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Steel Roses: A Self-Aware Fairy Tale


On Valentine's Day 2019, we wanted to release a rose themed collection. We also hate Valentine's Day. So we wrote you six self aware fairy tales to go with the collection, full of heroes you can finally be proud of. 

 

Chapter One: Briar Rose

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young woman named Aurora who lived with her overly-protective parents, formerly the king and queen of the land, and three crazy aunts. She spent most of her days in her tower bedroom, reading romance novels and daydreaming. Apparently, a woman who lived in town had not been invited to her first birthday party, and it pissed this lady off enough to put a curse on baby Aurora. Shouldn’t she have, you know, cursed her parents instead of her? 1 year-olds haven’t exactly reached their full mental capacity, so maybe blaming the baby was a dumb move? Regardless, ever since, Aurora’s had to keep a low profile, and her parents stepped down from power to protect her.

Aurora’s gift was in spinning yarn; she had a natural knack for it. The evil woman who had cursed Aurora said that on her 15th birthday, she would prick her finger on the spindle of the wheel and she would fall into a deep, deep sleep that would last until true love came along. That sounded terrible to her, so she avoided the spinning wheel 99% of the time. But occasionally, she just couldn’t resist, and took great care to avoid the spindle. Whenever her mother caught her spinning, she had such a panic attack that poor Aurora had to throw a bucket of water over her just to calm her down. Plus, it wasn’t her birthday quite yet; she’d be fine.

So most of the time Aurora sat in her room, biding her time, being interrupted at regular intervals by either an aunt or one of her parents, making sure she was safely in her room, doing nothing, reading boring heteronormative fairy tales and hoping she didn’t need true love to come along and save her.She looked out her window and could smell the garden below; the wonderful scents of lavender and rose wafting up into her nostrils, and the strangely familiar scent of the woods just beyond the grounds. She loved plants, and gardening, and drawing scientifically accurate, incredibly detailed sketches of plants.

Alas, the dreaded 15th birthday finally arrived. Aurora’s parents gave her a new dress. Her aunts gave her yet another gigantic tome of love stories, which Aurora planned to quietly destroy later that night. Her true passion was plants, and gardening, but they didn’t seem to understand that. All they wanted was for her to fall in stupid love with some stupid guy. Before heading off to bed, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Sneaking into the room with the spinning wheel, she took her brand new book, and began to smash the spinning wheel to pieces. She hit off the spindle, placed the book on top of it on the floor, and stomped it to splintery little pieces. There. Curse avoided. Why was she ever given a spinning wheel anyway? Eyeroll.

Satisfied at the destruction of the spinning wheel and the book, she concluded this was the most satisfying birthday she had ever had, and went up to her tower bedroom and promptly fell asleep.

Just before midnight, from the dark corner of her bedroom, the evil woman from town emerged dramatically, her cape whooshing with a satisfying flourish. “So, you thought smashing the spindle and spinning wheel would mean you could avoid the curse, huh?” She smirked. “Guess again, Princess Smartass.” Out of her giant, billowing sleeve, she pulled another spindle, and smashed it into Aurora’s sleeping hand. Aurora didn’t even wake up to scream; the curse had automatically put her into a deep and total slumber.

The woman’s evil laugh echoed throughout the tower, down into the rooms where her parents and aunts had been sleeping. They all awoke, and ran up the stairs to Aurora’s bedroom, where they found the girl dead asleep, the spindle bloody on the floor. The woman had vanished; after all their careful planning and avoidance, the deed was done. The king and queen and aunts sat on the floor and sobbed, knowing their beautiful Aurora would be suspended in sleep until the right man came along to rescue her with his mouth. Weird.

Although the woman had told everyone the curse would be lifted upon true love’s kiss, that was total bullshit. She had no idea how long it would last, or if the girl wouldn’t just, you know, die in a couple weeks from lack of food and water. This was her first successful curse in years; all that mattered to her was that revenge had been exacted.

The news spread throughout the country and surviving lands like wildfire. Naturally, her parents set up her tower bedroom as a kind of kissing booth, charging young boys to come in and give their daughter a kiss to see if they were her true love. (Gotta make that money somehow; going into hiding and renouncing their royal heritage didn’t exactly bring in a ton of income, especially now that they no longer had a spinning wheel, nor a daughter to spin.) Aurora just laid in her bed in her new birthday dress in what seemed like permanent paralysis. Months passed, and still, she didn’t stir. Many men came and kissed her, attempting to wake her up from her reverie. None succeeded.

Except… every three or four nights, Aurora did awaken. You see, that curse wasn’t as foolproof as the woman had thought. Alone in her room around midnight, Aurora would wake up. One of the first times she woke up, she had gone down to the kitchen and raided the cupboard, bringing a stash of food with her. Once a month or so she’d replenish her stores: rosemary crackers, dehydrated meats, clove-studded oranges to keep under her pillow and hide the constant cedar and bergamot scents left behind by all the suitors traipsing in and out of her room. But most of the time she woke up, went to the bathroom, ate, and just went back to sleep. This, she thought, was really stupid. Yes, she knew that all these men were coming to kiss her and trying to gently wake her from this wretched eternal slumber; but really, her life was boring and dull and sleeping days and nights away was just fine with her. She even woke up occasionally from a kiss, but never bothered to actually stir or awaken. She never felt any deep, stirring emotions, which she surely would upon being kissed by her true love, right?

Time passed. On the eve of her 18th birthday, it seemed as if every man had passed through her bedroom to try and awaken her with his fishy face meat. She kept secretly waking up occasionally, although it was happening with less and less frequency. Now it was once a week that she would secretly wake. Her body had gotten used to stasis. But on this night, a visiting prince from a faraway land happened to be in town for a wedding, and heard about the sleeping beauty. He decided he must visit her the next day; he was certain that, as the most charming prince, his mouth would be the one to shake her awake and make her love him.

Thus, her 18th birthday dawned. The charming prince arrived and wooed her parents, who showed him straight up to her bedroom. “And now, I shall awaken your daughter with True Love! That’s what I call my tongue,” he announced as he crossed the threshold.

Sure enough, he swooped under the canopy, pulled her half-dead body into his arms, and jabbed his tongue into her mouth. He kept darting it in and out as he was kissing her, like he was some kind of lizard, just stabbing her tonsils with his tongue. She woke up, gagging, and nearly retched all over him from the sheer force of his fleshy mouth-knife. “OH WHAT THE FUCK!” she cried out, tears springing from her eyes.

“A-ha! I have done it! My love, my life, my true beauty, you are to be mine!” the charming prince cried out over the sound of her astonished parents gasping and clapping and crying.

“Our girl is alive! She’s alive; oh, you truly are her one true love! Do you know how many men have been here? We thought this would never work! You still owe us $10.95, though” her mother exclaimed, running over to hug her daughter. Aurora shoved her mother away.

“Are you all insane?! I’ve been alive this whole time! You whored me out for money, and now this jagweed shows up and shoves his tongue so far down my throat I really did almost choke and die! Hell no, I’m out of here.” Aurora had already secretly packed a bag, and without another word, she pushed aside her parents, punched the charming prince in the dick, and walked out of the room.

She walked through the village, shocking everyone who saw her. “Yeah, I’m alive, I’ve been alive, whatever. I love myself, I don’t need any of you people.”

