I interrupt Makeup Monday to bring you this short story. I wrote it this weekend and it was therapeutic. I thought it might be so for someone else out there.
Once upon a time, in a little cottage outside the town of Lockshire, a young girl was born to two doting parents. The doting parents named their new daughter Cara. Cara was caring and intelligent, loving and kind. She was quick to make them laugh and quicker still to hug their legs when she could sense that they were solemn. Though sometimes Cara wished she had a friend or a little sister to play with, she was happy just being with her mother and father.
There was something special about Cara. Her father compared her to the seasons and her mother was reminded of the sea, but neither was entirely correct. For years, Cara’s hair and eyes were a deep chestnut brown. The brown stayed with her while she was playing, while she was eating or spending time with her mother and father. It wasn’t until her fourth birthday that something happened. Her mother brought forth a beautiful doll she had sewn for Cara. When Cara saw it, she burst into laughter, and as the gentle cadence fell from her lips, her hair suddenly shone as gold as the King’s crown and her eyes as green as emeralds.
Cara’s parents looked at Cara in shock as she played with her doll. Her mother and father whispered frantically behind their hands and Cara could sense that something was wrong. As she looked at them and saw their concerned faces, her hair and eyes faded back to their chestnut color. Her parents stopped whispering and watched Cara with a growing sense of uneasiness. Cara, being only four, thought she had done something wrong and began to cry. As she did, her hair darkened until it was as black as the night and her eyes as blue the tears she was crying.
Her parents rushed to her side, calming her. As her mother stroked Cara’s head and Cara calmed down, her hair again shone chestnut. Cara’s parents didn’t mention the incident to Cara, hoping whatever was causing this would go away.
Hopes such as these are always in vain, however. As the years went on it came to be that not only did Cara’s hair and eyes change with joy and sorrow, but when she became angry, her hair burned a fiery red and her eyes a flaming amber. Though Cara’s mother and father did not understand this strange magic in Cara, they loved her nonetheless. They feared others would not understand and would misjudge Cara, so they kept her on the farm and in the little cottage outside of the town of Lockshire.
On Cara’s sixth birthday, her mother and father surprised her with her very own horse. Just barely full grown, the horse saw Cara and whinnied, tossing his beautiful black mane over his neck. As Cara’s hair bounced in time to her steps, it suddenly shone golden. Her green eyes sparkled as she threw her arms around her horse’s neck.
“I shall call you Happiness,” she said, “For that is everything you are, you dear little thing.”
Cara’s father lifted her up on the horse and Happiness and Cara set off across the field, getting to know one another. Cara and Happiness became great friends. Happiness understood Cara the way her parents could not. When Cara ran outside with eyes burning amber and hair flaming behind her, Happiness knew to run fast and hard until he felt Cara’s hand patting his neck. Then he would slow down and they would walk, companions once again. When Cara walked slowly to his stable, hair as black as a mourner’s dress and eyes as blue as regret, Happiness knew to put his face near her and to let her hug her arms around him. He would let Cara cry until he could softly whinny in her ear and she would smile and pat his nose.
No matter what state Cara came in, by the time she was through playing with Happiness, her hair was shining as the gold in the King’s crown and her eyes were as green as emeralds. Cara and Happiness grew up together. As they got older, when Cara came to see him, more often than not her hair was black and her eyes blue with sadness. Happiness felt saddened, too, by his owner’s tears. He wanted to make her stop crying, and he always did.
Cara loved Happiness and the way he understood her. He made her smile the way her mother and father never had, but one day she realized that she wanted something other than Happiness. She didn’t know what it was, but every night before she fell asleep, she sent a quiet thought up to Heaven, asking for her missing piece. Every day Cara felt herself slipping away. Her hair stayed black most of the time, even when she slept. Her dreams tormented her while she was awake. The same thought echoed in her mind- something was missing.
One day, while Cara was brushing Happiness, a cloaked stranger rode up on a tired, white horse. Happiness snorted, upset upon seeing the state of his kin. Cara noticed his distress, and her hair smoldered as coals on a fire.
“Hear, now!” She called. “Your horse needs a rest, or I fear it shall not make it to the end of your journey!”
The cloaked stranger stopped and dismounted his horse. Cara looked back at Happiness, who was shying away from this stranger. Her hair faded to brown, then black, then red again. She knew her eyes must be doing similar things. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and something had come over her. She was sweating, and yet she felt as if she was barefoot in the dead of winter. The feeling intensified with each step the cloaked stranger took. When he was two steps away, he stopped.
“Why are you so afraid?” He asked, his voice clear and steady.
“Afraid?” Cara said, barely above a whisper.
“You’re shaking. And your hair isn’t on fire anymore.”
