Contest #88 shortlist ⭐️

68 comments

Fantasy Happy Kids

Once upon a time, a princess lived trapped in a tower, where her hair grew very, very long. Only, not the stylish kind of long—the flowing, wavy mermaid tresses—but quadruple-split ends that crackled like dead flower stems when you touched them, because that’s really what happens when someone lives trapped in a tower without a haircut. The longer the princess stayed in the tower, the longer her hair grew. The distance between her good hair days also grew. It was either too frizzy or too oily, so that the princess started to feel more like a crone.


In case you can’t tell, that princess is me, and by the time a new spring dawned and the flowers began to bloom and cars returned to the freeways and the world basically woke up again, I just felt ugly. The hair dragged me down, a parasitic vine creeping over its host like kudzu drowning a tree in shade. 


I kept it in a silver-streaked ponytail or braid just to hide it from myself, and to keep it from cascading down into the dish water, or the bath water, or into sticky plates of pancakes. It followed me around the house, a boa constrictor down my back. 


Somehow, long brown strands still wove their way into my macaroni and cheese, into the roller brush of my vacuum cleaner and the dryer’s lint filter. It became the focal point of my appearance. “I can’t believe how long your hair has gotten!” people would comment from their little Zoom squares in the casual chatter leading into an office meeting. 


My hair was strangling me.


It’s always possible that my hair was just a convenient scapegoat. Maybe it was the tower that was strangling me—my 1,700 square feet of finicky hardwood floors strewn with legos and LOL dolls, and trendy gray walls that sucked up sunshine. Maybe it was the extra ten pounds I’d gained from the aforementioned pancakes and macaroni and cheese. Maybe it was the air outside, poisoned with virus particles that wafted like microscopic pollen. Still, I blamed the hair for the tight feeling that sometimes took over my throat. 


The day I got my vaccine, I texted my hair stylist: “Are you working? I need you!”


She had texted me last March, a mass message to clients, “See you when this is over…” That was back when we thought it would be over in two or three weeks, but somehow I took her at her word. 


“Melanie!!!” came her quick reply. “I was just thinking of you. I must be reading your mind. I’ve been fully vaccinated since February. When would you like to come in?”


We were scheduled for Saturday. I was ready to leave the long braid and my days in the tower behind me. Now, with the office opening next month and the kids’ schools opening in a few weeks, I was going to see people again. It was time to look cute, to wear real pants, time to wake up, drink coffee, and put some fashionable sandals on the pavement. It was time to be a princess again. 


Friday morning, as the sun peeked rosy through my tower window, I sipped my coffee and scrolled wistfully through pictures of layered, textured bobs, buoyant, balliaged, flirting with shoulders and kissing collar bones. 


“Mommy! Mommy? Where are you?”


My thumb still swiped downward, drawing magic from the phone’s gently glowing screen as I answered the little voice plodding down the hall. “On the couch, Baby. Want to come cuddle?”


My youngest, Clara, climbed into my lap, where she began bouncing and playing with the tips of my still-loose hair. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice warm and rosy like the sunrise.


“I’m planning my haircut,” I said, and held up my phone for her inspection. “How would you like it if I looked like this?” 


That was my first mistake. Never ask a preschooler’s opinion on something she has no control over. But it was early, and I was still finishing my coffee. Mistakes happen.


“Uuuuh! No,” she groaned, wrinkling her nose. “Yuck.”


I swiped to the next image. “This one, then.”


“Bad,” she growled, a scowl pursing her lips.


Clara had been two the last time I got a haircut. She probably didn’t even remember it. I realized how much her world was about to change and wrapped my arms around her tiny waist.


“I’ll still have my same face,” I comforted her. “My own eyes, my own nose. I’ll still be Mommy. Just with different hair. And anyway, hair gets old,” I told her, stroking her long, dark brown curls. “It needs cuts to stay healthy. Like going to the doctor. Only, I waited so long, my hair needs surgery. I need to get rid of my witch hair.”


“But you have princess hair!” Clara flung her arms around my neck and tangled her fingers into my hair. 


I did not feel like a princess, but I remembered all the times I’d let her brush my hair this year—twist and tangle it into “styles” decorated with sparkly headbands and barrettes—and the afternoon she picked dandelions from the back yard and laced them through the strands of my braid. “Like Rapunzel!” she’d exclaimed as she brought back more and more smiling yellow weed-flowers.


