Everyday, my life was the same. Wake up, milk the cows, walk to town, stop at the bookstore, get chased off by the bookseller for staying there for too long without buying anything, walk back home, get yelled at by father for being long far too long, eat dinner, read the Bible, got to bed.
Today was a Thursday, and Father had requested (read: ordered) that I walk to town and buy the ingredients I need to make bread for dinner.
After buying flour and eggs from one of the little stores in town, I stopped at the bookstore. The bookseller wasn’t there. Instead, there was a man there. He was a little taller than I was, and around my age. He had dark hair so black it looked purple in the light, and clear blue eyes.
“Hello, and welcome to Adriane's Books, how may I help you today?” he asked. His voice was pleasant, and I knew that he wouldn’t be mad if I stayed longer than five minutes without buying anything.
Still, I thought it safe to ask first. “Can I just read a book?”
“As long as you do not crack the spines or muss the pages, then I see no reason why you cannot,” he said.
I walked around the tiny bookstore, and eventually decided on reading “Europe’s Great History”, which looked interesting.
“History fascinates you?” the man asked.
I nodded, and he did as well. “Me too. I love history, all the mistakes they made. We’re smarter now, we won’t make the same mistakes that the ones of old did.”
He had a funny way of talking, but I liked it. It was more interesting than the way everyone else spoke.
I nodded, and opened the book, not too wide, so not as to crack the spines.
The little bell above the door rang, and in walked one of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes on in my entire life.
He had golden hair, bright green eyes, and he walked with such confidence, I, with my ratty brown hair and dirty clothes, suddenly felt confident.
“I am looking for a book,” he said, and the man behind the counter moved to help him.
The next week, at the same time, the handsome man came back.
He noticed me this time, and I was happy. “Hello. What’s your name?”
“Aura,” I said, and then I remembered my manners. “And what’s yours?”
“Cassian. Will you take a walk with me?” he asked.
He didn’t have to ask twice. I nodded, and we walked out of the store together.
We walked along the river, the one that wound through the woods. We spoke of my work, and what we liked to read, and animals.
“I don’t like the thought of pets,” Cassian said. “It is cruel to think of animals as yours. They are meant to be free.”
The following weeks, I fell in love with Cassian, and he fell in love with me.
One afternoon, as we walked along the river like we did whenever Cassian came to the bookstore, which was every Thursday, he finally told me that he was the prince, and that he couldn’t marry me. My heart felt crushed! I loved him, and I thought he had loved me!
“But, I can impress your father!” I protested. “I can!”
“What can you do that my father already hasn’t seen a million times?” Cassian demanded. “No, Aura! I have to go.”
As he left, a terrible idea occurred to me. His father, the king, loved money, gold in particular.
“I can spin straw into gold!” I shouted after him.
He froze, and turned to me. “You can? Why have you never told me before?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought maybe you wouldn’t believe me.” Maybe because it isn’t actually true!
Cassian strode back to me, and grabbed my arm. “This changes everything! If you can impress my father, you can marry me, and then we can be happy together forever!” He kissed me then, and I was happy.
I was brought to Cassian’s father, and locked in a barn, and told to turn all the straw inside into gold.
I told them that I couldn’t do it while everyone was watching, and so everyone left.
Cassian brought me food. I put the straw through the spinning wheel. It fell as straw.
I buried my head in my arms and cried. “I can’t do this! They’re all going to know that I’m a liar!”
“Well that’s not good, is it?” said a very familiar voice.
I looked up to see the man from the bookstore. “How did you get in here?”
He pointed at the door. “The same way you got in here, I suspect.”
He sat down. “Lucky for you, I know how to spin straw into gold.”
I gaped at him. “You do? That’s great! Can you spin this for me?”
He stared at me, his head tilted. “No.”
My heart sank. “Please?”
“No. Not without you giving me payment, and I doubt you have anything that I want,” he said.
“Then why did you come here?” I shrieked.
He shrugged. “I’m sure I do not know. Especially for you, ungrateful girl.”
“Ungrateful? You’re the one who won’t help me!” I yelled. “Here, you know what you can have? You can have my ring!”
He studied it as I pulled it off my finger. “Well, it is a gorgeous ring… okay, I will do it. But before you give me your ring, are you certain Prince Cassian is the one you want to marry?”
I nodded, and he accepted the ring.
The next morning, the room was full of gold. I had stayed up all night, per the man’s instructions, and I had just fallen asleep when the guards and Cassian burst in.
“Your highness, she did it! She actually turned the straw into gold!” one of the guards shouted.
Cassian lifted me up, and we kissed. “I can’t believe it! You can actually do it! Here, wait in here, and I’ll bring you some breakfast!”
“Wait, can’t I come into the castle? Can’t we get married yet?” I asked.
Cassian looked mildly embarrassed. “Well… no. You see, my father wants you to make more gold. We are deeply in debt with another kingdom, and more gold would help us out.”
I sighed. “Okay, I will.”
Cassian smiled and kissed me again. “I will see you again in the morning, my love.”
I sank to the floor and cried as the door shut, locking me in again.
“Are you sure you want to marry him?”
I looked up, startled. “How did you get in here?”
The man from the night before shrugged. “Same way the guards did. Through the door.”
I gestured at it. “But it’s locked.”
He nodded. “True. But as you may have noticed by now, I am not an ordinary human being.”
“He’s not going to marry me, is he?” I whispered.
He looked at me sympathetically. “I do not think so. I believe he only wants you for the gold.”
I cried harder. There was a soft rustling sound as he sank down next to me.
“Can I tell you my story?” he asked. “My life story?”
I nodded. Anything to distract me from the fact that the only man I have ever loved does not love me in return.
“All my life no one has ever wanted me. I was abandoned at birth, and from the time I was given to the foundling home, to even now, no one in my life has ever wanted me longer than a few days, at the longest. When I found out I could spin straw into gold, I tried to make a living for myself. But there are selfish people out there, Aura. Horrible people. You are not one of those people. You are one of the good ones, and I have been in love with you ever since you picked up that history book in Adriane’s shop. I know you don’t feel the same about me-how could you?-but that’s how I feel about you,” he said.
I stared at him, and my mouth was open slightly, kind of shocked that he was in love with me. “I don’t know what to say.”
He shrugged, and turned away. “I know you couldn’t feel the same way about me.”
I had to stop him! He was so kind, and he was so sincere! “I don’t right now! But maybe I could, with time?”
He turned to me, a hopeful smile playing on his face. “Really?”
I nodded, and he smiled.
I didn’t marry Cassian, even though he asked me too.
No, I married my handsome and mysterious stranger, a few years later, who revealed his name to be Rumplestiltskin. Apparently the foundling house had a huge imagination, but a horrible taste in names.
Rumples, as I’ve taken to calling him, and I make a fine couple. Adriane sold the bookstore to us, and we live in the apartment above the store, along with our young and beautiful son: Kye.
We are not perfect, no. In fact, we are far from perfect. But his love for me is like the river that winds through the woods.