Cara looked down and saw that her hair was its usual chestnut color. Her heart was beating slower and she was not feeling what the cloaked stranger had called fear. The stranger took a step forward, so that only one more step was between them.
“Regardless,” he said, “You have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.”
The cloaked stranger reached up and drew back his hood. As it fell, it revealed a man more handsome than Clara’s father, or even than the King. He had a strong jaw and soft lips and blue eyes that held no sadness like Cara’s sometimes did, but instead the flighty exhilaration of the sky. He smiled at Cara and her hair immediately turned golden and her eyes green.
The man stepped back in shock, but his smile stayed on his lips. Cara touched her hair, worried that it would cause the beautiful man to leave. Her hair began to fade to brown, but the man stepped forward. He gently touched her cheek and her hair shone gold again. He smiled down at her, and Cara couldn’t bear to look away.
“Come away with me, pretty one,” he whispered. Cara’s heart pounded in her chest. She looked at his smile, his beautiful smile, and his eyes, seeing straight into her soul. Her heart fluttered in her chest, as if it was crying out.
“Come away with me,” he whispered again. Cara slowly placed her hand on his face. He was warm and strong. He seemed to shine like the sun. He brought his face closer to hers, and as his lips softly touched hers, she knew that she had found what was missing.
Behind her, Happiness neighed, not at all at ease with the stranger, but Cara did not turn back to him. Instead, the stranger glanced at him and Happiness could not move for the sudden fear that gripped him. The gaze of the stranger was not kind as it was when he looked at Cara. It was cold and menacing. Happiness wanted to warn Cara, but he could not make a sound. He stomped in frustration, but Cara simply took the stranger’s hand and led him to the cottage.
Mother and Father loved Levi almost as much as Cara did. He was helpful, kind, and his smile lit up the room almost as much as it lit up Cara. He revealed that he was a successful fur trapper, but that he had been robbed of his recent catch on his way back to Lockshire. Without food or money, his journey had been rough, especially for his horse. Cara and her parents extended him an invitation to stay and rest until his horse was ready to travel. Levi smiled his gleaming smile and thanked them, on behalf of himself and Knightly, his horse.
The entire time Levi stayed, Cara did not come to see Happiness once. He could see her, through the window, and her hair was always golden.
The day came when Knightly was once again healthy. His white coat shone as richly as sunlight reflected off the clouds. When Levi mounted him, it was just as beautiful a sight. Cara’s parents saw Cara’s hair fade from its golden shade for the first time in a fortnight, directly into black. They looked at each other and knew their daughter had fallen in love.
Levi and Knightly approached the cottage, to say their farewells. Cara thought her heart would break, but before she could cry, Levi spoke.
“Sir, I would like to have your permission to take Cara as my wife.”
Cara’s father looked to her mother, who nodded to Cara. Cara’s hair was shining a brighter gold than he had ever seen. Knowing it was what his daughter wanted, Cara’s father gave his blessing. Levi jumped down from Knightly, and Cara ran into his open arms.
“Come away with me,” Levi said. “Come away with Leviathan.” Cara could only nod, staring into the crystal eyes of the man she loved.
Levi moved to help her onto Knightly, but Cara resisted.
“What of Happiness?” She asked. “I can’t possibly leave him. He is my dearest friend.”
“Cara, my pretty one. You have no need for Happiness where I am taking you. You shall have your pick of the Prince’s mounts. You shall have all the jewels and furs your heart desires. Happiness belongs with your parents, just as you belong with me.”
Cara looked to Happiness, who was standing at the gate to his pasture. Her heart broke a little at the thought of leaving him behind, but Levi pulled gently on her arm and Cara knew that she would choose Levi over Happiness. Her hair dimmed to black, but when Levi helped her onto Knightly and snuggled in tight behind her, her heart lurched in her chest and her hair shone like the sun. Cara and Levi rode into the horizon, Levi whispering promises in her ear.
The journey was not long and Levi’s house was a beautiful manor of the finest grey stone in Lockshire. Cara felt something swell in her heart as she realized that Levi’s house was the most beautiful home in the town. Levi leaned down and kissed her cheek.
“That feeling, pretty, is pride. I feel it every time I survey what is mine. And that includes you.”
Cara shivered as Levi ran his hand down her side.
“Levi, when are we to be married?” she asked.
“As soon as I buy you the finest fabric and furs to make your wedding costume.”
Levi swung down from Knightly and gently lifted Cara down. He kissed her briefly and then led her into his great house.
It was the most beautiful home Cara had ever seen and she suspected not even the Prince had such royal and luxurious rooms in his palace. Something squeezed Cara’s heart and left her gasping for breath. It hurt and it frightened her. Her hair became chestnut again for a moment before returning to gold as Levi took her face in his hands.
“Envy? My, my, you are full of surprises today,” he said. “Are you thinking of growing up in that small cottage while I grew up in a home almost as fine as this?”
