Emeralds or Amethysts – Alexandra Grunberg

If Lucy could cry, she would, but she is frozen in stillness by her unnatural sleep. She can feel the soft embrace of silk sheets, she can taste the salty dryness of her tongue, and she can hear the sounds of another man who has come to try to save her, but she cannot cry any more than she can speak, or eat, or wake.

Lucy has been sleeping for so long, she does not know if she could speak, even if given the chance. Her voice may be as dusty and dry as the roof of her mouth. She does not know if she can see, even if she opens her eyes. Perhaps they are empty holes, perhaps they are crawling with maggots, or perhaps they have petrified into emeralds or amethysts. She cannot remember the color of her eyes.

There is the sound of a great door crashing, wood splintering, and the groans of a man at work.

Perhaps he is a prince, and he has come to make her his princess. She will wear gowns as soft as her silk sheets, and pile her loose hair on the top of her head, and eat sweets all day and dance at balls all night. She will walk through towns to be admired by the villagers, and they will gape at her beauty, and crave her wealth, and hate her for her luck. If only they had been cursed and locked in a tower! If only they had been fortunate enough to be pursued by a prince! One night the ball will be disrupted by the sound of shattering glass as the villagers invade their palace, and she will be dragged into the town, and the rough dirt roads will tear her silk dress to tatters. They will cut off her long hair – Golden hair? Black hair? She cannot remember – and they will rest her neck on the guillotine. Or else, she will live happily ever after.

There is the sound of footsteps on the stairs, leaping to avoid cunning traps hidden in the stone, and Lucy can hear each gasp and exhalation.

Perhaps he is a fearless explorer, an adventurer only interested in the chase and the promise of treasure. He will take her on trips around the world, to places never touched by the feet of men, and they will see creatures only described in fairytales, with large wings and horns and teeth. He will kill them all and dress her in their furs and feathers, and make her a necklace out of their teeth and claws, and they will create a kingdom for themselves through their travels. As they cross wild oceans, their ship will be overtaken by pirates, and she will watch as they make him walk the plank, and she will hear his screams as he is eaten by sharks. They will taunt her and torture her until they have had their full, and then they will throw her fractured body into the sea to join him. Or else, she will become a pirate queen.

There is the sound of roaring and the clashing of metal as a man fights the ogre guarding her door.

Perhaps he is a poor boy, desperate for a challenge that will make him feel like a man, and against all odds he has made it to her bedroom. He will take her home to cows and chickens and ducks, and she will keep the fire warm and the house clean. She will love him, and she will grow with a child that is all she has ever wanted and needed to feel truly awake and alive. She will feel pain and blood as the midwife tries to keep her calm, she will suffer from a fever and delusions, and the world will rush away in the sound of her own wailing. Or else, she will be fulfilled.

Lucy hears the door creak open, and she knows the sound, though it has never happened before. She hears short breaths of exertion and anticipation. She feels the brushing of lips against hers, and if she wants to, she can open her eyes.

She could be murdered, or happy. She could be tormented, or exhilarated. She could be broken, or revived. All possibilities are real, all of them are true, all of them are happening to her at once and forever, as long as she does not open her eyes, and now she can cry, and though her eyes are still closed, she does. She will need to open them soon, but she keeps her eyes closed for just a second longer.

When Lucy opens her eyes, she still does not know what color they are. But his eyes are blue.

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