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The Door

You grow your hair out because it seems like the right thing to do, because that’s what you were always supposed to be, this sweet, pretty little girl with hair that would swirl out around you when you turned in circles.  A part of you always did want to be a princess in a tower who would be rescued one day by a white knight.

You grew up, and you are still little, still a girl, but you missed pretty somewhere along the way, and sweet has gotten hard when you are constantly scared.  The tower is your bedroom, the evil witch the thoughts in your head that promise you that it’s safer to be alone, that you will be happier if you stay away from any situation in which there is the slightest chance you might humiliate yourself.

So there you are in a tower you confined yourself to.  You construct elaborate dreams of someday, a time when you will be free to slay dragons that you name sexism, prejudice, hatred.  You polish a gleaming sword and fight fake battles in front of your mirror, delighting in how you vanquish your enemies with a single stroke, and then, sometimes, you collapse to the floor and realize that it’s not so easy to fight when the villains aren’t figments of your imagination.

But you are happy in your tower.  Your hair is still growing, and you keep it in the desperate hope that one day you will be kissed and it will make you a princess, and you will be everything you ever dreamed you would become.  You keep these dreams tied up under your pillow, where they will never ever escape, because they are the closest thing to a life that you have.

And then, you meet her.

She is nothing like anything you have ever known, she is strong and sharp and you watch her from very far away.  You wonder about her life and decide that she has never wanted to be a princess, that she has always been a warrior.  She tells you battle stories and you are fascinated like a child.  You are a tower-dweller; you had no idea that such things really exist in the world.

She becomes part of your dreams, a black part that you would like to mark as an abscess and cut off, but you can’t because you know deep down that it fills all of you.  You hate the parts of the dreams she appears in, because it isn’t right, isn’t normal, and you will never be a princess if you keep this up.  You curl up in a ball and deny it to your pillow, but the truth remains that she is there, inside your head, and if you ever were anything close to normal before, you certainly aren’t anymore.

You try to go on with your life, and considering that you live mostly in the world of your tower it’s not very hard.  You see her almost every day, and each time you watch her more and more, trying to memorize her so that maybe you could bring a ghost of her into your little world...but no.  That's wrong.  You are waiting for a prince, not this beautiful woman.

Still, though.  Still, you have to watch her.  At first she seems to bond with everyone around her, but then you start to realize she is isolated just like you are.  There's no tower, no, or if there is it comes with memories of life outside, but the more you talk to her you realize that on some level she understands that you are walled up in stone, and she does not reject you for it. 

And then, one day, she comes to you open and vulnerable, and though you are afraid, though you are sure that you are not qualified for this, you do your best to soothe her, to comfort her.  You say the right things, the cliché things, the self-esteem boosters everyone knows.  You force all the words out and even though you're sure you're completely ineffective, she rewards you with a smile, thanking you.

That night you sob to yourself, face-down on the bed, because the last bit of you that believed that you could still be normal died in the blinding light of that smile.

Each conversation makes it easier for you to talk to her.  You get used to her smiles, so that they feel less like lasers and more like blankets.  You are overwhelmingly happy to be talking to someone outside your tower, even if you don't think she would ever care enough to save you.   

But nothing is ever perfect; nothing ever keeps the dragons away.  Soon you realize that people are starting to look at you, maybe not in a bad way, but they are definitely watching, and you aren't stupid and you know what they're thinking.  They think that you and your warrior are together.  They think there's something going on, something you're keeping hidden and then you start to look at your warrior and you think that maybe she thinks that too. 

It's not that you don't want it, because there is a part of you screaming and yelling and telling you that this is your big chance, but you can't.  You can't do it, because your tower has no doors and no windows and you are stuck there and nothing can happen with a wall of stone between you.  Stone is cold and if you tried you'd just both freeze and it's so impossible that it doesn't even bear thinking about.

Only, your warrior doesn't know that.

You realize that she's starting to think about it more and more, that she's considering it, and you wait for the day when you're going to have to break it to her that this is impossible, that you are unfit for normal society. 

One day the two of you are talking, and you slip and tell her "I used to think I was going to grow up to be a princess.  I really had that image there in my head of myself with Rapunzel hair and a Cinderella dress."

She laughs.  "I never really bought into that whole princess thing, to tell you the truth."  Her smile softens her words.

You don't tell her that you already figured that out.  "You look more like the warrior type."

She looks at you and smiles.  "Really?" 

It's all you can do to nod.  "Yeah.  It's just...something about you."

"Uh-huh."  A smirk, and something within you tightens.  "So the princess, she always has to be rescued in the end, right?"

You stare down at your hand, fingers knitted together on your lap.  "I guess so."

She is closer to you now, her voice lower.  "Are you waiting for someone to rescue you?"

You don't know how to answer.  What can be said to that?  "I don't know," you whisper, and then louder, "I really don't know."

She shifts, making you look at her.  "You know what I think?"  You just stare at her, lacking the ability to do anything else.  "I think you need to rescue yourself."

Right, because that's going to happen.  She doesn’t understand.  She doesn’t see how very locked-up-tight you are, how you are doomed and helpless.  But still, there is something that lights up inside you.  But still.  "How?"

She takes your hand.  "How do princesses usually get rescued?"

You can't.

"Well?" she asks.

You can't. 

"Come here."  Her voice is so kind, so gentle.

You can't.  You can't.  You can't.

But yet you are leaning forward, closer and closer, and then her mouth is on yours and it's not that your tower comes crumbling down, bricks everywhere, but it is wonderful anyway, it is magical and while you are kissing you start to see this line of light and you realize that it is a door.

Eventually you have to pull away, and you find yourself with your head buried in her shoulder, breathing deeply while she runs her fingers through your hair, your long princess hair, and you can still see that door.  You know that you're not ready to go through it yet, but it's there and you can sense its presence, and as you pull your head up and look your warrior in the eyes, you know that one day you will meet her outside your tower.  Moreover, you know that when that day comes, it will be you who has opened that door, who has saved yourself, because maybe you are a princess, but your own kind, and maybe that's not such a bad thing to be at all.