By Kaitlyn Emery
Every predator, no matter how strong, can meet its end.
I stared into the ornate, gilded mirror. People whispered I was obsessed with my reflection, that perhaps the mirror held magic properties that caused my vanity to need constant satisfying. What a ridiculous notion.
But the truth was stranger than the rumors.
My eyes dropped to the bloodstone around my neck, cut in the shape of a heart, placed there by my late husband. It nearly glowed in the morning light. As the sun rose, I knew it was time. His daughter would be at her weakest. The Huntsman had failed, so I must end her story before it was too late for the kingdom.
I took one last look in the mirror, checking for a reflection to reassure myself it had not been erased by her curse like so many others. My beautiful face stared back.
A vase of roses sat beside my dressing table. Such a treacherous little flower. Beloved by all, yet encased in perilous thorns. An object of desire that could pierce your skin. I leaned over to inhale the potent perfume and plucked a bloom. Such a delicate weapon…
I pierced a thorn into my skin, and a drop of blood formed.
As if on cue, the fairest creature in the land appeared, with wide eyes and nostrils flared ever so slightly. I knew she couldn’t resist the temptation. Her silk dress whispered across the marble floors as she entered my chambers. Her seven guards closed the doors behind her.
Skin pale as snow, her lips were as red as the blood on my finger. Midnight locks wisped down her back like smoke, adorned by a silver band embellished with a single ruby.
She was enchanting. Beautiful. A smile from her stained lips could compel anyone, but not me. The crimson stone around my neck made me immune to her charms.
“You are hurt, stepmother.”
I glanced down at the offending flower in my hand. “So it seems, Snow.”
Her eyes darted erratically from the blood dripping off my finger to my eyes. “S-Should I call for help?”
She acted so innocent, but she was a cold creature. A monster without a name. I knew the truth. “No need. Come here, child. I picked these apples from our orchards. I thought we might enjoy them together.”
Confusion flickered over her porcelain features. “I don’t like apples, Stepmother. You know that.”
I carefully selected the chosen apple, letting the blood from my finger permeate its flesh. Snow watched my every move. “I think you will like this one, my dear.” I held it out to her, the metallic scent of my blood clashing against the tangy sweet aroma of the fruit.
Resignation flickered across her features. “You know.” Voice flat, she dropped her gaze.
“Of course, I know! Did you think I wouldn’t after I found your father gasping for his last breath?”
Tears pricked her eyes, but I would not be fooled. “I didn’t mean to!” Her voice cracked.
Lies! Still, I forced my voice to be soft. “I know, darling. You would never hurt your father on purpose.” I held the apple out further. “Come, sit with me at my mirror. I will brush your hair and we can talk. But first, a precaution. Eat, that you might not be hungry, child.”
Her lower lip trembled. Many suitors had praised those lips for their perfection, but every time I looked at them, all I could see was the blood of her father.
“It was my mother’s,” she whispered.
“The necklace.” She nodded toward the bloodstone my fingers mindlessly clenched—as they always did when I thought of her father. I feigned a smile and dropped my hand back to my side. “No. It was your father’s. He gave it to me as a gift.” She would not mar my memories.
Snow nodded sadly. “I know. That’s why he died.”
Fury pricked my back like a thousand needles, and this time I didn’t bother to keep my fury in check. “You killed him for giving me something you thought was your mother’s!”
The girl winced, as if struck. “No! You don’t understand. I couldn’t help it!” She fell to her knees, weeping.
I approached, clenching the apple so tightly my nails impaled the skin. “What do you mean you couldn’t help it?”
“The witch who cursed me gave Mother the bloodstone. A talisman to protect one life. Mother chose to give it to Father. She always took care of us. That’s why… she was my first… I was so young. I hadn’t learned to control the thirst!”
“You killed your mother?” If it was true—What kind of child would kill her own mother?
“I didn’t know what I was doing! I just wanted the hunger to go away! Why won’t the blood curse be satisfied?” She wailed, grabbing at my skirts.
I lifted her chin, slowly, staring into those frosted eyes. “All of the pain can go away, Snow. Take a bite.” I held up the apple, bruised, but still tantalizing with my blood.
She looked from the fruit to me. Something flickered in her eyes. Fear, then resignation. She took the apple from me and brought it to her lips. Our eyes locked. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“For freeing me from this wretched curse.” A small smile spread across her face. “Now they will remember you as the villain of my story.”
Horror clawed at my throat, stealing my breath as she sank pointed teeth into the fruit and began convulsing.
“No.” She had tricked me! “No! You are the monster!” The apple rolled from her hand as I shook her limp body.
Furry raged through my veins. She would not make me the villain!
My chamber doors opened.
“Your Majesty?” I dragged my gaze from Snow’s body. The Princess’ guards stood there, swords drawn. My poisoned apple lay at their feet, red as the blood that now stained my soul.