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Her Little Black Box
Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there ruled a powerful King who had three daughters named Rosabel, Elina and Asha. He was a good King: loved and respected by the people he had made prosperous and happy over the many years of his reign, and he loved his daughters very much, but it could not be denied that he was growing old, and before long would pass on into the next life - and it was his dying wish that before he left them, he was to see each daughter find love, and marry a man worthy of her affections.
The three Princesses were young, the youngest of which, Asha, was only fourteen. But all three of them loved their father too much to ignore his plea....
The oldest Princess, Rosabel, was the most beautiful woman in the entire land. Her long blonde hair fell in cascades around her slim, petite figure, and her blue eyes put the blue of the sky to shame. All men everywhere were said to love Rosabel at first sight: so she and her sisters came up with a plan to choose the perfect husband, and Prince-to-be, among all the love smitten fools: Princess Rosabel was to lock herself up in the strongest most heavily guarded cell in the castle. The cell with the most locks and bolts, the cell that was most hidden - in the furthest corner of the palace halls. The one man to find the cell and break her out of it would be her hero, and the one she would take as her husband.
For days on ends, men of all status’s – from peasant to knight – came swarming through the great castle gates to find the beautiful damsel, waiting in her prison cell to be rescued by her Prince. Her sisters, Elina and Asha, looked on in amusement at the many fools and jesters who got lost within the castle walls and had to be escorted out again, or else those who found the cell Rosabel was concealed within, but were to too weak to break down the door. Eventually the suitors started to give up and leave, their pride and dignity scarred by their failure. Rosabel fell into despair that her father would be disappointed and not see her happy in marriage.
However one man remained.
This was Strength.
He was not a learned man, nor a particularly clever one. But he was strong: stronger than his predecessors and he knew, if only he found the cell, that he would be the one to free the Princess Rosabel and marry her. It took him days within the castle labyrinth to find the cell, and Elina and Asha, and even their father, watched from a distance, in extreme admiration, at this stranger who would not give up.
And indeed he did not.
He searched and searched. And eventually when he did indeed find Rosabel’s cell, he broke it down with the stroke of a hand as if it was no more than a cobweb.
And so Rosabel, the oldest sister, found Strength...
....and was married in the morning.
The second Princess, Elina, was not a beautiful girl like her sister. She had long straight black hair and a stocky figure that was not pleasing beside Rosabel’s. She also had the misfortune to inherit the masculine nose of her father. But she was clever, ever so clever – certainly cleverer than any man. And it was her decision that she would marry no more and no less her equal in mind and wit.
Although her looks were non-descript compared to those of her newly married sister, many men (mostly he sisters suitors seeking to regain some dignity) came to the castle to be interviewed by Elina and her sister Asha and all were turned away. They were all unable to keep up with the speed of Elina’s quick conversation, unable to defend themselves when she ruthlessly teased them, and quite frankly, bored her to tears. Elina fell into despair that her father would be disappointed and not see her happy in marriage.
However one man remained.
This was Magic.
He was a small man, a shy, reserved man, who initially both Elina and Asha had turned their noses up at. He had not come to the castle to win over Rosabel when she was trapped, as he did not take beauty at face value, but had always admired the stories he’s heard about this second daughter of the King’s. Plus he was clever - and to prevent any chance of failure in this challenge, used his gift of magic to enchant Elina, so even if his conversation didn’t satisfy, she would be too in love to realise.
And so Elina, the second sister, found Magic...
....and was married in the morning.
The youngest Princess, Asha, was both beautiful and clever, yet not in ways others could see. She did not wear pretty dresses, like her sisters, or wear ribbons in her mouse brown hair, and she rarely even smiled. She was the daughter who felt her father’s impending death the most, and her early grief caused her to close into herself, and instead of speaking her thoughts and publishing her knowledge, she very often just sat and thought. Thought thoughts that others didn’t understand, which caused her to close up into herself even more.
She did not wish to play games with her suitors. And there were few. She knew who she loved and she knew he was the only one she’d ever marry.
This was Courage.
