Aurora awoke feeling crabby. Just a few more minutes, she thought, before slowly becoming aware that someone was very near her bed. The echo of an unfamiliar sensation rested on her lips. She opened her eyes; a man was standing there, avoiding her gaze.
“Who are you?” Aurora clutched the sheets to her bosom. “Did you just…kiss me? Get out! Where is my maid? Get out of here!” Her voice rose to a trembling shriek.
“Well miss, ‘ats the problem, innit?”
“What…whatever do you mean? Who are you? Where is everyone?” Aurora had pulled the bedding over her head, but she peeked out at the stranger in her chambers. He’s handsome.
“Miss, I’m Bob. Bob Charming? I come to rescue you, I did. You bin asleep for a hunert years, you ‘ave.” Bob gave her a sheepish grin, and touched the brim of his hat.
Aurora sat up fully. “A hundred years! Don’t be absurd! And—why are your clothes all dirty and torn?” Maybe he’s not so handsome after all. What on earth is he wearing?
“It were them vines, miss. They growed up wicked this ‘round this castle, and I ‘ad to chop ‘em down, din’ I?”
“What vines? Oh, this is ridiculous!” Aurora threw aside the covers, no longer caring about propriety. “You—Mr. Charming. Would you just summon my maid, and then go see my father—he’ll give you some new clothes, or a few shillings, or something.”
Bob studied the floor. “Miss Aurora, I ‘ave to take you out of ‘ere meself, I do. Ain’t no one ‘ere but me, ya see. And you can’t get out so easy-like. It’s them vines I was tellin’ you about…they’d muck up yer pretty gowns ‘n’ all…”
Several more rounds of verbal sparring ensued, but Aurora finally agreed with reluctance to leave the castle with Bob. It was far too complicated to dress herself unattended, so she donned a dressing gown and stomped imperiously past her rescuer. Down several flights of stairs, through halls bedecked with cobwebs, Aurora strode through the silent castle with her head held high. Minutes later, she threw open the palace doors—and gasped.
“It’s wot I tol’ ya, miss. Them vines’d just as soon eat ya as look at ya.” Bob dug into the ground with his booted toe.
Aurora was livid. “My father should have spoken to the gardener about these vines ages ago!” She hiked her dressing gown above her knees, and set out toward the tangled overgrowth. “I suppose everyone is on an outing? It’s so like them to let me sleep through all the fun. Ouch!” There followed a string of very un-princesslike language, as Aurora struggled to disentangle her hair and clothing from the twisted vegetation. Eventually, she stopped, panting slightly. “Oh, Bob? Are you still there?”
Bob stepped forward; he had stayed several steps behind during Aurora’s charge of the brambles. “I’ll ‘elp ya, miss. Jes’ let me…’ere ya go, right as rain, you are!”
Aurora shook a leaf from her hair, and surveyed the expanse of vines separating her castle from—well, from everything. She weighed her options, then turned to Bob. Her voice was honeyed and imploring. “Bob, would you mind awfully much…could you help me through this mess? You seem to be very good at vines…and your muscles are just ever so strong.” She extended a slender finger and poked playfully at his bicep, batting her eyelashes prettily.
Bob considered Aurora for several moments. Then with a swift movement, he grasped her behind the knees and hauled her over his back. He fought through the vines, occasionally hacking with his knife at a particularly thick tangle. Soon they had cleared the snarls, and Bob plopped Aurora on a mossy stone bench.
“Oh Bob, that was wonderful!” Aurora gazed with appreciation at her rescuer. “You were just like a knight, or…or a prince!” She fluttered her eyelids again. “I guess…it’s happily ever after for us now…since you’ve already kissed me, I mean.”
Bob looked off at the forest in the distance. “I don’ think so, miss. Yer real pretty an’ all, but I always tho’t me wife ‘ud be more…sweet-like. I ‘ear there’s anuvver gal wot needs rescuin’ in them woods—in some kinda glass casket, they say. So, I’ll be seein’ ya, miss.” He touched his hat again, and ambled off toward the trees.
Aurora watched him leave, shivering a little in her thin dressing gown. A vine lay in pieces at her feet.
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