What's wrong with Happily Ever After?

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write about an author famous for their fairy tale retellings.... view prompt

35 comments

Teens & Young Adult Fantasy Latinx

For the seventh time, Max ran his hand through his hair. He couldn't stop feeling weird, unnatural, different. The makeup crew had definitely over-gelled his hair, and there was some ridiculous powder on his face that perpetually flecked onto his vest. He reminded himself that this was the final interview before they let the books sell themselves.

"Coffee, sir?" Shannon, the weirdly attractive woman who had been harassing him all day, appeared at his side, offering yet another coffee.

Max took it automatically and drank it, forcing a smile. Despite talking with her over the phone and spending practically the whole day with her, he still had no idea what the hell her job actually was. In one of his stories, she would be some deceptive, multi-talented, Swiss Army knife henchman. Henchwoman. Max frowned thoughtfully, wondering whether she would be a worthy foe for his equally adaptable, entrepreneurial Prince Enrique.

He took a few gulps of the coffee before he remembered that he had privately forbidden himself from drinking any more caffeine. Goddamn it, he had to go on stage in like, five minutes, and he'd be jiggling his leg like some demented toddler, trying not to piss.

Max awkwardly held it away from him, and in a whoosh, some magical backstage crew member snatched it out of his hands, no questions asked. Some random person dabbed sweat off his forehead, and Max resisted the urge to recoil and melt into nothingness just as his depressed Wicked Witch did in the bath.

Before he could inquire about the toilets, somebody herded him towards the stage, clipped on a mic, and all but shoved him out the curtain.

The spotlight seared down onto him, and Max blinked, temporarily blinded. Then the audience, composed of parents, tweens, and teens, began hollering, and Max awkwardly shuffled towards the grinning hostess.

Damn, her teeth were whiter than his vampire version of Snow White. They did a cringe-worthy fail at some hug-handshake fusion, and then Max gratefully took a seat, already wishing this was over. He wished he could steal some of the confidence and wittiness he imbued into his characters.

"Tonight's special guest is Max Cruz, critically acclaimed writer or some would say, rewriter of popular fairytales! Welcome to the show Max, it's lovely to have you," Lauren settled herself at the edge of her desk, crossing one leg elegantly over the other.

Max smiled back, hoping it didn't come off as sarcastic. "Thanks, Lauren. It's a pleasure to be here."

"So Max, let's get right into it. Why do you edit popular kids' books? Why not write your own stories?"

Max took a deep breath, which he hoped wasn't as loud over the stupid mike. "All of us grow up reading these stories, hearing allusions to them, and they shape a massive part of who we are. I used to write stories set in my own universe-"

"But they weren't as popular?" Lauren interrupted, shooting him a sly side glance and laughing.

Max smiled, imagining her as a witch interrogator, holding him captive to find the source of his powers. "Yes, and I realized that fairytales end up shaping a lot of people's view of the world. I wanted to change the stories to include people more like me. People of colour, better roles for women and little girls, more interesting stories with more moral complexity." There was a smattering of applause.

"Of course, that's so important, isn't it guys?" Lauren asked the audience, inciting more cheers. "Don't you worry that these books might be...difficult for children and young readers?"

"I think people underestimate how smart kids are-" Somebody yelled appreciatively in the crowd, and Max chuckled, "-and I write mostly for middle schoolers and teens anyways. I just thought there was so much potential in those stories for action, comedy. More than the typical damsel in distress, and the nameless, faceless Prince Charming, and rags to riches stories."

"That's a little cynical, isn't it? And what's wrong with happily ever after?" Lauren asked, leaning in close. Max reminded himself that this was her job; she probably didn't know anything about his actual books.

Max tried to stall for time to think. "Well-"

"I mean, isn't that what everyone wants? To be happy at the end? To find true love?"

"Okay, thanks, Lauren. Happiness at the end of what? There is no happily ever after, in life, there's always the next challenge and the next. I want my stories to show happiness during the challenges, I want to show some character growth, give some of these princes a background, make them better role models for young boys. I also hated the whole damsel in distress thing. When I was a boy I liked and respected girls who played on the playground, and knew how to have fun, and who were smart on their own. I think people are tired of reading stories where they don't see themselves."

Max couldn't stop himself from blurting the sarcastic question: "Also, true love? In all of two days of knowing, or two minutes of staring at someone's face?" 

