The girl sat in the stone window-ledge. She was graceful, beautiful, talented, all the gifts given to her at her birth. She’d had plenty of time to wonder if they had been worth the cost.
Below her, the castle spread in silent grandeur. In every room, sleepers, hardly seeming to breathe, left where they had fallen. In the slanting autumn light, the air sparkled with dust that drifted and turned, but never hit the ground. Not here.
She hadn’t understood at first. Alone in the stillness, the unwaking bodies of two handmaids on the floor next to her bed, she had finally realized. The prince hadn’t come.
At the thought, her eyes fell to the brambles surrounding the castle walls. She saw no bleached skull, but she thought she knew what had happened all the same. She imagined she could see the spot — just there, where the roses bloomed in dusky glory every summer.
He had died. And then the funny thing had happened; the angry fairy’s power at last had broken. The girl had no idea how many years had passed until then, or how many since. The cruelest joke was that it was the “kindness” of the fairy who had saved her that had kept them all trapped. The fairy had caught the castle out of time until the prince should arrive. And then he never did.
So here she was, still sixteen, a phantom of longing drifting through the halls, promise eternally unfulfilled. Outside, the seasons turned. Inside, she waited for the last spell to break. She closed her eyes and wished that her parents had not been so eager for magical gifts, that they had let her birth go unremarked and let her take her chances with an ordinary life. When the distant geese flew by, obedient to the dictates of time, ordinary seemed like the most extraordinary thing she could imagine.
In the courtyard below, a yellow leaf ceased its eternal circling and slipped down to touch the pavement.
This week I’m combining the Write at the Merge prompt from Write On Edge and the weekly Trifecta Writing Challenge. Write at the Merge gave us the word “pine” and a photo of leaves falling on a deck, and Trifecta gave us the third definition of the word “phantom” (noun):