What if I told you there was a mermaid princess with long magic hair, the color of spun gold, a princess who fell in love and stayed there. Perhaps her eyes were the color of the water she swam in, or perhaps they were the color of the sunlight that hit the surface. Perhaps she had sisters; many, many sisters. It all ends up the same.
What if she had a child, a daughter, sweet as summer and hair as black as night . . . just like her father, the princess’s husband. Her husband, who could have been anyone, it wouldn’t matter. He was kind, he was good, and he was loved dearly.
What if I told you it was her husband the prince that was cursed, taken somewhere far away and held in enchanted sleep; and what if the princess cut off her magical hair in exchange for legs so she could go find him, walking barefoot for miles, even though every step felt like a path of broken glass.
What if this was a story about a man fighting through his nightmares to wake up and find his way home.
What if this was a story about a little mermaid girl with hair as black as the ocean depths, and the thief who stole her away from her mother’s side.
What if this was a story about a mischievous boy who never grew up, and how he snuck a mermaid princess into a ball so she can hold the kingdom’s dark prince at knife point, demanding to know where her husband had gone.
And what if I told you this was a story about a wife and a mother, who cut her hair and walked on blades; who chased will o’ wisps and held a dark prince by the throat; who fought until her hands became the knives she walked on, and who outsmarted the sphinx who stood between her and her husband.
This could be a story about any one of them alone, but it’s so much better when it’s about them all.
They say it was true love’s kiss, and no curse stood a chance against them. They say he was waiting at the threshold of the binding curse, nightmares in a trail of puddles behind him. They say it like it was easy, like anyone would do it for love. Like theirs was the story of many.
I half believe it.
They say the prince’s cry for his daughter still echoes through the crypt walls. That even the sphinx, realizing he was tricked, didn’t dare leave his cave for decades in their wake.
They say it went like this: like awakened dragon blood and sharp teeth and siren calls, like forged steel, stone daggers, and shadows that quaked at the scene. It was like this: two parents who wouldn’t stop until they held their child once again; and a thief who was once granted three wishes and used them all to keep his life as he gave up the child he stole.
They say it ended like this: happily ever after. Reunions and laughter and the journey home. They don’t specify anything more, and perhaps they don’t need to.
For once, I believe them.
Happily ever after. The end.