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My eyes open and I find that I’m in the same beige room that smells like smoke. The same beige room with the broken television that buzzes with static. The same beige room with stains on the couch, and wallpaper peeling off the walls. My eyes open and I’m still the same girl, just a girl, just Alice.
Alice Kay Brookshire is my full name. I turned eight years old two weeks ago, but I had no birthday party. Actually, I’ve never had a birthday party. I’m not even sure if Corinne remembers when my birthday is. Corinne is my mother, but I don’t call her my mother because she doesn’t do the things that a normal mother would do. She never cooks, or cleans, or walks me to school, or tucks me into bed at night. She’s just Corinne, and I’m just Alice. I have never met my dad, but I know I have one and I know that he is out there somewhere. When I close my eyes I can imagine his face; his pale skin, his hair dark and curly like mine, and his eyes brilliant blue. I know that he is out there, and I bet he is thinking about me; his long lost little girl, his long lost little baby. One day he will come to rescue me, too! He will come in shining armor and he will scoop me up into his arms and hold me close and whisper to me that he has missed his little princess!
The beautiful face of my father crumbles to the ground when I hear a knock. I stand up and walk to the door, its paint peeled and decayed. I yell out, “Who is it?” But I already know who it is. It’s Tito. “Open the door Alice!” His deep voice barks from the other side as his fists pound on the wood to further emphasize his impatience. I twist the lock and he thrusts the door open and steps inside. Tito is a gargoyle. He is enormous and his shoulders slump forward toward his chin, as if the weight of his torso is a strain for the rest of his body to carry. I can’t look him in the eyes, but sometimes when he’s not looking I manage to catch a glimpse of them. They are snake eyes, beady, black and hungry. His mouth curves upward in a hard, permanent snarl and flashes rows of razorblade fangs laced with venom. I shutter slightly as his shadow falls over me.
“Where is your mother?” He grumbles.
“Corinne is in her room.”
His massive head swings toward Corinne’s bedroom and his shadow moves off of my body. He walks over to her door and his cold gargoyle hand grasps the knob and it swings open. I catch a glimpse of Corinne. She’s sitting on her bed cross-legged with a joint between her fingers. Her stringy blonde hair is tied up in a lopsided bun and she’s wearing her crooked reading glasses. She looks at Tito with an expression of both gratitude and fear, then she looks at me, but she sees nothing. The door closes.
Alone again. I am alone again. I walk to the living room, let myself fall to the floor, and place my face on the wiry cream-colored carpet. It smells like french fries and smoke. I shut my eyes and soon I am no longer in the cramped apartment living room.
The young princess is in the bedroom of an ancient castle. There are slate-gray floors and high, vaulted ceilings. There is a canopy bed with satin sheets embroidered with gold and black, and open French doors with silken drapes that sway ghoulishly with the gentle wind. She dances across the threshold and finds herself on the balcony. The moon is full and bright in its jealous, starry backdrop. She reaches out her hands, so sure she can touch it. Small beams of light dart across the stone floor of the balcony like fireflies, and she turns her head back toward her bedroom. There is a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Glass crystals dangle from it like winter icecycles and catch the moonlight, illuminating a rainbow of colors around the room. She stands mesmerized by its simple beauty. Suddenly, a crystal teardrop breaks from the chandelier and she watches as it crashes to the floor and its fragile body splinters into a million little shards.
The sound of the glass breaking jolts me out of my unconscious mind. My eyes flutter to lucidity and instinctivly shoot toward Corinne’s room. The door is closed, but I can hear her cat-like screeches and Tito’s droning shouts. More glass shatters to the floor and the dull thud of something significantly heavy slams against the wall. Corinne yowls again. My heart thuds loudly against my rib cage. Suddenly I find my feet moving, moving towards Corinne’s bedroom door. Their voices are clearer now, and tainted with hostility as they howl and hiss at each other. I get on my hands and knees and press my cheek to the ground so that I can peer through the slit between the bottom of the door and the carpet. Tito’s grotesque figure lumbers around the room in a disturbingly violent dance. His stony hands are balled into white-knuckled fists, and his eyes are flashing wildly with hellfire. Corinne is crouched down on the floor; her fingers laced over her neck, as Tito bombards her with a cannonade of strikes. Her face is scrunched with angry ridges and her light brown eyebrows are furrowed with pain over her tightly closed eyes. Her lips are drawn back and her teeth are bared as she fights back the urge to scream. Never have I hated somebody so much as I hate Tito. I stand up and thrust open the door. Tito spins around to face me, and Corinne gasps for air. “Stop!” I plead. “Just stop!” A darkly humorous chuckle rumbles from his throat as he teasingly takes a few steps toward me, while cursing at me for being in his business. Hot tears stream down my cheeks as I look at Corinne. She has scampered off to a corner, where she sits sobbing and watching me through bloodshot eyes. She makes no move to defeand me, only watches helplessly, hopelessly. She abandoned me, leaving me to the mercy of a beast. Before I know it, his marble hands are locked onto my shoulders. He shoves me back forcefully. I wheeze as I fall to the floor and the air is expelled from my lungs. He looms at his full height above me, and I look up at him, into his moonstruck, tormented black eyes, at his rigid, angular jaw, at his heavy, anxious fists. I want to escape him; I need to escape him. I shut my eyes.
