Rapunzel: The One With All the Hair Read online

  So much for my great escape. At least I tried. If I can’t leave on my own, perhaps I can get someone’s attention. A hunter, or a knight, or a traveling merchant. I’d even settle for a wayward bandit. But how? I don’t dare scream — the witch would probably hear it before any rescuer did — and even if I still had candles left, they wouldn’t give off enough smoke to make smoke signals. Nor would my matches. I look around the small room for ideas and find myself turning in circles. So I keep turning. Faster and faster I whirl, my dress swirling around my legs, my head spinning. I do not stop twirling until I am so dizzy that I fall into a heap on the rug.

  Well, that was mildly entertaining. Not, you know, HUGELY, but somewhat. I wipe the sweat from my brow with my forearm and lie there panting. Perhaps spinning isn’t a very productive use of my time, but it took my mind off my situation by scrambling my brains for a few seconds. I shall have to try it again. I stand up and am about to begin again when an unfamiliar odor wafts by. It smells like … rotten eggs?? I had no breakfast, and the witch did not leave eggs last night, I am sure of it. I quickly get to my feet and search the room. No eggs anywhere, but I still smell them. Odd. Gradually it dawns on me that the smell is coming from me! From my ARMPITS!

  Mother always laid out my clothes each morn. Without her to do that, it hadn’t occurred to me to change out of my birthday dress. How pathetic am I! I need my mother to tell me when to change my clothes? For the first time, it truly sinks in that I am on my own here. Possibly forever. Sir Kitty has moved from the table to the window ledge. I hope she isn’t planning on trying that means of escape. Has she learned nothing from my failure? I pick her up and hug her close to my chest.

  I am sure no one will blame me if a few teardrops land on her head.

  While she purrs in my arms, I watch out the window as the birds swoop above the trees, darting in and out as though playing hide-and-seek with each other. They are so free and don’t even realize it. I didn’t realize how free I was until this happened to me. Perhaps no one does until it is taken away. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I take a deep breath, put the cat back on top of the little table, and head over to my trunk. I am NOT going to let this evil witch break me. She may be able to rob me of my family and my childhood, but she CANNOT make me smell!

  I pull out the five dresses I brought with me and choose my favorite. Mother bought me this dress for my first day of school last year. It was the first dress she ever purchased from a merchant at the market rather than sewing herself. It has blue ruffles on the collar and also at the ends of the short sleeves. The white skirt falls in pleats to just above my knees. I pull my birthday dress over my head and go to stuff it back in the trunk when I realize that it will just make everything else smell. The yellow stripes are now gray with the dust and dirt of the tower. But I have nothing to wash it with.

  I slip on the new dress, which smells nice and fresh like the lavender that Mother mixes with sheep’s fat and ashes to make her special soaps. Sometimes Father will leave his shirts outside in the wind to air them out; perhaps that would work for me, too. On the left side of the window are some iron hinges that must once have held a swinging windowpane. It takes me a few tries, but I finally manage to secure the dress to one of the hinges by wrapping the sash tightly around it. The rest of the dress is now hanging out the window, blowing in the breeze. The forest smells of pine and cedar, and I am pleased with my innovative solution. I am sure by tomorrow morning the dress will smell like new.

  I hear a little plop behind me and figure Sir Kitty has jumped off the table to the floor. But when I turn around, I see she is still lying on the table, cleaning her foot with her tongue. So what was the plop? I glance around and catch sight of an oval-shaped object sitting in the middle of the rug. I bend over it. It is an oil lamp made of copper and glass! And it is filled with oil! I bet there is enough oil in there to last for weeks. Is it possible that the witch is kinder than I thought? Why else would she leave this for me? I put it away, deciding to take it out only at night. For the first time since my arrival, I feel a tiny surge of hope, quickly followed by gratitude that she hadn’t arrived just a little bit earlier. She would have found me hanging from the window ledge!

  Elkin is back! I cannot believe it! His parents have determined he would get better training at becoming a “responsible adult worthy of marrying a princess” at our castle than their own. Mum says this is because there is no discipline at Elkin’s home and he was never taught things like:

  Boys his age do not pass gas at the table just to get a laugh out of the younger children present (meaning Annabelle and me). For the record, I do not actually laugh when Elkin passes gas; I gag and it comes out as a laugh. Annabelle, I cannot vouch for.

  Good grooming is important. It is not a joke to cut off all of one’s hair with the gardener’s shears before the eleventh birthday of your cousin (me again), thereby ruining the family portrait that the castle artisan had been painting all day.

  Do not disobey other people’s fathers (especially when they are the king) and lure younger cousins (again, me) into trouble by hiding behind couches.

  The list goes on. I can see Mum’s point. Elkin truly is rough around the edges. Mum has given me the choice to attend Elkin’s training classes. Or, I should say, she has made it appear that she is giving me the choice, when we all know full well that no such choice exists. What she doesn’t know is that I would have asked to participate even if I had not been invited. Now that I have learned of the fifty (50!!) other Benjamins looking up to me, I realize that I, too, would benefit from some studies in Future Kingness. Our lessons begin tomorrow. I have practiced holding out my hand so that Andrew can kiss my (imaginary) ring, but he did not appreciate the gesture and I think he is a bit miffed at me.

  I have thought of a way to escape! It is so obvious. All I have to do is pretend to be asleep when the witch comes with my next meal and watch how she is getting in and out. That’s even simpler than my old plan! Since I have had no food yet today, and she left none when she brought the oil lamp, I expect her arrival before nightfall. I am lying on my “bed” with my eyes mostly — but not totally — closed. Time is passing ridiculously slowly. My belly is grumbling. WHERE IS SHE?

  WHY IS MY HAIR GROWING SO FAST? What IS she putting in my food?? If I think too much about it, I shall surely go mad.

  What is that smell? Herrings? Warm bread? Surely I must be imagining it, because I did not close my eyes so there is no way the witch got by me. Then I hear a slurping sound. I quickly sit up to find Sir Kitty sipping from a bowl of goat’s milk on a tray next to BOILED HERRINGS AND STEAMING BLACK BREAD! I also notice that I have to squint to see the food because the sun has nearly set! I cannot BELIEVE I fell asleep! I am the worst spy ever!

  I hurry to the table and join Sir Kitty in our evening meal. How could the witch be so cruel to me when I see her and then be kind enough to leave a bowl of milk for the cat? There is more here than meets the eye. I am going to figure it out.

  After all, what else have I got to do?


  I quickly fall asleep again, and wake to find the sunlight streaming in the window and the witch STANDING OVER MY BED waving my birthday dress in one hand and my fallen shoe in the other. Her face is purple with rage. This can’t be good. I scramble to my feet and instinctively back away. I guess this isn’t the best time to thank her for the lamp and the bowl of milk. She holds up the items and waves them at me.

  “Would you care to offer an explanation for why I found these in the bushes?” she asks through gritted teeth.

  I hurry to explain that the dress must have slipped from the window hinge as it was airing out. The shoe is harder to explain. “Er, I thought I saw a dragon last night and I threw my shoe at it?” Okay, so I’m not the world’s best liar.

  She stares into my eyes with her beady black ones, and I force myself not to look away. Father always says, if you’re going to lie, you have to commit to th