She walked through neighboring villages and for many days, until eventually she found a little cottage with a mostly dead garden surrounding it. It appeared abandoned, and nobody in the little town seemed to own it. She turned the front room into a little shop, as it luckily had a spinning wheel, and soon she had enough money to restore the cottage. She planted fresh plants, and they bloomed tremendously.

Years passed, and with a successful business and blooming gardens surrounding her cottage, she was happy. She was alone on her own terms, growing cabbage and arugula and using her natural gifts. She was a talented herbalist, and preferred to spend her nights alone, reading and writing stories about loving yourself. She went on plenty of rants in public about the hypocrisy of heteropatriarchal culture, and the centering of romantic relationships as the most important ones. The neighborhood children all called her a witch because she was so unlike all the other women they saw. And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, they were right.


Scent notes: wild rose, lavender fields, a spellbound forest at night, a sprig of rosemary, cedar, freshly ground clove, bergamot.

 

Chapter Two: Glass Rose


Once upon a time, there was a young couple named Martha and John. One morning, they were sitting across from each other at the table, quietly eating breakfast. “Oooh, ouch!” Martha suddenly exclaimed, clutching her swollen stomach.

“Darling, are you okay?” John asked. Martha was getting to be quite pregnant, nearly 8 months along, so every little thing she did or said immediately made John pay attention. It was exhausting for the both of them, honestly, this hypervigilance, but it’s not like he could stop worrying about his pregnant wife or impending child.

“Yes dear, I’m fine; she just has a mighty strong kick!” Martha smiled and attempted another bite of eggs. The girl must’ve kicked again, because Martha dropped her fork and clutched her stomach again. “GodDAMMIT, ok, no more eggs, I get it.”

“Martha my dear, you have to eat! What can I fix for you? Toast? A cheese sandwich? Um... you know I’m not a very good cook, but, I can try to make you some soup.”

“No John, I know exactly what I want. The cabbage. From next door. I see it every day from the window; I overlook her garden and I drool. It all looks so luscious and green and healthy and shit, oh wow, I would give anything for a big head of cabbage. Also some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But mostly the cabbage.”

“Alright, let me get ready, and I’ll go ask if I can have a head of cabbage…”

Martha squealed. “No, John; you must STEAL IT.”

John balked. “What? Why? I know we all think she’s a witch, but I’m sure if I give her some money, she’ll just sell us some.”

“NO. STEAL IT OR THERE’S NO POINT TO THIS STORY,” Martha screamed.

Staring down over the fence at the garden, John sighs, confused. “Okay, my love, I’ll steal you some cabbage. But it’ll have to be later, when it’s dark, so that witch doesn’t know about it.”

That evening, John snuck down into the garden. Passing blooming gardenia, bright red roses, grapefruits, kumquats, orange blossoms, and rows of herbs and pungent sage, he reached down and stole a head of fresh cabbage. Nearby was wild rapunzel. He considered grabbing some of that, too, but nobody knows what rapunzel is. Returning home, Martha grabbed the cabbage from his hands and finished the whole unwashed head in several gigantic bites, moaning with pleasure the whole time.

“Oh John, thank you; this was exactly what I needed.” She walked back to their bedroom and fell asleep. She slept soundly. Well. as soundly as a person can sleep who’s just eaten a whole, raw cabbage. (Poor John.)

The next morning, the scene repeated: Martha refusing any other food, and John agreeing to steal from the witch’s garden. And this happened the next day. And the one after that. It was nearly a routine for John to sneak into the witch’s garden every night and steal some roughage for his wife to eat. The garden was so vast and seemed to replenish itself instantly, so he didn’t think he was really hurting anyone.

Two weeks went by, and John felt so confident in his theft that he wasn’t really thinking about it anymore. Every night he just swooped in, grabbed some greens, and left. An easy, victimless crime routine that kept his wife and soon-to-be-born child happy; what could be better?

On the third night of the third week of theft, he stepped into the garden and nearly ran into the witch. She smiled at him calmly while he shrieked and jumped back in fright.

“So, dear John the neighbor, you’ve been enjoying the greens from my garden every night for some time now, have you not?”

Looking at her up close, John was stunned. She was maybe in her early forties, did not look at all like a witch, and was in fact quite pretty and regal. Almost like a princess who had spent a significant amount of time asleep in a tower. But there was clearly something ‘off’ about her, as if she’d lived most of her life alone and spent her time reading, making tonics (probably a few with gin), and, tending her garden, and trolling men’s rights activists on the internet. He was quite right about all of this.

“Oh no, I am so sorry, my wife Martha is very pregnant, and all she wants to eat is the greens from your garden; nothing else satisfies her or our unborn child. Please, I am begging you, please do not harm me. I wanted to pay you for the food, but my wife said there’s no story in paying someone for their craft, so I had to steal. Please, please just let me go. I’m just a pawn in this whole story, I don’t know what’s happening!”

She smiled again; but this time it looked more like a sneer. “Oh, you’re going to pay me, alright. You do owe me. That child is mine. You’ve stolen from my garden when you could have paid me; so now, according to law, your babe is mine. Sorry about that.”

All the color drained from John’s face. “Martha will never let you take our child.”

“Oh? Is that so? Tell her she can keep eating all she wants from my garden until she goes into labor; that might help her decide. But there’s really no other option here. The girl is mine. Fairy tale law.”

John, shaking, slowly backed away and ran home. He told Martha what had happened. She stared at him impassively.

“That’s true; fairy tale law does dictate the baby is hers. I’m fine with it. What’d you bring back for me to eat?” she asked, shrugging her shoulders.

John threw the cabbage on the table and went to their bedroom to cry. Then immediately left the room and went outside to cry.  Martha had already eaten several raw cabbages that day alone; you could smell it in the air.

He must’ve fallen asleep, because he woke up to Martha screaming in the kitchen. He ran out and found her in labor, being assisted by none other than the witch next door. His screams mingled with Martha’s as she pushed out the child. The witch started laughing with joy, cut the umbilical cord, and started to gently clean the babe. Soothing the little girl in her arms, the witch sang a soft lullaby. She had a beautiful voice, and clearly was ecstatic about having this child to raise as her own.

Martha was nearly passed out on the floor, her flatulence hanging like a cloud above her head, and John fell down next to her, wrapping his arms around her gently as she began to weep.

“Now now, don’t cry. I’m going to take good care of this little girl,” the witch said. She looked directly at John. “This is not your fault, John. Please don’t blame yourself.”

The baby, strangely, had not cried at all. She was calm, and allowed the witch to put a diaper on her and be swaddled up tight.

Shaking her head ruefully at John and Martha and the lingering smells, the witch left with their daughter. John wept openly alongside his wife. Martha looked over at him. “Do we have any cabbage left?”

John looked at her. He knew this was the end of their marriage. A few nights later, he snuck over to the witch’s house to see his daughter and was shocked to see the witch waiting for him. “John, I’m going to do you a favor,” she said. “I know this was not your fault. I’m going to teach you how to read, so you can understand fairy tale law, and not be stuck with that woman forever.”

