Step Mother’s Note

Dearest daughter,

I know when you went to sleep you still didn’t consider me your mother, but I hope you know that I always considered you part of my family.  By the time you read this, you will have woken up from your rest. I hope that you are feeling better. I know things haven’t been easy, and I hope when you wake things will finally be easier, fairer.

I know that this situation has taken a deep toll on you. It’s taken a toll on me as well, but I don’t mean to make this about me. 

What I am trying to say is, I hope that by the time you wake you can find it within your heart to forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you. I never wanted to do this, but… I hope you can at least understand why, even if you can’t forgive me.

When I first met you, you were still your father’s little girl, his greatest joy in the whole world, the only reminder of his former wife. I tried to ask him about his life before he met me. He was always willing and forthcoming to talk about his early years, when he was a bachelor, but then wouldn’t say a word about your mother. He’d grow distant, lose focus, and ask to change the subject. If I would push, he would refuse stronger, so I decided to leave him his last bit of privacy. He planned to share the rest of his life with me; I could let him have this last bit of isolation.

I wish I pushed a bit more.

You were always distant, which I always understood. Any daughter would be under the circumstances. I hope you know I never wanted to replace your mother, but instead be another source of comfort for you. 

After that first year, when you first actually talked to me, that was one of the happiest days of my life. I cherished that moment for years, still hearing those words in the back of my head, even if it was just you saying you were hungry. 

I wanted to cook for you, but your father refused to let me feed you. He would always feed you privately, coming back out from your room tired and seemingly barely there. He kept this up for years until he started to fall ill.

If I were more honest, I would mention that I tried to peek. I wanted to understand his secrets, but never had the courage to open that door.

But after your father fell ill, he told me. He said… he said things I couldn’t believe and still struggle to believe to this day… about my daughter. So I chalked it up to his fever muddling his thoughts. I tried to feed you myself but you refused to eat anything besides the apples from the market. I’d head out and you were so tired, and when I returned your excitement for those delicious red apples would bring you out from your room. But that’s not how you feed a growing young lady.

I would try to make you shepherd’s pie when we had meat. I tried to bake you bread when we didn’t. And no matter what, you refused to eat anything but those deep red apples. I thought it was because of your father’s illness, and then his passing.

Then… then that night. A friend of your father’s came to pay his respects. I returned from picking herbs and you said he left, but a week later I found his body in the woods. What your father said crept back to my mind, but I pushed those ideas out.

That week you had so much energy and joy in your voice. You even accidentally called me mother before correcting yourself. 

The ideas, the thoughts, they began to connect and grow like a mold in a hot damp pantry. I closed the door and pretended to not understand.

And then it happened again.

I tried…

I tried to lead you down the right path. I tried to raise you like my own child, despite your peculiar condition. I hoped you could subsist on the creatures of the woods, but you grew dissatisfied. You’d come home, standing in the doorway all tall and lean, and I wanted to help.

But after your most recent incident, with those children from the village…

I gave up.

And yet, I knew what I had to do. With a trip back to the market, and a visit to the apothecary, I had what I needed. 

I gave you that apple, as red as the blood in the woods, as red as your lips. You didn’t suspect a thing. You took that apple and bit into it deeply, greedily.

That night, with the sky as deep and black as your hair, you fell into a sleep. I waited the next day to see if you would wake, and then a week, and then a month, and you still did not wake. 

I hope when you wake that you can forgive me. I know I don’t deserve it, but I hope that you can. I failed you, but you have a second chance now.

And I hope that when you wake up that the world is fairer, as fair as your porcelain skin.

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