Jane heard the story of the heartless prince countless times. Her nursemaids used to tell it to her while they rubbed tuberose lotion into her little pink toes and frail shoulders. She bathed in the lake, swimming in the licorice waters like a primordial fish, sending fallen stars and lost message-bottles bobbing on the surface in her wake.
“His older brothers were jealous,” she’d say, flipping onto her back. Her chest heaved and a pink star tickled her ear. The night sky hung above her, a cluster of tree roots and black soil. “They snuck into the prince’s room and cut out his heart with a sewing scissor. And then they hid the prince in a tiny room under a foxglove tree so the king and queen would never know.”
Jane paddled back to shore and gratefully took the silky-warm towel from her nursemaids. They combed her sable hair with delicate combs and plucked the lake-droplets off her eyelids. “How silly of those brothers,” Jane would say. “They didn’t get rid of the prince – they merely bottled him up and put him in a pantry.”
“Why do you say that?” the nursemaids asked, with smiles.
“Everyone knows that you need a heart to die. So the poor, dear prince is still alive. Just asleep under that tree.”