First Blood/Breaking the Glass Slipper
Galina’s father disappeared years earlier while out hunting. Her mother and she are left poor and grieving. She is constantly teased by the village children. Her grandmother has been sick lately. Galina’s mother sends her into the woods to tend “Babushka.” On the path, she meets a hunter who says he is looking for wolves. Is this story beginning to sound familiar? Perhaps, but things are not always as they appear. This girl is cunning and brave. This hunter is an enemy. And though Babushka may turn out to be a wolf in disguise, this story will not turn out to be what is expected. Join Galina on her journey into a nightmare under the Blood God Moon and through the story’s twists to an unexpected ending in which her grandmother may save her far more than she will save her grandmother.
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, at least the first half. Hear the rest of the tale as told by Mathilde, the fourteen year old daughter of Queen Arabella (a.k.a. Cinderella). She and her younger brother Seth have grown up witnessing their father abuse their mother both physically and emotionally. Over time, Seth starts to succumb to the same outbursts of cruelty he has internalized from watching his father. Princess Mathilde is desperate to stop the cycle of violence from being passed down to her brother—the future king. She sets in motion a desperate plan to save her broken family. And with a little help from a familiar fairy guardian, she just might succeed.
The girls in the village used to call me Chucha Krásniy, or Little Red as a joke because I always wore the same burgundy woolen cloak.
“It’s red like blood,” they said. “Did you bleed on it?” Then they’d all laughed, though I didn’t know why.
“No,” I told them. “My mother made the dye for me because red is the color I like best.”
True, my cloak was old and had dark stains which wouldn’t wash out because I had worn it so often. It was my only cloak, which showed how poor Mama and I were. Ever since Papa went out to hunt last winter and never came home, we had not had enough to eat. So there was no money for a new cloak.
My face felt hot. I thought the other children found it funny that I couldn’t afford new clothes. They must have thought because I was poor I was dirty, too. So I said, “I have never bled on any of my clothes.”
“Never bled, never bled,” they chanted.
And sometimes one of the older girls would snicker. “Well, you will soon.”
Then they all scattered like a flock of geese as I charged into them, my hands in fists, saying, “I’ll make you bleed first. You see if I don’t.”
When this first happened, I went home to my mother and told her what the other girls had said. I asked her why they were so cruel to me. “Don’t the poor deserve kindness like everyone else?”
Mama’s face scrunched up like it does when I come home covered in pine needles and mud stains. I thought she was going to yell at me, but she continued to stir the soup without saying anything for many moments.
Then she told me, “The children are not laughing because your clothes are old.” Her voice was serious and a little sad. She did not go on.
So I asked, “Then why do they ask if I bleed on my clothes?”
“Because women bleed,” she said, her voice hard and sharp like the edge of a knife. She looked into the steam as if she saw something far away there.
I asked her what she meant.
“Galina,” she said, her voice soft as wool now. “When you become a woman, you will understand. But you are only ten now and can still afford to be a child. Don’t listen to what the older girls say. There is more than one way a person can bleed. Go play now. You will find out what kind of blood they mean in time.”
As I left the cottage, I knew she was thinking about Papa, because I was. Our hearts bled; he was gone forever. After I had closed the door, I could hear my mama crying inside. I went into the woods to sit alone and think about what she had said.
That happened three years ago. Now I knew what kind of blood the other girls meant. But I still had not bled the woman’s blood. Mother said it was getting to be past time for me to have it. Yet I could not bring it on, any more than I could stop the bleeding in my heart for my father’s loss and for my mother’s sorrow. I still had the red cloak, which the children teased me about. My body was small for my age so the cloak fit, even though it was too short to look proper. It had become very stained by then, and worn through in places. We couldn’t afford extra fabric to make patches to cover the holes. Nor did we have old clothes we could spare to cut into patches.
So I wore my old cloak to spread seeds for the geese and gather their eggs. When I slopped our hog, the muck of it sloshed onto my now brownish-red cloak, which was covered in bits of fur from tending our goats. Dirt stains came from sitting on the ground, weeding our little garden. And, as always, little threads got pulled and balled up from blackberry thorns and pine bark as I gathered the fruits and nuts among them.
For almost a month, I had been visiting my babushka, who lived in the woods a half day’s travel from the village. She had been sick with some mysterious illness. My mother charged me with her care. So I took her herbs, eggs, goat cheese, and milk. I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong with her, and she would not say. But she felt warm to the touch and she acted different. She asked me each time I visited to bring her meat, even though she knew Mama couldn’t afford any. Babushka told me to slaughter the sow; but she was to give birth soon. It wasn’t yet autumn—the time to butcher the suckling pigs and cure their meat for the winter. Babushka had eaten her own geese already, as well as her goat. I wondered how she would have any eggs or milk besides what I brought her. She was almost too old, and certainly too sick, to go out in the woods and hunt for wild carrots, leeks, pine nuts, and other plants to eat. I worried for her.
She also talked of Papa.
“Viktor,” she said, “he hunts deer, rabbit, squirrel, sometimes even bear. But it is no good, not enough. I need more meat, sweet Galina, to keep up my strength.”