As promised, I'm including an excerpt from my upcoming novel "Little Girl Gone," a book that is inspired by "Rapunzel" and "The Snow Queen." It's a prequel to my current novel "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky." The following excerpt tells the story of how Rapunzel, named Veronica in this incarnation of the story, came to be obligated to the witch.
The story is told mostly from Anthony's point-of-view. You may recall that Anthony is Noah's father in "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky." This scene may evolve some as I continue to write and edit, but the idea of the meeting between Anthony and Veronica will pretty much remain intact.
Excerpt from "Little Girl Gone, Prequel to 'The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky'"
"It keeps the bees away," she answered, simply. I shrugged. Veronica stopped swinging long enough to point to a beehive at the corner, hanging in the low branches of one of the bramble bushes that hung over into the groundkeeper's yard. "You must have noticed them."
I didn't remember a beehive in the yard. I shook my head. I let myself into Veronica's yard, uninvited, and walked over to the hive, getting as close as I dared to the bees. They scattered, the closer I got to the hive. I waved my hand at them. Stupid, I know, but curiosity got the best of me. The harder I waved, the more they flew in the other direction.
"Have they been there long?" I asked, finally. I mentally calculated back in time a couple of weeks, trying to remember if I had seen a beehive the last time I was out here. I hadn't. "Why doesn't your dad get rid of the hive? He is the groundskeeper."
"There's nothing he can do about them," she answered, simply. "They always come back no matter where we move to. They're her bees."
She didn't answer. Instead, Veronica stopped the motion of her swing with her foot and slid out of the wooden seat. "They don't seem to like you."
"Are they supposed to?" I asked. She crept closer to me, keeping her eyes on the bees. When she stood about four feet from me, the previously docile bees charged her. Veronica ducked, screaming and swatting at the air. I pulled on her arm, yanking her away from the hive.
The bees stopped charging as suddenly as they started. A layer of the white dust covered her shoulders and hair. My hand moved to dust it away.
"Don't. It'll get into my eyes."
I felt both disturbed and awed by the display. "Whose bees?" I asked again.
"The silver witch." I still held her arm. It quivered, despite me trying to hold it steady.
"You don't believe me." This was said more as a statement than a question on her part.
"Of course, I don't believe you."
With that, Veronica yanked her arm away and went back to her swing. I stood there like an idiot, trying to think of something more to say, but it was clear that the conversation was over.
I didn't know then that they weren't stinging bees. Or that they only liked Veronica. I just knew that I felt like an idiot.
Veronica: One. Anthony: Zero.
In truth, I deserved her rebuff. I was irritated that she was in the yard. I talked to her like I did in part to get a rise out of her. Just beyond the bramble wall separating her yard from ours sits a low bench. The oak tree in Veronica's yard provides shade for it, and the bench's location provides me with the privacy I crave.
You'd think I'd have learned my lesson after being handed my ass on a platter by the little girl living in my backyard. That's how I saw Veronica back then. As the little girl living in my backyard. In truth, I was only a couple of years older than her.
Anyway, I didn't learn my lesson. I'm an idiot. I may be in danger of being one all my life, actually. So far, I have a good track record in that direction.
I kept tormenting her, figuring that if I teased her long enough, she'd leave her swing. And I'd be left to my favorite spot once she went into the house.
"So why did you guys move in? I mean, I get it. Conditions here…" I pointed toward the wall of brambles. "They have to be better than Paupersville, right?"
Yeah. I was that kind of a jerk. I went there. I knew that her family was poor. Blame on too many years at a snobby East Coast prep school and too much time spent in Oliver King's company.
Veronica stopped swinging. I won't forget the look on her face. Tears filled her eyes. I could see them even standing ten feet away.
At the time, I was pretty happy with myself, pleased as all get out, actually, that I got to her. I grinned. That kind of Cheshire-Cat grin is called "duping delight," I hear. Or Schadenfreude as the Germans say. You know, someone who takes pleasure in other people's pain.
I'm not proud of this.
"My mother made a deal with the devil," she answered, stopping her swing again. "For some rapunzel plant."
Give me a break. I rolled my eyes in an obvious sort of way. Just in case she didn't understand my contempt. It wasn't lost on her. More tears fell from her eyes.
"Really?" I asked. "Did he have horns and everything? That must have been some awfully good rapunzel plant."
"It's a she-devil, and no, she doesn't," Veronica answered, swatting away the few white bees that followed her from the hive. "And apparently, it was. The woman promised my mother and father that one day she'd come for me. To make sure they paid their debt to her."
"For some rapunzel plant?"
"My parents didn't exactly ask for permission to take it from her garden," she told me, shifting her eyes from left to right and lowering her voice.
"So they robbed her."
"My mother was starving," Veronica told me. "She was pregnant. With me. It'd been a while since she'd eaten anything good. Well, eaten anything, really."
"You're full of shit."
I know. I know. I told the love of my life that she was full of shit. Again. In my defense, I didn't know she'd turn out to be the love of my life. I just knew that she was out near my favorite hideaway when I needed to be alone.
Naturally, she didn't take too well to my unkindness. "Go to hell."
"Ooooh. The nun girl just said a bad word."
That really did it. Veronica raised her finger at me in a salute. She turned heel and went back to her swing. She sat back on the swing in the opposite direction, presumably so she wouldn't have to look at me as she played.
I never did get my peace and quiet that day. Before you think I'm a complete dick, I did actually feel bad about the whole interaction. But as usual, it wasn't until much later, when I was in back at boarding school, staring at the ceiling that I admitted to myself that I had been unnecessarily cruel.
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