“Bathilda?” she craned her neck around to look at the new girl all her friends were talking about. I blushed and waved at her shyly. I could hardly believe I was going to be lucky enough to make friends with someone so beautiful. “Bathilda,” she repeated slowly, a look of revulsion tainting her pretty face, as though she had tasted something foul. “What a horrid name,” she crinkled her upturned nose and hesitantly took a step toward me. “We’ll just have to call you something else, right girls?” Her friends, almost equally as prim and striking as her, all nodded eagerly, reminding me of hungry puppies trying relentlessly to please their master in order to receive a treat.
“You can call me ‘Tilda’,” I offered quietly, taking a hesitant step forward toward them. She stepped back immediately, looking as though she’d been bitten.
“Oh, no,” she said, regaining her composure and laughing shakily. “I have something else in mind.” Anticipating an affectionate new nickname, my eyes brightened and I clasped my dirty hands together eagerly.
“We’ll call you ‘Batty’,” she smiled to herself, clearly proud of her cleverness. My face fell, and her gang of china dolls all smirked and began nodding again.
“She does seem crazy,” one of them piped up, glancing sideways at her in hopes of her approval.
“And ugly, too,” another one added. They all took turns insulting me, until all I could hear was the low murmur of their voices. I clenched my fists in anger and fell to the ground.
“Batty, Batty, Batty,” she crooned, “Batty Batty–”
I awoke suddenly to a sharp pain in the palms of my hands. I unclenched my fingers slowly, watching blood spread from tiny crescent-shaped slits where my nails had dug. Don’t give her this, Bathilda, I reprimanded myself. She’s gone and she’s never coming back. I turned my palms over and slowly dragged them across the deep red silk of his– of our– bed. A smile of icy contentment danced on my lips when I saw how my blood, just like any other reminder of her, simply blended into the background. She was finally erased from my life entirely. Well, almost entirely.
“Snow White!” I called, feigning sheer pain and helplessness. I immediately heard her soft footsteps closing in on my door.
“Are you alright, Miss Bathilda?” The concern on her pale, cherubic face quickly turned to relief when she saw me sitting daintily in my sea of luscious ruby silk.
“No, dear,” I breathed, forcing myself to stare into the familiar face a little longer than I’d like. “Can’t you see, I’ve had another night terror!” I flashed her my blood-stained hands. “Go on and fetch me some bandages.” She nodded and, with a flash of that dark curtain of shiny hair, disappeared down the hall. “And I told you!” I bellowed after her, “You shall call me ‘Mother’!” I smiled to myself as I leaned back in bed, savoring the life that once belonged to her.
* * *
“Miss–” Snow White began, before noticing the fiery look I was throwing her. Her gaze fell to her plate and she began again. “Mother,” she choked, “had another fright this morning.”
Her father’s deep, brooding eyes flashed to my face. He seemed to be analyzing every curve of my features, every shimmer of powder dusted across my skin. “Is it true, Bathilda?”
I leaned toward him over the table and rested my head in one of my injured hands. “Oh dear, it’s nothing really,” I gazed at him from under my dark lashes and watched with satisfaction as he saw the wrappings on my hand. He stood up immediately and knelt before me, enveloping my hands in his. I blinked rapidly, forcing tears down my face. I wept, “It’s just that…” a quick glance to the portrait of her on the wall and he understood. In moments, he had a maid taking down the portrait of his deceased bride and rushing it to the cellar. As he remained there in front of me, reassuring me of his endless love and wiping my tears away with his strong hands, I caught Snow White’s sad eyes while she pushed eggs around her plate with a fork. I sent her a dark smirk before returning my focus to my adoring husband, receiving his outpours of love like a child who has been too long deprived of her favorite toy.
* * *
After breakfast I stood in front of my mirror, placidly brushing my hair. I tilted my head this way and that, admiring the way the sun glinted off my hair and illuminated my skin. “Mirror, mirror on the wall,” I sang softly, “who is the fairest of them all?” I chuckled to myself indulgently. As though I even need to ask. I pursed my lips sweetly at my reflection, waiting to for my beloved mirror to sing my praises as it always does.
