A Fairy-tale Ending

‘Don’t,’ he says.

I stop mid-reach.  One of my many lady’s maids instead retrieves the spool of ribbon which a careless sweep of my hand had sent tumbling to the floor to unravel like a satin snake.

He takes my hand and kisses it.  And I want to scream. I know he does not intend to hurt me, but that word has become a glass shard, piercing me each time it passes his lips.

‘Don’t,’ he says, when I reach with my napkin to soak up a spilled glass of wine on the table.

‘Don’t,’ he says, when I begin to straighten the blankets on the bed after rising in the morning.

‘Don’t,’ he says, when I do anything which betrays my shameful past.

I know he thinks such things are beneath me.  Perhaps he has forgotten where he found me; the poor girl who slept in the soot of the hearth.  Me, who waited on a step-family as a servant lest I be locked away without food. Me, who would be beaten for the slightest lapse or offense until I had learnt my lesson.  Me, who once saw a promise of freedom, but now find myself locked in an even tighter cage than I had been.

My life before, a never ending stream of ‘Do this,’ and ‘Do that’, now hemmed in on all sides by ‘Don’ts.’  I am more a prisoner in this life than I ever was locked in the little attic back home.

He follows me as I turn away, calling me ‘beloved’ and asking what is wrong.  He grasps my hand again, but I pull away.

‘Don’t’ I say then, and I wonder why I did not say it to him before he put the slipper on my foot.