Rapunzel’s parents were quite careless when she wasn’t yet born. They had no money, and resorted to robbing food from an old woman’s grocery store every evening, for Rapunzel’s mother suffered from cravings she could not afford during her pregnancy. After many successful robberies, the old woman caught the couple trying to steal. The husband and wife were taken aback, and they vowed not to come back to the store if the old woman didn’t call the authorities. The old woman agreed, but later broke her promise. That evening she reported the couple to the police, forcing them into arrest. The old woman observed the wife’s pregnancy, and used that to hurt the wife in the worst way she could. When the wife gave birth to a daughter, the baby was immediately taken away and put up for adoption. The wife wept for her child, missing the warmth of it in her arms.
“Please don’t take her!” she begged as she watched the baby being carried away, the yellow blanket she was wrapped in becoming smaller until the mother couldn’t see it at all.
The child was adopted by none other than the old woman, who named her Rapunzel after the stolen goods the infant’s parents took from her store so she may always live in her parents’ sinful memory. She raised the girl, not as a mother, but an absent guardian. Rapunzel was left to manage the store everyday since she was twelve, while the old woman ran errands, as she called it. Rapunzel suspected that the woman gambled every penny Rapunzel earned from her job, a logical explanation for why the store was failing and the disappearance of money that Rapunzel hides in her nightstand.
One evening, when Rapunzel was fifteen, she was singing a most lovely tune as she sat bored behind the register. Nobody had passed through the doors for hours, but she could not leave until eleven o’clock.
“Hello,” a young man greeted her at around four thirty. Rapunzel was frightened into silence and her song died in her throat.
“Hello,”she greeted politely. The young man peered around the store as if he knew not what to do.
“Are you looking for something in particular?” Rapunzel asked him when he continued to stay where he stood. This brought a small chuckle from the young man, confusing Rapunzel.
“To be honest, I heard you singing and came in so I could hear you better. You’re voice is beautiful,” he smiled. To this Rapunzel rolled her eyes.
“If that is all you came for then you have no business here,” she crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair, scrutinizing the obsolete customer.
“But my business is to hear a beautiful voice!” the young man exclaimed as he grinned teasingly. Rapunzel only glared at him and turned the radio on. Adele’s voice projected throughout the store very briefly before she switched the radio off.
“Now your business is done here,” Rapunzel said. The young man laughed and put his hands up in defeat before finally exiting the store. No sooner Rapunzel heard the door open again, and she lifted her head, ready to state her disinterest in the young man once again. But the young man didn’t return. Instead, a girl, no younger than Rapunzel, strolled into the store as she hid her nose in a book.
“Hello,” Rapunzel greeted the new customer. The girl detached the book from her face to see Rapunzel.
“Oh, hello. I was wondering if you knew where the closest bookshop is?” she asked, setting her book into her straw purse.
“I believe on the next street over,” Rapunzel shrugged. “What book was that?” Rapunzel rarely got time to herself, but she loved to read just as much as she loved singing. The girl’s eyes lit up in excitement and she pulled the book from her purse.
“Oh it’s wonderful! It’s called The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte,” she set the book on the counter and Rapunzel flipped through it, the words seeming to glimmer like flecks of gold in a dark coal mine.
“Could I borrow it when you’re through?” she asked earnestly.
“Oh, take it now. I’ve read it twice,” the girl chuckled. She asked Rapunzel to accompany her to the bookshop, but she had to refuse as the store needed to be looked after, but would love to another day.
“Of course. My name is Belle, just so you know.”
“Rapunzel.” With that Belle left the store, leaving Rapunzel to devour the novel itching in her hands.
The young man returned the next day at the sound of Rapunzel’s voice and continued to badger her to sing for him. After much harassment, she threw Belle’s book at him and he finally left the store. Belle returned to that day as well, asking Rapunzel if she should come to the bookshop with her. Again Rapunzel had to refuse. This continued for weeks, until finally Rapunzel couldn’t take it anymore and left the store at six o’clock and walked with her new friend to the bookshop, forgetting to lock the store.
The shelves stacked high with colorful bindings, each holding a different story to read, a different song to listen to, and a different life to live. She spent the money the old woman did not steal from her and invested in such joy.
That night Rapunzel read by the light of the fire in the tiny living room. She didn’t even notice the old woman’s return until her feet stood right before the book Rapunzel was currently reading, mud oozing from underneath her boots and staining the crimson carpet. Rapunzel’s heart dropped at the sight, and slowly lifted her head to the old woman’s cobalt eyes.
“Where did you get these, Rapunzel?” The old woman asked with a sneer. She glared at the books in disgust.
“I, well, um, a friend let me-”
“You left the store early, you rat!” the woman shouted as she kicked the books aside with force and seized Rapunzel by the arm.
“Well you weren’t here to-”
“You didn’t lock it! We were robbed, filthy girl!” her words slurred together to the point that they were almost incoherent.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, I swear!”
“Get out, get out, get out!” The woman screamed to Rapunzel as she threw the books in the fire. Rapunzel watched them wither away to ashes as she left, feeling a hot tear sting her cheek.
“I’m sorry,” she said once more in a barely audible whisper. The old woman continued to yell at her even when she was tucked away in bed, and even came to beat her in her drunken state.
From then on Rapunzel was to always keep the doors to the store locked, and only open it when a customer came by, but never to open it for Belle. This allowed her to keep the young man locked out as well, a small blessing in the midst of her despair. Belle came by frequently, crying “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, unlock this door!” but Rapunzel pretended not to hear her, until one night while the old woman was on another one of her errands.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, unlock this door!” Belle knocked. Rapunzel, against the old woman’s orders, opened the door. She allowed her friend inside. Belle asked Rapunzel what was the matter, so Rapunzel told her everything. She told her of how cruel her “mother” was and all that happened the previous night. Belle was astounded, and insisted Rapunzel come stay with her family. Rapunzel resisted, saying she was too frightened to leave, but when the clock struck eleven she knew the old woman would return soon, so she let her wishes to leave take over her actions. She ran into the rain with Belle, navigating through the streets by the dim lanterns. The pouring rain as well as her fresh tears created a curtain, blurring the lamp’s guidance into stretched orbs in the presence of a blinding storm.
Rapunzel never returned to the old woman’s grocery store. She found a job at a bookshop several cities away, depending on only herself. She never again suffered from the old woman’s wrath, or the young man’s irritating visits. Belle visited from time to time, her and the shop cat Rapunzel’s only companions in the world. There, in the comfy little bookshop, is where Rapunzel lived her very much deserved happily ever after.