- Andrea Anderson
happily ever after
Stories, they tell you, have endings.
Once upon a time—
Nah. Fuck that. It’s never just the once. Love potions have an expiration date; human nature doesn’t. The bad guys—the evil queens and the sneering stepmothers and the child-snatching witches, and isn’t that a nice bit of irony—they always want to live forever. Death, the greatest of all equalizers, the darkest of all mysteries, is scary to them. Unpredictable and unforgiving and permanent. It’s the permanence, you know, you know, that frightens them most.
Immortality is harder these days.
To achieve, to savor, to get away with.
Security cameras on every street corner, fingerprinting and retina scanning and DNA sequencing, watchlists and databases and extradition treaties and facial recognition software—the surveillance is never-ending, all-encompassing. Omnipresent.
It’s enough to make you think, with bitter, bitter longing, of your cozy thatch-roofed cottage in the woods, on the cliffs, strega this, strega that, wild vines of bougainvillea branching across splintered blue shutters, sheets of fresh pasta drying on racks in the lemon-scented sunshine—a secret place, a wordless language, a tincture for a woman’s morning sickness and a balm for another’s callused, overworked hands and a poison for whoever bruised the third one’s eye. Chicken bones scattered across the rough-hewn kitchen table, green-gold snippets of rosemary and rue, garlic and basil and olive leaf, clinging to the pumice stone.
That witch, the one you used to be, she might have wanted to live forever, but she certainly wasn’t afraid of anything.
You aren’t a story, of course.
You aren’t given the benefit of the doubt, the dignity of a structured, well-paced narrative; there aren’t any morals to be found in the webbing of your muscles or the notches of your spine. You ache to remind them of this. The girls who ask you for help. Who bite their lips and twist their fingers and creep uncertainly into your cramped little boardwalk shop, rustling the beaded curtains, shifting their weight around on the crooked threadbare rugs, losing sight of themselves in the cloud of your crystal ball. They have amethysts around their necks and tarot decks in their cardigan pockets and constellations tattooed on their wrists, above their hearts, the ink seeping into their skin, their blood, their bones, but their interest in why waning and waxing, cyclical like the moon.
They call it anything but what it is, and it’s because they don’t really believe in you now, not like they did. You are a novelty, a party trick, a hobby to be picked up when the leaves begin to fall and effectively discarded once the trees are bare and the sea is stormy and the jack-o-lanterns are all smashed and molding, caved-in and rotting on a bed of rain-damp asphalt.
The seasons always change.
The bad guys always want to live for-fucking-ever.