06. Golden Girl and Firebreath

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Once upon a time, in a faraway enchanted kingdom, there lived a wicked stepmother. As stepmothers usually do (especially the wicked variety), this stepmother had a stepdaughter: a girl who was more beautiful and good and kind than any other living being on earth.

The young girl didn't really mind being beautiful. In fact, she quite enjoyed the admiring glances of the neighborhood boys. But being this good and kind was a real pain in the ass for her! It meant she more or less had to say "Yes, thank you" to every order of her ghastly stepmother. You can't be good and kind and go around saying things like "Stick it where the sun doesn't shine, you nasty old hag!"

"Is she not the best and kindest and most beautiful creature in all the world?" the father said to the stepmother one day.

And the stepmother nodded, smiling evilly. "Yes, indeed she is."

And then she ordered the stepdaughter to clean the stables, scrub the floors, and wash the dishes. For a moment, the stepdaughter considered cleaning the stables using her stepmother's stiff corpse for a broomstick. But, as a fairytale stepdaughter, she had to be good and kind, after all, so instead she said, "Yes, ma'am. Right away, ma'am."

Now, besides her stepdaughter, the stepmother also had a daughter of her own. She was younger than her stepsister, and quite different—a wild, raven-haired little thing that never had to do any work around the house. Not only because the stepmother treated her as a favorite, but because, unlike her beautiful and kind stepsister, the feisty little girl had no qualms whatsoever about flipping her mother the bird.

One might have suspected that this inequality would make the two stepsisters hate each other. On the contrary, however, there could not have been two sisters that were closer. The beautiful, blond, kind, and graceful stepdaughter helped the other girl with her makeup and dress whenever there was a dance in the village, and the wild, dark-haired daughter defended her stepsister whenever her evil mother got particularly nasty. Sometimes, the younger girl would even help with the washing up—without her mother getting to hear of it, of course! A girl has to have her pride.

"You shouldn't always let her order you around like that!" protested the younger girl one day, giving her stepsister a look. "Why don't you just tell her to go and boil her head?"

"Because that wouldn't be kind," the beautiful, blond girl pointed out.

"Oh yeah? Well, I say f—" (and here, the younger girl used a very bad word that is not suitable for fairy tales) "—ck being kind!"

"Shame on you! You shouldn't even think such words, let alone say them!"

"Really?" The younger girl grinned. "F—"

"Please! No! I will finish washing all the dishes alone, just don't say that word!"

The younger girl's grin widened. "Heck, this could be useful! But don't worry." She patted her stepsister's back. "I'm going to stay until we're finished."

Thus, throughout their childhood, no matter how different they were, the two stepsisters were close to each other. In fact, they were real sisters to each other, though they never mentioned that in hearing distance of the evil stepmother.

One day, the stepmother sent her stepdaughter to the well to fetch water. And the stepdaughter, kind and amiable as she was, took up the empty pitcher without a single word of protest and walked the seventy-six miles to the well. Somewhere in the middle, she did wonder once why her stepmother had sent her to the well when there was a perfectly good river right next to the house, but such thoughts never lingered long in the tiny space in her mind that was reserved for suspicious thoughts.

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