“Queen, you are full fair, ’tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you.”
I beamed and waved my hand at the mirror dismissively, soaking in the flattery until I finally realized what I had just heard. I froze, stunned, as though I’d been struck with a mallet. A low growl emanated from the depths of my core and grew into a wild shriek. My door flew open and my husband appeared, followed closely by my darling step-daughter.
“What on earth is wrong, my love?” he crooned, rushing to my side and smoothing my mussed-up hair.
“Out!” I shouted, “Out, get OUT!” I wretched myself out of his comforting grip and pushed him away. “Take her with you!” I glared at Snow White and watched in horror as her face transformed into the stunningly beautiful face of her late mother. “Now! Go! Get her away from me!” I bawled as my husband rushed to the side of my familiar enemy and led her golden, curly head out the door, glancing back at me with a mix of terror and rage. “You said you loved me!” I howled after them. She does seem crazy. I slammed my door shut and pressed my back against it. And ugly, too. I slid to the floor, shaking my head madly and pulling at my hair, trying to pull her out of my mind. Tears filled my eyes as I continued to wail. “I thought you loved me!”
* * *
“Go away, Batty,” she sneered, glaring at me with her shining, icy eyes. Her sickly-sweet voice crept through the air like warm molasses, threatening to drown me. The group of girls that was always around her formed a battalion of porcelain beauties, each one with fine, powdery skin and a halo of delicate curls. “Oh Batty,” she sighed daintily, “how can your parents even bear to look at you?” She crinkled her pale brow in mock-concern, then a cruel grin spread across her rosebud lips. “I bet they don’t even love you.” The ring of five, ten, maybe hundreds of girlish giggles knocked me to my knees. I covered my ugly face with my spindly hands and tried willing myself to disappear. Even from behind my eyelids I saw their perfect faces, mocking me with their cruel laughter. Their voices grew louder and louder until the noise pushed at me from all sides, suffocating me even more than the corset I wore in vain to replicate their faultless figures. She shook her beautiful golden head. “Isn’t that sad?” she cooed. “Poor Batty, no one loves you–”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned and ran, not sure of where I was going, trying desperately to put distance between myself and those terribly beautiful little girls. I ran till I thought my lungs might burst, but their taunting voices followed me all the way home and continued to taunt me in my dreams.
* * *
I quietly exited my room and tiptoed down the staircase. I imagined my husband was probably in his study, but where to find Snow White? I had to prove to myself that she was still the same old dirt-rag girl and that seeing her mother’s face today was only an illusion. You’re not crazy, Bathilda, I thought repeatedly, shaking my head. It was just a trick of the afternoon light. I crept up to Snow White’s room and peeked in through the keyhole. I saw the girl’s ebony hair laid smooth against the ivory skin of her feminine arms; I watched as she turned the pages in her story book; listened to the crinkle of the crisp pages. Her blossoming maturity seemed to fit her well and she almost looked more woman than child in the hazy glow of the sun. No. I could nearly laugh at myself. Nothing to be worried about. Just the same dull child. I let out an audible sigh of relief.
“Hello?” Snow White looked up to the door and, forgetting for a moment that she couldn’t see me, I froze. She peered curiously around the posts of her bed. Then the furrowing of her brow took on a rosy hue and her hair became the color of golden wheat. I gasped for air and fell backward, clutching at the ground and pulling myself toward my room. Snow White’s face appeared outside her door.
“Miss Bat– Mother, I thought I heard–” She looked up and down the hall, perplexed.
“Child,” I moaned, “just leave Mother alone. Go– go outside and play.” She nodded and with one last glance around her, she reluctantly scampered down the stairs. When the last locks wispy black hair disappeared around the corner, I could swear I saw the flash of golden ringlets.
* * *
Her yellow hair flashed in front of me as she rushed to meet the handsome new boy. I felt the skin on my cheeks flush a deep scarlet, and I looked nervously down at my scuffed old shoes. I had already met him earlier at the market; we’d talked about the weather and the townspeople and anything else I could think of to keep that gorgeous boy standing near me for a second longer. Finally, something I beat her at, I thought. He’s already my friend. I tried to hide my smug smile behind my hair as she boldly grabbed his hand and led him over to meet her group of friends clustered in front of me. They all giggled and smoothed their perfect hair and dresses. In a surge of confidence, I stepped forward and waved at him shyly. My heart melted as recognition brightened his eyes.
