Coming Out Of The Tower
Mulan's lids peeled back; her heart was racing.
She was in a castle—Aurora's castle—and the gentle lulls compelled her feet forward. Feet, she realized, encased in ruby colored silk flats and embroidered with intricate golden thread. Her feet stopped at a heavy wooden door where the song was at its brightest. She pressed her weight against it until it swung open, revealing a bedchamber and a canopy bed draped with sheaths of lavender silk at its center. But when she pulled back the whispering sheets of fabric, the bed was empty.
Mulan looked down at her hands bunched with silk. Flushing fabric stole her attention away from them and she spun around, finding herself facing a mirror: the qipao draping her body was long and traditional, with a high collar and golden whirls that matched the shoes. The sleeves just covered her shoulders and the fabric followed fittingly along her body giving her the appearance of a long champagne glass before, ever so slightly, flaring halfway below her knees. The dress was impossible not to recognize: the traditional matrimonial attire of her kingdom.
"This – this is impossible." Mulan pressed her hand to small golden petals at the base of her throat. Not just any dress, but her mother's wedding dress. "I shouldn't be wearing this. This is all wrong!"
"You're right. A queen alone in her room on her wedding night? We haven't had a moment to ourselves all day."
"Aurora! Wh – what are you talking about?"
The layers of lace that made up Aurora's billowing bell shaped white dress made a sound like a lover's breath as she stepped closer to Mulan. "Don't be nervous. I've been waiting for this; for you." Aurora lifted her hand to Mulan's cheek and stroked the length of her jaw with the back of her smooth fingers. Her hand traveled down to Mulan's chest, resting above her heart.
Mulan instinctively moved her hand to rest upon Aurora's; she could feel her heart beating through their fingers and the sensation made her gasp.
Aurora leaned in, touching her lips to Mulan's earlobe. "You've done this before." The mist of her voice settled on the tender skin of Mulan's ear.
Mulan inclined her head, resting it in the crook of Aurora's shoulder. She slipped her free arm around the small of her back and soon her feet were moving again, following Aurora's in a cloudlike dance around the room. "Aurora…I love you." The words poured out effortlessly.
"I love you too," Aurora whispered. Her lips found Mulan's and they stopped in the middle of the floor. Gentle at first, then soon Aurora's fingers were curling into the bun piled atop Mulan's head and the kiss turned molten.
Mulan felt her hair cascade down her back and she shook her head, relishing the supple fingers massaging her scalp. Her hands worked their way up the back of Aurora's dress, searching for the ribbon on her corset. When they found it she began to tug, but suddenly Aurora pulled away.
"Too bad you never told me."
Aurora guided her in a graceful loop. "We're not really here. We were never here. We should be, but we're not…for one reason." Her arms dropped from Mulan's body. "You abandoned me."
Thunder crashed above the roof, lightning flashed outside the windows, and the room took on a haunting blue hue like the lips of a corpse. The canopy drapes suddenly began to blow raggedly in a howling wind, the fabric screaming as it ripped apart.
Aurora's gown, once so full and beautiful like a summer rose, fell limp as though she'd been doused with water. A red glow began to emanate from her chest, giving her white bodice an illusion of lavender between the red and blue shades. She clutched her chest. "Goodbye, Mulan!" Her body hit the floor.
"No!" The bones in Mulan's knees crunched as she fell to the floor beside Aurora. "I can save you!" She reached for Aurora's hands.
"No. You can't save me, you left me!" Aurora weakly lifted her hand, revealing her beating heart.
"I've done it before!" Mulan cried desperately. She reached for the heart but she was unable to wrest it from Aurora's cage-like fingers.
"There's nothing you can do," Aurora rasped. The glow of her heart began to fade and Aurora's hands fell away. "Don't leave the next one…"
The last of the light blinked out of the heart and Aurora's lids fell shut.
Mulan shot up from her sleep. Pieces of hay stuck in the crevices of her armor and dust particles hovered in the rays of sunlight beaming through the slats of a barn door. Mulan looked to her left, then to her right: save for a few wool blankets and a handful of supplies she could carry on her back, she was alone in an empty horse stall. Her hand found its way to her chest, touching the spot above her heart; the beat was almost imperceptible.