He sat glum on his bed even as the sunlight flooded the room. The dishes lay unwashed in the sink. The beds unmade. And a bird persistently lilted a sad little tune just outside the window. It was his turn to stay at home and clean. Lately Snow White had taken to visiting the edge of the forest a lot. Frequently he had to cover for her, doing her share of the cooking and dusting. He didn’t mind. After all, she was a princess.
He hopped down the bed and his eyes fell on her white dress lying in the corner of the room. The clothes stand beside was empty. She was out to bathe perhaps. He was tempted to go and peek a little. But he changed his mind. This time he couldn’t escape. His last excuse had been lame. Probably it were any other man, she would have suspected something by now. He secretly wished she did. It’s hard to open a story without an introduction. She hadn’t an inkling of his feelings. Even his brothers didn’t know for sure. The previous night when for the third time in a row this week he opted to stay at home and clean, he had seen Elder’s eyes flick to Snow for a moment and then rest on him. He probably guessed.
He smiled to himself as he stood on the little stool to face the mirror. He looked similar to his brothers. Short, hazel eyes, dark thick hair. Recently he had started grooming himself. He turned around to look at his bed. Six months ago, they had returned home one day to find their lives transformed. On his bed, lay a beautiful girl, fast asleep. He didn’t want to wake her but the eyes of seven men trying to burn a hole through her face probably wasn’t a comfortable feeling even when she slept. She woke and screamed at the top of her voice. His brothers had run out of the cottage not knowing what to do. But he had remained, more curious and amused than shocked. He had allowed her to complete her screams interspersed with questions. And then introduced himself. His name sounded different when she said it.
Snow was an unusual girl. She was naive at times, selfish in others. She would comb her hair with a poisoned comb and almost die and the next day she would convince someone or the other to take her chores and run out to play with rabbits in the forest. He could never refuse. Who could, after one look at those big brown eyes?
He trudged out of the hut, his desire to see her overcoming his sense of dread of getting caught again. He ran as fast as he could towards the west where the spring was, scaring a couple of deer on the way. He felt his heart beating hard. He suddenly felt determined, excited and nervous at the same time.He would tell her what he felt. It was to be now or never. Soon it would be time for her to return to that wretched kingdom to claim her rightful throne.And perhaps he would never see her again. Not ever. He couldn’t let that happen. She just had to know that a lonesome dwarf somewhere cared deeply about her and would give his life for her.
He slowed down for the last few yards to the stream, careful not to alert her. He could see her sitting by the edge, her milk white skin almost reflecting the sunlight. So pure. But she wasn’t alone. His heart trembled for a moment, fearful for her safety. Maybe the evil queen has again sent a huntsman out to kill her and he’s captured her. But then he noticed he was holding her hand, and speaking to her. They didn’t know he was so close even as he hid in the bush a breath away from them.
“How much longer do we put up the act, my Prince?”
“Aren’t the midgets treating you well, my love”
“Yes, in fact I think one of them has a crush on me. The poor little guy. He has been staying at home the last few days to look after me”
“No wonder the comb trick didn’t work. Did he kiss you awake?”, the prince joked.
“No, but I bet he’d have tried if his brothers weren’t watching. They started putting some bitter herbs into my mouth. I couldn’t stand it anymore. Something that horrible is enough to wake even someone whose really dead.”
“Too bad. What did you tell them when you..er…came back to life?”
“I told them the evil queen sent it. Too bad they don’t know I paid the cook to poison her food the very day she had sent me to this wretched place.”
“When are you planning to return? You know we can’t get married unless you do !”
“Patience my love. I’ve come up with another plan about a poisoned apple. I will pretend the queen sent it to poison me and this time I’ll clamp my teeth shut so they can’t shove any plant or grass inside my mouth. Just be sure you are instantly there to kiss me awake. Then these fools will believe a miracle has occurred by your kiss and then we can return to Daddy..Then you can be a Prince for real. We wouldn’t have to secretly meet any more.”
The couple kissed as the dwarf inched away from them, his face ashen. He trudged home, barely able to walk. He noticed an apple on the table. He had brought it for her the day before. She so loved fruits. He sat on the chair and took it in his hand, a plan forming in his mind, as his eyes drifted to the mantelpiece where they had kept a small vial of poison for medicinal use.
She was back sometime later, her dress was crumpled, and she seemed a little flustered. She blushed as she saw him.”I’m sorry. I got late in the woods. I lost my way”, she said apologetically.
“Never mind. I did the cleaning and cooking.You know I’d do anything for you ,don’t you? So relax Snow ! Here, have an apple .”