Monday, November 15, 2010

Kiss Of Death (Part 1 of 3)

Rosemina first encountered her curse at age five when the neighbor boy chased her behind the rosebushes, pressed his sticky, candy-covered lips against hers and promptly fell down dead. To this day the taste of chocolate and the scent of roses are synonymous with death in Rosemina’s mind.

Rosemina’s beauty was exquisite. So lovely was she, that every boy who laid eyes upon her felt compelled to kiss her. And so it was many years, and many ill-fated kisses, before Rosemina and the rest of the village came to understand it was not merely misfortune that caused all of her suitors to die. It was Rosemina.

You see, her lips were poisonous.

The town leaders held a meeting and it was decided that Rosemina must be confined to her house whenever possible. At those times when it was necessary she venture out, her lips must always be covered, lest any boy unable to control his urges be killed.

Rosemina’s father built a cottage in the forest at the very edge of town and there she spent her days, shunned and alone.

The years passed and Rosemina grew both lovelier and lonelier. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Rosemina made a wish on a falling star. Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. One soul she could love and be loved by.

The next morning Rosemina woke to a vigorous pounding on the cottage door. Her father’s shouts brought her into the front room where he struggled with men in full armor. “You will not take her! I forbid it!”

“What is this, Father?”

At the sound of her voice, which was almost as lovely as she, the men released her father. They swayed at the sight of Rosemina and she was glad to see that as a precaution, their helmets had been sealed shut.

Rosemina listened with budding hope as her father explained that the King’s son had heard tales of her beauty and wanted to be the one to break her curse himself. She did not hear the edge of fear in her father’s voice, only the news that her wish had come true. For, surely, if anyone could break her curse, it would be a prince.

Rosemina was dizzy with happiness, an emotion so unfamiliar that she stumbled more than walked her way to the awaiting carriage. She barely noticed the way the King’s men avoided her once she was safely locked inside. Rosemina found it far more exciting to watch the world go by knowing that this time, it was she leaving it behind.

It was only when they arrived at the castle, with its great outdoor stage and crowd of spectators, that Rosemina became nervous. Before she had a chance to dwell on her fears, she was yanked from the carriage by more hands than she had ever felt at one time.

The Queen’s ladies oohed and ahhed over her as they pulled her along stone corridors, stripped her of her “filthy rags” and shoved her in the deepest, warmest bath she had ever felt. She had a moment, before the scrubbing began, to think that if heaven were anything like this, being put to death would be just fine.

When Rosemina was dressed in so much finery she could hardly stand upright, the Queen paid her a visit. Rosemina felt her cheeks go warm under the older woman’s gaze. The Queen made a slow circle around Rosemina, piercing her with a glare. “Do you intend to murder my son?”

Rosemina gasped at the Queen’s directness, but held her head high when she replied. “No, your Highness.”

The Queen cocked her head, her voice a touch warmer this time. “This curse, what do you know of it? Who cursed you?”

“I know nothing, your Highness. I believe I was born this way.”

The Queen pursed her lips and glowered at Rosemina. “Hear my words, girl. Our wisest physicians and most powerful sorcerers have prepared protective potions and talismans for the Prince, but if you bring death to this castle, it’s your head I’ll have.”

Rosemina drew in a shaky breath. “Yes, your Highness.”

“Cover her,” said the Queen to her ladies. She left the room as a velvet hood came down over Rosemina’s face, shrouding her in darkness.

As she was lead to the outdoor stage, Rosemina reminded herself that in the old stories, it was always the Prince’s kiss that broke the curse. Soon she would be free. No longer the town pariah, but a princess.

Rosemina knew she’d reached the stage when she heard the murmur of the crowd. The velvet hood was pulled gently from her head and the audience gasped. She found herself looking into the astonished eyes of the Prince.

His face broke into a wide grin. “You’re even more beautiful than the stories said.”

Rosemina tingled with pride. For the first time in her life, she was glad to be beautiful. Glad that someone wanted to kiss her. “As are you, your Highness.”

The Prince’s eyes widened with surprise and then he laughed. “I think I’m going to enjoy having you as my wife.”

Rosemina’s cheeks ached from smiling. Her years of suffering had been worthwhile if only to bring her to this moment.

The Prince held up his hand and the crowd silenced. “Now, let’s take care of that curse, shall we?”

Rosemina nodded, no longer caring if she appeared too eager. The Prince cupped her face in his hands and leaned forward. His lips were soft and warm and gentle as they touched hers. She sank into them, certain that this was what kissing was supposed to feel like. All too soon, the Prince pulled away. She opened her eyes and he grinned with pride. The crowd erupted in cheers.

Rosemina laughed with joy and relief when the Prince reached for her hand and held it aloft in victory. She looked back at the King and Queen who smiled from their thrones.

The Prince gave Rosemina’s hand a reassuring squeeze and she turned to him just in time to see his face go slack. “My lord?”

Without a word, the Prince collapsed dead at her feet.

Come back Wednesday for Part 2 written by Lacey!
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