It Is Winter and Everything Is Cold, Thinks Robber Girl
by Charlotte Bhaskar
Robber girl watches her reindeer blundering down the road to Lapland, lurching under the weight of Dear Gerda, spraddle-legged but eager to be gone. Between her teeth the knife grows slick with iron-tasting spit. Robber girl does not cry. Instead she watches Dear Gerda wobble away over the packed snow and ice until her eyes hurt from not blinking. She will not blink either, not until she chooses to. Finally she chooses to — quick glance down, fingers sliding deeper into the thick pelt of the muff still warm from Gerda's hands (a small thing, a small thing she herself had been so generous, shared bread and bed and good red meat, and Gerda had wanted to give it anyhow, hadn't she?) She strokes its gleaming silver fur all one way, leaves it flat and shining like the moon in water; smoothes it backwards, exposing fluff and fine hair-roots meeting the hide, a jumble of brownish grey softer than goose down, than Gerda's pink cheeks. Robber girl's hands move slow, over and over and over in that lovely warmth. Fat pretty Gerda and that ice-hearted boy will dance and sing at their meeting, she decides, and Gerda will cry because that is her way. And Robber girl imagines the Snow Queen — liking the guts of the woman who'd call herself "Snow Queen," as if anyone could really be Queen of the ever-present all-encompassing snow — she imagines Snow Queen returning, knowing the little snow-boy she stole is gone. She imagines a woman, hair silversoft like her new muff, dress woven of lace and snowflakes, trimmed with ermine, sharp and shining crown on her head. Is she crying? No — tears freeze fast, that far North. She cannot imagine a Snow Queen crying, anyhow. So instead she imagines: Snow Queen running outside to see reindeer tracks, howls of rage and realization stretching her blue cheeks. She imagines: falling to her knees, scraping together snow, shaping a new little snow-boy. She imagines: laying a matched silver crown on his finished skull, kissing his dear head with lips colder than ice, colder than the knife in her mouth.
Raised mostly in New Jersey, Charlotte Bhaskar now lives in Berkeley, California, where she's a first-year MFA candidate in fiction at Saint Mary's College of California. In addition to assisting the Fiction section of Saint Mary's literary magazine, "MARY", she's also worked for the last year and a bit as a First Reader for Strange Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine. This is her first published work. Her favorite fruits are the ripe yellow peaches that grow in an abandoned orchard on a New Jersey mountaintop, hot from the sun and heavy when they slip off the branch and into your hand.
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