Stories, Telling Tales
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The Awakening

Yikes, I’ve totally been neglecting my blog! Was busy with the final requirements for my classes, then I had to cram several articles for work plus Act One of this novella I’m writing for an informal class. I’ve got quite a few things to post–including my quarter-life updates–but for now, I’d like to share something I wrote for my group’s creative writing folio. It’s a pretty rough draft, and yes, I know that there are holes in the story. I’ll get to editing it sometime soon (hopefully).

Anyway, here it is. Funnily enough, our folio’s theme suits my blog pretty well. Can you guess what it is? 🙂

*      *      *      *      *

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Rheam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She awoke to the soft touch of lips upon lips, as fleeting as the perch of a butterfly on a rose and nearly as sweet. Her eyes blinked open, and she was instantly assaulted by light so bright, she thought her retinas would burn. Instinctively, her hands flew to her face to provide some shade.

“Brynhild. I mean, Princess,” a deep baritone voice enveloped her, tickling the sense of hearing that she had lost faculty of in the number of—what was it, days, months, years?—that she’d been asleep. “You’re awake.”

Brynhild cautiously peered through one shuttered eyelid, allowing her eyes to slowly adjust to the foreign sensation of light. Through the soft, purplish haze dissipating in her mind, she saw the dark silhouette of a man looming over her, blocking out the lamp that seemed trained on her.

“Holy fu…If I didn’t know for a fact that I’d just slept a full eighteen hours, I’d chalk this up to a hallucination,” the stranger murmured. “Sweet mother of God. You really are her. And you’re awake.”

“Pray tell, kind sir, where am I?” She spoke tentatively, like a child struggling through her first gurgling of words.

“I think the real question you should ask is when. It’s 2013.”

The corners of her mouth curved downwards and her alabaster forehead creased in confusion. “2013?”

“It’s the year 2013. You’ve been asleep for almost four hundred years, Princess.”

She jolted up in shock, ignoring the way her muscles and joints protested her sudden movement.

“Talk about just blurting it out, doc.” The man muttered to himself, further deepening Brynhild’s frown. “Look, Princess Brynhild—do you mind if I just call you Bryn? It makes the whole idea of you sound less out-of-this-word to me.”

She managed a brief dip of her head, too bewildered to worry about the rules of social grace that had been ingrained in her since birth.

“There’s no other way to say it. You’re a legend. For centuries, kids everywhere read stories about how you were cursed to sleep for a hundred years, until your prince woke you up with a kiss. Then, a year ago, out comes a tell-all book about you…which happened to coincide with the news that you are, in fact, real and not just a product of the Brothers Grimm’s imagination.”

Now that she was in a sitting position, she could see the face of her stranger without the hindrance of shadows. He had an aquiline nose and lips that looked deceivingly firm and stern. His dark eyes and tousled black hair coupled with the light stubble shadowing his jaw gave him a mysterious, edgy appeal. Having only known golden-haired men in the twenty-odd years she’d been awake, he appeared completely foreign to her. Absentmindedly, she wondered why it was that her kinsmen exalted looks so fair when —

“Bryn? Are you still with me?”

She shrugged herself from her fanciful thoughts. “I beg your pardon, sir.” Something about what he’d just said struck her. “Are you a prince, then?”

The lilt of his mouth transformed his face from brooding to something infinitely more arresting. “I’m sorry to tell you that the Brothers Grimm had it wrong. I’m just a doctor.”

“You are not the son of a king?”

“Definitely not. We don’t have kings in Manila.” He stopped mid-chuckle as a realization struck him. “Although…my father’s name is Rex, which is—“

“Latin for king,” Tally finished his sentence.

Jeez-us.” Now all Gian Donato, M.D. needed were two guitars plucked in apparent dissonance and he’d be right in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. How in the world had a simple dare turned into the most absurd day of his life?

“Are we to be wed, my prince?”

“NO.” The vehemence in which he shook his head would have been comical to any bystander. “Oh, no, no, no.”

“I am unpleasing to you.”

“Of course not.”

With her head bent low and her delicate hands clasped together in her lap, Gian thought she was the picture of feminine dejection. “Bryn, you’re beautiful. I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around the reality of you, much less the idea that you don’t seem to have aged one bit. It’s scientifically impossible, but here you are.”

“If I am not repulsive to you, why then…?”

“Things are different now, especially for women. You don’t just have to get married and raise kids. Most women have their own careers. A lot have higher positions than men. You’re allowed to vote and to be elected. And you can remain single and independent.” He didn’t think she needed to know that some women did choose to get married, but not to the opposite sex.

“And you? Are you promised to another, dear prince?”

He winced at that. “Please call me Gian. I’m a doctor, not a prince. And it’s not that I’m engaged. I just finished my internship and honestly, relationships are not a priority for me right now. Man, I need coffee. Do you want coffee? I think there’s a café here. How the hell am I going to explain you, though?”

“You are not making the least bit of sense. What is this you call coffee?”