The young princess escapes from her stony Bastille. She runs across the courtyard, her silver slippers dancing over the cobblestone. A howl echoes behind her and she whips her head around and see a shadowy appertain appear, it’s hellfire eyes smoldering with callousness. She quickens her pace as she enters the woods. Her arms flail wildly as she’s battered with branches. Mace-like thorns get tangled in the long tendrils of her dark hair. The creature howls behind her again. It’s getting closer. The dark shade of the wood thins out into dry, barren ground, but she continues to run. Suddenly she slides to a halt. She has reached a dead-end, the edge of a cliff. The princess looks down into the dark and endless abyss, but it’s too late to turn back, the grotesque creature is now facing her. Its body is tall, and gray, and hard like stone. It’s jaw juts out and two tusks interrupt its upper lip. Rabid froth collects at the corners of its razor-toothed snarl. And it’s eyes, oh, it’s eyes, burn with such a hatred that the princess feels her blood run cold. She will not allow herself to be destroyed like this, by this menacing creature full of animosity. She suppresses her fear and takes a step back, then another step, and then another. Suddenly she is falling. She is falling off the cliff but she is not afraid. A cry of defeat from the creature follows her as she is swallowed by the blackness.
I open my eyes, but everything is foggy. The ground is cold. The sky is dark. Hot liquid trickles down my forehead pools under my cheek. Bright lights flash blue and red. I can hear the echo of shoes on concrete, the shrill song of sirens, the frantic mutters and shouts of strangers, and my own shallow breath. I feel a hand rest on my back and I flinch, but it’s not the rough stone hand of Tito. A face slowly drifts into my eyesight, it’s a young man with kind gray eyes and a chin of stubble. “It’s okay sweetie, we’re here to take care of you.” His distorted voice mumbles. I feel my body lift and lower onto a different surface, but the rest is lost in unconsciousness.
I count beeps. One. Two. One. Two. I can’t move my body; it feels heavy and foreign. I can’t see; I’m trapped in unescapable blackness. I can’t speak, my throat is sore is dry. But my ears are open and alert. I can hear voices, catch snippets of conversation. I hear things in the spectrum of “fell out of a window,” “abuse,” “arrested on drugs,” and “stable condition.” What happened to me? Did I fall out of the window? No, I didn’t fall out of a window; I jumped off a cliff! And what about Corinne? Where is she? Is she hurt? Will she come to visit me? Will she brush the hair from my face and kiss my forehead? Then I remember her expression as she sat crouched in the corner, so tormented and confused, so blank and hopeless. No, she will not come to visit me.
The elegant princess lies in a glass coffin. The elegant princess with the long mahogany hair that falls in curls around her waist. The elegant princess with the intelligent, dusky blue eyes that sparkle like light over the ocean. The elegant princess in the baby blue velvet dress and the tiny silver slippers. The elegant princess with the soft, tender hands folded gently over her chest. In the glass coffin lies an elegant princess condemned to eternal slumber.
I spend all of my time wandering in the solitary limbo of my imagination. Hoping for a familiar voice or a familiar touch that will breathe life back into my dormant body. Suddenly I hear a voice that penetrates my memory like a shining dagger. It is calm and deep, yet concerned and tender. It questions my condition and listens with patience to the response. It asks with gentleness if it can talk to me. I feel a comforting pressure on the bed to my right side. A warm, dove-like touch caresses my face, brushing a lock of hair from my forehead. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” The voice-like-honey seemingly says to itself. Then two warm lips brush like a feather over my brow.
The warmth of the kiss washes over the princess’ body. She feels her limbs tingle with life and her eyes flutter open like the wings of a butterfly, bold and bright. The scarlet pigment returns to her pale cheeks and a smile draws across her rose-petal lips.
His face comes into focus and I blink the sleep out of my eyes. My heart stops suddenly. His face is soft and masculine, and his skin is beautifully pale. He has deep chocolate hair that spirals into glossy curls around his ears. His eyes are a sapphire blue, and sparkle with a lonely brilliance. He smiles, and his lips curve upward, slightly crooked on one side. I reach my hands up to his face; I need proof that this is not just a dream. His face is warm and soft.
“I’ve waited a long time to see you, princess.” He whispers.
“Me too.” I reply.