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If the magic of fairy tales is a life force, it’s the dying embers of a candle in the wind.
It’s hard to wish on stars when the midnight skies are bleached by a million electric lights and your eyes are downcast and blinded by the latest iPhone glow. Pixies fade into oblivion, skewered on jaded white picket fences and cynicism bred of a disbelieving society resulting in a genocide of fey-folk.
There are no happily ever afters.
Midnights come and go along with someone’s fairytale ball. The enchantment ends as the cold, cruel hands of time move methodically forward to chime in a new day.
Like many girls before, there will be no shining carriage or luxury car just a smashed up pumpkin already beginning to ferment and mould. What was once a ball gown hangs in tatters, no better than the rags that girl started off in.
Those sleek stilettos that replaced the glass slippers, uncomfortable little fuckers that they are, will to cut into your heels and blister long before the ball ends but who really gives a damn when you get to dance all night with your feet not even touching the ground.
Now there’s just broken glass, shattered like the mirror of reality and you’ve shredded the bottoms of your feet on the jagged fragments.
Take true love’s first kiss for example: not a bad way to wake up in the morning, but how much coffee or whiskey do you think you would need to cope with your new glaring wake.
You’ve been in a coma for a hundred years, been raped repeatedly, bore children with this true love you don’t even know. Might as well rail a line or two and then you’d really be seeing fairies.
Believing in all the tales of glittery smoke and wonderland doesn’t necessarily mean buying into the Disney delusion and ‘Say Yes to the Dress’. That dream loses its glitter and shine with age until it becomes a distant memory and is packed away with the promise of youth, only to make a brief reprise at a wedding.
It’s more pleasing and politically correct to sand down and paint over the gnarls in a photoshop nation. Not all of us are lucky enough to be given heat while we’re trapped, trying to spell out “eternity” with the remants of our lives. Some of us are far too numb to cry out the splinter of mirror in our eyes and dispel the ice from our veins.
That’s Kai’s Snow Queen tale.
This is a different one.
No child is born with a heart of ice. It's a slow poisoning overtime, so discreet, it grows undetected, little by little, crystallizing every cell until the blood ceases to flow and the life force is gone.
Sometimes, it is quietly injected into the veins until everything eternally rests.
Sometimes, after the heart is shattered, the raw, bleeding wound is exposed to the winter elements and the harsh air turns the blood to ice.
Kai didn’t need a shattered mirror of good and evil to weave splinters into her core. She was a borrowed child. She belonged to no one. She wasn’t the child pined for in Rapunzel, just a temp. Her skin was too dark to conform to society’s milky white ideals that would make her Snow White, and too light to be as exotic as an Arabian Night. Her almond shaped eyes weren’t as wide, or delicately laced as pretty porcelain saucers. They weren’t the calm bright blue of August skies, more like a dulled, amber brown or mud-spattered, aged, brass. She wasn’t the fairest one of all, couldn’t sing the birds from the trees. Men didn’t fall over themselves vying for her affections (they hardly noticed her at all).
An ordinary little girl from a manicured lawn of a suburban world, who dreamed of growing up to be a princess.
With royalty being a rarity, she would have needed a fairy godmother to get anywhere near her dream. Fairy godmothers are all but extinct nowadays, children are barely encouraged to believe in Santa Claus, so little girls have to make their own midnight metamorphosis. Chasing the Cinderella dream, they embrace the rags that cling to their youthful frames instead of bell shaped ballgowns. Glassy eyes and lips replace the heels. Kohl darkened lashes and rimmed lids transform cinder to chic.
Why run and hide when the clock strikes twelve when you can dance and laugh ’til dawn? There are too many “charming”’s to catch the eyes of. Those so-called princes blind with their hundred-watt smiles to distract from the web of insecurities that decorate their insides, just as flashy clothing decorates their out. Too many egos trying to shine amidst the jewelled fan of peacock feathers. Every girl showers away the cinder and soot, disguises her past with powder and perfume, favouring clear, plastic stripper heels to dainty glass slippers.
