Guess who’s posting two stories this month?! I know it’s quite a shock. But I decided to add another story to my plate when I saw the Intuitive Writing Guide prompt for January.
I’ve always wanted to write a retelling of the Snow Queen, so I had to try the prompt. Now, I haven’t actually read the original story or anything, so I guess “Statues” is more of a story inspired by the Snow Queen than a retelling.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy “Statues.” Sorry if I break your heart.
The icy curve of Gwyneth’s cheek was as pale as it had been in life. Eirwen let her fingers linger on her half-sister’s face as she stared into the blank eyes of the ice statue. “Good day, Gwynni,” she murmured.
Gwyneth didn’t answer, of course. But if Eirwen stared at the statue hard enough, she could almost imagine a gleam of life in the eyes, a warm breath coming from the lips, a breeze stirring the hair.
Eirwen squeezed Gwyneth’s hand, forever stretched forward, desperate for touch. And that was what had killed Gwynni in the end.
Tears did not accompany the sudden surge of emotion, but Eirwen wished that they had, impossible as that was. At least her heart was still capable of feeling. She turned away from Gwyneth’s statue and fastened a glare on the other two statues at the edge of the throne room. “Hello, Father, Stepmother.”
Father’s lips were stretched wide in a never-ending scream. Stepmother’s were curled in a sneer, her eyebrows arched with disdain. The statues did not melt, perhaps because of the coldness of the air, perhaps because of their magical essence.
Some said that it was the coldness of the palace that had frozen Eirwen’s heart, simply ignoring the fact of Stepmother’s decree. They were lying to themselves, blaming an external factor instead of their beloved former queen for the wreck that was the bastard princess.
“I can touch you now, Stepmother.” Eirwen’s nails scraped against the former queen’s frigid form. “You cannot stop me.”
Eirwen jerked her hands away from the statue. “Idris, my love!” Her pale dress spun around her as she turned to face the entrance to the throne room.
Idris’ smile warmed her almost to her core. He bowed deeply. “Eirwen, my lady.”
She stepped toward him, but he matched it with a step backward. Her stomach twisted. If only he would let her touch his pale face, feel the warmth of his skin.
“You seem upset.” His shock of red hair was vibrant in the paleness of the throne room. “Were you talking to your family again?”
That had been a private moment. Just because she was the queen didn’t mean her life had to be completely on display.
She forced herself to relax. It was Idris. He knew everything about her and didn’t care. He loved the cursed bastard queen.
“Yes,” she said, moving to the center of the room where her great throne sat. It, too, was made of ice, as was most of the palace. “Did you have any news for me, Idris?” she asked.
Idris stepped farther inside the throne room but not close enough for her to touch. “The people wish that you would leave your palace more,” he said. “They do not like your reclusive nature. They think it makes you… unsympathetic to their plight.”
Their plight? What of her plight? At least they could hold the people they loved.
The silence between them was as thick as the icy walls of the palace. Eirwen’s gaze traced his angular cheekbones, his almond-shaped eyes, the lips she wanted so desperately to kiss.
“Please don’t look at me like that,” he said hoarsely.
“Why?” Eirwen asked.
“Because…” His throat bobbed up and down. “I want to kiss you when you do that.”
“Then kiss me.”
His pale eyes darted toward the statues.
An image of Idris as an icy corpse filled her mind, and she flinched. But if anything could break her curse, it was love. Why couldn’t he see that? Why couldn’t he trust her?
“Well, are you going to kiss me or not?” she asked.
“We’ve been over this, Your Majesty. Kissing you would kill me, and I happen to value my life right now.”
She sat heavily on her throne, the icy chill of the seat seeping through the fabric of her dress. “I hate it when you do that.”
“When you call me ‘Your Majesty.’ It makes me feel so… distant from you.” The space between them was already an unsurpassable chasm. “Call me Eirwen, please.”
Idris stared at her for a long moment, then sighed. “Eirwen. I’m sorry. But you know why I can’t.”
Her eyes flicked to the statues at the edge of the room, ever-present, ever-reminding her of why she would always be alone.
But she wasn’t truly alone, was she? She would always have her family with her.
“You’re not upset with me, are you?” Idris asked.
“No,” she said, but the word burned a little. She could barely remember what it felt like to touch a warm-blooded human. The only brief touches she’d had in the past ten years were tainted with intense emotion and grief, skewing her memory.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said.
“I know.” She folded her arms over her chest, though not from the cold. Frigid temperatures didn’t affect her, not after the change her body endured when her heart froze ten years ago.
Idris looked at the ground, then at her. “Do you miss your sister?”
“How could I not?” Though Gwyneth had followed her mother’s edict as dutiful crown princess, she had showed Eirwen love in smiles and words. When Stepmother died and Father turned against Eirwen, Gwyneth hadn’t treated her stepsister like a monster. And when Father died, the newly crowned Gwyneth had released Eirwen from prison, offering the cursed princess a chance.
Gwyneth hadn’t deserved the fate that had come to her. She should be queen, not Eirwen.
“Some people say you murdered Gwyneth to get the throne,” Idris said.
“But you don’t believe that.” She laughed.
He didn’t answer.
Her chest tightened. “Of course I didn’t murder Gwynni! I never wanted this throne!”
Gwyneth had touched her, not the other way around. Even the statue showed that––Gwynni forever reaching out. But still, a thought pushed into Eirwen’s mind––did I touch her first? The details were blurring in her mind, just like her memory of her family’s faces. Ice could only capture so much.
“Do you?” Idris said.
“Of course I don’t want the throne!” Did he really think she enjoyed being hated by her people, judged for a curse her stepmother brought upon her?