So, over the next few months, John, his daughter, and the witch got together in the evenings to teach John how to read. (The baby didn’t really help, of course, except by being there and being cute, which is what babies are good for.) John learned to read, and decided to become a fairy tale lawyer. He left Martha and her cabbage stink behind, and went on to become a prominent fairy tale litigator. He spent lots of time with his daughter and the witch, and made sure his little one knew how to read and ask questions before signing a damn contract.

…..

Years passed. The witch had raised a smart, clever girl. She was knowledgeable about herbs, trees, and had a weird interest in swordfighting, which the witch allowed her to learn as she would rather have the girl read about how to be a knight and how to fight than read any stupid romance stories.

When the girl was 10, the witch decided it was time to lock her away, just as she had been locked away most of her life. She’d had a giant glass tower built in the middle of the forest; a truly impressive piece of architecture. The girl, named Rapunzel, was a bit confused as to why she had to be locked away, and why the whole thing was made of glass in the first place.

“It’s for your protection,” her witch-mother told her. “People are awful. I need to keep you safe. Plus, you know I love you. I could’ve named you Cabbage.”

So Rapunzel went up the many, many flights of stairs to the top of the tower, which was filled with books of all sorts, a very comfortable bed, a giant bearskin rug, and many other comforts to make up for the fact that she’d be, you know, locked in here for years with almost no outside contact. Totally normal Tuesday discovery.

And so, Rapunzel stayed locked in her tower for years. Initially, the witch-mother came to visit a few times a week using the stairs and locking the tower shut tight behind her. After many years of no haircuts, Rapunzel’s hair was long enough for her witch-mother to climb it and visit her. Rapunzel didn’t see how this was easier than the stairs, but, whatever.

Whenever she visited, her witch-mother asked if any men had come to visit. And Rapunzel had told her the truth: no men came to visit. Her witch-mother apparently had some lasting PTSD from her own time locked in a tower and a bunch of men invading her life, so she was very cautious that the same thing not happen to Rapunzel.

When her witch-mother wasn’t there, Rapunzel read voraciously. Her favorites were tales of knights and armor and valor and bravery; she identified heavily with the male heroes and wanted to swan into battle proudly and rescue a maiden fair. She did not realize that she herself was supposed to be a maiden fair needing to be rescued. She slowly began to realize that this whole “being a maiden” thing was not who she actually was. Rapunzel started working out daily, and reconfigured her dresses into pants and jumpsuits. As a final act of self-understanding, Rapunzel chopped off her long, long golden locks into a rather fetching short pixie cut.

The next time her witch-mother came to visit, she was taken aback by Rapunzel’s new appearance. She’d climbed up the long rope of hair she knew so well, only to discover the hair tied to a hook inside, and not attached to her daughter’s head. Rapunzel was sitting in a chair, reading, and really rocking that haircut. The witch gasped.

“Darling Rapunzel, what has happened to you?”

“Please do not call me that. It’s been nearly 15 years since you locked me in this tower, and I’ve come to realize that I am not Rapunzel, I am Raphael. Please do use he/his pronouns and call me by my actual name.”

The witch-mother was taken aback, and had to sit down. After a long, thoughtful talk, the witch-mother understood, and realized she could let Raphael back into the world without worry.

“I do have a confession to make, mother,” said Raphael.

“Yes, please do tell me, dearest Raphael,” she answered kindly. What more could be said?

“It’s true that no men have been to see me while I’ve been in this tower. But… I’ve had a fair stream of women through this window since I was about 13. I wasn’t obligated to tell you. Fairy tale law, you know. I’m deeply in love with one woman now. Her name is Mary, and she is wonderful.”

The witch nodded; of course. Raphael had always vehemently denied and seemed disgusted by the idea that a man would visit and try to kiss her… him. Him. Everything made sense. She got up and gave Raphael a kiss on the forehead. “I think the world is ready for you, now.”

They climbed down the hair together, and sweet Mary was waiting at the bottom of the tower. The witch-mother hugged Mary, then Raphael, and wished them a happy life together. Mary and Raphael kissed sweetly and the three of them walked out of the woods together.


Scent notes: white rose, white musk, white thyme, a summer rainstorm, neroli, gardenia, a perfectly ripe grapefruit, kumquat, orange blossom, neroli, red mandarin, fresh dalmatian sage.

 

Chapter 3: Flame Rose

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl named Madeline. Her parents had adopted her at a young age. According to them, they were on a walk through the woods with her grandmother, and they found her quietly sitting under a tree. Nobody else was around, so they took the girl in and raised her as if she were their own. Which was convenient, as her father had been assigned female even before he had been born, so having the chance to take in a child seemed like a sign, or like something out of a fairy tale. Which is also convenient, because they were living in a fairy tale.

Madeline grew up with loving, doting parents and a witchy grandmother. Basically, she was living the dream. What a lucky girl! She even possessed the most incredible power: she could spin straw into gold. Okay, well, maybe not actual gold, but she was so amazing at spinning straw it might as well have been gold.

As she grew older and began honing her craft, world of her amazing abilities began to spread throughout the neighboring kingdoms. Eventually, word even reached the king himself, who didn’t understand hyperbole and immediately asked that the girl be brought to him at once.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men went and found Madeline and her parents. By now, she was nearly 18 and had some sense of herself. She absolutely did not want to go and see the king, but her parents realized there wasn’t really another choice. They hugged and kissed her goodbye, and told her they would come to her the moment she called for them.

Days later, arriving at the castle, Madeline greets the king. He’s a portly, unpleasant man, who is clearly delighted to see her.

“Young maiden! The tale of your incredible spinning has made its way through the land. Please, we would love to see your work in action. We shall have a test of your skills. Tonight, I’m going to personally lock you into a room in one of our tallest towers, and you shall spin me gold from straw!”

How many goddamn towers can there be in this land, seriously? Madeline laughed. “Wait, wait, wait. You think I can *actually* spin straw into real gold? You do realize that’s impossible, right? Whoever told you that was speaking metaphorically.”

The king grew terse; his mustache twitched impatiently. “I am the KING! And you shall do as I say!”

Madeline put her hands on her hips and cocked her head. “Well, what do I get out of this whole situation? Do I get to keep the gold?”

The king guffawed. “Absolutely not.”

Madeline shrugged. “So why bother with all of this, then?”

The king sighed. “Fine. If you prove to me that you are as talented as they say, you can marry my son, the heir to the throne.” He gestured to the far side of the room. “And, you know, I won’t have you killed. That too.”

She hadn’t even noticed that, sitting in the far back, there were two other thrones: one for the prince, and one for the princess. Madeline shuddered violently when she looked at the prince. Now, there’s no denying that he was handsome, but the expression on his face showed intolerable cruelty and disgust just under the placid surface of his skin. He was eating a turkey leg because of course he was. She would never, ever marry him. The girl sitting next to him, the princess, seemed repulsed just being next to her brother. She, too, was beautiful; her hair was the color of a bright orange rose, and the leather dress she was wearing fit like a glove. Madeline forced herself to look back at the king.

“Do I really have a choice in this matter?”

The king smiled. “So you agree, then. If you spin all the straw in the tower to gold, you’ll marry my son tomorrow. And won’t die horribly. Perfect. I love when things work out. Guards, take her away.”

Two guards grab her by the elbows and guide her out of the hall. She turned back and looked at the prince and princess on her way out the door; she could swear that the princess just smiled and winked at her. She winked back.

