Dawn’s Curse (Flash Fiction)

Sibylline Academy was a school for the cursed. Or at least, that’s what every student who attended the private high school thought. Most of the time, they were complaining about the strict rules and archaic practices. Some of us, however, actually were cursed. Okay, well, maybe just me. Or at least, that’s what I’d always been told growing up. That I was cursed.

My mom had two older sisters. I know, I know, what do my mom’s older sisters have to do with my supposed curse? Well, I’m getting to that.

My mom had two older sisters. Her oldest sister was smart, kind, and did absolutely everything perfectly on the first try. My mom was always considered to be funny, charming, and absolutely gorgeous. Then there was my Aunt Mallory, who had the unfortunate luck to be the middle sister. Her teachers always compared her to Aunt Camille, who effortlessly achieved straight A’s and the boys always favored my mom over her. Apparently Aunt Mal had a huge crush on my dad, but he fell in love with my mom and not her.

So she cursed me when I was born. Yeah. My aunt’s a witch. Supposedly.

“In her eighteenth year, Dawn will touch a thimble and breathe no more.” My mom would always put a hand dramatically to her forehead and say the words before swooning back in the chair. As if being overly dramatic about it was supposed to convince me.

So what if in my eighteenth year I’m supposed to touch a thimble and die? It’s not as if people actually still use thimbles nowadays. But that wasn’t good enough for my mom. She was worried that it wouldn’t just be relegated to thimbles. So there was no knitting or crocheting allowed in the house. God forbid one of my friends give me a latchkey rug kit for my birthday. Well, not that I had friends. Even if I did have any, she wouldn’t allow them in the house without first inspecting everything they brought, just to make sure there were no thimbles in it. What did she think I was planning on doing, stealing it and secreting it away until I turned eighteen so that I could touch it and die? I was five. I was hardly suicidal.

I didn’t have many friends growing up, I’m sure you can guess why. One trip over to my house and they would never speak to me again. And I certainly couldn’t go over to somebody else’s house—who knew what sort of thimble collection they could be hiding.

I was homeschooled throughout elementary and middle school—it was the only way to ensure that I would not encounter any thimbles—but then after much begging and pleading, my mother finally relented and allowed me to attend Sibylline Academy, but only after she ensured that there were no home economics courses offered. Not even cooking classes. Because everyone knows that Nutrition 101 is the gateway drug to thimble usage.

Sibylline Academy had many traditions, including a senior play that paid for the senior prom. This was my chance to live my life without my mom’s stupid rules. Participation in it wasn’t optional. You were either assigned a role, or you weren’t. There weren’t even any alternates.

The play in my senior year was Sleeping Beauty. While I found it a bit amusing how similarly the tale reflected my own supposed curse, I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I was going to be in that play. I just had to be. Maybe, if I was lucky, I could land a part as one of the servants to Princess Aurora. I didn’t necessarily want to be an actress when I grew up, I just wanted the opportunity to do something normal kids did for a change.

Throughout the school day, students could approach the audition table and place a minimum five dollar fee to adjust a person’s ranking on the scoreboard. Students could also pay five dollars to lower their ranking—or anybody else’s ranking—on the scoreboard by one point. The voting process went on for a month. The lead male was always the first person to be chosen. The next day, the lead female would be chosen. This was the school’s way of ensuring they earned as much money as possible. If a popular guy was chosen, women would pay as much as they possibly could to make sure they were selected to play the leading lady.

It so happened that Alfred Burns was selected to play Prince Phillip. Alfred was smart. He was funny. But he wore thick spectacles and had a rather bad case of spots—acne, freckles, and moles. I didn’t care that he looked like somebody had taken a multitude of markers to his face. I’d always wanted to spend more time with him, but never had the opportunity. Not with all of the rules my mom imposed. I wasn’t allowed to go out on dates and having anybody over was mortifying. So outside of forced interactions in class, I’d never even said hi to him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know my name. But that was going to change. I’d finally get my chance.

I don’t know where he got the money from to put himself at the top of the list, because he hadn’t been anywhere close the night before. I don’t think he’d even been on the list.

And the next thing I knew, my name had risen to the top of the list and I was selected for Princess Aurora. You remember how I said that students could pay money to lower their ranking? Well, that’s what every single girl that had been on the list did. Nobody else could see past the spots on Alfred’s face. I’d been determined to secure a spot in the play, if you recall. And usually a forty dollar contribution was enough to land you a minor role—because after the main characters were selected, none of the popular girls wanted to play a minor position, that was beneath them, so they would all pay themselves out of the running—but this time, it was enough to put me at the top of the list. Eight points. Except, well… it was equally advantageous for the other girls to pay for somebody else to raise their score, just to put as much distance as possible between them and selection, so why not make the quiet girl that didn’t have any friends play that part? The girl that couldn’t afford to lower her ranking? So I became Princess Aurora with just nineteen points, putting me a full ten points higher than anybody else on the ranking board.

Me! Princess Aurora!

My mom was not going to be happy. I grinned. Nope, not happy at all. I smiled the entire way home. I didn’t care that she grounded me. It’s not like I could do anything anyway… and she couldn’t stop me from being a normal teenage girl just this once.

Every spare moment was spent memorizing lines. I refused to look like a fool in front of Alfred. Not that it mattered, the first two weeks of rehearsal we kept our lines with us. We didn’t go off book until the third week. Rehearsals slowed down as people muddled through their lines. Scenes were repeated time and time again. Not even Alfred knew his lines.

I had rehearsal every night and every Saturday for two months. Those were the best two months of my life. I spent my eighteenth birthday at rehearsal and then afterwards Alfred and I went to a diner and went over lines while we ate. It was the best birthday I’d ever had.

Finally it was the day of our first show. I mumbled my lines as I dressed in my 15th century replica gown with a square neckline and slashed sleeves.

The set designers had gone to exacting detail. The stand by my bed had an embroidery hoop on it with a half-finished rose on it. A small embroidery kit set off to the side. Leatherbound books were on the shelves. They used a real, old-fashioned spinning wheel. Everything was perfect as I took to the stage.

I ascended the staircase that led to a platform where the evil fairy disguised as an old woman sat with a spinning wheel. When I touched the spindle, I closed my eyes and fell backward, off the platform. A soft mattress was laid out on the other side. Princess Aurora’s bed and final resting place.

I could hear the gasps of the audience as my body struck the mattress and stilled. The curtains closed, it was the end of the first scene.

There was something small and hard digging into my back. I’d felt it the moment I landed and it was all I could do to keep from gasping. Unconscious princesses don’t gasp, after all. I sat up, grabbing the offending object. Only too late did I realize what it was.

A thimble.

I felt my eyes grow heavy as I toppled backward on the bed, the thimble falling from my fingers and rolling across the stage. As everything went black, I could hear the plink it made when it struck the tile floor of the auditorium.

Why didn’t I listen to my mom?

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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