“You’re the girl from the market!” He said gaily. “B- Bath–” he hesitated on my name.
“Oh, her?” she said, flashing her pearly teeth. “She’s just Batty. You won’t want to hang around her.” She began to laugh, and her friends all immediately followed suit. He looked at me with a quizzical look on his breathtaking face. With a glance back at her cascading curls and pink cheeks, he suddenly began to laugh too. She led him away and I stood there in awe, not wanting to move, only wanting to wake up and realize it was just a horrible nightmare.
* * *
I quickly got up and frantically ran across the grounds to the stables. Snow White wasn’t far from our home. She’ll take the scenic route by the forest. She always takes the scenic route by the forest. I splashed through a stagnant puddle of thick mud and burst through the stable door. My wide eyes, wind-blown hair, and muddied dress startled the hunter I found.
“You!” I grabbed him by his collar. “There’s something very important I need you to do.” I reached deep into the pockets of my skirt and pulled out all the coins I had. “This is just the beginning,” I crowed madly. He stared at the coins and then greedily shoved them into his coat with a nod. I pulled his scruffy head to my lips and whispered to him my demands.
He backed away slowly. I let it sink in.
“You want me to bring you…” his large body quivered.
“Yes!” I shouted. “I want her heart!”
* * *
“She has my heart,” he shook his head and smiled at me sadly. We were standing at nearly the same place we had first met years before. I knew his schedule, his habits, his idiosyncrasies. It wasn’t hard to track him down, which I did as soon as I heard the rumors. Since I couldn’t have him all to myself, I’d settled for being his best friend for the time being, hoping that he’d eventually fall for me instead of her.
Tears filled my eyes and I reached for his face, a gesture I often did in a friendly way but now seemed out of place with the new knowledge settling itself around us like a dark cloud. He backed away and shrugged apologetically.
“We’re getting married, Bathilda, isn’t that good news? I thought you’d be happy,” he sighed, pained at my sorrow but at a loss for how to comfort me.
“But… I thought you…” I sobbed, not caring about the townspeople who were now casting us curious glances.
“I do love you, Bathilda,” he urged, “just not the way I love her.”
“It’s as though she’s poisoned you!” I cried. I turned around and ran away from him, weaving through the afternoon rush of people.
As I ran, I heard a cold, ringing laughter. I looked up to see her, surrounded by all of her friends, laughing at me; mocking the fact that I thought I stood a chance.
* * *
I leaned out the window and watched as the sky turned from a cheery robin’s egg blue to a moody grey, then finally a deep, blackish sapphire. Finally, I saw the hunter emerge from the woods. I saw his dark eyes search the castle grounds, then finally meet mine. He nodded at me solemnly, and only then did I feel safe enough to leave my perch.
I strode down the stairs, feeling more beautiful than ever. Just as I went to exit the front door, it burst open and nearly knocked me off my feet. My husband stood there, looking tragically handsome, his hair windswept and his sparkling eyes frantic. He reached for me and buried his head in my hair.
“Have you seen Snow White?” he gasped, clearly devastated about his daughter’s disappearance. “I haven’t seen her since this morning. I’ve searched everywhere!”
“Oh, love,” I sang. “You know how she’s always flitting in and out. She probably just got distracted outside; she loves to explore.” I placed my hand on his flushed, warm cheek and gave him a kiss. “I’ll go search for her again outside if you’d like, though.” He nodded in approval and ran upstairs, calling out her name.
I stepped outside, looking all around for maids or other any other watching eyes that may incriminate me. Seeing no one, I dashed to the stable. The air seemed fresher than it did before; my path much prettier. It seemed as though the earth had breathed in all of Snow White’s beauty as she let her last breath out.
I opened the door to the stable and found the hunter sitting on a bench with his head in his hands. Anticipation warmed my body like a long drink of mead, and I stumbled over to him drunkenly.
