This is my non-eligible entry for the Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction contest. Of course, the linky is closed, but hope you enjoy it regardless.
The Ice Maiden
Inge was accustomed to her daughter’s formal way of speaking. It’d been a mistake to read Greta poetry, but she hated how mothers gibbered at their babies. As a result, Greta was all precocity at six.
Inge stirred in milk as the wind blew ceaseless at the shutters. After Erik left, she’d scorned moving to her parent’s flat in Reykjavik, opting for country solitude. She’d raise her daughter in peace, without interference or superstition.
“A story, please,” Greta had the golden braids and command of a Nordic princess.
“I told you all the stories I know.”
“Tell me the Ice Maiden.”
“On dark, starred nights the Ice Maiden comes, robed in velvet black and crowned with icicles. If you do not leave her a tribute at the hollow tree, she steals under your sill and kisses you with frozen lips.”
Inge knew the words, but was hopeless at the rich cadences her father once infused in them.
Greta didn’t mind, listening rapt, “Then what happened?”
Inge scooped her up, “Then they lived happily ever after, because it was past their bedtime.”
Once she deposited Greta in bed, Inge snuck to her bedroom for a secret cigarette. She cranked the window open an inch, watching the ash blot the snow on the eaves. Stupid of her to tell Greta that story; she needn’t fill her head with dark-edged tales.
The stove was turned too high and Inge nodded off in her chair.
Outside, snow whirled wildly, like they were encased in a glass globe.
Inge woke abruptly. Something had burned – cocoa! She hurried downstairs, pulling on her thin robe. Uneasy, she switched the stove off. Didn’t she turn it off before? Then she saw the open door.
She ran, bare feet crunching unfeeling through ice crust.
“Greta, Greta!” she cried, wind stealing her words.
She found her at the foot of the hollow tree, mug of cocoa clenched in ice-rimed hand, an unclaimed offering.
Inge kissed her daughter’s frozen lips, to keep from screaming.