Stone Cold Kiss by Melissa R. Mendelson

Once upon a time, there was this little girl, who lived in the woods. She was raised only by her grandmother. Her parents, she never knew. Her grandmother once sadly slipped and said that her mother was the most precious fairy of them all, but alas, she died in childbirth. The father had no mention, and it was only after her grandmother’s passing did this little girl realize that her grandmother had been hiding her from the world, a world that she was now lost in, a world that never knew her name.
Alone, she wandered, living off scraps and on the kindness of strangers. Nobody really talked to her. Nobody asked her about her name. They took care of her for one night and then demanded for her to be gone the very next day. At first, she was okay with this arrangement, traveling to strange lands and enjoying breathtaking sights, but one day when crossing the river, she spied a young man in a boat nearby, kissing a young girl. Why was he kissing her, the little girl asked, and the older man rowing the boat barked about something called, Love. What was Love, the little girl asked, never receiving an answer and then shortly afterward being left alone again.
It was cold tonight. Nobody was showing kindness, and her stomach was growling from hunger. The little girl hunched down against a cold brick building, wrapped her arms around her bare legs as her toes numbly picked at the ground beneath her. She was about to fall asleep when this warm light fell around her, and when she opened her eyes, this most beautiful woman stood before her. And she smiled a breathtaking smile, and she said that she knew who this little girl was. She even knew her mother, and because of that, she would grant the little girl one wish.
“I want to know Love, but all of Love. I want everyone to show me Love,” and the woman smiled.
“Just be careful of the glass bottles,” she said as her smile began to fade. “If you hit the bottom, it will break,” and then she was gone.
The little girl wanted to know what she meant, but she never got the chance to ask. And not even a second went by when this man hurried over to her, rescuing her from the cold. He showed her shelter, warmth, and for some time, he treated her like one of his daughters. And his daughters treated her like one of them, and the town grew fond of her. Everyone loved her. Everyone wanted to be with her, but nobody ever asked her her name, which she no longer cared about. It was just a name, and the little girl grew up.
Ten years later, she had traveled once more to another strange land, and a big party was thrown in her honor. She was like a celebrity, treated as if she were gold, but in all these years, she never felt Love. She just felt empty instead, and then at that party, there was this most amazing man. Maybe, he was a prince, and he looked at her, stealing her breath away. And they danced all night long. And then the night turned into morning, and maybe, she thought, maybe she had found Love. And he went to kiss her, and his kiss was as cold as stone. His eyes were empty, and his face twisted into a horrid look, a look that drove her far, far away into a dark, mysterious tavern, where she saw creatures similar to that one from years ago. And another fairy appeared.
“You look like you could use a drink,” she said.
“A drink,” the girl replied.
“Yes. Come. Over here,” and the fairy gently nudged her over to the bar. “Pick your poison,” and the girl looked over at the glass bottles. “Something wrong?”
“I… I can’t drink from them,” the girl said.
“And why is that?”
“Um… Something about something breaking.”
“Come on, girl. One drink. It won’t kill you, and besides, you might like it.” And as the fairy said this, the bartender picked up a glass bottle and poured the girl a drink. “How about one drink, and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to have any more.”
“Okay,” the girl finally said and downed the drink. “Wow. That is good,” and she wiped her mouth with her hand.
“Another,” the fairy asked, and the girl nodded excitedly.
The morning peeled away into day, and day fell away to the darkest of night. The girl returned to where she was staying, only to be screamed at and chased away by an angry mob. Nobody wanted her around. Nobody wanted to look at her. Nobody wanted to love her. They all wanted her to go away.
“Why,” the girl cried to herself. “What did I do,” but nobody answered her. And for a long time, she wandered, being chased away by those that once showed her love. And strangely, after a period of time, she stumbled back across her old home. It was as if it waited for her, and when she entered, there was her grandmother standing by the fire. “But you’re dead,” the girl exclaimed. “You died!”
“I did and didn’t,” the old woman said. “I just needed for you to see.”
“See? See what? You left me all alone.”
“To quench your thirst for knowledge, for your dreams, to know what lies outside this home. You can’t make people love you, Medusa. They have to do it on their own.”
“But they think me a monster.”
“You are a monster.”
“But I didn’t ask to be born this way.”
“Nobody asks to be born this way.”
“So, nobody will love me,” and Medusa burst into tears.
“One day, a man will come and make you his wife. He is a god of all men, and he will see your real beauty. But you must be patient. This is my last gift to you,” and when Medusa looked again, her grandmother was gone.
A few years passed, and then knock came at the door. She barely moved from her chair, stoking the fire when he walked in. She had forgotten what her grandmother had said, and now she looked up at this strange man. And she fell madly in love with him, and before she could say or do anything, he embraced her in his mighty arms. And he whispered words into her ears that made her melt to her core, and he was not afraid. He said that he had dreamed about her, and after all these years, here he was, ready to take her home.
“And my snakes,” she asked.
“They are as beautiful as you,” and when he kissed her, it was the last thing that she would ever remember.


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