Not Quite Rapunzel


Odelia Rose stayed in a corner room on the second floor. Her parents left her at the Asylum steps when she was four in spite of how hard they’d wished for her existence.

Her parents tried everything to have a child, even paying a witch to help their fertility along. Odelia’s mother believed in everything from in vitro to witchcraft. Anything was worth trying.

But they’d imagined perfection, and Odelia Rose was far from there.

Odelia’s hair grew like weeds her father said. Indeed, it grew inches every time the child fell asleep. And it didn’t grow in spun gold or brilliant ebony or any shade worth the time and care it demanded. Her grew in thick and green. Perhaps the green was beautiful, emerald and bright, but what did that matter. A girl’s hair couldn’t be green. What hope was there for such a girl?

Her parents grew tired of the wild vines falling from the pillow every morning. They hated the sight of beetles and butterflies they found in the nursery. They gave up clipping back tendrils before bedtime and they looked the other way when Odelia ran out into the rain, overjoyed as her green hair flew out behind her.

Odelia’s parents left her on the Asylum steps after an unusually dry summer month when the sound of Odelia’s tears finally drove them mad.

The nurses accepted Odelia without complaint. The child behaved and did as she was told. She wanted nothing more than to sit in the garden no matter the weather, and no one commented on her hair. Most of the nurses loved Odelia Rose, and those who didn’t appreciated the beetles she left behind in her bed. They were surprisingly sweet and good with iced tea.

Another Room in the Asylum

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In the last room in the uppermost hall of the Asylum stays a small boy. In the novel, he climbs onto the roof and is carried away by crows. His fate remains unknown for the time being.

But he wasn’t born in the Asylum. Few are. He arrived the way most patients arrived on the Night Ambulance.

For every couple who wish for a child and who make deals with all manner of people to make their wish come true, there are an equal number of husbands and wives who wish not to be so blessed. Just as one family welcomed a daughter with raven black hair and pale skin, another family cursed the coming of a son who appeared to their horror to be blue.

At first the midwife thought something had gone wrong and that the baby couldn’t breathe. But a few moments later, she determined he breathed as anyone baby should. And he wasn’t really blue. Not in the bright light. He was as healthy as any boy could be.

But his mother believed otherwise. She looked at him sideways and through squinted eyes and by looking at his reflection in the hospital mirror, but anyway she looked at him, his skin glowed blue. She spit on his arm and rubbed the spot hard only to glimpse purple. She pushed his crib away. If he cried, she didn’t notice.

News of the beautiful girl born the same day as the boy reached the mother. Even her midwife talked about the girl with the black hair and alabaster skin. “We can’t all be so lucky,” the new mother of the pale blue boy said. “It’s not my fault if I have no luck at all.” Her son had ebony hair too, but no one was knocking at her door to see his beauty.

The midwife clucked her tongue. “More the fool you if you don’t mind my saying. You’ve got plenty of luck.”

The mother crossed her arms and frowned. “I’ve wasted my looks on the wrong man and no one will ever be jealous of my child. What kind of luck is that?”

Both the new mother and the midwife jumped as a crow flew into the window. It fluttered to the windowsill and stared into the room.

“You fool woman,” the midwife said, closing the curtain. Birds worried her. “That baby girl may be beautiful,” she continued, “but the mother died not even an hour after she was born. You’ve got your life in front of you while that mother won’t never see her little girl grow up.”

The new mother sat up. “Really? She’s dead?”

The midwife put her hands on her hip. “You’ve got a beautiful child and a whole life ahead of you to make of it what you will. Be grateful.”

The new mother nodded but she wasn’t listening. She was thinking. The dead woman had left behind a husband…a good-looking man with a high-powered job. A man like that would need a new wife.

And so it was the boy found himself abandoned. The midwife clucked her tongue and muttered about tragedy and gratitude, but she called the Night Ambulance anyway.

“Why not call child services?” they asked her.

“You said you wanted to children like this,” she said. She flung back the curtain and a flock of blackbirds flew up from the ground around the window and settled back to the ground. The midwife was quite sure the birds were watching her.

“Like what?” the ambulance driver asked.

“Come and ask the crows,” she said. “They’ll explain everything.”


Thanks for reading. It’s a rough draft and we’ll see were it goes.