“My drug of choice.”

“Like opium poppy, perhaps?”

His laughter broke through the stillness of the cavernous room. “It’s not as bad as that. It’s what we drink to keep us functioning throughout the day. Essential for us working twenty-four hour shifts.”

“Then it is a stimulating potion, a tonic, yes?”

“You could say that. The best way for you to understand it is to try it. Only, how do I get you past security?”

*          *          *          *          *

Well, that was disgustingly easy.

Gian didn’t know whether to be relieved or appalled by the lax security of the museum, especially considering that this particular exhibit involved an unconscious woman. Since he was the reason why said woman was no longer comatose, he supposed he might as well thank his lucky stars for their free pass. It only took a change of clothes – thanks to the pair of scrubs he routinely carried in his bag – and a quick updo of Bryn’s hair using a spare rubber band. Of course, her flawless skin and unquestionably Nordic looks made her stand out like a lily in a desert. Still, the museum personnel didn’t seem to notice anything odd about her save for her obvious beauty.

He wondered if he really was stuck in an alternate reality, but figured he might as well ride it out. At the very least, it would make for an interesting story for his young patients.

“Your cappuccino, ma’am.” The waitress laid the saucer holding a brimming cup and a demitasse spoon on the table in front of Bryn, then turned to Gian. “And your Americano.”

She placed a ceramic sugar pot in the middle of the table, along with a small tray with packets of assorted sweeteners. “Anything else I can get you, sir?”

“That’s it for now.” He glanced at his companion, who was silently scrutinizing the drink in front of her. “Thank you.”

With a nod, the woman left them to their own devices.

“Your drink appears different from mine.”

“There are a lot of ways to make and serve coffee. Mine is an Americano. It’s basically water and espresso. Yours, a cappuccino, also has espresso, but with milk and froth. Most ladies I know prefer that so it might be a good starting point for you.” He removed the lid of the pot to reveal a heap of tiny, caramel colored cubes. “This is crystal sugar. You might want to try the cappuccino as it is first to get a feel of it, then add sugar later on.”

“All right.”

Bryn lifted the cup to stop just below her nose and took a small whiff. She was immersed in a cloud of warm, heady sweetness, much like her mother’s perfume but with a hint of the forbidden. Reveling in the scent, she then brought the cup down in a soft kiss of lips upon ceramic and foam. With a slight tilt of the hand, she welcomed the concoction into her mouth, allowing the flavors to settle on her tongue.

Gian watched as her eyes went wide and color blossomed on her cheeks. “Good?”

“By the gods, never have I sampled tonic as heavenly as this.”

“Illy would make millions with you as an endorser. Drink enough of it, and you won’t need to sleep again for days.”

That sounded right about perfect to Brynn. She’d had enough slumber to last her several lifetimes.

“Want to try it with some sugar?”

“Perhaps just a sprinkling.” She scooped out some of the caramel crystals from the pot and stirred it into her cappuccino. After a sip, she proclaimed it to be: “Splendid. Simply splendid.”

Satisfied with her reactions, Gian proceeded to make quick work of his own Americano.

They sat there in silence for a while, with him watching in amusement as she savored her beverage with unconcealed pleasure.

“You know that you’ll be even more famous now, right?”

Bryn set her half-empty cup on its saucer. “I beg your pardon?”

“You’ve been asleep for nearly half a century. All of a sudden, you’re awake, and in the Philippines, of all places. You’re going to put the country on the map.”

She remained quiet, trying to take in what he was telling her.

“Brynn. News of you will spread all over the world like wildfire. If you were well known before, you’ll be even more so now.” Gian fished into the pocket of his bag and pulled out a folded brochure. “I guess the first thing we should do is contact the organizer of your exhibit.”

“Must we? Will you not offer me sanctuary?”

“I’m sorry, but it’ll be impossible to keep this a secret. As it is, I’m amazed that the museum hasn’t closed down and guards aren’t swarming us from all sides.”

Unfolding the rectangular piece of glossy paper, he smoothed it out on the table to reveal a brief write-up on “The Legend of Sleeping Beauty”, the special exhibit that had made its way through many parts of the world, leaving awe and disbelief in its wake. In the top center of the page was a big image of Bryn in peaceful repose. At the bottom, Gian found what he was looking for–a smaller photograph of a gray-haired, gentle-faced woman, with her name written beside it.

“Look, this is supposed to be the descendant of one of your cousins. She was the one who published that book about you and spearheaded this exhibit.”

Bryn dutifully studied the picture he was pointing to and let out a small exclamation of surprise. “This…Rory Engel? She was the one who brought me to you?”

“In a way, yeah.”

Her eyes locked on his. The air seemed to vibrate in frenetic energy. “This is Aurora. Patin Aurora – the last of my seven godmothers.”

Their coffee cups sat on the table, mostly empty and forgotten, as Gian stared back at Sleeping Beauty, unable to speak a word.

A minute later, the alarm broke out in the museum.

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