Sheet White

Embroiderya fairy tale

Once upon a time there was a queen who had no children, despite many years of living a typically child-producing lifestyle. One day, as she sat doing her embroidery, she saw through her window the maids hanging the palace linens out to dry. They were as white as a sheet. Thus distracted, she pricked her finger. Her red blood flowed onto her embroidery and dried a rusty brown.

“If only I could have a daughter with skin as white as a sheet, and with eyes as brown as this stain,” she sighed.

Instantly a fairy appeared in her chamber. “What about the hair and the lips?” asked the fairy.

“I’m not particular about those,” said the queen.

And so it was that less than a year later, the queen gave birth to a beautiful girl with skin as white as a sheet, and eyes as brown as dried blood.

“She looks kinda sickly,” said the midwife, but the queen shushed her.

The girl grew up happy and healthy. Indeed she was never sick for a single day, and all the diseases her playmates came down with—ennui, jealousy, selfishness, measles—seemed to pass her by. Yet everyone who saw her thought she must be ill, because her skin was so pale. Soon her real name (which I don’t remember) was forgotten, and everyone called her “Sheet White.”

When Sheet White was in the awkward adolescent years, her mother died, and her father remarried. His new wife was a doctor, and insisted that there must be something wrong with Sheet White.

“I’ll cure that girl if it’s the last thing I do,” she said, and she meant it.

Now the new queen (whose name doesn’t matter) used to talk to her mirror. This is fairly normal for queens, but in her case, the mirror talked back. It was a fount of medical knowledge, and helped her solve many a case that had stumped all the other doctors in the kingdom. (Indeed it was her prowess at medicine that attracted the king to her. That and her hourglass figure.)

Every day the queen would go to her magic mirror and recite doggerel. One day she said:

Mirror, mirror, now that I’ve got her,
Help me cure my pallid daughter.

The mirror, which had even less skill in poetry, said, “Have her row to the middle of the fetid swamp, and sleep there for three nights.”

Sheet White did so, and sure enough, within weeks her skin started to gain a healthy glow. Actually it wasn’t healthy at all, it was jaundice from malaria caused by a mosquito bite. The queen healed her with pills and potions, and soon Sheet White was back to her habitual sheety whiteness.

The queen returned to her mirror, and said:

Mirror, mirror, you’ve fooled me once.
Now help me cure the girl, you dunce.

The mirror suggested that the princess lie in the golden meadow on the warmest day of the year without any clothes on. The queen ordered a privacy wall built around the golden meadow, then on the hottest day of the year Sheet White laid in it.

Sure enough, within hours her skin was no longer sheet white, but started to grow a rosy pink. Soon it was bright red, and the next day it blistered and started flaking off. The queen healed her with salves and ointments, and soon Sheet White was back to her habitual sheety whiteness.

The queen then returned to her mirror, and spake unto it thus:

Mirror, mirror, that didn’t work.
Now help me cure the girl, you jerk.

“Perhaps she’s an albino,” the mirror suggested.

The queen flew into a rage. “You stupid mirror!” she cried. “That’s impossible! Her eyes are as brown as dried blood!”

“Oh yeah.” The mirror conceded that the problem was beyond its abilities.

Meanwhile Sheet White had collected her things and ran away from home. “My step-mother is going to kill me with her crazy cures,” she said. “I must needs leave my home forever.”

She wandered for a year and a day, until she came to a wee little house. A sign on the door said, “Bell out, please knock,” so she knocked. A little wizened man opened the door, and said, “Good heavens, you’re as white as a sheet! Come in, I’m a doctor, and mayhap I can cure what ails you.”

“Nothing ails me,” said Sheet White. “I’ve always been this color.”

“Nonsense!” said the man. “I insist you—”

Before he could finish, Sheet White was gone. She had no desire to be subjected to any more “cures.”

She wandered for another year and another day, until she came to a great castle. A sign on the postern said, “Bell out, please knock,” so she knocked. A liveried soldier opened the door, and said, “Good heavens, you’re as white as a sheet! Come in, my wife is a nurse, and mayhap she can cure what ails you.”

“Nothing ails me,” said Sheet White. “I’ve always been this color.”

“Nonsense!” said the man. “I insist you—”

Before he could finish, Sheet White was nowhere to be seen.

She wandered for a third year and a third day, until she came to a huge tree with a bell rope. A sign said, “Knock out, please ring,” so she rang. A fairy woman as blue as a jay opened the door and said, “Come in, I’ve been waiting for you.” The fairy promised not to try to cure Sheet White, so she followed her inside.

“I’m the fairy that caused you to be as white as a sheet,” said the fairy. “When the King of the Fairies saw how much trouble it caused you, he made me as blue as a jay in punishment. Which is hardly fair, since it was your mother’s idea.”

“How much trouble has it caused you?” asked Sheet White, ignoring the insult to her mother.

“None, really,” said the fairy. “I’m something of a loner.”

“Great,” said Sheet White. “So now what do we do?”

Just then the bell rang. The blue fairy opened the door, and there stood a fairy man as white as a sheet.

“King Roy!” said the blue fairy, for it was indeed the King of the Fairies himself. “How did you get so white?”

“Long story,” said the king. “But say, how lovely you look, Sheet White!”

“Thank you, your majesty,” said Sheet White, who was blushing for the first time in her life. They looked into each other’s eyes (his were the color of dried blood too), and fell in love.

“Would you marry me and be my queen?” the king asked.

“But I’m not a fairy,” said Sheet White.

“That’s okay, my kingdom is pretty accepting about that sort of thing.”

And so they were wed. One day not long after, as Sheet White sat embroidering and looking out her window, her mind wandered and she pricked her finger. Her red blood flowed onto her embroidery, and dried a rusty brown.

“Oh, how I wish I had a daughter—” she began. The fairy woman (no longer blue) instantly appeared in her chamber. “Don’t you dare ask for some strange color configuration,” she said.

“No, it’s just that if I had a daughter, she could fetch me a Band-Aid.”

“Here you go,” said the fairy, pulling a tin of adhesive bandages from her robes.

“Just what I need,” said Sheet White. “Flesh-colored.”

Copyright © 2014 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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