Part 58: Hilda

"How could I bring myself to abandon my own children alone in the woods?" (Hansel and Gretel, Grimm Brothers)

A warm breeze pulls its wispy fingers through my hair, causing a few strands to get blown in front of my face. Without thinking, my hands go up to push the fallen hair back behind my ears. Nothing can take my eyes away from the woman on the other side of the glass. Not a thing in this entire world seems able to make my eyes so much as blink and miss a moment.

It's her. Seventeen years of distressing thoughts about a single woman and now here that woman is, standing not even fifteen feet away from me. I allow my eyes to crawl over her and examine her from head to toe. My mind notes the similarities between us as the examination continues. The full lips that hold their own natural shade of ruby, as if they'd been kissed by the red petals of a rose. Dark, brown inquisitive eyes, as discerning and curious as those of a hawk searching for its prey. Hands as small as a child's, with brittle, ragged nails that betray her luxurious clothes and painted face.

And that's where the similarities seem to end. Our stature is almost nothing alike. Where she is tall and possessing a womanly figure, my body remains as small and frail-looking as a child, as if that day she abandoned me forever locked me in this frame.

I feel my nails beginning to dig into my palms.

Her infuriating locks of light-yellow are nothing like the dark, shadowy tresses I inherited from my father, the foreign duke that wanted nothing to do with Hilda once he discovered that she was with child. Her hair boasts a deceitfully angelic glow of gold around her whereas I seem trapped by a mist of black. The way her neck curves, her sharp, thin nose, the small tilt her lips give as she stares down at the child in the crib are physical traits I don't possess and are things I want absolutely nothing to do with.

I back away from the window, back into the safe arms of the night. "I don't want to see anymore," I whisper at Jhyn without turning to look at him. "I'm leaving."

I feel a set of cold hands clamp down on my shoulders from behind. They urge me forward, back towards the glass that's separating me from Hilda.

Jhyn's voice is as melodious as a harp with black strings. "It's your mother, Zenobia. Don't you wish to say hello?"

"She's not my mother," I growl. I can almost taste the venom of my words.

Jhyn is not deterred. "She's only a few feet away," he breathes. "Haven't you always dreamt of the day you'd meet again? Of the things you wanted to ask her?"

I struggle against his hold, but it only tightens. "I don't want to talk to her. I don't even want to look at her anymore! Now, let go of me!"

My last sentence comes out as a near-screech in a voice I hardly recognize as my own. Startled by the ferocity in my own voice, I reach up and wrap my hands around my throat. It's only now that I can see that these hands are shaking, violently.

"Hello? Who's there?"

The startled voice causes my eyes to snap back towards the glass. I nearly blanch when I see that Hilda's eyes are set firmly on me.

"Who are you?" she demands to know from behind the glass doors. "Step into the light so that I can see you!"

I shake my head, once, twice. A bumbling step backwards, towards the darker part of the balcony, makes me bump right into someone. I look over my shoulder to find Jhyn giving me a sad smile.

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