I creak open the door, slowly turning the knob. The window curtains flutter behind me, dove white ghosts billowing in the wind. Quickly, I scurry out the door, gesturing for my little sister, Susanne, to follow. Our steps are silent; I feel as if we are merely one with the wind.
I peek into the room a few doors down, across the hall. My parents are both sleeping soundly. I tiptoe in, reaching over to the glass case in which a bejeweled golden crown sits.
I lift the glass up gracefully, setting it down onto the table. I remove the crown from its velvet pillow. It's heavier than I imagined. I turn to glance over at my parents. If they saw me, in the midst of night, holding my father’s crown, I would be forbidden from ever leaving the castle. I look at the crown once more. Even the jewels alone would be enough to make a poor man wealthy. They glimmer in the night, a tiny fire of color in my hands.
I slowly step out of the elegant room. I wish to sigh, but feel as if even such a small thing as sighing could awaken them. I close the door, and a small click follows. I wait, pleadingly, for a moment, but no other sound follows other than the evil sound the wind makes at this time of night. The whistling reminds me of a horrid time, a time I wish not to speak of.
Susanne is mouse-like, which is most surprising, considering she is always the most talkative in the daytime. But, I suppose, the night can change people.
Her tiny hand grasps mine as we file out of the hallway and into a stairway. The stone steps are frigid on my bare feet. I shiver slightly as another gust of wind blows through.
I glance out the window. There is a full moon tonight; it will help us see in the dark of midnight. I squeeze Susanne’s hand, saying without words, it’s going to be alright. She is looking at the moon. In a way, it’s our sun, guiding us through the pitch black of night.
We race across the almost black grass, our nightgowns fluttering in the wind. My blond hair lifts off my shoulders. We are ghosts in the dark of night.
Finally, when the pain in my chest becomes unbearable, and when my feet begin to ache from tripping on twigs, we stop, bending over to catch our breath. I rethink our escape for a moment before shaking my head. No. We needed to do this. We have no other choice.
The crown feels heavier in my sweaty palm; maybe it’s because we are out of breath, maybe it’s merely the weight of stealing it that I am feeling. Yet, the rush of taking the crown also fills me, like an addictive fragrance you needed to smell again. For a moment, I believe that I enjoy stealing. No. I shake my head. I only stole to free myself from this awful world, to save Susanne from the future. I only stole to spite my father. I am not a thief; I do not take joy in these things.
I stand up straight, rolling my shoulders back as I was taught. “Come along, Susanne,” I say. “We are almost there.”
The sun is just beginning to rise, a small patch of yellow in the wide sky. It’s brilliance turns the black to a beautiful golden amber.
We arrive in a village. It’s quite small, but quaint. Thatched roofs stand guard over every building, chimneys are alive with smoke. Near the edge of the town, a crystalline lake shines. We continue past the modest township, into the woods behind it.
Branches crack under our feet and birds chirp sweetly as we pass through. And then, I see a tiny clearing, in which only a floor length mirror stands. I sigh blissfully. Our journey is almost over. In my reflection, I see my mangled blond hair, dirty nightgown, and warm hazel eyes. I squint. There is something different about my reflection. I shrug. It must have been a trick of the light, I think, standing up straighter.
“Mirror mirror, as you stand, take us away from the wicked king’s hand.” I recite.
A purple storm fills the mirror, and a face appears.
“What does your highness wish of me?” The face is calm, yet composed. It also seems a bit bored, as if this has happened all too often.
“Oh, there’s no need for that. I’m not the princess anymore. At least, I won’t be when I’m rid of this place.” I respond.
“What do you wish for?” The mirror asks, slightly annoyed.
“I wish to leave the kingdom.”
“There is a price, your majesty. There are no exceptions, even for an individual of royalty.”
“Yes, I know there’s a price. There’s always a price.”
I hear Susanne move behind me. I can almost feel her pounding chest. I turn around.
She sniffles, and buries her head in my nightdress.
“You don’t have to do this.” I say, wiping the tears out of her eyes with my finger. “Do you want to?” She tugs my nightdress and nods. I feel guilt wash over me, consuming me and spreading over me like a hurricane. I brought her along with me, without a thought in my head that she might have hesitations. She’s too young to know. She’s too young to realize all she’s leaving behind.
I hand over the golden crown, our father’s crown, our king’s crown. Our ticket to a way out of this place. It vanishes into the mirror.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, my eyes blurry. I don’t know why I say it, if I’m sorry for bringing Susanne or for stealing the crown, or for leaving my poor mother, who will be ever so lonely without us. She will surely cry at the absence of Susanne; Susanne brought her such joy. And then, I realize I’m saying sorry for all of those things, and for myself, for not leaving this place sooner.
Then, the face in the mirror vanishes, and only the purple storm is left, lightning striking in the reflection every so often. Slowly, the storm fades away, and a beautiful expanse of land stands in the mirror. Then, I hear the mirror’s voice one last time.
“Step through the mirror.”
Taking Susanne’s hand in mine, I prepare to step through the mirror. But I hesitate for a moment. Do I really want to leave all I have behind? I ask myself. Doubt sits in the corner of my mind, unmovable. I try to shake the thoughts away. This is what I’ve always wanted. Isn’t it?
Without a second thought, I step through the mirror, Susanne holding on tightly.