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art by Tihomir Tikulin-Tico

Seven Sins

Melanie Rees is an environmental consultant and spends much of her time playing in wetlands--seldom wet. She has also held jobs playing in dirt, playing with fish, and playing in treetops. When she is not up a tree or stuck in the mud, she writes speculative fiction. Her fiction has appeared in magazines such as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and Bards and Sages Quarterly. She lives online at flexirees.wordpress.com and in the real world lives in South Australia in a house made of straw.

Hunched on the waiting-room floor, a gargoyle clasped a chair leg with razor sharp talons. Its ridged spine protruded through its leathery skin.
I glanced at Ms. Shipley at the reception desk.
"That is your ten o'clock appointment." She handed me a manila file. "Case of vertigo," she whispered.
"Excuse me!" blurted a man, sitting cross-legged with his arms folded across his chest. "We've been waiting for ever." At the other end of the bench, a woman in a baroque dress bounced a baby on her lap.
"Come in..." I looked at the patient file. "...Mr. and Mrs. Charming."
Mr. Charming stormed into my office, plonked himself on the couch and tossed down his crown.
"Why don't you take a seat, Mr. Charming?"
"Hurry up, dear." Mr. Charming gazed at his wife, oblivious to my sarcasm.
"Ms. Shipley can take care of the baby, if you like?" I said to Mrs. Charming.
"I'd rather hold her. Although, I'm sure my husband would love it if I left her outside. Maybe left her out in the woods." Mrs. Charming rocked the baby in her arms.
"I am sensing some resentment," I said, picking up my pen and notepad.
"Resentment? Not at all, doctor. I don't resent my arrogant two-faced husband."
Whaaah! The baby erupted into a chorus of screams.
"Hush. Don't cry. There, there, my sweet baby girl," whispered Mrs. Charming.
"Let me hold her." Mr. Charming extended his arms.
"Oh, now you're going to step in for your fatherly duties?" Mrs. Charming glared at him. "How noble of you. How princely."
"Might I interject at this point? Let's take a deep breath." I massaged my temples. "Mrs. Charming, how about you begin?"
"Thank you, doctor. I just don't feel like I get any respect for what I do around the castle–"
"What! Your servants do all the cooking, shine the silver, polish the mirror–"
"Mr. Charming, you can have your turn in a moment," I said. "Let Mrs. Charming have her say."
"Have her say? Have you seen those ruby red lips? They haven't stopped wagging since the day I kissed them. And I do plenty around the kingdom."
"Oh yes, it is so hard sitting on your white-maned horse, waving to the peasants as you trot down the forest path each day."
"Shall we go down that path for a moment, dear?"
"Don't start that nonsense again," said Mrs. Charming.
"Nonsense! Perhaps we should ask the doctor whether he notices anything peculiar about our baby. Doctor, can you see how small my wife's baby is?"
"Mr. Charming, please calm down. Let's get back to the issue–"
"She's a baby." Mrs. Charming paced the room, bouncing the small bundle in her arms. "Of course she's small."
"Really? When was the last time you went trotting into the woods, dear?"
Mrs. Charming glided towards the couch. "How dare you accuse me of–"
"Don't deny it. That mirror of yours told me everything."
"What does he know? That piece of glass should take a look at himself sometime. It might reflect the truth of his meddling ways."
"He hasn't been wrong so far."
"Now look what you've done." Mrs. Charming cradled her baby to her chest and patted its wispy hair.
"Oh, there, there sweetie... You don't have to put up with a screaming baby every day. You just come home, expect dinner to be ready in the throne room, and nip off to bed."
I waved my arms between the screaming couple to get their attention. "We're getting off track, and for the child's sake we need to lower our voices--"
"What you put up with!" retorted Mr. Charming. "I do all the real work in the kingdom"
"'Real work'? Oh, are my poor husband's hands tired from waving so hard? Putting on a fake gleaming smile and waving to the masses is hardly real work. I wish you'd never woken me. I never get any sleep, anymore. Do you want me to explain real work to you? Real work is waking up in the middle of the night to deal with dirty diapers."
Ms. Shipley knocked and poked her head around the door. "Sorry for the interruption."
"Excuse me." I walked to the reception area. "Thanks, I needed a break. What's up?" I didn't need to wait for Ms. Shipley to respond. He was back.
"I need to talk. I was abducted by aliens," he said.
I stepped backwards as his nose grew a foot.
I looked at Ms. Shipley and sighed. "Book him in after the gargoyle."
"That gargoyle spat at me," he said. "I almost drowned."
His nose shot out. I dodged the wooden projectile and closed the door.
"... well maybe someone's grumpy personality has been rubbing off on you. Go on. Admit it." Mr. Charming thrust an accusing finger at his wife. "It was Grumpy. I don't know what you see in that cantankerous git."
I walked slowly back towards the couch and slumped onto my chair.
"If I were going to cheat, why would I cheat with someone who was exactly like my whinging husband? If I was going to cheat it would be with someone who didn't flap their big mouth constantly–"
"So it must be Bashful? I knew it. You can never trust the quiet ones." Mr. Charming snatched his crown from the couch and pushed past Mrs. Charming towards the door. "I've had enough of this."
"Mr. Charming. Please stay," I said halfheartedly. I cradled my head in my hands, "Let's start from the beginning."
Mrs. Charming rubbed her eyes. "I can't handle this any longer, doctor. Can you please just give me some sleeping pills? I just need–"
"Oh, bless you, my sweet baby girl."
I looked up.
Mr. Charming's crown clanked on the floor.
"What? Don't look at me like that..." said Mrs. Charming. "She has hay fever."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Author Comments

Happy Ever After – meh! Is there really such a thing? I’ve always had a fascination with fairy tale characters and love exploring how they react when faced with modern day conflicts. I would love to say that the story idea came from somewhere interesting such as my own experience with marriage counseling or seeing an ugly sneezing baby. But alas the truth is terribly dull and cliché, so I’ll just say that I hope you enjoyed it.

- Melanie Rees
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