by Jason Nadler
2nd Place – Flash 405, February 2019: “Happily Ever After”
“Are you asleep, Phillip?”
After a considerate pause, “No.”
“Tell me a story.”
Phillip rolled to face her. “Is something the matter?”
“I was just thinking about all our wonderful trips and adventures. We’ve had a wonderful life, don’t you agree?”
Phillip nodded. “Wonderful and full, my dear.”
“What was your favorite part?”
“You’re asking me to choose? Can’t I say ‘all of it’ and go back to sleep?”
“Remember the day the ferry crossing from Aventland to Broheim broke down? We spent the night in that quaint inn. Do you remember?”
“The Rooster and the Lamb.”
“Yes. We sat at the bar, hungry and disappointed we weren’t going to Bronheim until the morning.”
“We ate and we drank and we talked until they closed. The chef came out and we told him how we enjoyed our meal.”
“Do you remember he sat at the piano and played for hours? Just for us.”
“I do remember dancing until I was so tired.” He said, “I nearly fell asleep on my feet.”
“It was a magical night. We never did get to Broheim, but neither of us cared.”
“It was a magical night.”
“And my favorite, too.”
“Really? Not the trip to Flothen? Sailing to Speiton?”
“Those were wonderful trips. But the night in Aventland was such a surprise. All our plans went wrong, and it turned out perfect anyway.”
“When you put it that way, I see your point. I can still remember the golden light, our candle-lit shadows spinning on the wall as we danced all alone, the sound of the piano, the chef’s silly mustache.”
She giggled. “It was silly, so bushy and long.”
“I guess it’s my favorite, too. In some ways, it seems like last year, not thirty years ago.”
She sat on the bed beside him. His hand touched her knee.
“Are you going to read now?”
She thought a moment. “I thought I might lie beside you.”
“That would be nice. The bed can be lonely.”
“You know what’s odd?”
“I think I’m tired.”
“Tired?” He sat upright beside her.
“It’s been so long since I slept, I’ve forgotten what it’s like.”
“Are you sure you’re okay? After all these years?”
“I don’t know,” she yawned. “Maybe it took so long to become tired again.” She lay down and he beside her.
“I love you, Phillip.”
This playful take on a classic fairy-tale was exactly the type of whimsy and invention I was hoping for with this theme. It begins as a simple exchange between a couple before bed, but as it unfolds, it becomes clear that the speakers are Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip of Sleeping Beauty. It’s a beautiful, slightly melancholy take on the enduring power of a happily-ever-after in the revelation that Aurora has not slept in years, after her enduringly long enchanted slumber. But now, full of the memories made with her soulmate, she’s finally ready to rest her eyes once again. This piece manages to evoke nostalgia, romanticism, and the ease, comfort, and support that comes with the right partner. It’s a happy ending of a different kind for a happily-ever-after we already thought we knew well—and I loved the chance to view this story and relationship in a new light—one that is bittersweet.
Jason Nadler wrote his first novella in the sixth grade, and has dreamed of being a full-time writer ever since. He is currently writing an urban fantasy trilogy called The Books of Alexandrea. He lives on the North Fork of Long Island with his wife and two cats.