Rapunzel was watering the yellow roses in the windowbox, as she did every Thursday at eleven o'clock in the morning, when Sleeping Beauty rolled over in her bed. Although the shock caused her to drop the one watering can the tower had in stock into the branches of a tree far below, it also marked the beginning of what could be the first social period of Rapunzel's life.
She turned. When Sleeping Beauty sat up, the cream silks of her sheets pooled around her and she pushed a fist into one eye. She yawned and then looked around the room.
“Oh,” she said when she'd caught sight of Rapunzel. “Hello.”
Rapunzel gripped the sill behind her. She had prepared for this moment. “Hi,” she said. “I'm Rapunzel. We're stuck in a tower.”
“You're safe,” Rapunzel assured her. “Don't worry. But the fact remains, we're in a tower — I wanted to get that out of the way. And I'm not sure how long we've been up here, either.”
Sleeping Beauty blinked like one struggling out of a long nap, somewhat confused, yet feeling amiable toward life. “All right.” She gave Rapunzel another once-over before saying, “You know, you have really long—”
Rapunzel held up a hand. “Let me stop you there,” she said. “I think I know where you're going with this.”
Sleeping Beauty shrugged. “Fair enough.”
She swung out of bed, bare feet finally touching the floor. “Freak outs later. I'm up, so I guess it's time to find a way out of here. You've tried, I assume?”
“Well....” She hadn't. Not yet, but she had been planning to. It just never seemed the right time.
“I mean, it appears to be our only option. I'm sure this tower is nice, but when one is put somewhere without one's consent, escape is the only appropriate course of action.” Sleeping Beauty padded to the armoire. “Is this mine?”
“I'd assume so.”
Sleeping Beauty rifled through a collection of gowns on the rack which ranged from day dresses to ballroom, made of fabric that varied in color and cut. Rapunzel suspected she might be dreaming, and turned to gaze out the window once more. It was eleven o'clock in the morning, the sun was on her face. The forests stretched to the lake, and beyond that the purple mountains ridged the sky as they always did. The breeze gave Rapunzel's cheek a feathery caress.
“You know,” she told Sleeping Beauty. “We're really rather high up. In the middle of nowhere.” There was no answer. She heard the creak of a hinge and a slump of fabric, a nightgown falling to the stone floor. “How are you feeling, anyhow? You've been asleep for ages.”
“Oh, fine.” The words were muffled, and then, clearer, “Tired. Are there no maids in this place?”
“Come, then. Lace me up.”
Rapunzel went to her and took the pink ribbons in her hands and tugged. The gown came together like magic, cinching tight at the waist, leaving Rapunzel to tie a rough bow. She fussed with the loops for a moment before smoothing a hand over soft fabric, declaring it, “All done.”
When Sleeping Beauty turned, it was with a determined smile. “Now, then. Curiosity has got the best of me. Before we make our getaway, you'll have to suffer through a tour of this tower you doubtlessly have come to know quite well.”
“Too well. But old things are transformed when you experience them with someone new. Besides, you'll have to see what we're departing from, if you do actually mean to leave.”
It was said with good humor and Sleeping Beauty took it as such, meeting Rapunzel's look with a raised eyebrow of her own. “Why, is that a challenge?”
“Only if you accept.” Feeling invigorated for the first time since she could remember, Rapunzel strode across the room and flung open the door. “After you, Princess.”
They descended the staircase. It was stone and wound the wall of the main room, which was high-ceilinged with arches and flooded with cold light.
“This is nice. Very clean,” said Sleeping Beauty, while Rapunzel showed one of the other bedrooms, which Rapunzel slept in, the library of various tomes and hidden fairy tales, and the kitchen where every morning at seven and every night at the same time Rapunzel sang out the window and then took her hot chocolate with her arms resting on the sill, watching sunlight glinting off the spires of a distant castle.
“Why is your frying pan dented?” Sleeping Beauty was hefting it in one hand.
“Oh, you know...There was a man who scaled the wall a while back. It was dinnertime and I was making soup, and he frightened me, so....”
Rapunzel wound a curl of hair around her finger. “So, I hit him over the head.”
“What did he want?”
“Get this—he wanted to kiss you! While you were asleep!”
Where she had taken news of Rapunzel's act of violence in stride, this was enough to shock anyone. Sleeping Beauty gaped. “No he didn't!”
“He declared it right before I hit him. Were you expecting a visitor? He didn't even know your name.”
“In that case, I definitely didn't know him. There are plenty of hazards of being a woman of my political standing.” She leaned into the cupboard and emerged presently with four oranges, a baguette, and the entire stash of chocolate. “Will you be sad to go?”
Rapunzel surveyed the room, enumerating. There was the book that she was only halfway through, there was the gilt sofa and table hewn of rosewood where she often played solitaire in the evening by the fire. “I'm not sure. It's time, though.”
They gathered food in handkerchiefs and Rapunzel shut the kitchen window with a clap. When they climbed to Sleeping Beauty's room once more, it was with a firm resolve but no ladder.
Rapunzel took two stoles made of ermine for when it was sure to get cold, and then joined Sleeping Beauty at the window. She gazed down, the breeze biting at her face. “So how do you propose we do this? It's a long fall.”
“So you keep saying. But I do see your point.”
At that moment, as if from a very far distance, there came a voice. “Cut your hair to make a rope!”
It echoed up from below. The princesses looked at each other and then stuck their heads out the window again. A miniature figure of a man dressed in pantaloons and a feathered cap was striking a pose, gazing up at them. “Greetings, princesses! Make a rope and throw it down, that I might rescue you!”
“There is no way I'm cutting my hair,” Rapunzel said. “This took a long time to grow, and I'm rather proud of it.”
Sleeping Beauty went out on her elbows. “And who might you be?”
The man waffled a bit, before shouting up again. “The mailman?”
She shoved her way half out the window to make herself heard, so that Rapunzel felt it wise to grab onto her by the skirts. “You're not a mailman!” Sleeping Beauty shouted. “Get outta here!”
“Aw, man,” they heard. Dejected, the gentleman resaddled, kicked his horse in the sides, and left.
Now very much alone, there was a long pause while the two considered the room, the window, and the long drop to the grassy ground below. Sleeping Beauty put a finger to her lips, considering their predicament. “How did that one guy get up in the first place, anyway?”
Sleeping Beauty nodded. “You hung your hair out the window, didn't you?”
“I need to keep my hair somewhere when I'm cooking. It's a fire hazard!” Her eyes landed on a possible solution. “How about bedsheets?”
“Genius! If all that time asleep taught me one thing, it was that you're gonna need some good sheets.”
They pulled the sheets from the goosefeather mattress and wound them into long lengths, and then retrieved the sheets from the other bedrooms, as well. They tied them together, end to end, secured by square knots that would tighten when tested. By the time they were finished, it was one o'clock in the afternoon, and time for an adventure.
“It's like a dream,” Rapunzel said, with one last look at the room, holding tight to their constructed escape route.
“Believe me,” Sleeping Beauty said, taking her hand and clambering onto the sill to join her. “It's not.”
“Well," said Rapunzel. "Here goes everything.”