Cracks in the Mirror Glass
by Anna Yeatts
I didn't miss the little house in the woods until it was gone--its stools carved to fit my stunted legs and its eaves lowered for my unnatural arms to fetch the dried apples down on a winter's night.
Our king has lost his queen. He has ordered his forests cleared. His grief has become my own.
The village is too large for me. Its stairs are too high and the villagers, long limbed and smooth-faced.
"Hideous," the milkmaids call me.
"Dwarf woman," the tavern-keep says.
"Rose Red," I tell them again and again. "My name is Rose Red."
My mother and I huddle in our filthy room, paid for in the potions she is teaching me to make. Her twisted arms hold me tight. Our reflection in the mirror, the only thing my mother brought from the little house, is kind and good.
"You're beautiful," she says. I believe her.
The king and his little daughter will pass through the village in three days time. My mother and I will beg him for our little house in the woods.
The tavern-keep wants an enchanted barrel that will never run dry. His slick, leather boots reach as high as my chest when he bargains with my mother. He brings his daughter, a green-eyed beauty with red lips that frown at the sight of me.
His daughter wants a love potion to serve the king. She would be the new queen.
My mother shakes her head. "Magic for self always ends poorly," she tells them both.
The tavern-keep will not accept this. He threatens and stomps his enormous feet. But my mother doesn't tremble.
He spits on us.
His daughter hesitates.
I stare at the gob of spit on my mother's skirt.
I beg her to make the barrel and potion. Perhaps the tavern-keep's daughter will become queen and grant us our little house.
The tavern-keep rants. His daughter tells tales of the monstrous dwarves—half male, half female ghouls who steal love from the unwitting and spin it into foul magic.
My mother sends me to collect marigolds for a tonic. The baker's boy and his friends chase me down an alley. The tavern-keep's daughter watches from the window above. She turns away when they beat me with a stick.
"Monster!" the baker's boy says.
"Die!" his friends say.
I cover my oversized head.
"Rose Red," I say. "My name is Rose Red."