The reality we inhabit is never satisfied; it’s all instant gratification before chasing the next thrill. When the enchantment wears off from creating that allure, what other fantastical delights are tucked within midnight’s mask? Those starry-eyed girls ready to shed the first blush of youth, seamlessly transform into the dancing princesses; wearing down the rubberized soles into the chaffed, delicate, bloody raw skin. There’s a magic in that lifestyle of sleeping the days into nights of music and lights that never end; but it plateaus. It numbs, it dulls, it corrodes. It corrupts. Wonder becomes mundane and loses its lustre and sparkle. Dancing just becomes another cheap thrill for the scrapbook.
Puberty is a magical transformation in itself. Kai went to sleep the ugly duckling and woke up a swan.
It’s amazing what a spell tits and an ass can cast. She didn’t stay shut away, alone in the cellar or locked in a tower. She liked the attention her smile and laugh could command and the flutter in her stomach when a “charming” singled her out in a crowd. The modern day Cinderella, going from invisible to “belle” just because of a dress.
So where was happily ever after?
Three simple words, that pretty much say it all:
What does that even mean? How can anything be that simple? That perfect? Kai wanted to believe in the way the butterflies danced over her insides and trust the stars that clung to her eyes. Sweet, stolen kisses in front of everyone at school, hearing her name called from the street below her window. Holding hands, chasing the sunset and racing against curfew.
She could captivate them as soon as they laid eyes on her. Guy meets girl. Coy flirtatious dance. First kiss fireworks. What happens next, no one ever records, focusing solely on the journey of the chase and suddenly, it’s done. Seductress dance around the inevitable, tension crackling through the air like electricity so palpable it's almost sexual- a climatic explosion. Then the fairytale fades like a walk of shame averting its eyes to the less than desirable sting of reality’s wake.
When ever after doesn’t pan out, some girls keep chasing the magic, kissing every frog because of the one time that frog turned into a prince. But the magic of midnight takes back all the glitz and glam. The wish becomes a ghost sustained by memories. Girls like Kai seek out pixie dust trails to bring back those moments of shining lights and colour, to relive the dream for a few more hours. To be noticed.
Kai had grown up locked away but the lost boy prince was supposed to set her free, a wannabe Pan who tried too hard to be Hook, chased her further from her yellow brick road. He stole the smile from her eyes, the innocence from her lips and hung her heart on a string. The lost boy prince with the crooked smile made her a heart of wax and whispered words that would stay with her “you can be good, really good. but you can be bad. As bad as I want you to be.”
It was with this curse that Kai, the girl with shards of ice in her soul became “Barbie”, the girl everyone wanted her to be - a plastic fairytale who couldn’t even stand on her own two feet. Ella Enchanted who could never disobey.
The streets are full of faux fairy godmothers, snake oil salesmen peddling bottled dreams and whispered fantasies. Adventure in capsules, dried herbs and poisons. “One side will make you grow shorter and the other side will make you grow taller.” “One side of what?” “Of the mushroom of course.” Fields of poppies to make you sleepy; make you forget. The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Temporary magical bandaids, anesthetic mental salves to numb heartaches, disappointments and bitterness. The magic isn’t real and you can only keep running for so long until that clock starts screaming again and a mischievous pixie’s potion won’t numb you any longer.
Barbie chased every remedy, regardless of extreme, from needles of spinning wheels, scarring crimson ribbons up her thighs, to every last poisoned apple. Just to get away from that curse.
Just to forget.
Every fairy tale will tell you that the more you use magic and glamour, the more you lose touch with reality. Barbie thought she could control it, keep her getaways secret, but without knowing it, she had gotten herself lost in the forbidden forest.
Barbie had stepped on her rose coloured glasses, shattering the lenses with the heels of her stilettos. She thought she was jaded, that the lost boy’s curse had robbed her of her childhood. By the time the Gingerbread Man found her in the woods one day, she was tired enough to follow his sugar trail. That trail led to a safe haven of warmth and sweet, caramel and candy coating as delicate as finely spun sugar. He took that ragtag Barbie doll, dusted her off and made her into a sugar plum fairy with a candy cane crutch. He was the Christmas in the dead of winter. All the plush coziness of a gingerbread cottage nestled away, a cinnamon spice sanctuary allowing her to break free from the plastic and remember how to laugh unrestrained. He gave her a normalcy in the candy coated colours and comfort in his sweetness.
