This story is true, as all fairy tales are true.
Once upon a time, there was a storm-cloud of a girl who never thought she could love or be loved. She thought she had been in love once, but that love had been worse than a rocky sea. It left them both wrecks, and in the end he left her for another: her sun-bright sister.
Once upon a time, there was a cold Faerie king who was fair and true, but did not have the gift of a honeyed tongue. He earned respect, but no love from those he served. He was lonely, but never thought he was worth loving.
He thought he had been in love once, but now he wasn’t sure. He’d found his former lover, once lost to him by time, and he promised her Faerie, but she hated him when she discovered the price: her mortal life. And that sun-bright girl had already found another. Perhaps it had been love once upon another time, but it was not now. It was war.
Once upon a time, that storm-cloud of a girl stepped into her sister’s story, and ruined everything.
Their war left their home shaken by a his grief, and scorched her anger. She stood between them and demanded peace. She cooled her sister’s temper, and she demanded better of a king. A truce.
But she was an arrow to the king’s heart, precisely timed, so sharp that he did not feel the cut until it was too late. When that storm-cloud girl looked at him, and he her, they saw like and like for the first time. They were like two continents that had once been together, still carved into the shape of each other, despite the wear of the sea. They were both so sharp that the truth of each other hurt, but each awkward attempt at understanding, hammered them into shapes that fit.
Nothing was easy. Despite her bright sister’s pain, they came crashing into the wonder of one another, more than a little afraid of what this might do to them all, and how many happy endings it might break.
Once a Faerie king tried to save a girl’s heart, but found that a heart is something you can only save yourself. And when she found it again, it beat for him.
Once a storm-cloud girl learned what love was and what it could be. A Faerie king gave her a heart ripped from his own chest. And that love, hard won and true, was a treasure shared with joy.
But the girl was no fool. She had lived in Faerie and it had taken so much already. “What is the price I must pay for loving you?” she asked one day.
By then, the king knew a little more about humanity, and understood terrible price he once asked of her bright sister. He also knew the jeweled wishes of his true love’s heart, that she kept secret for fear that they might be lost, but shared freely with him. (And he also knew quite a lot more about love.)
“My heart is yours, but we cannot be more than dreams and stolen time. I cannot kiss your lips, or hold you when you cry. You must live your life and not wait for me. I will come, but not yet.” The thought of losing her was hard to bear, yet he would leave her if she asked. “Is it worth it?”
“Yes,” she said, because they both knew that to live without each other would not be life.
Some curses are of our own making.
And so he waited.
And so she lived.
(In case you missed them: read part 1 here, and part 2 here)