“Then why do you still sit upon it?”
“Because I must! I have a duty to my people, to my family!” She stood, her eyes burning into his. “Is it because of my heart?”
“Stepmother made me what I am.” Eirwen’s voice rose. “She kept me from being touched, from being loved. She deserved the fate that befell her.” Father had too, once he had started hating her for her newfound powers. But Gwyneth… she had not.
If only Gwyneth’s husband and newborn baby had lived. Then perhaps Gwynni wouldn’t have reached toward Eirwen in her darkest moment.
Or… was I the one who touched her, who gave her relief from the pain of losing her husband and child? Did she leave me, or did I send her away?
“Did you know that you would freeze her?” Idris asked quietly. “The queen, I mean.”
“No.” Eirwen shuddered, remembering the feeling of her stepmother’s skin crystallizing beneath her hand. All she had wanted was to feel the warmth of skin again, even the skin of the woman who’d put her through so much misery.
And now the entire kingdom hated her.
“I will be the last of my line, you know,” she said softly. “My family is dead, and Gwyneth’s child did not survive. I cannot bear any children. There is no one for me to pass the throne to.”
Long-suppressed longing surfaced, and she found herself dreaming of a child with Idris’ red hair and her icy eyes. What would it be like to have a child growing inside her? To know that love had created a new being? Would that knowledge melt her frozen heart?
But alas, it would never be. Not unless someone was willing to see if love would thwart her curse.
But you loved Gwynni, and look where she is now.
Eirwen shoved the thought to the side. “I still feel that you are missing the obvious solution.”
His gaze flashed back to her.
“I love you,” she said. “Surely that counts for something. It would break my curse.” She took a step toward him, and he stumbled backward, his boots skidding on the ice. She flinched. “Or am I really so repulsive to you?”
“Of course not!”
He had hesitated. Could it be that he did not find her beautiful? “How can I truly know you love me if you cannot bear to touch me?”
“My love, you know why I don’t––”
“I need you, Idris!” How ironic that Stepmother’s cure for Eirwen’s neediness had been denying all touch. It hadn’t worked. Now she was needier than ever. And all it did was drive people away.
“Eirwen, don’t ask me to do this.” His voice broke. “I want to. You must understand that. But I can’t.”
“Please, Idris. I’m so…” Her chest, so frozen and lifeless, ached. It almost felt empty, but there was still a heart there––it simply could not function the way it needed to. She was broken. “Lonely.”
Idris started to reach for her, then jerked back as though he had been about to touch a flame. “But you have me.”
“It’s not enough!” she cried.
Pain flashed across his face. “Then I am not enough.”
He turned to exit the throne room. Eirwen’s pulse thumped against her throat. “Idris, wait! Don’t leave.”
He paused, facing her once more. Shadows darkened the skin underneath his eyes. He looked hollow, gaunt, yet still so handsome. But he would leave her, despite everything they had endured together, despite her devotion to him.
Does he really care about me?
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know the limitations of my… condition. They simply frustrate me at times.”
His shoulders relaxed. “They frustrate me too,” he said with an awkward laugh.
The words almost caught in her throat, but she forced them out. “I know that we cannot be together––not the way I want us to.”
“I want it,” he said quickly. “Please don’t misunderstand me, Eirwen. But it just can’t work.”
“I know.” She paused. He was staying, at least for now.
But how long would that last? Even Gwyneth had tired of a world with Eirwen in it.
“At least be near me,” Eirwen said. “I want to feel you.”
Uncertainty played across his face. “You won’t… touch me?”
“No,” she said. “I just want you to be with me.”
“As you wish,” he said, then stepped across the icy floor. His bootsteps echoed throughout the throne room. Now he was only a few steps away, closer than anyone had ever voluntarily been since Gwynni’s death. The warmth of his breath stirred the air.
“I am here,” he said.
She memorized the sharpness of his eyes, the vibrancy of his hair. Then she kissed him. His lips were full and warm, if only for a moment, before hardening. The ice crackled across his body, freezing first his face, then spreading down his spine and through his limbs.
Eirwen pulled back, her lips cold, her body numb. Her beloved Idris stood before her, his lips forever puckered, his body stiff, never to breathe again.
Icy horror spread through her, from her frozen heart to the tips of her fingers. Idris, a statue. She had turned him into a statue.
What have I done? She cradled his icy face in her palm, tracing the curve of his lips, the brittle eyelashes. A whimper escaped her lips, and she leaned her face against his, tearless sobs shaking her shoulders.
Mother she had not meant to freeze. Father had grown violent in his fear. Gwyneth had lost all hope for the world. But Idris had not needed to die, and now her life would be empty.
Never again would he call upon her just to see if he could make her laugh. Never again would his smile melt her frigid heart. Now she truly was irreparable. The ice had gone too deep.
He would have tired of me eventually, she reminded herself. And then I would be all alone.
Now he was perfect. The Idris before her would never reject her, never hurt her, never leave her.
Perhaps her life was not so empty. He was still here, after all.
Eirwen gingerly moved the statue along the icy floor, letting it rest beside her family. “Hello, dear Idris,” she murmured, staring into his blank eyes. “Now you will be with me always.”
I actually tear up when I read it. 😥 I suppose it’s good when a writer is affected by her own work.
What did you think of “Statues”? Also, what’s your favorite Snow Queen retelling?
Watch out for a new story next week. It was also inspired by fairy tales, though it isn’t tied to an Intuitive Writing Guide prompt. I’ve been waiting to post that particular story for quite a while, so I’m excited that it’s finally ready!
Have a great weekend, friends!