Poisoned or not poisoned. You decide.
It was on the doorstep when Cinderella and Snow White got home from lectures, no card, no note. Cinderella took it inside, despite Snow White’s misgivings, and set it on the table in the kitchen diner.
An apple. Perfectly formed, with deep red skin that glistened like a ruby. It rested on a small wooden platter beneath a glass dome.
Cinderella’s fingers danced on top of the glass. It was so tempting.
“Don’t.” Snow White had deliberately stayed on the other side of the kitchen. “You don’t know where it’s come from. It’s just weird, leaving it like that. We should throw it away.”
Snow White hated apples. They made her choke.
Rapunzel looked up from the sofa. A book, as usual, lay open on her lap. She watched Cinderella’s long fingers curl round the handle of the dome.
“Don’t be daft Snow,” Cinderella said as she lifted the glass. A heady scent swirled through the room. “It smells gorgeous. What do you think Rapunzel? Schrodinger’s apple? Poisoned AND not poisoned?”
“There lies the conundrum.” Rapunzel pretended to be nonchalant. She tried to ignore the strange gift. It stirred melancholy within her; it reminded her of…
Cinderella plucked the apple from its platter, holding it up to the light just as Alice wandered in from the back garden. She’d been trying yet again to fix a hole under the fence where next door’s rabbit kept getting through.
“What’s that?” she asked as she added her mug to the line.
“A gift,” said Cinderella.
“A curse,” said Snow White. “But she won’t listen to me.”
Alice examined the apple in Cinderella’s hand. She was wary of food with no provenance. She had been caught out before. Badly.
“I wouldn’t eat it if I were you,” she said. “Don’t know if I’d even have touched it. You need to be careful with these things.”
“THANK you.” Snow White distributed the mugs, then sat by Rapunzel.
Cinderella turned it this way and that. It shone. It was the most wondrous apple any of them had ever seen, rounded and luscious, full of promise.
Rapunzel sipped her coffee, kept sipping even though it burned her tongue. Anything to block that pervading scent, the bitter sadness it awakened.
“Really. What harm could it do?” The apple drifted closer to Cinderella’s lips.
“I’m sure Eve said the same thing,” Snow White said. “It could kill you, is what.”
“Don’t Ella, really,” Alice added. “Who leaves apples on doorsteps anyway? It’s beyond curious.”
“But it smells soooo good.”
Alice took the apple gingerly by the stalk and put it back on its wooden plate. She clapped the glass dome over it and placed it up on the windowsill. The tantalising fragrance disappeared immediately.
But not for Rapunzel. It was in her bones now, her blood, in the tears that burned behind her eyes. He’d always brought her apples. He knew how she loved them.
“We need to get moving,” Alice continued. “We’re supposed to be at Dorothy’s in an hour. Don’t want to be late.”
“You coming out tonight, Rapunzel?” Snow White asked. Rapunzel shook her head.
“Essay due on Monday,” she said. “No time.”
“You work too hard,” said Cinderella. “Live a little. It’s just one night.”
“Might do you good,” Snow White added. “It’s been a while.”
They didn’t understand. How could they, with all those happy endings.
Later, as the front door closed, Rapunzel stood in front of the mirror, curling a strand of hair round her finger. It was short now, chin length. She’d had it cut when he’d left her. The scent of the apple reached up from the kitchen, curling and twisting through her memories.
How he had been a prince amongst frogs.
How perfect they had been together.
How he had led her out of her turret into the light.
How she had taught him to love books.
How his eyesight had begun to fail.
How the headaches had got worse.
How he had changed, become harsh and unkind.
How the doctors had found the tumour.
How he had left her, refused her support, discarded her love.
He was still out there. She’d heard that treatment had been successful. But he wouldn’t take her calls, reply to her messages.
She still loved him. He didn’t love her.
She had climbed back into her tower and she was the one who had fallen to break, spectacularly, on the ground.
Bitterness tainted her tongue. She was tired of feeling stuck. Change was possible, she knew that. The strange gift proved it.
Rapunzel left her room and went down to the kitchen. The apple beckoned from the windowsill and without hesitation she freed it from its prison. Then, standing by the window, watching next door’s rabbit hopping through the daisies on their lawn, she opened her mouth and took a great big bite.