“Do you have it?” I hissed. He nodded slowly and reached into his pocket, pulling out a parcel wrapped in burlap. I snatched it from him greedily and ripped it open.
There, sitting in the in my hand, was a plump, juicy heart. I felt my eyes widen in gleeful wonder and a maniacal laugh echoed throughout the dank building. It took a few moments before I had the presence of mind to realize that it was my laughter. I cradled the organ in my hands; it was still warm. Childishly wanting to make sure it was real and would not simply turn into smoke when I blinked my eyes, I squeezed it tightly and felt blood drip through my fingers. I turned it around, running my fingers across the sinewy surface, and then set it carefully into my pocket. Without saying another word to the hunter, I wiped my bloody hands on his coat and turned around to walk back inside.
I walked past my distressed husband, who sat with his head in his arms at the dining room table. Silently, I entered my room and placed the heart in my drawer. Taking a deep breath, I walked up to my mirror.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,” I chanted. “Who is the fairest of them all?”
“Queen, you are full fair, ’tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you.”
I blinked. “No,” I replied. “She’s dead! I have her heart right here!” I thrust a trembling finger toward the drawer of my vanity in which Snow White’s pathetic heart now lay.
“You are mistaken. Over the seven jeweled hills, beyond the seventh fall, in the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, dwells Snow White, fairest of them all.”
I grabbed the mirror and threw it at the ground, trying in vain to smash its glimmering surface. It shone back at me mockingly, reflecting my terrified face that was still not more beautiful than hers. I stomped on it angrily, tears streaming down my face. When I finally wore myself out and sunk to the floor next to the mirror, I thought I saw her face staring back, laughing at me.
* * *
The dreaded day of the wedding finally came. I prepared for the day with tears in my eyes, looking into the mirror and cursing myself for the inability to make my face as beautiful as I knew the bride’s would be. I didn’t have any desire to go but I felt like it would mean something to him if he got to see me before spending the rest of his life with that terrible, terrible girl.
As I walked into the beautifully decorated castle, under a trellis of vibrant red blooms, I felt as though I was entering my own funeral. This should all be for me, I thought. He should have been mine. I was so wrapped up in my own pity that I ran right into what I thought was soft, white, silken cloud.
“Excuse me,” it cooed, and I looked up to see that I had run right into the bride. Our eyes met and her soft, happy disposition quickly froze into an icy one. “Oh,” she hissed, “it’s just you.” Her hair shone more golden than I’d ever seen it shine before, and every curl seemed to have been grown and groomed specifically for this moment, as though she’d been destined to end up here from the instant of her birth. Her dress flowed flawlessly over the curves of her body, and a sparkling tiara sat atop a lacy white veil that draped in front of her face.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” she growled, leaning toward me menacingly. “Go sit down with the rest of the guests. My fiancé is waiting for me to become his wife.” She laughed mockingly at me and reached out her small porcelain hands to give me a push toward the door. I stumbled forward, and her cruel laughter followed me into the hall.
* * *
In a haze of fury, I rummaged through the shelves on my vanity table. My shaking hands knocked over bottles of perfume, tubes of lotion, jars of rouge, until finally they closed up upon the vial they sought. I hugged it to my chest greedily and raced downstairs to the kitchen. My husband was gone; probably outside searching for the daughter that I, too, would soon seek– but for a much different reason.
Unaccustomed to the kitchen because of the service of our maids, I nearly emptied out the entirety of the cabinets’ contents before I found a cauldron. I started a fire and began to boil the contents of my beloved lethal vial. When the cauldron’s violent hissing echoed that of my angry soul, I searched the kitchen again for something with which to tempt my prey. A basket of big, deep-red apples caught my eye, and I eagerly selected the prettiest one to dip into the steaming liquid.
“The fairest of them all,” I whispered.
