Reluctantly Bianca sat down on a nearby stool; the chairs were so small that she worried she would break them. Luckily for her, they were quite sturdy. Bianca took a seat next to Terrance. Ming eventually joined them and sat beside the prince. Bianca noticed the awestruck look on Prince Ferdinand’s face as he ran his hands along the table.
“Are you okay?” Bianca asked.
He lifted his gaze at her. “Incredible. Isn’t it?”
Bianca grinned and nodded. When she closed her eyes, she could easily imagine a young Snow White living here. A beautiful little girl, scared, with nowhere else to go. Probably relieved to have found a safe place to call home. Someplace where she wouldn’t be abused, threatened, or killed. A steady energy seemed to run through the cottage. It hummed with warmth and love.
The three dwarves joined them in the dining room where they all sat and drank herbal tea. Bianca breathed in the warm and aromatic fragrance of the cloves and cinnamon.
“This cottage was half the size when Snow lived with us,” Collier said.
“Snow didn’t care though. She loved it here,” Howard said. “She helped rebuild the kitchen and planted a vegetable and rose garden beside the cottage. It hasn’t been touched since she passed away, but every year there is a fresh crop of vegetables ripe for the pickin’. I swear every year the roses smell sweeter and sweeter.”
Bianca imagined Snow White helping them build the kitchen and the other rooms in the house. She could picture her with silver-colored nails glinting on the corner of her mouth and a hammer in her hand, ready to do anything to help. Bianca wondered if she helped carve the designs on the walls, and if so, which ones was she responsible for.
“She loved you,” Bianca said.
“Aye, she did,” Knox said. All three brothers nodded in agreement.
“Were you angry with her when she left?” Terrance asked.
“No. Not at all. This wasn’t a place for a beautiful princess. We were sad to see her go, but never angry,” Knox explained.
Bianca was happy to hear that. Did Snow White know how they felt? She liked to think so.
Knox finished his tea and set his mug down on the table.
“Come…follow me,” he said. He grunted as he got out of his chair. “You’ll have to forgive my slowness…these old bones aren’t what they used to be. I am nine hundred and ninety seven years old after all.”
Bianca set her tea aside and followed Knox as he led her up the steps.
“Is it true?” Bianca asked.
“Is what true?”
“That dwarves live until they are a thousand years old.”
“Yes, it’s true.” Knox gave her a single nod.
“Doesn’t it scare you? Knowing that you only have three years left?”
“Death doesn’t frighten me, child. I’m looking forward to being finished with this life. I’ll see my brothers again. I’ll see Snow White once more. I won’t be so tired anymore.”
Bianca had a hard time believing what Knox just said. She had never met anyone that was looking forward to dying. In all honesty, she had never thought about what she would be like twenty years down the road. As far ahead as she was thinking at the moment was her senior year in high school and her eighteenth birthday. But other than that? She had no clue.
Bianca continued to follow Knox up the lopsided stairs. She had to bend a little so her head wouldn’t touch the ceiling. Once they reached the hallway, she studied her surroundings. There were four rooms. Three of them she could peek into, but all she could see was the foot of their beds. The door to the fourth bedroom was closed. That was the room he led her to.
Knox opened the door; it released a soft creak, as though it had been ages since anyone had stepped inside its threshold. It had a higher ceiling than the rest of the cottage. In the middle of the room was a full-size bed with white lace sheets and a single pillow. There was a small night table with a silver candlestick and a single half-burnt white candle. At the foot of the bed was a large wooden trunk. It was a beautiful polished cherry. All Bianca wanted to do was open it and find out what secrets it held.
“This was Snow’s room,” Knox said.
“It’s beautiful.” And Bianca meant it. She was struck by the simplicity of the place. It was elegant. Uncomplicated. Much like the woman that inhabited this space.
“We’ve left it just as it is. We come in every once in a while to dust and clean off the cobwebs.”
He opened the trunk and very carefully placed the items on top of the bed. There was a white dress, a pair of dusty-rose silk slippers, black work boots, a navy-blue and white quilt, and lace gloves that had yellowed with age. Then he tugged on a small piece of rope and revealed a secret hiding place. Patiently, Bianca waited. Knox pulled out a red velvet bag with gold ties.
“Here.” He handed the bag to Bianca.
“What is it?” she asked as she took the bag from him. She couldn’t get over the rich velvet fabric she held in her hands. The fabric felt soft against her fingertips. Bianca had never seen anything so luxurious in her life.
“I don’t know. I’ve never looked inside. She never said what it was or what to do with it. All she told me was that she would return someday to retrieve it. Unfortunately that day never came. And seeing as you’re her kin, I like to think she wouldn’t mind if you had it.”
Knox took the items he had placed on the bed and put them back inside the trunk. He gently closed the lid and walked out of the room. He closed the door behind him with a soft click, leaving Bianca alone to examine the red velvet bag.
She let out a deep sigh. It never ends.
She sat on the corner of the bed. The color on the blood-red bag was still bright. It was as though it had been at the bottom of the trunk for a few days and not a couple of centuries. She undid the knot and emptied the contents on top of the bed.
“Apple seeds,” she whispered.