Up the steps to the tower, she saw a ton of graffiti on the walls. “Charming Wuz Here” was written in sloppy script near the doorway. Who the hell…? But she didn’t have time to think about it; the guards opened the door, shoved her in the room, and locked it behind her. Madeline was shocked to discover that the whole room was absolutely covered in straw; she was standing about waist-deep in it. Across the room, she could just make out a fine cedar bed, and next to it was a small dressing area, which contained the room’s only source of light, an old oil lamp. She parted through the straw and collapsed on the bed, crying. Why was the king so literal and stupid? Why did she have to marry his cruel son? She’d had such a wonderful, magical life, so why was she suddenly in this terrifying situation? She sniffed at the wood, trying to calm herself down with a scent that was almost like home.

“Hello!” she heard a tiny voice cry out from the windowsill.

Madeline bolted upright, terrified. “Who’s there?!” She looked and, incredulously, saw a small man perched up on the window. He definitely had not been there when she came in just moments ago. He had a funny little beard and an old, weathered face. He smiled at her. “Would you like me to help you out of this predicament?”

Madeline shook her head, then rubbed her eyes hard. Nope, weird little guy was still there. “This… this can’t be happening. This is the strangest thing. Who are you?”

His smile grew bigger, and he hopped down off the windowsill. His little body was completely covered, so just his head was poking out from the straw. “I’m here to help you! I can weave this straw into gold in no time. All you have to do is guess my name.”

Madeline stared at the little floating head in the straw. “This is a joke, right? This whole thing has to be a setup. Am I being Punk’d?”

The man laughed. “I can assure you, miss, that this is far from a joke. Go ahead; guess my name.”

While Madeline was being interrogated by a strange man, downstairs, the king and the prince (also strange men, honestly) were discussing their good fortune at finding Madeline and drinking mead, tequila, bourbon, scotch, and ale. The princess, Elizabeth, was sitting nearby and listening. They didn’t even pay attention to her because she was “just a woman,” and therefore, of no value to them.

“What luck, my son, that soon we shall have a mountain of gold to pay off our debts!” the king said, heartily chugging a glass of ale.

The prince eyed his father. “What if she can’t, though? What if it is just a rumor? You and I both know rumors are almost always true, but, what do we do if this one isn’t? We’re completely broke, and the city is bankrupt!”

The king hushed him angrily, and took a shot of tequila. “My son! Do not say such things loudly; others will hear you.”

“Like me,” Elizabeth said.

The king and the prince laughed. “Yes, but you’re a woman, so nobody cares about you,” said the king, before turning back to his son. “Look, I know we are gambling men, and that’s how we got into this predicament in the first place. But, how about we put a wager on this Madeline thing?”

The prince’s smarmy face lit up. “A wager? What shall it be?”

The king smiled. “My boy, if she can turn that straw into gold, you shall indeed marry her. And then we will lock her up, and force her to make enough gold so we can gamble on everything for the rest of our lives!”

“And if she can’t?” the prince asked, sipping his mead.

“Well, then we are going to abdicate the throne and get the hell out of here because we don’t really have another option. And we’ll kill the girl. For fun!”

Elizabeth had had enough. She wished she could run and tell Madeline of the nefarious plot, but she knew the guards were at the door. Instead, she stormed out into the night to take a walk.

Meanwhile, back in the tower, Madeline had had enough, too. “Okay, this whole thing is absolutely ridiculous,” she said to the little man. “I’m done with this.” She took off her outermost layer of skirt and began ripping it into strips, and typing the ends together, forming a crude rope.

“What… what are you doing?” the little man asked incredulously.

“This whole thing is ridiculous and I’m not going to be a part of it anymore.” She tied her rope to the top bedpost, and flung it out the window. She stumbled through the straw over to the dressing area, and grabbed the lamp. “I’m burning it all down.” She flung the lamp into the middle of the straw, where it smashed and started to burn. The little man screamed, and with a strange popping noise, he had vanished.

The room was starting to lightt up, spreading quickly through the straw. Madeline stopped and smiled for just a moment, before hoisting herself out the window, and guiding herself down her makeshift rope.

Elizabeth smelled the smoke before she saw the fire. (Of course, because that’s how the old saying goes, or close enough, whatever.) Looking up, she saw the tower ablaze, and ran towards it. Imagine her surprise, then to see the young Madeline calmly climbing down the side in her underskirt. Elizabeth ran to her, to help her climb down the last few feet, and try to catch her if necessary.

No need. Madeline descended the tower as if she’d done it 1,000 times before (must be in her genes, Elizabeth thought), and jumped the final few feet down, landing easily into a rolling motion and winding up at Elizabeth’s feet. Madeline popped up, completely unphased. “Oh, hey,” she said to Elizabeth, who looked astounded.

“What happened? Are you alright?”

Madeline shrugged. “As alright as I can be for someone who was basically taken captive and told she must do the impossible or be killed. Or worse, succeed in the impossible and marry your brother.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Well, I have some great news for you. And possibly, a brilliant plan.” She took Madeline’s hand and the two strode back into the castle, just as the tower began to collapse.

The king and the prince were waiting, alarmed at the news, convinced that Madeline was dead and their plan was for naught. “She killed herself and is taking us with her!” the king yelled, when Madeline and Elizabeth walked in together.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re alive! Did you rescue some of the gold you spun before this… uh… accident happened?” the king asked.

“It was no accident,” Madeline replied. “You asked me to do the impossible, because apparently, you’re a gambler and you’ve bankrupted your entire kingdom. And now, you’re totally screwed.”

The king’s face was turning a deep shade of plum. “How did you know about that?”

Elizabeth stepped forward. “Well father, I may just be a woman, but I do have ears. And a brain. Something you apparently never realized.”

The king was about to start screaming, but Elizabeth continued on.

“Oh no, you don’t get to keep speaking. You’ve done enough. Besides, I can’t hear you over the sound of your kingdom burning to the ground. I heard your bet with your darling precious son; you said if she didn’t spin straw into gold, you’d leave. We think that’s a great idea. We’ve come up with a five-year fiscal plan that we will implement to get this kingdom back into shape. And,” Elizabeth glanced at Madeline and smiled, “we plan to do it together. As the queens we really are.”

The king and prince were furious, but, they had lost the bet they had made, and fairy tale law was a bitch like that. “We’ll come back,” they said. “We’ll be back once this kingdom officially fails. And we will reclaim it.”

But they never got the chance. Revenge is a dish best served with a 5% compounding annual interest.

Madeline and Elizabeth got married the very next day. They found the little man; turns out, Elizabeth knew him. He was magical, and could indeed turn straw into gold, but he was also a sloppy drunk who liked to brag about his exploits trying to make women do as he wishes by making them guess his name. They walked into Ye Olde Tavern, found him half-passed-out, and both screamed, “RUMPLESTILTSKIN!”

“OH SHIT DAMMIT FUCK A DUCK WHO--oh. It’s you two. What do you want?” he asked as he came to.

They locked him in a tower and made him turn straw into gold for a week to help reboot the economy. Together with strong investments, the queens made the lands the most prosperous they had been in a century. They ruled happily together for decades, and all was well.


