Congratulations to our winner of the March 2023 Writing Challenge, “The Rainbow Rose” by Sam Kostakis. This piece is an aromatic retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The prompt was to write a piece inspired by folklore or mythology.
Read the Piece Below!
For as long as she could remember, Rosie had been told the same thing by every fairy,
witch, goblin, fortune-teller, and peddling salesman to stop by the castle doors. She had had her
palm read, her tea leaves investigated, strands of her hair made into charms and dangled over
crystal balls. There had been charms, enchantments, spells, potions, and on one memorable
occasion, an enterprising warlock had tried a series of countercurses.
The end result was always the same.
On your sixteenth birthday, you will fall into a sleep like death. If your true love doesn’t
kiss you, you will stay that way forever.
It was a clever curse, Rosie had to admit. Who falls in love by the time they’re sixteen?
Surely, you can’t fall in love while you’re asleep, so the lucky lord had to come along sometime
before then. Or lady. Or liege. Or whomever. The curse hadn’t come with a gender stipulation, at
least not as far as Rosie was aware.
There were only four months left until her sixteenth birthday, and Rosie was starting to
realize she might have a problem.
“Relax,” Liz said. Rosie’s favorite lady’s maid swung herself into the elaborately carved
chair set before the vanity table Rosie never willingly used, folded her arms across the back, and
propped her chin on her hands. “You have… fifteen weeks, four days, six hours and twenty-
seven minutes? Plenty of time to meet someone, my lady.”
Rosie cast a meaningful look at the carefully wound watch on Liz’s wrist, the enchanted
one she had been trusted with two years ago. Liz waved her hand.
“I can’t remember the last time I checked that.”
Rosie snorted and threw herself back onto her bed. She landed in a mountain of plush
pillows with a sigh, and Liz shrieked.
“Your hair, Princess! I spend two hours on that hair!”
Rosie sat up, catching a glimpse of herself in the vanity mirror. Sure enough, her crown
of braids was now lopsided.
“My apologies, Liz.”
“Come here.” Liz stood and yanked Rosie’s arm, dragging her into the vanity chair. “Sit.
You’re supposed to be downstairs in half an hour—”
“I could always stay up here.”
“No. Every single eligible man in the kingdom is going to be here tonight.”
“That’s exactly what my mother said to me last week. There can’t possibly be any
eligible men in the kingdom I haven’t met yet.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Liz pulled a single pin from Rosie’s hair, and the whole crown
came tumbling down into a mass of neat braids, which Liz immediately gathered up. “Someone
probably found themselves newly unattached this week.”
“I don’t think that typically lends itself to true love.”
“Eh.” Liz twisted her wrist, wielding a pin in the other hand, and piled Rosie’s hair neatly
back on top of her head. “You never know.”
“Did you and Charlotte end well? Or Amanda? Or Francine? Or Daphne? Or—”
“Your highness,” Liz said. “I beg of you, stop talking.”
Rosie stood, examining herself in the mirror. Her hair was neatly arranged again. Her
emerald-green dress shimmered against her dark skin, the golden pattern of crowns and roses
subtlety stitched into the billowing skirts sparkling whenever she moved.
“Beautiful,” Liz declared. “They won’t be able to take their eyes off you.”
“That,” Rosie said, as she slipped her feet into gold satin dancing slippers, “Is exactly
what I’m afraid of.”
Rosie stood before the massive double doors to the ballroom, waiting for the footman to
get his act together. He shuffled through his papers, cleared his throat, and said, “Ready when
you are, Highness.”
“Are you sure this time?” Rosie asked.
“Of course, of course… oh, just a moment…” the footman paused to reshuffle his papers,
and Rosie resisted the urge to sigh.
“Alright, Highness. Ready now.”
The two guards on either side of the doors reached for the handles, and the footman
stepped out onto the balcony before the great staircase. He lifted a tiny gold trumpet from its
place at his hip and blew a series of short notes. “Presenting… firstborn daughter of His Majesty
King Benedict… Her Royal Highness, Princess Rosalind Nicolette Claire Sherriden!”
Rosie stepped out onto the balcony and started down the right-hand staircase to
thunderous applause and more bowing and curtsying than Rosie cared to consider. Her dancing
slippers hit the polished marble floor, and almost immediately her mother was at her side.
Queen Annabelle was not a small woman, and though Rosie had been taller than her
mother since she was thirteen, she felt absolutely dwarfed now. Annabelle looped her arm neatly
through her daughter’s and dragged her away from the crowd at the staircase, all courtiers and
ministers hoping for an audience with the next queen of Shirodor, irrelevant if Rosie didn’t
survive the year.