But everyday, outside that cottage, Barbie could see the darkness in the woods surrounding her. Tempting city lights in the distance feeding whatever was in her that still clung to her girlish longings. She could feel every eye watching her, daring her to venture astray- dark pixie dust caressing her like the wind through her hair, reminding her of what she needed to forget.
“As bad as I want you to be.” “Bad as I want you.”
“I want you.”
The whispers plagued the back of her mind, faltered her steps until the dance of the sugar plum fairy was too lithe and graceful for Barbie’s plastic limbs.
There’s a peak in every relationship and once Barbie finished riding the sugar high of Candy-land, she crashed hard. Headache; that dry cotton mouth when you’ve eaten too much sweet; cavities that wore away the enamel of her sanity. It’s hard to be sustained off sugar alone the same way it’s damned near impossible to live off of dreams.
Barbie began to fade. She started puking up rainbows and star dust until one day, when she awoke, the gingerbread cottage, the Gingerbread man, the warmth and sanctuary and sugar were all gone like a vision of the sugar plum fairy that had danced away in her sleep.
The magic had passed on again. Another fairytale had ended.
She was alone.
If you’ve ever tried to wander, drunk and high, through a forest at night, you’ll know it’s a very bad idea. There is such thing as the big, bad wolf leering in the velvet darkness. No longer a princess, there were no palace walls to protect her, only unpaved trails pitted with traps to fall and break her delicate ankles in, and memories of nights dancing in the fairy lights.
Strangely enough, hope is a wondrous, magical thing, and beneath the ice and plastic, smeared lipstick and mascara, lived a girl, who, even while lying in the gutter, had her eyes on the stars.
Youth has a resilience, a survival instinct that wraps itself like invisible armour around the spirit.
Barbie had that protective coating, probably without her even knowing it. It was the grime and exhaust of back alleyways, the saliva of some leering guy on the bus, the catcalls out of beat up Honda Civic windows. But with her soft plastic rubber legs and sleek high heels she was too used to being dainty to take up the steel frame hidden in her core. She was just beginning to gingerly tiptoe her confidence back onto the catwalk clearing, away from the darkened woods. There were still scars on her legs from the thorns and prickly fingers of errant branches. There was still mud on her knees from every stumble, but what little girl doesn’t have grass stains even when she plays dress up? All magics wear off eventually. She should have started to see clearly, but Barbie went chasing magic carpet rides, begging the genie for more star studded nights.
Aladdin was nothing more than a street rat with a souped up rug, who spun tales of gold even Rumpelstiltskin would have been proud of. He pushed Barbie off her blistered heels as she had been stumbling away from her sugar high. He wanted to make her into a princess as desperately as he wished on some random piece of junk lamp that he could be the prince worthy of her. Barbie was still too brainwashed by nine to five confines and 1950s housewife ideals, too easily suggestible to do anything but what she was “supposed” to do. She was a princess - marry a prince. Live happily ever after. Just another meaningless task to cross off of a predetermined “to do” list, a momentary sense of hollow accomplishment before shuffling on to the next order of business.
For Barbie, that was all that the street rat was; the natural progression, the stepping stone to the inevitable. The fact that he was from some far off land only worked in her favour to maintain her semblance of independence, distance to and in her heart. She’d created a maze more fortified than Fort Knox around her heart, a soft smile and poetic words would be nowhere near sufficient navigational tools.
There’s only so many years a girl can spend watching movies alone and trying her best to like her insane in-laws.
“Is this all happily ever after is?” Barbie thought to herself.
She didn’t want a lifetime of childish make-believe, arm candy to a naive spoiled brat wannabe prince. She’d become Rapunzel, locked away in a tower again, watching everything she was missing from her happily ever after. Would it have been so wrong to seriously consider consensually sleeping for a hundred years just to preserve her sanity?