To her, I really was a princess. My kingdom was small, but my status was real.


I hugged her more tightly, this three-year-old princess used to quiet mornings, slow transitions, long expanses of time for tea parties and art projects, and Mommy always a call away, ready to solve problems with a royal decree. ”Ok, yes, princess hair. But even princesses need haircuts. Remember Rapunzel?”


“But then her hair wasn’t magical,” she said in a small voice, her chin resting on my shoulder. 


“Don’t worry. We’ll figure out how to keep some of the magic,” I promised, thinking of dandelions and pancakes, and all of the other things I wasn’t ready to leave behind. Morning cuddles. Princess movies. I felt my throat tighten, and this time it wasn’t my hair.


✂️✂️✂️


The princess got her haircut. 


I left the kids behind and went to a salon with a fountain and a courtyard, clay pots overflowing with red and pink geraniums. 


“I’ve seen worse,” my stylist teased as she ran her fingers through the tangle of my ends, and the smile I gave in reply made my cheeks ache.


I listened to hip songs I didn’t know and sipped a mimosa and made polite banter while I watched big pieces of myself fall to the floor. Eight inches of hair—a year’s worth of growth and then some. I was shaped and textured and colored and dried and curled, a royal treatment. 


I shook my head from side to side, felt my hair graze the tops of my shoulders. I felt so light, like I’d come unmoored. I could float away, a dandelion seed in the breeze. 


Soon the winds of change would carry me into adult conversations, into quiet, clean office spaces designed for productive thought. But I didn’t want to drift too far away from where I’d been planted.  


“Mommy!” Clara ran out into the driveway when she heard the car pull in. She sat in my lap and jiggled the steering wheel. 


After a couple of minutes, she twisted around and timidly touched the sculpted edges of my hair. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled dandelion that she tucked behind my ear. “You’re still a princess,” she said.


I smiled through the tears that hung heavy in the back of my throat. “You bet.”


I want to say they all lived happily ever after: the princess drifted effortlessly between her office and the diplomatically-unrecognized kingdom of her tower. She is trying. She handles the transition with a graceful smile and a practiced wave, coiffed and polished. There are alarm clocks, traffic jams, tantrums, and growing pains, but the princess feels beautiful, and she can breathe. 


April 08, 2021 22:07

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68 comments

Claire Lewis
23:27 Apr 08, 2021

This is fantastic. Your writing is always full of tender and comforting details. I’m always so impressed by how you can weave magic into reality and make even little things like a haircut or a child’s musings feel like the most important parts of life. I suppose, in a lot of ways, they are. I’ve been debating chopping my hair off... now I’m very tempted!

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A.Dot Ram
23:56 Apr 08, 2021

Haha. As if this wasn't inspired by my hair explorations on Pinterest 😁. Thank you. You've done some great magical work yourself!

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Claire Lewis
17:40 Apr 16, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist!! Certainly well-deserved 😁

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A.Dot Ram
17:51 Apr 16, 2021

Very good company there this week! Look, we were both thinking of dandelions. Something in the air?

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Claire Lewis
17:53 Apr 16, 2021

Yes I did notice that! I think it’s pollen in the air, at least where I am 😂

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02:44 May 19, 2021

FIRST I READ I THOUGHT RAPUNZEL

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23:03 May 17, 2021

This story was great! I loved how you included various of details that keeps me as the reader engaged. The only critique I have is why the story isn't longer! Great job! Keep the amazing work coming!

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A.Dot Ram
23:14 May 17, 2021

Thanks! Some weeks I'm able to go a little longer. This story, I guess, was a bit of a bob. Too much more might have weighed it down. Is there anything that felt unresolved for you? (I'm really open to hearing it. I've been revising my stories).

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Jerry Bender
02:30 May 16, 2021

Great story but she took the shot so let us pray she does in fact live at all much less everafter

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Camila Amenero
06:19 May 06, 2021

I really enjoyed this modern-age rapunzel story and the fact that you incorporated life in quarantine into it. It is really heart warming that clara thinks of her mother as a princess and still does even after she gets her hair cut. I would have enjoyed a little more depth into the way she was feeling when getting her hair cut after so long and it turning into a part of her personality. Overall this story was really fun and warming.