Cara felt like her breath had been knocked out of her.
“No matter, pretty. This is all yours now. And anything else you want. Anything at all.”
Levi took her hand and led her to a grand table. Once they were seated, Levi clapped his hands and servants materialized as if from thin air and brought tray after tray of foods Cara had never before seen.
“You are half-starved, by the look of it, pretty. Eat your fill. And more if you like.”
Clara could not stop herself. She grabbed at the tray of pheasant. Devoured the quail’s egg. She dropped a piece of bread on the table and quickly grabbed it and shoved it in her mouth. She ate with her hands, becoming sticky and covered with food.
Levi didn’t eat a single bite, and instead watched Cara, smiling at her as if he knew a secret she did not. When Cara was sure she was going to burst she sat up and looked at the table. She had eaten more in a few minutes than she had ever eaten in a day. Levi smiled at her and took her sticky hand.
“The tables of Leviathan are tempting like no other.”
Levi took her finger in his mouth and licked it clean. Cara felt her entire body burn with a strange sensation from her head to her toes. She looked down and saw her hair was a dark auburn color that it had never been..
“My pretty,” Levi said before taking another finger in his mouth. “Your eyes are positively black.”
Levi laughed quietly and dropped Cara’s hand. She felt her face flush red and became ashamed of herself, though she didn’t know why.
“Relax, pretty. I’m not going to bite you. Not yet,” Levi said in a tone of voice that did little to alleviate Cara’s uneasiness.
“Follow your servant to your room. I shall see you in the morning.”
Cara turned to see an old woman beckoning her. She followed, glancing over her shoulder at Levi who stared at her with his smile still in place. That night in her room, Cara felt a chill settle over her. She missed her mother and her father and Happiness. She missed her green pastures and her small garden. She missed the chickens in the yard and the deer that would sometimes run through the nearby woods. Cara did not cry, though, because she new once she and Levi had married, all thoughts of her old life and of Happiness would slip away.
In the morning, Levi sat at the table, waiting for her. His eyes lit up when Cara walked in the room. Her heart leapt and her hair burst into its golden glory as she returned his smile.
“Pretty one, you are radiant. The dress I bought you suits you.”
Cara looked down at the fine dress she had been brought by the servant this morning. It was a deep emerald green, the color of her eyes when she was with Levi. It was a brocade, with gold trim the color of her hair. She knew it suited her and pride swept over her as she stood straighter. She turned for Levi to admire her from all angles before she sat at the table.
“Pretty, you are a new woman,” Levi said as he kissed her hand.
“I could have a hundred dresses just like this one,” Cara said, running her hands down her skirt, “and I would never tire of the beauty.”
Levi laughed deeply, and Cara joined him though she did not know why.
“Pretty, when I am finished with you, one hundred dresses won’t be nearly enough.”
Clara smiled at the thought. Rooms filled with beautiful gowns, all for her.
“And what of the furs you promised me?” She asked, sweetly smiling at Levi. He smiled back and his eyes flashed with something that made Clara’s palms start to sweat.
“You may have your pick, as promised, Cara. But it shall have to wait until I return.”
“Return? But where are you going?” Cara asked, her hair fading to black. Levi surveyed her.
“That dress is not nearly as fetching with black hair and blue eyes, Cara.”
Cara flushed but tried not to react to the insult.
“Must you leave, darling?” She asked.
“I must if I’m to trap enough to keep you in your choice of fine furs and dresses. I just wanted to see you before I left.” Levi rose from the table.
“But when will you return?” Cara cried, standing in a hurry and following him down the hall.
“Within a fortnight.”
“A fortnight! What am I to do while you’re away?” Cara grabbed Levi’s arm, trying to stop him. He pushed her off of him and turned to face her.
“Do? Why, you’ve nothing to do but sit and look pretty. Enjoy being away from your dull life in the cottage.”
Cara couldn’t muster a response. She felt as if he had struck her.
“Don’t look so, I’ll return when I return.” He grabbed her face and kissed her, but with no gentleness. Levi walked away and Cara fell against the wall for support as her head spun.
Her hair burned fiery red as she wiped angry tears from her eyes. How dare Levi leave her so? How dare he treat her so? Her tears fell quickly and she felt something new well up inside her. She screamed and violently tore at her dress until it was in a heap on the floor. She ran back to her room. As she pulled another fine dress from her wardrobe, she hoped that Knightly would kick Levi in his heart. As she stepped into the black dress, her hair changed to match. Her heart hurt and she felt guilty for wishing such a thing on her beloved. She lay down on her bed and cried.
She stayed there for a fortnight, eating whatever the servants brought her. Sometimes gruel, sometimes broth, sometimes something more elaborate. It was all tasteless to her. She could barely move, but almost every day her mind took her back to her cottage. Her heart ached for her parents and for Happiness. She missed Happiness and knew she had been wrong to choose Levi over him.
