Once upon a time, a beautiful finance analyst lived at the edge of a large kingdom. Her apartment was small and occasionally infested with ants but more importantly, was only a bachelor apartment. The finance analyst had a fiancé and they were looking to settle down.
The finance analyst was well off and had a kind mother who promised to aid in her hunt for a house, but she searched the vast kingdom in vain. Decrepit, windowless homes went for over a million dollars. The most affordable ones were just as far away from the kingdom’s bustling centre as her own sad apartment, or even farther. She and her boyfriend engaged in angry bidding wars and intricate mind games with the help of their noble real estate agent.
They even went so far as to befriend an elderly woman in a desirable neighbourhood, in the hopes that they’d have an edge when she was finally forced to sell her four-bedroom two-bathroom row house and was shipped off to an old folk’s residence. Instead she died in her home. And her daughter swiftly sold the property to a developer.
The beautiful finance analyst was at a loss. She asked her father, a grocery store franchise owner, for a small loan, but he shook his head in sadness.
“I cannot help you” he said to his daughter, “I’m swamped in debt and want to retire soon. You’ll have to figure it out yourselves.”
The finance analyst was distraught. She wandered through all the best neighbourhoods in the kingdom, Ossington village, King’s West, The Town of Cabbages and Queen Leslie’s ville, her eyes puffy with tears, her heart low, staring at the houses she could never afford, with an almost painful sense of envy and despair.
Just as she was finishing her sojourn through Park Valley before beginning her long journey to her sad bachelor apartment a woman sitting on her front porch called out to the finance analyst.
“Good evening miss. Why are you crying so much?” said the woman.
She was well dressed in a cashmere sweater and her hair was silvery in the sunset. The finance analyst thought she hoped to look like that when she was older and accomplished, with a house of her own.
“Oh,” she said, “I want to buy a house and I don’t know how I can possibly do it”.
The woman gestured at the finance analyst to come onto the porch. The house was beautiful. Recently renovated, the finance analyst could tell. The porch looked made of hardwood and the chairs upon it were soft yet firm. The light that shone from the awnings above was delicate, illuminating the woman’s face in such a way that made her look far younger than her years. The woman looked towards the finance analyst, then her house, pensively.
“I’m thinking of selling the place as a matter of fact,” she said. “I was hoping to make two million dollars off it. What will you give me if I cut the price in half?” The finance analyst stared, mouth agape, at the woman, then she began a frantic search through her purse before placing her hand on her collarbone.
“I’ll give you this necklace,” she said, and she took off the gold chain with an emerald pendant, a gift from her grandmother, and handed it to the woman.
“Interesting. And what will you give me if I took off two-thirds of the price?”
“The ring on my finger” replied the finance analyst and tore off her engagement ring and handed it to the woman.
The woman smiled. She toyed with the ring before putting on her own pale, slender finger.
“And what,” she said, “will you give me if I gave you this house for free?”
The finance analyst gasped. Then tears formed once again in her eyes.
“I have nothing more I can give you,” she wept, and made to leave the beautiful woman’s beautiful porch.
“How about this,” said the woman. “Promise me, when you get settled and comfortable in this house, you will give me your first child.”
The finance analyst smiled for the first time all day. Who knows how things would turn out? She thought. She could be barren! She didn’t want children all that much anyway. And more than anything else, she was in distress and could think of no other way she would ever buy a house in such a perfect place. So, she promised the woman what she desired and the next day they went to a lawyer and had the deed turned over to the finance analyst and her fiancé.
The couple were elated. They had a house! And it was enormous with an open plan. There was plenty of light in the kitchen, a beautiful modern office for the finance analyst, and an extra bedroom, which her fiancé envisioned as the perfect child’s room.
At first the finance analyst was hesitant. But as time went by, she forgot about her promise and a year later was surprised when told by her doctor that she was pregnant. Nine months later she brought a beautiful child into the world. And still she forgot her promise.
Despite her earlier misgivings about motherhood, the finance analyst couldn’t help but love her son and when the woman appeared one morning on the porch and said “now give me what you promised” in clear and menacing tones, the finance analyst was stricken with fear.
She offered the woman all the riches she had, to empty her bank account, to sell off her stocks, but the woman was rigid with her demand and would not be dissuaded.
“I have always wanted a child,” she said, “and would rather have one than all the treasure in the world.”
“But you can’t it’s too cruel,” said the finance analyst.
Then suddenly she began to relax. She remembered how this kind of story went and could feel her hope returning.
“What if,” she said “I guessed your name. Would I be able to keep my child then?”
But the woman just rocked her head back and laughed a dark and guttural laugh. Without another word, she snatched the child from the finance analyst’s arms and strode away down the street.
“Don’t worry I’ll love him like my own,” cackled the woman.
“Stop please, you can’t do this!” cried the finance analyst, weeping.
“Sorry honey,” the woman yelled. “You have the house, now you have to live in it!”
She shrieked and laughed, rocking the child back and forth in her arms before she leapt in the air and flew away, never to be seen by the finance analyst again.
The finance analyst was beside herself with grief, but there was nothing to be done. She took to sitting on the porch for hours, wondering, plotting, waiting for another desperate soul like herself to pass by, so she could make them offer they couldn’t refuse.
A Fairytale, Emma Bider.
Emma Bider is a writer and PhD student living in Ottawa. Her poetry has been featured in Unpublishable Zine. She's currently trying to identify all the trees in her neighbourhood. Emma's collection of short stories We Animals is available at Octopus Books in Ottawa and on Amazon.