Scent notes: wild rose, cedarwood, smoke, leather.

 

Chapter Four: Blood Rose


Once upon a time, there lived two queens who were married to each other. They had been together for many years, and were growing old. While Madeline had been beautiful, it was her wife, Elizabeth, who was truly stunning. Her hair had been a bright shade of orange; now, it was mostly naturally white, but Elizabeth adhered to a strict hair dying schedule. Madeline aged gracefully, embracing and openly flaunting her wrinkles, scars, and white hair; Elizabeth would sooner die than show everyone what she perceived as her faults. Really, she was still the fairest in all the land, but she couldn’t see this for herself.

One winter, Madeline took ill. While everyone thought she just had a minor bout of flu, it got worse. And worse. It soon became obvious that she would not live to see the spring. Elizabeth was beside herself. Her companion of so many years, her one true love, did not have much time left. She was terrified; Madeline had been the people’s queen. Elizabeth was the ice queen, the beauty, the slightly dark heart behind the scenes. The thought that she would now be old and alone was haunting her. The one thing she could still control was her looks, and she took even greater steps now to make certain her beauty stayed intact.

Shortly before she passed away, Madeline had a gift made for Elizabeth. Being that Madeline had been so popular, and because she had some powers of her own, she gave Elizabeth a magic mirror that would always reassure her that she was the most beautiful woman in all the lands they ruled. It was looking into this mirror and asking it, multiple times a day, if she was still the fairest one of all that gave her life some sense of distorted, narcissistic order once Madeline died. Elizabeth spent hours upon hours gazing at her reflection, applying makeup, dying her barely existent roots, anything she could see as a potential flaw that was fixable was immediately eradicated.

A few years after Madeline’s death, Elizabeth was spending yet another day transfixed in front of the magic mirror. She knew her looks were starting to fade, and she had consulted with several local witches to try and figure out the best course of action as to how to stop this dreadful aging process. One suggested a mask of honey and sea salt to scrub out and moisturize the pores. It did work, and it smelled delicious, but it didn’t seem to have any lasting effects. She used only the purest rose water to wash her face and body, and she quite liked the faint smell of rose that seemed to radiate from her very core. But still, she kept getting older. She knew on some level that she couldn’t stop the slow march towards death, and while a large part of her wanted to reunite with her dearest Madeline, she was becoming more and more obsessed and consumed by the idea of looking as youthful as possible.

It was on this day, after her honey and salt mask and rose water rinse, that the mirror told her the most horrible thing: she was no longer the fairest in the land. Far from it. A real beauty, nicknamed Snow White, had just turned 14, and what a sight to behold she had become: raven black hair, dark brown eyes, full red lips, and the smoothest, palest skin. It makes logical sense that a freshly blossoming young woman should be the fairest in all the lands, but something in Elizabeth’s brain finally snapped. Her obsession changed to this young woman: finding her, befriending her, and killing her, because only she could be the beauty. That was her one gift, and she intended to keep it, by any means necessary.

Across the forest, at the edge of the land, Snow White lived with her seven older brothers. Their parents had tragically died a few years beforehand, and Snow White became their mother from a young age. She didn’t wear makeup, she didn’t care about her clothing, and she hardly left the house. Still, she was content, as she felt it was the right thing to do. Her brothers, bless them, had their quirks, and needed looking after.

Day after day, she did the washing and the cleaning and the cooking, with nary a complaint. She enjoyed the alone time while her brothers went to the mines all day. Every night when they came home there was joy and laughter and good food, and every day she spent alone in the quiet, cleaning up the mess from the night before while singing along with the birds that nested just outside the kitchen window.

Snow had a simple, pure, easy life. She didn’t even realize how naturally beautiful she was, which only served to enhance the fullness of her lips, and the length of her eyelashes. She had no idea that you could be obsessed with beauty; that the very notion of needing to be beautiful above all else could drive you to darkness and evil.

Elizabeth, being the queen, sent spies out to find Snow White. She didn’t want to hurt the girl at first; not necessarily. (Or if she did, she didn’t admit it to herself.) But once she found out that Snow White didn’t wear makeup, didn’t care about clothing nor anything to do with appearance, Elizabeth’s hatred intensified. How could a girl who didn’t even care if she looked good be more beautiful than she? Elizabeth always cared what she looked like; it was one of the few facets of her personality now that Madeline was gone. She realized just how cruel and evil and obsessive she was becoming, but it was too late. She didn’t care. Elizabeth decided to send for the girl. She needed her, and her youthfulness, now.

The guards set out; this time, instead of gathering information, they are to bring her back to Elizabeth, alive and unharmed.

It was a quiet, normal day in Snow White’s house. Her brothers had left to mine; she was in the midst of washing the breakfast plates and had a heaping pile of laundry at her feet, when there was a knock on the door. Snow White had no fear; she’d never had a reason to be truly afraid. Once the door was opened, the guards immediately grabbed her by the arms and dragged her away. The guards, of course, were entranced by her youth and beauty, but they were not monsters. They did not harm the girl on their days walk back to the castle.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth consulted with a different local witch. This one was known to be extreme: casting horrible spells, brewing potions of incredible strength, and completely owning misogynist Twitter trolls. She was not one to be trifled with. She told Elizabeth what she could do with young Snow White: first, poison her with an enchanted apple. While she’s unconscious, take some of her blood, mix it with dragon’s blood, honey, whiskey, and a sprig of mint (to hide the blood flavor), and drink it. It would restore her beauty and extend her life by many years. Elizabeth was excited. She had a plan; she would be youthful forever.

Snow White’s arrival to the castle did not go unnoticed. The fairest of them all turned heads everywhere she went, duh. Everyone who laid eyes on her was entranced. She was brought to the queen’s chamber door. One of the guards knocked, and then they let her in.

Elizabeth had gone to great lengths to make sure she looked incredible, and not at all like she knew exactly how many pores were on her own face (19,536; she had counted multiple times). She was sitting at a table, sipping a glass of deep red wine. A cheese platter and various fruit were laid out before her. “Please, Snow White, do come in. Sit down with me and let us have a chat.”

Snow White obliged. She was not afraid, although she was confused about what she was doing here and why the queen herself wanted to personally meet with her.

“Thank you, your majesty. May I ask why I am here?”

Elizabeth smiled in a way that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Of course! You are here because you are the most beautiful girl in the lands. I feel protective over you, as I used to be in that same position myself. We are here to chat about beauty, and perhaps you will find a suitor in the court.” She picked up and nibbled on a piece of sharp cheddar. “Please, Snow White, do go ahead and eat. It’s important for a queen to feed her… appetites.”

Snow White took several pieces of cheese and ate them, because cheese calmed her down when she was nervous. (How does cheese calm her down? Don’t ask.) They were making polite small talk, and Snow White was taking in the incredible surroundings of Elizabeth’s bedroom: the plush velvet curtains; the king-sized bed; the dressing area complete with wardrobe topped with bottles of perfume and makeup of all kinds; and the most incredible mirror hanging over it. “This is the most beautiful bedroom I have ever seen,” she said to Elizabeth. “I sleep in a small bed in our living room. There’s not a lot of room in our house.”

“Yes, I’ve heard you have seven brothers; that’s quite a lot of testosterone to deal with. Poor girl. You can stay here as long as you need. Perhaps even forever.” Elizabeth smiled that creepy smile again.