Happily ever after came and went again. Another wrong turn in a choose your own adventure and despite all her hopeless romantic notions, she had to go.
Dreams aren’t something she could build her life on anymore; she wanted to hold onto something real; something tangible. She needed to know she could count on and believe in something she could see with her own eyes and not trust in glamour anymore.
He taught her about herself and what she could be. He built her, he broke her, shaped her and created a person she could barely recognize when she looked in the mirror. He set her free, only to guide her into a new gilded cage. With him she lost and found herself. It was all a dream, and all dreams must resign to their fate when they face the dawn and slip into a memory of what never was. Now, he’s a memory she put to rest in a keepsake chest filled with fleeting moments in time and pictures to burn.
She was trying to hold onto the tide with both hands, but the waves receded, leaving her with nothing but a chill and air and the silhouette of a distant shore off in the horizon that was once her home.
Or what she thought was her home.
Home is where the heart is and there’s a reason no one lives in Antarctica. Bitterness and resentment are silent captors. Stealthy little thieves in the night. Hunters. Stalkers. Obsessive. Pawing at her wrists, turning her head, whispering in her ear. Inception. Shackles. The promise of something new and shiny.
But not everything that glitters is gold. Sometimes it’s just the sunlight reflecting off polished tin at exactly the right moment.
The Tinman was no white knight, nor would he pretend to be.
He was just shiny.
“I’m no prince charming and I can’t give you a fairytale ending but I can take care of you. I can make you happy.”
Happy. Now that was a fairytale dream Barbie hadn’t dared chase. Canned happiness, preserved in a battered tin that had fallen off the shelf.
He was beautiful; so gorgeous it made Barbie hurt to look at him.
Barbie oiled away the rust and uncertainty with patience, smoothing the dents with quiet, unwavering kindness. She was the calm in his sealed chaos and in return, he showed her the twisted forest paths away from the yellow brick road. Fields of poppies and mind-blowing sex against apple tree temptations. Bathing her with the wickedness of the west, away from the gem- studded Emerald City to the West End.
If the West End were a girl, she would not be the kind of girl she’d set out to be in her early twenties, all wide-eyed and quick to laugh as the world ebbed and flowed with her course and not against.
The density of the city blocks would have fine-tuned that laugh into a Swiss Army utility she would toss carelessly into her oversized purse, and have to dig out of the crumpled credit card receipts, varying shades of half-melted lipsticks and disposable perfume samples. Those bright wide eyes would be dimmed by the glitter and noise of twilight traffic lights and left-over mascara she’d armed her haphazardly curled lashes with from the night before.
Where she once delighted in the summer breeze and blue skies playfully fingering her soft, shining tresses, she was now immersed in the street light’s reign. Where it didn’t matter that the neon signs and dimmed florescent bulbs could no longer discern the natural ore fossilized beneath layers of gradient dyes.
She’d given up the rosey filters she thought were “cute” in college when she was experimenting with different social demographics. It had been so long since she’d washed the thick stench of patchouli and incense from her vintage, woollen pea coat she’d fallen in love with in Kensington and couldn’t bring herself to throw away.
The West End girl would smoke cigarettes just because everyone else did, resenting herself with every drag but lacking the willpower to think for herself and give up the habit. She would roam the mall on her days off just to feel like she was a part of the life force the city was drowning her in and buy trendy over priced coffees just to make small talk with the baristas who knew her name and order by sight; to the point where she felt obligated to perpetuate this cycle, because it had become expected.
She would exude confidence and charm most would mistake as genuine, not caring to strip away the layers of paint and signature red lipstick to expose the hollow, wrought iron frame. She would scurry through the streets, shackled to her phone, brainwashing herself with unsubstantial, stream lined tunes echoing empty, unattainable urban dreams. She would not care about the particular way she had to hold the exhausted door knob or the way she would have to fiddle with the slightly bent front door key. At least she had a house in the city that had an upstairs and a balcony and a backyard in a convenient location because that was what she had been told being an adult was all about.
