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Evil Queen's Lament

Julia lives and works in the Pacific Northwest and loves the joy stories bring. Her short stories have previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, and Every Day Fiction, among other markets. She is also a senior editor at Allegory.

It's no one's fault. It's mere biology. Men can sire children at a hundred, while women's fertility wanes with each passing year. So I do what I can to preserve any semblance of youth. I avoid the sun. I bathe in ass's milk. I would inject poison into the delicate creases of my face should it bring another month in which I might mean something--anything--to anyone.
Then near the end of my valuable life--I wed. It should be the triumph of ages. An accomplished woman given a last chance at progeny! Yet our wedding is understated, subdued. His first wife gained the glory and the pageantry of a royal wedding. I glean the remains.
Should I admit that I love him, this king of mine? Perhaps. For I do. Even beyond his obvious charms, he provides the hope that I am not just one more unwanted woman. He's my prayer for relevancy. If I'm the one to provide him with an heir, all my sins are forgiven.
And then his daughter appears, as youthful as the dawn. I wish to love her. She may be the only daughter I will ever know. And yet, all she dreams of is a long-gone mother who blessed her with fair skin, ruby lips, and charcoal-black hair. A mother I can never be, no matter how hard I try to win her affections. Biology, again, strikes her fatal blow.
To gain the love of my husband, my withered womb must produce his heir. If it were otherwise, I might accept my limited relevancy. I would delight in raising his daughter as my own. She is everything a mother would want--except that she rejects me. And she is not enough. For, like all men, my husband longs for a son. A son he is willing to risk anything to gain--even my own death. It's well-known older women often die in childbirth.
I would do anything for him. That is why he wed me. And it's said that virgin hearts bring strength to old bodies. I summon the huntsmen and pray for his majesty's heir.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021
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