by J.C. Runolfson

There were two sisters
so the story goes
dark and light
red and white
child of a summer wind and
child of a winter dream
and one bear
brown as autumn
gentle as spring.

The sisters took the brown bear in
gave him shelter
gave him food
slept against him through the cold night
tumbled with him in the morning
and saw him out the door.

His fur snagged
under the lintel
sister dream saw treasure within
sister wind smelled freedom without
she kept the patch
caught on the nail
dreamed with it under her pillow.

It was a spell, of course
enchantment wrought by greed
the small shrivelled soul of envy
whose long white hair wrapped 'round everything
it could reach.

Sister summer tried to untangle it
sister winter tamed it with scissors
snipping away inconsequentials
but greed had nothing else to hoard
malice had nothing else to break
envy had nothing else to covet
and so turned on them
spitting curses
hurling rage.

But the sisters had weakened the soul
and the bear killed it
became a prince
just one
fair as day
fine as gold
sister snow looked on him and smiled
sister rose ran fur between her fingers
and said nothing.

They lived in the palace
the sisters and the prince
he married the light
spoke of a brother lost to the dark
wished he could find his way home.

What drew you to us, asked sister red
and he told her
the roses in your garden
sweet and wild
rich and mild
a bear's sense of smell is keen.

So she planted roses in the courtyard
white for her pale sister
yellow for the bright prince
pink for their baby coming
and red.

It took them seven years to grow
to bloom
to perfume the very cobblestones
under sister summer's watchful eye
sister wind's purposeful hands
and when they bloomed she cut one
with her sister's silver scissors
picked one red as she
plucked the petals and scattered them
watched them drift through the gate.

She waited and the wind turned
she waited and darkness fell
she waited and in through the gate
came snow
came breathless cold
came a silver bear
with the prince's eyes.

I cannot stay, he said
and she answered
neither can I
so I sent for you.

I am cursed, he said
and she answered
as am I
so I go with you.

I am not like my brother, he said
I will break the spell
and still wander
that is my way
and she answered
I am not like my sister
my curse has been waiting
though the wind calls me to walk
that is my way.

Then we are suited, he said
and she answered
we are
and climbed on his back
to follow the wind.


J. C. Runolfson's work has appeared previously in Lone Star Stories, Reflection's Edge, and Scheherezade's Bequest on the Cabinet des Fees website. Daughter and wife to active-duty military men, she finds it deeply weird to stay in one place for more than five years. She's currently passing time in San Diego.

Her favorite fruit is sometimes the lime and sometimes the peach, and she's quite a fan of combining the two.

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