She would be the kind of girl who would post her entire life on Facebook just to prove to the people who really didn’t even matter that she was living up to their ideas of success.
West End Girl would be too blinded by her false sense of independence to listen to even her closest girlfriends when they would warn her about losing herself to the heart of the concrete jungle. West End Girl would be too caught up in the burning brightness that would be her drop- dead gorgeous, live-in, sort-of boyfriend, who would be too lost and tangled, fighting that same web of distorted expectations.
He would dream her same dreams. He would talk big on that same life and sense of belonging she so desperately clung to and they would both burn in a cloud of kush to numb the frustration of hitting every dead end ally that segwayed off every major city street. West End Girl and High Park Boy would play with too much fire, cuddled up on their makeshift, single bed in the early hours of morning, promising a better tomorrow but forever falling back on old, toxic familiarity.
Barbie wasn’t a West End girl.
She hated the West End.
She clicked her heels. They were only cheap knock offs that she’d modge-podged glitter to.
Who was she kidding? She had no home.
Storm clouds gathered. The shine was gone.
Something was whispering to Barbie. Deep in the still of the night, somewhere amidst the dust and grime in the basement of her heart. Locked away in a chest, laying in wait. But there, always there, making her restless.
Years with the Tinman, her High Park boy, had worn her down to little more than a brittle shell. Enthralled by the West End, administered by a rough, rusted hand. Rolling in the deep. A marionette with Stockholm Syndrome in need of deprogramming.
“As bad as I want you to be.”
Barbie snorted. “No. As bad as I want to be.”
Someone dug their spiked glass heel into her chest and ground all that magic out of her. Another dead fairy amounting to nothing more than an annoying mess of glitter that you can never quite get rid of. The last unicorn. The only sparkle left was purely cosmetic to distract from the cold and anger in her eyes.
Whore’s eyes; empty and jaded.
“As bad as I want to be.”
There’s a turning point in every story, a part in the tale where a villain is created, where life breaks the innocent and the anger clamps its irons on the soul. This is where the fighter fairy becomes Maleficant. The frosted pinks of younger Barbie thicken to the wines of West End Barbie. Lavenders charr into midnight purples. Blood red sauntered across the velvet of her lips staining her flesh with warpaint.
Memoirs of a Geisha.
Fairy godmothers only ever deal with pretty teenagers in distress when they can’t fend for themselves and everything is the end of the world. Not for stranded twenty-something-year-olds with rebellious streaks and a bone to pick with men. The only wand in her repertoire was a mascara wand.
Life’s a bitch with no prenup and a “take you for all you’ve got” divorce settlement. That’s all she is; all bleached extensions, gaudy designer billboards and fake tits.
Barbie’s life was that of a Beverly Hills housewife whose gold-digging talons sunk deep into Barbie’s heart’s account that was already over-drafted. She could get bitch slapped or fuck her. She’d grown out of her Disney phase. She’d discovered something so much more potent: power.
Get bitch slapped or fuck her.
Barbie straddled the line between love and hate, and fucked it hard.
What a beautiful fucking mess. All the beauty of a preserved butterfly wing, ambassador for change, frozen in a delicate stained glass skeleton.
Barbie turned twenty-five. Far older than any fairytale princess anyone’s ever read about. The age where most people shed their childhood beliefs and wonder and join the ranks of adulthood. Careers. Morgages. Families. Barbie had pressed too hard to grow up before her time and she found herself empty handed after her West End Tinman’s chest turned out to indeed be hollow. With the floor ripped out from under her again, she was falling, plummeting down the rabbit hole. She’d taken the red pill when she’d been counting on the blue and had never been the kind of girl to stick her fingers down her throat to induce vomiting. Instead, she ran, hard and fast, with reality biting viciously at her heels. Random memories on shuffle closed in, fading in and out of a blurred screen saver. Fragments captured and filtered by an instagram point and shoot view finder.
Dreams on loan. Floating through Wonderland. Bathed in the champagne gold and sparkling lights of Jay Gatsby’s carnival. All glitter and noise as insubstantial as fairy dust. The multiple personality Tinderella, swipe right if you see something you like - a demagnetized compass running blind.