* * *
It wasn’t terribly hard to find Snow White’s cottage, despite the fact that it was tucked away in the hillside. I dressed myself up as an unassuming elderly woman and followed the discrete path paved by the feet of the tiny workers who lived in the cottage. After several hours of arduous walking under a cloudy, ominous sky, I stumbled out of the forest and into small clearing. The cottage sat peacefully at the center of the clearing, and it looked almost as though the forest had grown around it. Ivy climbed up the cottage’s stone walls and brilliant orange and violet flowers crept up to the foundation. Clean white curtains hung at the open windows, and a soft breeze rippled through them. I transformed my feminine gait into a crooked hobble and approached the door. I knocked softly and held my basket of apples in front of my dirty old clothes.
“Hello?” I heard a soft voice call. “Who’s there?”
“Just bringing some fresh apples to my neighbors in this cottage, my dear,” I croaked. Her dark head peeped above the sill of the open window.
“I’m not supposed to let any strangers in, ma’am,” she apologized, “but you can come back in a few hours when my friends get home if you’d like.” Her innocent eyes searched my dirtied face and worn-out clothes.
“Sweet child, won’t you just take these apples? I really did travel quite a long way to bring them here.” I limped over to the window. She eyed the shining apple I’d prepared for her; the beautifully deadly apple.
“I really shouldn’t…” She leaned her elbow on the sill and rested her head in her hand. A sudden breeze blew the lacy curtain against her dark hair like a veil, and the sun burst through a break in the clouds. A glimmer of yellow curls flashed on Snow White’s veiled head. Her mocking laughter… reached out her small, porcelain hands… I put the poisoned apple in her hands, blinking my eyes to make the visions of her mother go away.
“There, there, that’s a good girl,” I said, stepping backwards.
“I suppose it won’t hurt anyone if I just take one…” she raised the glorious apple to her red lips… red lips, red apple, under a trellis of vibrant red blooms…
“Eat it, my dear, eat it!” I heard her mother’s laughter ringing in my ears. Snow White’s teeth sunk into the apple’s flesh and almost instantaneously, the girl was on the ground. I leaned over the window sill and into the house, beaming at the sight of her limp body all splayed out against the wood floor. The apple had rolled out of her tiny hand, which lay open as though reaching for something. I took it all in; her ebony hair, her closed eyes, her slightly parted lips, her pale skin, her curly golden hair…
I turned around and ran from the cottage, not stopping till I reached my bedroom.
* * *
Days, weeks and finally months had passed. I was still the fairest of them all. My husband grieved, but he was mine and mine alone. She was finally entirely gone.
I sat in my room and prepared myself for a wedding in the neighboring village, a chance to wear glimmering robes and flaunt the dashing husband that finally belonged solely to me. The sun shone brilliantly through the window as I powdered my face, rouged my cheeks, and combed my hair. I spun around in front of my mirror, enjoying the glint of the golden accents on my dress. For old times’ sake, I posed elegantly in front of my mirror, which I had since picked up from the floor and returned to its usual spot on the wall. “Mirror, mirror…” I began.
I did not even finish my request before I got an answer. “Queen, you are full fair, ’tis true, but today’s bride is fairer than you.”
I swung at the mirror angrily, knocking it off the wall once again. After composing myself, I remembered how quickly and easily I rid myself of Snow White with the tainted apple. Telling myself this girl would be no different, I reached to the back of my shelf where I found the remainder of the poison I had used so long ago. In search of a more appropriate gift for the bride than an apple, I picked a rose from a bush in the garden. She won’t know what hit her, I thought to myself with pride.
* * *
The wedding march began, and everyone turned around to see the bride enter the hall. I sighed and rolled my eyes, wanting the wedding to be over so I could give the fair urchin of a bride her rose. She drifted down the aisle like an angel, with hair as black as night, lips as red as blood, and skin the color of snow. But how? Enraged, livid, devastated and confused, I clenched my fist around the stem of the rose. Feeling a sharp prick of a thorn, I opened my hand to see blood bloom once again from the scar I’d made with my nails long ago. I laughed helplessly as I felt the poison spread through my veins. I looked up to see Snow White passing by, somehow freed from the fate I laid upon her and looking truly beautiful in her wedding gown. But, as I closed my eyes for the last time, all I saw was a golden head of curls walking away from me at last.