Snow White nodded; yes, she would love to stay here. She got up and surveyed the room, running her hand along the beautiful objects. When she got to the mirror, she paused to look at her reflection. Wow, she thought, I am incredibly beautiful. In her mind, suddenly, a warning flashed. LEAVE NOW, it said. SHE WILL KILL YOU.

An unfamiliar feeling of panic crept into her stomach, and Snow White turned around to find the queen directly facing her. Elizabeth held an apple in one hand, and a knife in the other.

“Darling Snow White, would you care for some apple? It’s organic, straight from the orchard just behind the castle.” She took the knife and began to cut a large piece. Ripping the chunk out of the apple, she held it like she was trying to airplane-feed Snow White. “Open up, darling; take a big, big bite.”

Snow White smacked the piece of apple out of Elizabeth’s hand, and at the same time, Elizabeth moved to stab her. They began to struggle; back and forth, the knife weaving dangerously between them. “You cannot survive, child! Give up; I will not allow you to live! I AM THE FAIREST! ME!” Elizabeth screamed, her sanity completely shattering.

“You don’t have a choice, bitch; GIVE IT UP!” Snow White screamed back. They continued to struggle on the ground. Finally, Snow White managed to twist the queen’s arm enough that she dropped the knife. Snow White rolled to try and grab it, but Elizabeth went with her. Knowing there was no way out of this for her, Snow White elbowed the queen in the face, breaking her nose. “No!! This was my new nose!” the queen howled in pain. Snow White got to the knife and held it up at the queen. “I will kill you if I have to,” she said. Elizabeth snarled. “Then do it.”

Snow White threw the knife across the room, away from both of them. Elizabeth laughed. “What are you DOING, you stupid child?” Suddenly, Snow White was running at her; Elizabeth couldn’t even react as Snow White bodyslammed her into her beloved mirror, shattering both the mirror and Elizabeth’s skull.

“Who’s the fairest one now, bitch?” Snow White asked. “Me. It’s me. And it’s going to be me forever.”

News of the queen’s death spread throughout the kingdom, but nobody was very sad. While she had rescued the economy years ago, she had turned evil and narcissistic after the death of Queen Madeline. It was decided that, as Snow White had killed her (even in self-defense) that she had earned the right to be queen. Fairy tale law is a cruel mistress. Snow White was made queen of the lands, and her brothers came to live with her in the castle, and they all lived happily ever after, finally getting to sleep in separate bedrooms.


Scent notes: English rose, honey, sea salt, dragonsblood.

 

Chapter 5: Black Rose


Once upon a time, Snow White had reigned as queen for many years. She’d never been married, although she’d had a string of lovers, none had ever committed. What’s a queen without a king though? Historically speaking, more powerful and awesome, which is exactly what happened to Snow White. She had, though, successfully found seven brides for her seven brothers, and had a near-army of nieces and nephews who had grown up in the castle and she’d doted on as if they were her own.

Everyone loved her as a queen. She was kind, patient, and a very good ruler. After all, she’d had to start running a house full of seven men from a very young age; running a country was not that different, after all. Make smart choices, be as just as you can, don’t take shit from anyone, and enjoy your life as much as you can. And a string of hot lovers; that helps a lot, she highly recommended that aspect of her life.

She had always been a fan of good food, even when she had to cook it all herself. She longed to be back in the kitchen and to cook a meal from scratch; she did so occasionally. If she hadn’t been queen, she would have wanted to become a chef. The chopping of vegetables, the sourcing of ingredients, the complexity of salt with fat and acid cooked over heat was just intoxicating to her. Food is so delicious! Occasionally she did sneak down into the kitchen to prepare herself a scrumptious meal and feel like she accomplished something. Sure, running a successful country is an accomplishment, but it’s not something tangible, on a plate, that you made yourself and can then enjoy however you like.

The one less-than-bright spot in her life was one of her guards. He’d been fostered in the castle, and was a son of a nearby powerful king. The young man had become a pawn in a particularly sticky trade negotiation, or she would have sent him home long ago. She’s not sure how he kept being assigned to her, as she specifically began requesting anyone but him, and yet, there he was almost every single day. He was probably a fine enough person, but he was nosy and invasive and always trying to ask her questions about food and her weight, as if that was any of his business.

This morning, there he was, yet again, tasked with taking her breakfast order.

“My queen, what would you like to eat this morning?”

“Definitely coffee, please, and a very scrumptious breakfast sandwich: runny egg, thick bacon, caramelized onions, sharp cheddar cheese, and some arugula on whatever bread the baker has made freshest. And a side of potatoes, please. I had a long night.” She smiled and yawned, turning her face towards her bed, which until recently had been occupied by her and a few others. It was good to be queen.

“That sounds like a heavy breakfast. Are you sure?”
She arched an eyebrow. “Oh, I am absolutely certain.”

“No oatmeal? No fruit cup? A healthy acai berry smoothie topped with granola and chia seeds?”

“No, thank you. I know what I would like to eat, and I shall eat it if I want to.” He had been making these comments for weeks now, and the queen was starting to lose her cool. She knew she had to maintain her calm, or he would get a weird satisfaction out of seeing her aggravated by his words.

He turned away to head to the kitchen. She could hear him muttering under his breath. She called for him to return.

“You know, I have changed my mind. I’d also love a piece of rich, dark chocolate cake. There’s just something about having your cake and eating it too, isn’t there?” She smiled at him. He grimaced, and turned it into a strained smile. “Of course, your majesty.”

While waiting for her breakfast, the queen did her morning yogalates workout. Say what you will about the gimmicky name, that shit was intense, and left her feeling rejuvenated and flexible. Once her workout was over, she sat at her table and awaited her glorious breakfast sandwich. It would taste so good after all the various types of working out she’d been doing. Not that she made exercise a Thing; she just always felt better when she did.

Finally, the guard returned. She could almost smell the bacon… except, when he set the tray down in front of her, there was no bacon in sight. Instead there was a bowl filled with grey, unseasoned oatmeal, an acid-green colored smoothie, and an obnoxiously large bowl of fruit.

Snow White stared at the tray. “What the hell is this?” she asked, looking pointedly at the guard.

“Well, my queen, I’m just worried about your health, and I want to make sure you can continue to fit into your gowns. I’m just very concerned about your well-being; you are the queen! You need to live as long as possible,” he stuttered, getting less and less confident as he continued speaking.

Snow White was pissed. No, she was more than pissed; she was absolutely livid.

“My good guard, what did you eat for breakfast today?”

“Me? What did *I* eat?”

“Why, yes! If you are so concerned about my health, I’d love to know about your diet. Clearly it must be incredibly nutritious and delicious. Please tell me what you ate for breakfast.”

“I, uh, I had a double sausage patty sandwich with extra cheddar cheese from McFarmer’s that I grabbed on my way into the castle this morning.”

“Oh. So you are clearly very health-conscious. My goodness. I’m so sorry to have doubted your commitment to fitness. Please, you need this oatmeal far more than I do. Go ahead; sit and eat.” She got up from her chair and beckoned for him to sit down.

“My queen, oh, no, I couldn’t!”

