Ailea stared at the door. She knew about his vanished wives when they married, but his smile had been so sweet. She’d trusted him and been happy. He’d asked her to leave that one room alone; she’d agreed.
But — there was a smell coming from it. An acrid, organic smell drifting faintly into the hallway. And there was something seeping under the door, a thick red-black substance she was afraid to touch. She couldn’t help wondering — what had happened to them, anyway?
She put the key in the lock and turned.
When he found her, hours later, she was still flat on her back. There was a heart-shaped bruise on her forehead like a brand where an ornamental paperweight had hit her on the way down.
“Your mother insisted I take it all.” He was apologetic. “I would have trashed it, except I think her best friend is a witch, and she had a manic look at the wedding. I’m not sure it’s safe.” He started pulling crocheted blankets and wobbly hand-thrown urns off the pile. “It’s the jams that get me. At least, I think they’re jams.”
Her ankle was sticky with the horrifying ooze that turned out to have come from an overturned jar. “Let’s not find out,” she croaked.
He made a devoutly affirmative noise and dug. The stench was terrible. She recognized it, now — her mother’s attempt at making handbags from home-tanned leather. She’d tried to forget that phase.
“I’m not sure this is enough room. We could get rid of the stuff Lakshmi left when she ran off to Ishendi. She seems to be enjoying being a belly-dancer too much to bother sending for it.”
She sat up, finally. “It’s fine. We’ll shove it all back in and brick it up.”
He gave her that sweet, unassuming smile. “Whatever you like.”
She reached out one dusty hand to touch his cheek, caress the ridiculous beard. “I love you.”
His face was like the sunrise. “I love you too.”
This week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge called for 33 to 333 words on the third definition of the word BRAND (noun):
3a (1) : a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership
(2) : a printed mark made for similar purposes : trademark
b (1) : a mark put on criminals with a hot iron
(2) : a mark of disgrace : stigma <the brand of poverty>
So here’s another reimagined fairy tale for you. (For the full list, click on the Fairy Tale category on the sidebar or check the Fiction page.) Thanks for reading!