“Listen closely,” Annabelle said as she guided Rosie toward the dance floor. “Prince
Quentin of Deamid is here tonight. Obviously, anyone who strikes your fancy is perfectly alright
by me,” Annabelle said. “But I’m sure your father would like you to spend your time this evening with some boys… of reputable parents… preferably heirs to kingdoms or empires. It
does not matter to me at all, my love,” she added. “But to please your father.”
“Of course, mother,” Rosie said.
“Go dance!” Annabelle commanded, and with a neat flick of her arm, she had separated
herself from Rosie, leaving her daughter adrift right at the edge of the dance floor.
“May I have the honor of this dance?” the first prince asked, and Rosie hardly got her “I
suppose so,” out before she was swept into the chaos.
Rosie danced with three princes, the son of a duke, and five of the commoners her parents
invited only out of desperation, determined as they were to exhaust all of their male options
before they started inviting single women to their parties.
After the last prince stomped on her foot with a heeled boot, Rosie decided she was
tapped out for the night. She slipped behind a heavy tapestry depicting her father’s coronation
and out the small glass door behind it, onto a balcony that stretched a quarter of the castle’s
length. She kicked off her slippers, enjoying the cool stone against her sore feet.
“Long night?” someone asked, and Rosie jumped.
A shadow unfolded itself from the side of the castle and moved to join her at the railing.
Rosie recognized him, but only in passing. This was Prince Quentin.
“Oh, no,” she said. “I’ve been enjoying myself immensely. I hope everything has been to
your liking, as well?”
“I despise these parties,” Quentin said. “I find them tedious. My parents are desperate to
marry me off to whatever eligible woman they can find.”
“They can’t possibly be any more concerned with marriage than my parents are,” Rosie
“Well,” Quentin said, waving his hand dismissively. “Circumstances. My father is ill, and
I’m likely to take the throne in the next year whether I desire to or not. You look increasingly
unlikely to survive the year, if the rumors are true, Princess.”
“The rumors are true,” Rosie admitted. “Did you not notice the number of commoners
present at this party? It reeks of royal desperation.”
“They’ll be inviting women next,” Quentin said. Rosie glanced up, shocked, and caught
the barest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.
“I grow weary of that being everyone’s next leap of logic,” Rosie said. “I have made no
secret of my lack of interest in members of either gender.”
The upturned corner of Quentin’s mouth spread into a full-blown smile. “It’s nice to
finally meet someone who shares my inclinations. Or lack thereof.”
“Oh,” Rosie said. “Oh, you’re—you’re like me.”
“It certainly looks that way,” Quentin said cheerfully.
“How long—” Rosie looked away with a soft laugh, bracing her gloved hands against the
carved marble railing of the balcony.
Beneath them, the dark velvet of the castle lawn gave way to the lights of Shirodor’s
capital city. Rosie gazed out over it all, this vast kingdom she had always been expected to
“How long have you known?”
“Oh, years,” Quentin said. “I never did understand my peers’ incessant fixation on the
young ladies. Whenever I voiced it, I was told either that I was too young, and it would happen
in time, or that I was covering for the fact that my preferences may lie elsewhere.”
“My parents say those things,” Rosie admitted. “And… my closest friend. My lady’s
maid, Liz.” She tipped her head back, closing her eyes. The night air was cool on her cheeks; the
breeze dried the beginnings of tears from the corners of her eyes.
“They don’t always understand,” Quentin said. “They want to, I’m sure, but they can’t
fathom that something so critical to their experience could be completely unnecessary to another
Rosie ducked her head, swiping at the corners of her eyes. When she looked to her left,
the corner of Quentin’s mouth was turned up in a smile.
“Thank you,” Rosie said.
“What on earth for?” Quentin shook his head. “I haven’t done anything other than exist.”
“Thank you for that, then,” Rosie said. “It means more than I can say, to know I’m not
alone in this.”
Quentin’s smile grew, but he only gave a shallow bow in her direction and said, “Happy
to be of service, your highness.”
He turned and strode back into the ballroom, leaving Rosie on the balcony, overlooking a
kingdom she now knew for certain she would never inherit.
On the morning of Rosie’s sixteenth birthday, the princess’s lady’s maid came sprinting
out of her chambers, shouting that the princess had vanished.
The castle was scoured, from the depths of the dungeons to the tops of the highest towers,
but Rosie was nowhere to be found. Riders were sent to check every corner of the kingdom, but
they returned empty-handed.
The king and queen mourned the loss of their daughter to her curse. The castle was
draped in yards of black fabric. The queen veiled herself, and the king did not emerge from his
chambers for a month.
Far away from the castle of Shirodor, in a comfortably furnished apartment in the
kingdom of Deamid, Rosie woke from the best slumber of her life. She sat up, stretched, and
walked to her little window, looking out at eye level over the bustle of the village.
It was possible, Rosie thought, that she had saved herself by being her own true love—
but she thought it far more likely that everyone who had ever told her she needed true love to be
saved was an idiot.