“No, sir, I insist! Please. You are adamant about the benefits of a healthy breakfast; please, eat it.”

The other guard by the chamber door began to snicker. The queen smiled at him. The other guard kept on stammering about how there’s no way he could eat that himself, he was just concerned, he was trying to help her…

“Well, dear guard, as your queen, I’m afraid I must order you to eat this food.”

“Please, no, I can’t. It’s so… boring.”

A question popped into the queen’s head. “Sir guard, do you have a wife? Any daughters?”

“Yes, I love my wife and three beautiful daughters. I am very lucky,” he stammered.

“And tell me, do you make them eat this kind of food while you grab meals on the go from McFarmer’s?”

“...Only for their health! I know they’d rather I bring home the bacon, but turkey bacon is just as good, right? Isn’t it? I’ve never actually eaten it but it’s probably the same!”

Snow White smiled; a real, genuine smile. “Okay, you don’t have to eat this.”

His face relaxed. She understood! Oh, how wrong he was.

She looked at the guard at the door and nodded. He nodded in return, came over, and grabbed his coworker. “It’s time.”

“Time? Time for what?!”

Snow White laughed. “Well, I am a bit concerned that you won’t fit inside the stocks, but, that’s not gonna stop me from putting you there!”

And she did. The guard was placed in the stocks for three days, being fed nothing but gruel, often directly by the queen herself, who liked to employ the classic airplane technique, perfected after years of feeding young nieces and nephews. The whole town gathered to pelt him with fresh berries and pour green juice on his head, including his own wife and daughters, who felt it was only fair after all the crap he’d given them for years about their weights and diets. The queen invited them to stay at the castle while he was in the stocks, and each night, she herself prepared glorious feasts for them all to enjoy. Yes, indeed, it was good to be the queen.


Scent notes: wild rose, rich dark chocolate, fresh vanilla bean, burnt sugar, whiskey, bourbon, an old library in a dusty castle, patchouli, a cold creamsicle on a hot day, really good bacon.

 

Chapter 6: Steel Rose


Sarah woke up with a start from a series of strange dreams. She’d been several different princesses, queens, and other fairy tale folk over the course of what was only a night, but had seemed like centuries. It really felt like she had been there; as if the worlds in her dreams were alive and bright, right before her very eyes.

But that was impossible. Right?

Dragging herself out of bed, avoiding looking into the mirror, Sarah headed to the kitchen to make her magical morning potion: coffee. Oh, coffee, you maker of merry, you necessity of #adulting, how Sarah desperately needed you this morning. She just couldn’t seem to focus; couldn’t seem to shake her head out of her dreams and into reality. Yes, reality: you have to shower. You have to get dressed. You have to get to work, and you have that second date tonight. Focus. You can do this. Snap out of it!

Nearly crawling into the bathroom, she forced herself into the shower. Perk yourself up, bitch; get moving! It’s Friday! It’s payday! The hot water relaxed her, then focused her brain a little bit more. She used her favorite rose-scented body wash, and scrubbed her self-doubts away. I can do this!, she thought. It’s just a Friday.

Hopping out of the shower, grabbing a cup of coffee, she starts getting officially ready for the day. Normally, there would be a semi-elaborate makeup routine: primer, foundation, concealer, a light contour, blush, highlight, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara… Today, though, as she stood and looked in the bathroom mirror, she stopped. Sarah looked at her reflection, really, honestly took a good look in the mirror. She heard a voice in her head saying, “Yes, you are the fairest of them all.” That’s a bit far-fetched, she thought, but I’m really not bad looking. Huh. Maybe I don’t need to do all this…

For the first morning that she could remember, she decided to pare down the makeup: a smidge of undereye concealer, a quick brush of mascara, and a dab of blush on the apples of her cheeks. How did this small amount of makeup make her look better than a whole spackle job? Maybe this was a good life lesson: don’t hide your features; embrace the face you have, and make small adjustments if you feel like it (or have a date later). Huh. Staring into this mirror felt so familiar, she could nearly do it all day…

Shit, no, work! Gotta go fast! She ran out the door and walked her typical route to the office. She could smell the city: that familiar metallic note that clings to the inside of the nostrils. She loved that smell. She’d grown up in a small town in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and dreamed of tall buildings made of metal and glass, even if big buildings made of glass don’t make a ton of sense. It was one of her favorite parts about living in a metropolitan area.

Sarah made it to work at exactly 9:00am for the first time in weeks. Patting herself on the back, she walked confidently to her cubicle. People were staring at her new appearance, but she didn’t care. She felt powerful, like she could burn this whole place to the ground and start her own business if she wanted to. Why did that feel familiar? She’d never burned anything to the ground, and yet, the notion wasn’t completely foreign. Best to not throw down a match at 9:02am, though.

She spent the morning checking her email, making small talk with coworkers, attempting to look busier than she actually was: typical office life stuff. Someone had brought in donuts to the break room and she resisted the overwhelming urge to eat three of them. You have a date tonight, she thought. Control your appetite, it’s unattractive. Instead, she took the time to increase the amount she put into her 401(k) each month, and downloaded a new app to her phone to help track her expenses and save money. Because the best plans in life have a 5% return on investment, she thought, which didn’t really make a ton of sense in this context but hey, taking steps towards being fiscally responsible is never a bad thing.

At lunch, she walked to a nearby cafe to have lunch with her best friend, Megan. They tried to get together once or twice a week, because they realized their friendship was just as important as any relationship, and wanted to keep it strong. Over salads and iced tea, they rehashed their most recent dating fails, griped about work and money and all the usual things people get together and talk about over food. Sarah told Megan about her new money-tracking/saving app, and Megan downloaded it too. Best to keep everyone you know financially afloat and spread the good news, right? And Megan loved Sarah’s new look. “It’s more of who you really are,” Megan told her. “It looks like the real you is shining through, you know? You’re so pretty!”

Sarah floated back to the office, feeling better than she had in a long time. That is, until she saw Darren. Ugh. Darren started on the same day Sarah did (with less credentials) and managed to advance higher than Sarah had in the past four years. He never failed to rub it in her face when she saw him, because they both knew (even if it was subconscious for Darren) that Sarah deserved the promotions he’d managed to get.

“Hey, Darren,” she said as casually as she could muster.

“Hey Sarah! I was just wondering, um, do you have time to look at a presentation I’ve been working on for corporate?”

“Um, potentially? I’m kind of working-”

“Awesome, thanks! I already emailed it to you, and I’m due to give it in less than two hours, so, the sooner the better, thanks again! I totally owe you a drink at some point.” He bounded away, not giving her a second look.

Sarah sighed and rolled her eyes. Today had been going so well! Why, why, why did Darren have to be a massive tool and also be somewhat her superior AND terrible at his job? She opened up the PowerPoint file; it was riddled with spelling and factual errors, and made her cringe not even two slides in. Should she really do all the work for this jerk and not take the credit? Should she just not do anything and let himself look bad in front of corporate, the clients, and most of the company? He’d just get pissed and somehow blame her. What should she do?

She sat there, staring at the screen, trying to tap into some higher intelligence, some kind of sign about how she should proceed. Suddenly, it occurred to her: he won’t look at this before he opens the presentation. If he does, he’ll only look at the first slide or two. And she went to work. She’d wanted to set fire to something; why not have that be Darren’s career?

