What's his daughter doing in the woo-" Erik attempted, but the woman interrupted.

"I mean, it's not like his daughter called him an ugly old hag. I'd like to see what he has to say about that. Eli never had a filter, which is part of why she now lives in the woods. I mean, the only person who visits her outside of business is the milk lad. Although I suppose that he's also doing his job, so it's part of the business. She isn't that likable a person, so I don't blame anyone for not visiting her. She's gone a touch batty, though. Being alone got to her head."

Erik wished he hadn't said yes. Droplets of sweat were running down his back, and the sun was beating down on him. The little old lady felt the need to point out every spot that he missed when she paused criticizing her family. The bucket had some kind of lye in it too. Soon, his hands, back, and the rest of his body were aching.

A shadow fell over him and he looked up to see a pretty girl in a blue dress standing over him. "Are you okay? It's super hot. I'm surprised that you're helping with the well today."

He stood up shakily, knowing that his legs might give out from under him any second now. "I felt it my duty to help."

The girl smiled broadly. "Patricia asked you to help, didn't she?"

He huffed a laugh. The little old lady was smiling serenely down at the two of them. "Now, Princess Christina, this young man is perfect for prince regent. He's helpful and listened to an old woman."

Christina's eyebrows rose and her eyes widened a touch. "Grandma, is this because you want me to give you grandchildren?"

"Of course. This young man is perfect for you. I think you should marry him." Erik felt his face go beet red and he picked up the discarded rag that he had thrown down when he met Christina. He started scrubbing at the statue's arm as Christina argued with Patricia.

"You don't even know his name. Neither do I. I'm not getting married to him. I promise."

"Of course I know his name. He's been talking to me for the past hour. His name is Fredrick. The third." Christina turned to Erik who flashed a smile and shook his head. 

"It's Erik."

"Shut it, Fredrick." Patricia shot Christina a withering look, and she grabbed another rag out of the bucket. Erik moved to make room for her in the well. It was less of a well, and more of a fountain, but he didn't think that anyone cared.

He began cleaning the fingers of the statue. A warm curious feeling followed. He felt like he had just eaten a large container of chocolate but without the guilt. The rag moved lower, scrubbing at her palm. There was a large flash of light, and a girl fell from the top of the well. He dropped the rag and held out his arms, catching the very confused girl.

Christina squealed and Patricia frowned. Christina stopped wheezing with laughter after a minuter to explain. "There's a legend that when the soulmate of the statue touches her hand, she'll come to life. Looks like you're her soulmate."

The girl looked up at him, her green eyes sparkling in the hot sun. He grinned awkwardly at her, and she smiled back.

"Well, I had high hopes for you, my boy. Christina, find yourself a man as soon as you can, okay?" Patricia hopped down from the well and disappeared down the road.

"You two should probably get to know each other. Ooh, I have a proposal for you. You two can come get jobs at the palace while you're working out what this means for both of you. I mean, she will probably need lessons in how everything works, and I've never seen you around before, my good sir, so..." Princess Christina grinned up at them, and after a moment, the three of them started the trek up to the castle.

Erik had never seen something so beautiful. The castle was made entirely out of granite, and rested on the top of a cliff, as though tempting fate. He and the girl from the well got to know each other through the three years they spent at the castle. They were both now twenty-one, and tip-toeing around their feelings.

The girl from the well's name was Masako Redding, and Erik, cliche as it was, had fallen in love with her. So, since they were both adults, he decided to ask her to marry him. He didn't know how he was going to do it, in large part because he didn't have much money, and that seemed to be a key thing that women liked in men.

But he loved her. And he hoped that would be enough.

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