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04:55 May 04, 2021

This story was very nice and fun. You made the hair adventure into a fairytale with princesses and towers. I would not change a single thing on your story any kid would enjoy this story for sure. The story was perfect.

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18:08 Apr 30, 2021

I loved this story! It was funny and heartwarming. I loved how the daughter said "You're still a princess," It was adorable. You made it sound so real. :)

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A.Dot Ram
18:26 Apr 30, 2021

Thank you. I have a real-life three- year-old who's into princess right now. This story never happened in a literal sense, but i took a lot of inspiration from her personally and expressions.

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Nevie Barbeau
16:54 Apr 30, 2021

I love the way you combined quarantine life, with the life of a fantasy princess. It is great to see that in the end everything is good but still is real life. I thought this was a great idea. It is funny because I had the same problem with my hair. So it is fun to be able to relate to some aspects of the story. I would have loved it if there was more kid-to-parent interaction. It was so cute. It reminded me of how my little cousins act. And it also made me think of when I was little and didn't want to get a haircut. It is funny how little k...

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A.Dot Ram
00:41 May 01, 2021

Thank you! It's amazing how much truth resides in such little things--so universal.

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A.Dot Ram
00:41 May 01, 2021

Thank you! It's amazing how much truth resides in such little things--so universal.

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Nyx ⛥
17:42 Apr 20, 2021

Very good! i liked that it was a modern twist on a rapanzel story (sorry for the spelling. I cant spell for my life)

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16:18 Apr 19, 2021

Love this! A nice twist on Rapunzel, and also on the prompt. When I was writing my story for this prompt (It's called 'A Lillie for a Life') I didn't even consider a modern world! Reminds me of my own chaotic life coming out of quarantine :) great job

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Jen Park
13:43 Apr 17, 2021

I remember that you were the winner of the prompt about recipe (I don't remember the contest name), and actually it's one of my favorite stories on Reedsy. This story definitely deserved shortlist too. I thought it was something like Rapunzel remake in the beginning but soon realized that it was about covid life and a normal mom (and a business woman) in an apartment. There is definitely a Rapunzel reference though. I love the part where the daughter says "you're still a princess" and "my kingdom was small but my status was real." Yes, it ...

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Reona Bluebell
21:13 Apr 16, 2021

i really liked this story! :D

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Shea West
17:42 Apr 16, 2021

Anne! You were shortlisted, so well deserved! I get so excited for you when I see you have a win or shortlisted story <3

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Avani G
16:33 Apr 16, 2021

Congratulations for the Shortlist!

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Nadya Garza
16:01 Apr 16, 2021

This is amazing! I truly enjoyed the story and found it very captivating. I can feel the nostalgia of having to let go of all of that treasured time in quarantine spent with our loved ones. Congratulations!!!

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A.Dot Ram
16:40 Apr 16, 2021

Thanks. It's such a complex situation, going back to "normal." Bittersweet.

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H L Mc Quaid
15:37 Apr 16, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist. :)

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David Gottfried
15:14 Apr 16, 2021

Congrats on yet another shortlist! You're killing it!

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A.Dot Ram
16:41 Apr 16, 2021

It's been long enough that I was really excited about it!

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David Gottfried
16:46 Apr 16, 2021

I know what you mean! I could use a confidence booster myself. I’m trying to tell myself the recognition doesn’t matter, but it does. Anyway, we’ll deserved!

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Nina Chyll
11:34 Apr 14, 2021

This one feels like it came somewhat from experience in its metaphors. I may have the wrong end of the stick, but I find it endearing that it feels so personal. I like how it's just one of those snapshots from the pandemic, starting off as a fairy tale and transitioning into pure realism. I enjoyed how imagining all kinds at the beginning, but then, suddenly, realising it was all in the protagonist's head, just a physical manifestation of hopelessness. One note: the princess drifted effortlessly between her office and the diplomatically-un...

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Iris Orona
18:50 May 12, 2021

ITS A WONDERFUL STORY FULL OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS AND LOVING PEOPLE

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Ariana Meyers
01:00 Apr 23, 2021

I thought this was a cute Rapunzel-style story when I saw the title- but this definitely ended up much better than I expected. Great job :)

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