Under the Veil: A Gay-Ass Fairy Tale is available now.
Misty paused in the upstairs hall and listened to the weeping coming from the other side of the bedroom door, unnoticeable at first over the din of the tavern below. She balanced the mug and trencher in one hand and cracked the door with her other. The weeping ceased.
“Go away,” a muffled voice commanded.
Misty followed the sound of Sable’s voice to a mound barely visible in the dark where Sable sat huddled beneath a blanket on the bed. She crossed the room and left the wooden trencher laden with spiced lamb and apricots on the bedside table along with a mug of milk.
“I thought you might be hungry since you missed dinner,” Misty said to the lump.
“I’m not hungry.”
“It’s your favorite.”
“I don’t want it. Take it back.”
Misty lowered herself to the bed and reached out a hand to stroke Sable’s hair through the blanket. “You want to talk about it?”
The lump shifted out of reach at her touch.
“Suit yourself. I should go help your father. It’s busy downstairs.” Misty stood.
“I hate it,” the lump said. The blanket shifted with a smack, the sound of an angry fist on bare skin.
There was a sniffle and the lump’s shoulders began to shake. Misty sat back down and pulled the girl onto her lap. Sable’s head poked through the top of the blanket. Misty stroked Sable’s hair as the girl sobbed.
“Why can’t I just be like everyone else?”
Misty smiled in the dark. She kissed Sable on the forehead. “You are different. That’s true. But in that uniqueness, you’re also the same as everyone else.”
Sable stopped crying and lifted her face to gaze at her mother.
“We’re all different. We’re all unique—”
“I don’t mean like that, Mom.” Sable growled as she pounded a fist into her leg for the second time. “I’m me inside, but my body is all wrong on the outside.”
Misty considered her daughter’s words while Sable cried on her mother’s shoulder.
“I understand how you feel,” Misty said at last. “I felt that way myself long ago.” She leaned back against the oak headboard as Sable shifted off her lap. Misty lit the candle on the bedside table. Seconds later a soft gold light illuminated the room.
“You did?” In the light, Sable’s dark eyes, red-rimmed from crying, grew wide.
Misty nodded. “Mhmm. Your father did as well.”
“Him, too?” Sable’s eyes grew wider still.
“And the remedy is simple, Sable. Be who you feel.”
Sable scooted next to her mother, leaned back against the headboard, and motioned for the wooden trencher.
“I can’t. No one will understand.” Sable balanced the trencher on her lap as she took a large bite of the charred lamb.
“There are lots of things people don’t understand. They don’t understand how they came to be or what’s beyond the heavens.”
Sable swallowed. “That’s different. I don’t understand those things, but no one mocks me for that.”
“I meant, there are many things in this world that men don’t understand, so why let the ignorance of others keep you from being yourself?”
Sable squished an apricot in her teeth. Juice trickled down her chin, which Misty promptly wiped with the edge of her apron. Sable’s brows drew together as she chewed.
“You’ll never be satisfied simply trying to fit in. Be yourself and then you’ll be truly happy.”
“I’ll be truly mocked,” Sable said, licking her fingers.
“If that’s the case then find new friends because those who mock you don’t care for you.”
Misty studied her daughter’s face; her tear stained cheeks glistened alongside hair the color of obsidian and opals. Sable took another bite of lamb and Misty marveled at how the candlelight set the girl’s face and hair aglow. Her chest tightened, and she let out a long sigh, the weight of which she’d felt every day of the last twelve years.
“Your father and I knew this day would come, but we had hoped it wouldn’t come so soon.”
Sable narrowed her eyes at her mother as she chewed a portion of meat. Misty rose from the bed, crossed the room, and knelt before the fireplace. “There’s something I need to tell you,” she said as she pulled logs from a nearby basket and stacked them on the stone floor of the hearth. “A tale.”
Sable scoffed before biting into an apricot.
Misty paid her daughter no mind as she packed the space in between the logs with straw. She held the iron and flint before her, struck them together, and watched as the needles sparked and the fire roared to life bathing the room in light.
Misty stood and turned, smiling at Sable as the girl sucked apricot juice from her fingers. Light from the fire reflected off a small object that peeked from the leather bag Sable had tossed on the floor beside the bed when she had returned from playing earlier. Misty smiled again at her daughter’s newest acquisition, a quartz rock about the size of one of the gold dragons jingling in the purse looped on the belt of her apron.
It was Sable’s habit to collect trinkets when she played outdoors, scraps of iron, rocks, beads, shells, and the occasional gemstone. Her wardrobe was stuffed with treasures collected over the years, the shelves on her walls lined with bric-a-brac, and Misty didn’t have to look, though she did, to know that stashed beneath the child’s bed lay a pile of glimmering crystals and rocks. These were Sable’s most prized possessions. The girl was running out of space for her trinkets, the wooden chest meant for her gowns having been filled to overflowing long ago.
Still just a baby. Misty chewed her lip considering the situation and sighed again. A baby yes, my baby, but a babe no longer. Misty crossed the room, pausing to slip Sable’s hairbrush from the dressing table into her skirt pocket before rejoining her daughter on the bed.
Sable watched her with guileless violet eyes that disappeared slowly behind an upturned mug of milk. Misty listened to Sable’s thirsty gulps remembering the little noises the girl had made feeding in her infancy.
“I’m too old for tales, Mother,” Sable said as she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand.
“Nonsense.” Misty sank down on the goose feather bed and smoothed her skirt. She removed her slippers and rubbed her aching feet. The room was quiet, save the sounds of Sable eating her dinner and the fire crackling in the hearth, its thick walls designed by her husband to drown out the sounds of the tavern revelers below. “You’re never too old for a tale.”
“Is it a real story or did you make it up?”
Misty winked at Sable. “A made-up story is no less a story than one that is true. Things aren’t always what they seem, and people aren’t always who you think. Finish your dinner and listen.” Misty cleared her throat. “Once upon a time—”
“Fake,” Sable interrupted, rolling her eyes.
“No, it was once upon a time, the dawn of the Age of Men, to be exact.”
Sable cast Misty a withering look.
“Once upon the dawn of the Age of Men, there lived a—”
“Beautiful princess,” Sable droned.
Misty frowned. “No, the beautiful princess comes much later. Once upon a time, there lived a giant.”
“Yes, a giant. You see, I could very easily begin the story with the king, queen, or princess, but it’s best to tell the story from the time the first tile falls.
“The first tile?” Sable asked through a mouth full of apricots.
“It is oftentimes the smallest things in life which are the most powerful, and these things when they occur, are usually overlooked, forgotten after all else is said and done like the first tile in a line. No one thinks about that piece after they’ve all been knocked down, focused as they are on the design left in the wake of destruction. Such is life, Sable. Destruction and design. The first tile then would be Odrhan.”
“Odrhan,” Sable said in a whisper, her eyes widening. “He skinned people alive and ate their flesh.”
“Yes, but that’s not the first tile. The first tile was something far more innocent. A fishing trip.”