One day, near when Levi was supposed to return, Cara was eating her gruel when some of her hair fell over her shoulder. Cara gasped- her hair was coarse and grey. She ran to the mirror and was horrified to find that her eyes were as grey and lifeless as her hair. She lay back on her bed and then and there she sealed her heart. If being alone was doing this to her, then she would let it. Surely slowly dying from being alone was better than loving someone who had never truly loved her.
That night, Levi came to her bedside. Cara stared at the ceiling and did not greet him.
“What have you done to yourself?” He asked, no concern in his voice.
Cara did not answer. She had nothing to say to the man who had promised her the world and given her nothing but pain.
“I can’t have you like this. You are no longer my pretty.”
Cara ignored him, knowing what he said was true. Levi grabbed her face.
“Look at me,” he demanded, his fingers ice cold.
Cara did, and was frightened by what she saw.
“You are nothing to me,” he said, his voice low and steady, cutting dreadfully close to her sealed heart.
“Not only have you ruined your hair, everything inside of you is ugly and unworthy of being loved. Get out of my home.”
Levi grabbed her arm and led her to the door. He threw her out into the cold and shut the door without another word.
Cara slowly began walking toward the road that would lead her back to her cottage. She walked for days. No one stopped to help her or to feed her. No one looked at her with anything but disdain. After three days of walking, she returned to her parents’ cottage. Her mother burst into tears upon seeing her and her father was unable to speak. They hugged her and did not ask any questions. Cara went to the bed she had slept in since she was a child and wept for the first time in a fortnight.
After time, Cara’s heart began to heal, but her eyes and hair stayed grey. Not even Happiness could change that, although he did coax the occasional smile from her. Cara was changed, and no one knew how to change her back.
One day, many fortnights later, Cara was brushing Happiness when she saw a man walking slowly down the road. Her heart squeezed as she remembered Levi, but this man had brown hair and was dressed simply. He walked slowly, and comfortably, seemingly enjoying everything around him. As he came closer, Happiness became restless, whinnying and stomping. He wasn’t frightened, though, he was excited. When the man heard Happiness, he smiled, and Cara thought her heart would jump from her chest. He was the most beautiful thing Cara had ever seen. Cara fell to the ground, her legs not being able to support her. She sat up quickly, watching the man approaching. He did not hurry his pace, but he stopped smiling.
When he reached them, he placed his hand on Happiness, and the horse gave a soft neigh. The man smiled and suddenly sat down beside Cara. She pulled back from him, afraid.
“Cara,” he said in a voice clear and pure. “Look at me.”
She couldn’t help but do what he asked. She looked at him and found herself staring into his deep brown eyes. Eyes the color her own had been. Behind his eyes she saw nothing that reminded her of Levi. She felt herself warming from the inside, and tears stung her eyes.
“Why are you crying?” he asked, concern so palpable that Cara could almost taste it.
“Because I do not know you and I wish to know you. Because I love you and I know you will never love me.”
Cara’s tears fell in earnest, years of pain spilling forward and into the lap of this strange man she inexplicably loved.
“Cara,” he said, his own eyes filling with tears, “I know you and I do love you, in spite of yourself.”
“How can that be? I have done everything vile in the world.”
“Then you know you cannot love me. I left Happiness for something I thought was greater.”
“I know.” He broke a small smile. “And I know that every night before you go to sleep, you tell the world how sorry you are.”
Cara buried her face in her hands, ashamed that this man knew so much about her horrible heart.
“Cara,” he said gently, leaning in close to her ear. “I forgive you.”
He placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face to meet his gaze. At his touch, her hair became golden, as it used to in times of joy, but her eyes matched the same dark chestnut of his eyes.
Cara threw her arms around him and he encircled her with his. She had never felt so safe and warm as she sat there and he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead.
“Why did you come for me?” Cara asked, sitting up and gazing into his kind face.
“Because I want you to love yourself and to love me. To know you’re not alone. I want you to come with me, beloved.” He stood and offered Cara his hand. “Come with me, Cara.”
Cara glanced back at her parents’ cottage, and then at Happiness.
“If I go with you, can we bring Happiness?”
The man laughed and patted the horse.
“If you come with me, no matter what we face together, at the end of the day, it will be me, you, and Happiness.”
Cara smiled and took the man’s hand. Cara grabbed Happiness’ bridle and the three of them began to walk. Cara did not know where this man was leading her, but she did know that though he had made no promises, he had given her more than Levi ever had. She knew that she loved him more than she had ever loved Levi. And she knew that though he would never ask her to part with Happiness, even for a moment, if it came to a choice, Cara would chose Him.
I love y’all!