I wrote this short story based on the fairy tale Rapunzel back in 2012 for a contest. It was inspired by a girl I knew from online who was suffering from severe anxiety attacks and couldn’t leave her house. It’s not my best work by any means. I’m thinking of rewriting it to be a little more polished (and realistic) so I thought it would be fun to share the original first. Enjoy!
Once Upon a Time, Rae could leave her house.
Rae could ride in cars.
Rae could talk to strangers.
Rae could get in the elevator and go all the way down from the 11th Floor to the 1st Floor, and walk out the revolving doors of the Hotel Tower, and be just like everybody else.
But one day, someone tried to hurt Rae. He attacked her right on the street. He would have used her and left her for dead if a stranger hadn’t helped her get away.
When Rae finally got home at the end of that long, traumatic day, she ran into the Tower, took the stairs to the 11th Floor, shut herself in her room, and never came out.
“I will never go outside again,” she vowed fearfully. “Ever.”
Rae’s mother’s solutions for herself were always temporary, like a Band-Aid. Her solutions for Rae were no different. She thought she could ‘fix’ Rae’s problem by trying to force her to go outside, to be normal again. But all she did was wound Rae deeper. Rae couldn’t leave the safety of the apartment. She suddenly wanted nothing to do with a world that had once meant everything to her.
Slowly, Rae’s friends, even her closest friends, abandoned her. It was as though they feared her broken, isolated condition was contagious, and they left her. Even Rae’s mother, living in the same apartment, distanced herself and liked to pretend there wasn’t a lonely, sad girl behind the door to Rae’s room.
Rae was all alone.
Meanwhile upon a time, I was the stranger.
I had always been curious about Rae. I was working for my BA in architecture at the same college where she was taking art classes in the city, and even though I never had the nerve to say hello, I started following her from time to time. I tried to be subtle, but when she daringly strode into shiftier neighborhoods, I hung around just in case.
And that one day, I was there to save her.
During the twelve hours we sat next to each other in the police department, I managed to talk to her.
“Hi. My name’s Patrick.”
She didn’t answer, but I knew her name. Rae. Rae Elizabeth Ponce.
“Are you alright?”
Then, she looked at me, with those beautiful eyes that were suddenly so full of tragedy. She shook her head slowly. “No.” she murmured. “No, I’m not.”
When Rae disappeared, I knew she had gone up to the top floor of the Hotel Tower. It broke my heart to hear her closest friends write her off at school. I could only guess how lonely she was, and I decided to contact her online, offering her support.
At first, she was suspicious of me, even resentful. But I gave her time, and gradually, she accepted my offer.
Years passed, and I graduated from college. Rae and I became close friends and we talked on the phone frequently. But Rae stayed stuck in her tower. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I wanted to see her again.
So I walked to the back of the Hotel Tower building and found the fire escape. I had to jump onto a dumpster to reach it but then started climbing up without thinking. I didn’t stop until I’d gone as far as I possibly could. Then, I gave Rae a call on my cell phone.
“Hello?” she said quietly. Her voice was always a little hoarse from underuse.
“Rae, it’s me. Patrick. I’m under your window. Let down your fire escape.”
“Let down your fire escape. I can’t go any higher until you do. I’m coming to see you.”
“You mean… open the window?” Rae asked nervously.
“Yes. You can do it, Rae. I’ll be waiting for you.”
It took a while, but finally, I heard the rattling and clattering of metal stairs unfolding, and the long, unreachable section of the fire escape tumbled down until it stopped at my feet. I climbed up two more stories, and I found my princess waiting for me at the top, sitting on her balcony. She had her arms wrapped around her knees, and looked a little bit like she might blow away in the wind.
For a moment, she just stared at me, afraid and unsure.
“Rae,” I said gently.
Rae started to cry. She leaped up and embraced me in a tight, desperate hug. She hadn’t seen anyone but her mother in two years.
And so, our worlds, our very distant ‘once upon a times’, collided.
Rae was so afraid, and I didn’t blame her. She didn’t invite me into her room for a long time, but when she did, I could tell how sacred it was to her. It was the only place she felt safe.
A year went by, and Rae’s mother never knew I was there. She was gone most of the time, and when she was home, she was usually recovering from drugs or drinking. I was afraid for Rae, but she begged me not to tell anyone about her, or her mother.
One night, Rae and I were lying side by side on her floor and gazing at the very few stars and helicopter lights out her window. We’d just finished watching a movie together, and it was almost one in the morning. I knew I should leave, but I hesitated.
Rae suddenly pulled away from me. “This will never work, Rick. It never will.”
I looked into her eyes. I watched them glisten in the semi-dark.
“No. It will. Even if you never leave this place, Rae, I’ll make it work. I’ll be here for you. Everything will be okay, I swear.”
Finally, Rae let herself fall for me. She pulled me to my feet and kissed me. It was the most beautiful, innocent kiss any girl ever gave me.
Suddenly, the door to Rae’s room flew open. Her mother stood in the doorway, breathing heavily. She had a half-empty bottle of beer gripped in one hand, and she advanced on us quickly.
“Get out!” she slurred. “Get out of my daughter’s room you—”
“Mom, no!” Rae cried, as her mother grabbed me with surprising strength, and pushed me out onto the balcony.
“Stop!” Rae sobbed, trying to pull me away from her mother. “Let go of him!”
The last thing I remember was Rae’s mother breaking her beer bottle over my head, and shoving me over the balcony railings.
I fell eleven stories to the ground.
I woke up in excruciating pain, barely able to move, and unaware of my surroundings.
Sirens wailed somewhere, echoing in my ears.
“Rick! Rick please, wake up, please speak to me!” a familiar voice sobbed above my head.
As I slowly came to, I found that I was lying on the hard, cold cement surface of a sidewalk. I opened my eyes and saw my Tower Princess looking down at me, her tears dripping from her cheeks onto my forehead.
“I… I’m alive,” I breathed in amazement.
“You better be,” she replied, kissing me in relief. “I came out of my tower for you.”
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