Asha had known him all her life, as the little boy who had saved her doll she’d dropped in the river one frightful day in summer. He’d jumped in to rescue it, though could barely swim any better than the doll itself, but yet prevailed and returned her doll unscathed. He was a beautiful boy with beautiful eyes. And Asha had always loved him.
But she was scared.
Scared of falling in love further than him.
Scared of him falling in love further than she.
Scared of disappointment, and being disappointing.
Scared of intimacy and love and a world in which her heart was ruler over her head...
...Regardless of her father’s wish.
So the night before her marriage, she left the beautiful sleeping boy beside her in bed, and sneaked out of the castle grounds barefoot in only a night dress. She walked through the dense forests of the kingdom, passed even the river where she and Courage had first met all those years ago.
Soon she was out of the kingdom completely. In an empty space in an empty land which spread for miles beyond the grey horizon.
And it was within this black night, that she worked:
Built four walls...
Ten feet high.
With herself kept within.
Keeping out light and emotion, and all that was good.
She believed that if she trapped her heart within her little black box she would no longer be scared; that if she erased the world outside, all the ones she loved: her sisters, her dying father, her fiancé, she would no longer be ruled by this heart.......this heart that she didn’t even want! This heart which terrified her so! She thought that if she stayed there, she could think in peace, and that she would once again be in control of herself.
Asha stayed in her little black box for many many days.
Every day, all day, she could hear the people come by....
Her sisters came and went frequently, begging their little sister to break out of her shell and come and see their father. He was dying - ever so quickly now he was missing his youngest daughter. And Asha cried No! I will not come out. For if I do, I cannot be me. I am my head and my head alone, I cannot be my heart. It is not me and I wish not to act.
Courage came by daily, with roses he drowned the little black box with. Asha could not see or smell or touch them. But she knew they were there. Just like she knew Courage was there even when he didn’t speak to her.
At night she longed to see those beautiful eyes. She wanted to reach out and touch his hair and cheek and hand. She begged to be able to say I Love You. But it was a trick she knew. Her silly heart’s trick to get her to walk free again from her cage. For as soon as she did the fear would take over and cloud her vision so she could not see those beautiful eyes...paralyse her so she could not reach out and touch his hair and cheek and hand.....and silence her so she could not speak her heart’s content.
That vile heart!
It repulsed her! It was deceitful and selfish and a lie.
It took advantage of her young head and led her astray, so far in fact that one day, many many years later, Asha could no longer breath in her self-built cell in which she crouched, and within she could not tell the difference between night and day.....without seeing her Love at least one more time. So she ripped down the walls, with her bare hands until they bled, the thick red washing her cold and pale skin. Her nails snapped and broke and tore skin from fingers that were too cold to feel anything. Tears ran down her cheeks as she destroyed her sanctuary that had become a prison, and as she fell onto the hard, cold ground, left vulnerable in such a light, open space after such a long time, almost naked in her dirt white nightgown, she screamed for Courage to come.
And come he did, on a beautiful stallion of black and white with a golden mane.
But dismount he did not.
Instead he stared in warped horror at Asha’s haggard appearance. She was deathly white and skinny. No more than a stick of bones and rags. And her eyes, forgetful of what light was, were washed out of colour, and resembled those of a doe caught in the clearing just before being shot. Her hair had fallen out over time - torn out during the battles in her head when her heart, brutally fought for control. She was mess. A monster. And blood stained her hands and arms and legs where the fragments of little black box had attacked her so she looked like a savage.
And Courage looked at her distastefully.
Courage it’s me, she whispered, Asha.
You are not Asha, he cried for all the world to hear, Asha was a Princess. Have you looked at yourself? Who do you think you are?
But Courage, she begged, I love you. I’m sorry. I let my head control my feelings for you. But I do love you I do. And I want my father to see us married more than life itself.
You are not Asha, he repeated You are not Asha. Who do you think you are? Asha’s father is dead, yet you ask such blasphemous questions, I could have you executed. You. Are. Not. Asha.
And with that, Courage and his horse left the little girl alone in the cold.
And so Courage, the only love of Asha’s, left her alone.....
....and in the morning she cut out her heart.
She would never be ruled by it again.
For heartbreak is the worst of all.