Rue looked out the window, wishing once again to be on the other side of the cool stained glass rather than trapped in this prison of a house.
“Rapunzel? Let down your hair.” A voice, almost as cold as the frosted window had been, rang out shrill and upset. As usual, Gothel chose to make Rue work rather than just hike up the side of the building herself.
“Coming Masteress.” Rue scurried to the opposite wall and opened the large, heavy door, letting in a gust of frigid winter air. ‘I thought it was supposed to be spring’, she thought to herself. She threw down her obnoxiously huge amount of golden-red hair for Gothel to use as a halter for climbing the tower where the two lived.
Grunting, pulling with all her strength, which was actually rather impressive compared to her size, Rue stabilized Gothel as she slowly climbed the rough stone. Then, grabbing the woman’s oversized arms, she hauled her in past their threshold and onto the soft red carpet.
“Rapunzel honestly, this gets worse each time. You need to excercise more.” Gothel straightened up, but her squinting, beady eyes barely reached Rue’s large, green ones.
“Excuse you?” Gothel more stated than questioned.
“Name. My name, it’s Rue.” The petite girl stretched her back and felt it pop as she arched backwards into a back bend before standing straight again before the suddenly furious Gothel.
“No,” She spat in Rue’s face, “It was your name, but the moment I graciously took you under my roof, it changed.”
Rue glared, breathing heavily as she wiped the spittle from her cheek. But she said nothing. Getting into another fight so soon after Gothel had gotten home seemed like too much trouble.
As the large woman began putting away her cloak and other assorted possessions she’d been carrying she glanced over her shoulder with disgust, “And brush your hair, street urchin.”
Rue took that as an invitation to leave and rushed upstairs before Gothel could call her back to do some other mundane task.
But she had only gotten maybe a quarter of the way through her hair before she got distracted by a butterfly outside her bedroom window. She moved the two steps it took to cross the floor and opened the small, round piece of wood that covered a gap in the sloped wall. She reached out a hand, slender fingers waving in the breeze.
Whistling below startled her, and her head took the place where her hand had been.
The tall boy grinned up at her, his dark curls tousled as if he’d just crawled through the nearby bushes. Which, when she thought about it, he probably had.
Trying to whisper and shout at the same time, she pushed her hair out of her face and responded, “What are you doing here?”
“I brought m’lady her flowers.” He lifted up a bouquet of lilies, roses, lilacs and other wildflowers harder to recognize from a distance. Many were tilting to the side or had broken stems, and one fell out of his grasp completely as he offered the simple gift to his friend.
Rue couldn’t help but smile. “Hang on,” she called down.
He retreated back to the shadows of the tall trees around the edges of the clearing and Rue rushed back down the stairs inside, anxiously searching for her old swing. ‘I know it’s here somewhere….’
“EEEEEPP” she squealed and spun to see Gothel frowning. She had tapped on her back with a feather duster but it had felt like a spider to the nervous Rue.
“What are you doing? Actually, I don’t care, just stop. I have company coming over and I need you to dust the bookshelves.” She thrust the duster into Rue’s arms and walked away without waiting for a response.
Rue opened and closed her mouth. ‘Fine. I’ll clean your bookshelves. And trust me, your guests won’t even know I’m here…’ Quickly, she swept the tiny dust mites from the shelves and bunnies from the floor, pulling books off the shelves and then replacing them neatly.
Gothel had just entered to check on her progress when Rue tossed the feathery thing back at her, a hurried “I’m finished Masteress”, and she raced back up the stairs.
Arthur was waiting patiently, as always. Rue leaned out the window, gasped and went back inside, pounding feet moving once again downstairs to get the swing she had left at the base of the steps.
Back in her room she hooked the swing to the old trapdoor hooks on the floor, the punched out the rotting wood around the window to make it larger. ‘Sorry, I’ll fix you later.’ She squeezed out, careful to avoid splinters, and after a moment of stumbling panic, found herself standing proudly on the wooden plank that made up her childhood swing and escape route.
But then that second ended, and she plummeted towards the ground, biting her lip to the bleeding point to keep from shrieking. A jerk so bad it whiplashed her neck and she fell over into the dirt at Arthur’s feet.
“Rue! Are you okay?” He helped her stand and caught her when she almost face planted again.
“Yep, just dizzy.” She stretched, cracking her neck back into place.
Arthur shivered. “It’s still kind of gross when you do that, you know.”
They looked at each other for a moment, happy just to be able to be near each other for the first time in almost a year.
Voices could be heard around the corner of the house. They glanced over their shoulders and then ran back into the woods Arthur had come from. After a couple of minutes they paused and Rue whispered for him to be quiet so that Gothel’s guests wouldn’t notice them.
Sighing, Arthur leaned back on a tree. Rue joined him, and looking up at her best friend, asked, “So, how were the ogre wars?”