“As bad as I want to be.”
There were freezing cold nights where Barbie had no place to lay her head. Riding the West End subway to keep warm between couch surfing and sleeping in bus shelters. There were nights where she would drown her demons in alcohol and sex just to keep the world at bay, shying away from random lovers in tears because the familiarity was too terrifying and it just wasn’t home.
There were weeks of a new city and new hotel room every night.
There were parties and magazine launches and fancy restaurants.
There were nights she spent in the most beautiful mansions, dining and dancing with lords and dignitaries, the rich and influential, pouring liquid gold down her throat until she choked. Bright lights in the big city, bathed in red, spinning on a pole like a carousel horse. There were catalogues of hotels and fancy five star restaurants, all mummified in gold carat leafing, non-transferable for the nights when she would be starving.
The bottom of her dufflebag was packed tightly with the truffles and gourmet snacks she’d managed to shove into her pockets and hoarde for when her fast and furious lifestyle hit red lights.
She wanted everything and nothing all rolled up into one.
All that mattered was being comfortably numb.
She had a passport collecting cheap tricks and lipstick stain stamps just to say she’d been there and done that. Casually laughing and comparing little black book notes, as if she were clipping coupons with her fellow dresden dolls. The only thing she could control in her life was a man’s lust; making them want her. Consistent results. Feeding off constantly craving, false valiadation and misplaced adoration. Fucking the demons away and yet they always cum back.
All the headache and fake sweetness of cheap champagne.
But deepthroat bad wasn’t the kind of bad that Barbie doll needed to be. So she ran away.
She ran away to where the sea meets the sky.
So where does this tale end?
Funny thing about stories is they never really end; it’s always a beginning.
A hundred midnight’s come and go, with or without fairy godmothers. That clock will always chime in a new day.
The lost boy grew up. The Gingerbread Man lost his soft, doughy core that was too sweet for Barbie but someone else loved as a gingersnap. Aladdin disappeared with his genie and his lamp. Once a street rat, always a street rat. The Tinman gave his heart to someone else.
Love and loss; it’s the never ending circle of life.
Curiously enough, so is pain and healing.
The salt that had been poured into Barbie’s raw open wounds was what melted her heart of ice. The sea air slowly thawed out the shards until the beauty and colour she had once treasured so much, were once again visible. The cheery, fairy-bell chimes of spring ran merrily in her laugh and dewdrops softened her smile. Gone was the painted, harsh bitch face of winter.
She was no longer Kai, the child riddled with ice shards or even the Snow Queen as cold and unforgiving as the Siberian wastelands. She was no longer “Barbie”, all plastic sheen to be dressed up and posed by childish hands. She wasn’t a trendy West End Girl, blinded by Stockholm Syndrome and false reality. She wasn’t Tinderella, a swipe away from a one night stand or Alice constantly falling down the rabbit hole.
She wasn’t Sleeping Beauty, a frozen spell to stop time to escape reality. She wasn’t naive little Snow White, begging for refuge while lost in the forest. She wasn’t even homesick Dorothy, pleading to go home to anyone who would listen.
She closed her eyes and rested her hand over the pulse dancing beneath the warmth of her satin skin.
She was home.
She WAS home.
She belonged to no one, yet she belonged.
The magic in all of this, was no slight of hand or photoshopped Disney dream. It wasn’t even a Grimm’s tale. The magic was love, plain and simple, with no prince charming in sight. The magic was that after everything was said and done, she loved herself.
Her strength was the fairy light laughing with the moon. Her courage was the twinkling stars nestled away after twilight. Her love was all the beauty she could create in the world. She let the ugly slip away.
She let go because she wanted to see the glittering colours of the rainbow after a storm.
She had everything, only because she let it all go.
Without the splinters marring her view, the world as she saw it was pure beauty, because SHE could make it that way.
Life is funny sometimes. Life was good, far from perfect, no fancy fairytale. It was a quiet
realism, the girl next door beauty you never realized you had been in love with your entire life.
Things were good. Things were beautiful.
SHE was beautiful.