Two hours later, she sat in the audience, waiting for Darren to stand up and give his speech. She’d shown him the first three slides twenty minutes ago, which he approved, and promptly went to make sure his hair was in perfect place before giving the presentation. Now, as he stood up and began his speech, his back to the slides he was projecting and with all the confidence of a TED speaker, she watched as his career slowly died while he wasn’t even paying attention.

She’d left the terrible slides in, along with her notes and comments in giant, bold red font. Darren wasn’t even looking at the slides; he was just so arrogant that she had done his job for him. And, you know, she HAD, she’d also just left in all his mistakes to show people what a dumbfuck he actually was.

Around the room, people began to giggle and point and look at Sarah. Some of the women discreetly high-fived her. At the end of the presentation, she’d crossed off his name and put her own, along with her title and email. It was then, finally, that Darren looked and saw what she’d done. He was furious, and started yelling about how this was all a prank, there was no way he was that stupid, she had tried to sabotage him!

The lights came on, and two of the senior managers escorted Darren out of the room. Most of the employees were laughing hysterically; it was an open secret that Darren was terrible at his job, and the whole room was thrilled that he was likely being fired. Then the senior managers called Sarah out of the room. Everyone clapped for her as she took a quick bow, and walked out.

They led her into a conference room, and asked her what, exactly, had happened. Sarah told them calmly, and said she would happily show them all the emails and work she had done on his behalf over the years, especially since he was promoted. That was enough for them. Darren was fired, and Sarah was promoted starting immediately, and with a hefty bonus (which was likely also a keep-your-mouth-shut payment, but whatever, money!).

Sarah was on cloud nine as she headed to her date that evening; she texted Megan to tell her that she had incredible news to tell her when she got home in a few hours. Megan said she hoped that there was even more juicy news to tell her AFTER the date, and wished her luck.

This was her second date with Steven, and she was fairly excited about it. Their first date was at a hip sushi restaurant that was a good meeting midpoint for the two of them, which was a good sign to her. She had been too excited to eat much; he was a very attractive man, and it intimidated her slightly. But overall, that evening had gone well; she probably had not talked as much, but again, nerves, and that seems normal for a first date with a very attractive human.

But today, today she was on fire! She was high on her own gorgeous face; on the way she took charge of her life in so many ways; how she had just gotten a gigantic promotion and bonus. This was the perfect day. Nothing could go wrong.

She met Steven out front of the steakhouse just a few blocks from her office. She was giddy and ready for a steak and a martini, maybe not in that order. She came up and gave him a quick hug, announcing that she was in the best mood ever and had a fantastic story to tell him. He smiled. “My, you are exuberant tonight!” he said, which struck her as a little odd, but she brushed it off.

They went inside and got seated in a gorgeous plush red booth, her favorite type of seating. The perfect day! The waiter came and took their drink orders: a stiff, dry martini for Sarah; a glass of chardonnay for Steven.

“So, what’s this wonderful news you have?”

And she launched into her story. How she’d finally fallen in love with her face; how she’d stood up to Darren at work; how she’d purposely sabotaged him. The waiter interrupted her to bring their drinks; she grabbed hers and took a big gulp before explaining how they had instantly promoted her and fired him and now she was going to eat and drink and celebrate victory and life and her excitement!

It was probably the most she had spoken all at once to Steven, who looked more repulsed as she continued. He did not look excited for her at all. When she finished her story, he was silent. Then, the waiter popped in again to ask what they want to eat.

“I’d like the filet mignon, medium rare, with steak frites and a side of the bacon brussels sprouts as well,” Sarah said.

“Excellent choice. And for you, sir?” the waiter said.

“Oh, uh, I’d like the steamed salmon with brown rice and a Caesar salad, no cheese, dressing on the side,” Steven said, and took a sip of his wine.

The waiter merely nodded, and walked away.

“Steamed salmon? Really? At a steakhouse?” Sarah asked him.

“Yeah; I try to eat healthy no matter what,” he replied. “One glass of wine, no red meat, no white flour, very little sugar, as many greens as possible.”

“Even on a date? Or, you know, as a celebration?” she asked.

“Well, I’m not sure what we’re celebrating. You clearly humiliated a coworker who needed help, instead of helping him when he needed it. And you’re talking an awful lot about how attractive you think you are, which is a very unattractive quality. Have you thought about seeing a therapist, perhaps? Maybe work through some of these issues you’re clearly experiencing?” Steven took a long sip of his wine.

Sarah sat there, flabbergasted. The old her would call the waiter over, cancel her steak and get a salad, and run to the bathroom and cry. But that was old Sarah. This is new Sarah; take-no-shit Sarah; I-am-beautiful-go-fuck-yourself-shitty-chardonnay-man Sarah.

Instead of crying, she chugged the rest of her martini. “Excuse me, I must go to the ladies’ room,” she said calmly.

“Be my guest; I’ll enjoy the quiet,” Steven answered.

On her way to the bathroom, she found their waiter.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but, my date has turned quite sour. Could I get my dinner to go? And throw in a lobster tail, some mashed potatoes, and a slice of strawberry cheesecake?”

The waiter smiled. “Absolutely. Should I send someone to the bathroom to let you know when it’s ready?”

Sarah smiled. “You are very kind, thank you.”

She went into the bathroom, and immediately dialed Megan’s number.

“Well, that was fast,” she said when she picked up. “Are you on your way to his place or-?”

“Oh my god Megan he is the ACTUAL WORST,” she yelled, running into a stall. “He apparently only likes women who don’t eat, don’t talk, and don’t have opinions. He told me that I didn’t help a coworker in need and that it’s basically my fault Darren was fired.”

“What in the actual Hell is wrong with this guy?” Megan yelled. “You are so beautiful and amazing and wonderful. Are you okay? Do you want me to kill him? I know people.”

“No, no, I’ll be alright. I’m getting my food to go, plus a few extra things. The waiter is super nice and actually kind of cute. He’s sending in a waitress when my food is ready so I can grab it and leave.”

“Oh wow, yeah, that guy is awesome,” Megan said. “Please tell me you got expensive food.”

“Filet mignon, bacon brussels sprouts, frites, mashed potatoes, lobster tail, strawberry cheesecake,” Sarah said, exiting the stall to wait for the waitress.

“You are the greatest person I have ever met and I love you,” Megan said.

The waitress walked in. “Ma’am? Are you the one with the asshole date? Your food is ready.”

“Oh, thank you so much! Megan, I’ll call you when I’m home,” she said into her phone and hung up.

Sarah walked out, and grabbed her to-go boxes from the waiter. He winked at her. “Have a good night. I’ll go tell your date you weren’t feeling well and left and then give him the bill. And you might have gotten a few extra goodies in here, including my number.”

Sarah smiled. “Well, this is fantastic. Thank you so much. You might just be hearing from me later.”

She walked home, smelling her food wafting from the containers, mixing with the metallic city smell and her own rose-scented body. It was still a great day. And now she could end it the best way: in her bed, eating delicious food, on the phone with her best friend, and binge-watching Netflix. Damn, it’s good to be a queen.


Scent notes: wild rose, English rose, white rose, woodsmoke, patchouli, dragonsblood, metallic copper, metal, smoky incense.