"I don't know, it only took two dates for my Prince Charming and me, to fall in love." Lauren giggled, and Max wondered what on earth they were possibly paying her to remain constantly polite. 

Max forced himself to keep a level, conversational tone. He hated these stupid interviews and wished his overactive publisher would get pricked by an assassin's needle. "Okay, these stories are full of life lessons. In the 21st century, telling little girls that they need to wait for a man to free them, or telling young boys that it's okay to randomly kiss sleeping girls, or that it's their job in life to find pretty girls that need saving, is so boring, and not that educational. I mean, Lauren, you're a self-made woman, you didn't wait for some man's kiss to turn your life around." People cheered in the crowd again, and that prompted a genuine smile from Max.

Yes, finally! The people he actually came to talk to. It was a struggle to remember that Lauren wasn't the target audience here. It was kids like him, people like him. People who needed to believe in magic again, and were okay with the princesses realizing they were in love, or the Prince working with the mermaid to explore the seas more.

"I understand that, but how are your stories educational in the real world if they have vampires and magical creatures?" Lauren asked her first detailed question, and Max quickly continued, now fully focussing on the crowd.

"Okay, that's a metaphor for toxic relationships. Snow White literally sucks the life out of people, she's wicked, evil, murderous. The little mermaid in my story and the Prince represents racial divisions, and how people slowly get to know each other. And no, it doesn't have a fully happy ending, and that's because I wanted to show growth, again, and the hard work it takes to reach understanding." These were obvious ideas in his book series, but Max relished the opportunity to share them anyways.

"Yeah, I rewrite stories, make metaphors out of them, and some people don't like that. Some people tell me I'm confusing their kids by including LGBTQ characters, or that I should create entirely new stories if I want to include and showcase people of colour, like Prince Enrique. I'm not even going to bother addressing how wrong that first criticism is, but as for the second. There's nothing new under the sun, and those fairytales are the source material for so many things written, and felt, and thought about today. Those old stories are going to still exist, but I want there to be more diversity, more voice, more modern-day values in them too."

"Those are some lovely words, and thank you! Everyone, we'll be back after the break!" Lauren shook his hand and grinned down at the crowd.

Max grinned a little tiredly, chugging down his hopefully unpoisoned glass of water. He'd forgotten all of the talking points his publisher expressly told him to bring up, and instead decided to expose the depth of his love for characters he had created ever since he was a child. Characters that were pieces of him that met his world every day and took it on.

Max excused himself to quickly race to the bathroom, grinning despite his uncomfortably warm face, and forgotten taking points.

This might just be the best interview he'd given, the challenge he'd enjoyed the most, one happy moment before the next challenge to come.

Not quite happily ever after, but a slowly growing collection of happy days, happy hours, happy moments.

April 05, 2021 07:18

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35 comments

Megan Sutherland
01:49 Apr 13, 2021

"wished his publisher would get pricked by an assassin's needle" bahahahah I don't know why I'm laughing so much at that! You definitely have a knack for sliding in dry humor, because this isn't the only spot I found it. I like that. This was a really good story!! Disclaimer- I found you because I was looking at the leaderboard and your name stood out to me :D -Meg

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Moon Lion
03:55 Apr 13, 2021

I'm on the leaderboard?? That's news to me lol, and I'm so so glad you liked the dry humour! Thank you so so much for reading!

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Megan Sutherland
16:47 Apr 13, 2021

Yeah, of course! My pleasure!

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Riya 🌺
20:27 Apr 05, 2021

Wow. This story was so incredible, it had so much depth and meaning in it. I love the line in the end "chugging down his hopefully unpoisoned glass of water." I don't know, it just makes me laugh. :)

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Moon Lion
21:00 Apr 05, 2021

Thank you for reading and commenting :)

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Mary Rothery
08:35 Apr 20, 2021

Loved this and all the messages within it. Great story.

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Moon Lion
17:04 Apr 20, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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Mycah Arnold
17:07 Apr 16, 2021

Amazing story! I also love the thought of challenging happily ever after, when a story/fairy tale ends with " And they lived happily ever after" for me a single question always rises "what is a happily ever after?". Now finally I have the answer: They don't exist! I think one of the reasons is because you can't have triumph or happiness without struggling or even failing a little. Honestly, "Happily Ever After" seems like a prison. A prison where you can't have a single bad day or even have relatively "negative" emotions. I think it all cen...

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Moon Lion
21:23 Apr 16, 2021

No, I love the rambling! I completely agree with you and I am delighted that someone read the story and found something they related to! Thank you so much for your beautiful comment :)

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E. B. Bullet
01:15 Apr 16, 2021

Well damn I'm finding myself wanting this author to be the real deal! The way you talked about his reimagining of classic tales and the lessons he wanted to bring forth felt so genuinely real, it almost seemed like I was reading an article excerpt from an actual interview haha. Love how you carry the tone across the entire piece; it was a super fun read! Grammar mistakes here and there, gotta watch out for those! But great job nonetheless

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Moon Lion
02:14 Apr 16, 2021

I knowww, I caught those mistakes a little too late! But thank you so much for your awesome comment, this was so nice to read! Thank you for reading :)!

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Charlie Murphy
19:58 Apr 14, 2021

Nice, well, written story. So, Lauren is like many Fox News people.

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Moon Lion
20:00 Apr 14, 2021

Thank you for your compliment! Is that what Lauren comes off as? I based her off of my English teacher :)

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Charlie Murphy
20:12 Apr 14, 2021

Yes, she reminds me of the conservative news anchors.

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Ann Tillinghast
19:37 Apr 13, 2021

I enjoyed reading your story😊This kinda reminds me of a different story someone wrote. The ending is different, though. It is well written. Please read mine and like it if you want ☺️

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Moon Lion
02:06 Apr 14, 2021

For sure! Thank you for your comment :)

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18:29 Apr 12, 2021

Great story! Love it!

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Moon Lion
00:31 Apr 13, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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C E Mutya
12:40 Apr 12, 2021

This is really well written, your engaging descriptions that flow with the action work really well. I also really liked the idea of more contemporary fairy tales that have more depth. Maybe it would be also good through Max's thoughts to get a glimpse of some of his less than perfect interviews and why he finds them so bad. I totally want to write a Snow White vampire story now, such a cool idea!

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Moon Lion
00:28 Apr 13, 2021

Thank you so so much for your comment! The Snow White vampire story has been an idea of mine since I learned about vampires lol, I would love to see someone bring it to life :)

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Kate Le Roux
19:51 Apr 11, 2021

"Hopefully unpoisoned glass of water" :) Love that!

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Moon Lion
22:25 Apr 11, 2021

Haha thank youuu

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Gerald Daniels
16:56 Apr 11, 2021

Great story, loved the concept. Super.

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Moon Lion
22:25 Apr 11, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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C. Jay Loren
09:37 Apr 11, 2021

I really liked the idea of why and how he re-wrote the classic fairytales. They really are ageless and can definitely serve as greater lessons in the modern age with the correct retelling. Very clear to read and well-written. :) Good job!

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Moon Lion
22:27 Apr 11, 2021

Thank you so much for your comment and for reading :)!

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03:17 Apr 09, 2021

Hi there! This story was really powerful, and I really enjoyed reading it. I liked how Max informed his readers about how he felt about sharing his story, especially the part about incorporating the stories in the 21st century, because yes boys, don't go kissing random sleeping girls. Awesome work! :D

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Moon Lion
16:10 Apr 09, 2021

Thank you!!!!!!

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04:09 Apr 10, 2021

No problem!

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Michael Boquet
23:24 Apr 08, 2021

I really enjoyed this story. It's cool that you found a new, but no less impactful, meaning for happily ever after. I loved Max and the dynamic between him and Lauren. Great job all around!

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Moon Lion
23:50 Apr 08, 2021

Thank you so much for reading!

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Darya Silman
07:16 Apr 06, 2021

Excellent story! It is believable, easy to read, and relatable. Maybe, it will give an idea to some Max Cruz here on reedsy and we'll really see Snow White as a vampire :)

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Moon Lion
22:00 Apr 06, 2021

Thank you :), I hope so too, it would be awesome if someone decided to recreate fairy tale stories, especially with a vampire version of snow white.

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Annette Lovewind
02:10 Apr 07, 2021

Great job! Very well and detailed story!

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Moon Lion
21:06 Apr 07, 2021

Thank youuu!

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