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If Marcy was to define her childhood, the first word to pop into her mind would be fairytales. She was addicted to them, watching the movies with such frequency that the film cells became ingrained in her memory as deeply as the lobes in her brain.

Cinderella fleeing her torturous life with a glass slipper. Belle finding her something more in a castle full of anthropomorphic cleaning tools and cutlery. Snow White awakening with a gentle kiss to her lips. Wedding bells chiming. Victorious music swelling. The princess and the prince walking out to face their kingdom, hands and hearts joined, the words “happily ever after” swooping over the scene in beautiful cursive before the book closed or the screen faded out.

What a powerful feeling to end on, she thought—a ray of hope so large and so bright, you couldn’t help but feel warmed by it.

Maybe it was that feeling that led to the intoxication. That, and the fact that Marcy was made to believe she was a supporting character in one of these stories. Her parents had described their relationship as a fairytale, saving each other from the grim circumstances of fate that had befallen them both—an abusive stepfather for her dad, poverty for her mom. When her parents met at the diner her mom had worked at and her dad sought out a refuge, it felt as if their own fairy godmother had led them to that moment, Marcy’s dad had told her.

They were living proof that lovers could be “meant to be” and “happily ever afters” existed. With them, fairytales weren’t just stories. They were achievable, within reach even in the darkest of times.

That was Marcy’s childhood, though. Rose-colored glasses discarded, gone with Barbie dolls and light up shoes, adolescence had made her see otherwise.

If she were to define this time of her life, she’d call it reality.

Through the floorboards of her bedroom, Marcy can feel the shake of her parents’ yelling: the deep timbre of her dad, matched by the earthy growl of her mom that could only be summoned from the earth’s core. With the press of her palm, Marcy takes her door from halfway open to fully closed, and flops backwards onto her bed. Her phone shutters, lighting up with a phone call from her friend Autumn, and Marcy answers.

“Hey, what are you up to tonight?” Autumn asks, her voice much calmer and quieter than those Marcy’s been bombarded with tonight.

“Not much. You?” The events below don’t exactly qualify as newsworthy anymore, not when any mention of it would be succeeded by again. Somewhere along the way, the talk of true love faded away, lost in conversational droughts and floods of fighting. Technicolor bled out into grim gray, as her parents’ love for each other was slowed to a trickle rather than the steady, gushing river Marcy remembers. Somewhere along the way, her parents’ very own Happily Ever After tag was replaced by Happily for Some Time After. The fairytale became more like the beginning of a Grimm fairytale than the ending of a Disney adaptation.

“Oh just watching TV and plotting ways to get out of English,” Autumn tells her.

Marcy laughs, but she’s quickly cut off when the yelling downstairs changes to a full-on bellow.

Out of habit, Marcy’s hands reach towards her ears to block out the noise. The first time their fighting escalated from a run-of-the-mill squabble to a bloody verbal battle, it sent Marcy into a panic attack—although she didn’t know it was that at the time. Then, all she knew was that her breath was outrunning her lungs, and her hands couldn’t keep anything in their shaky grip. All they could do was hang onto her ears and do their best to deafen the noise. They didn’t succeed.

Dozens—maybe hundreds—of fights later, Marcy hasn’t quite shaken the childlike reaction, but her reasoning is different. She doesn’t crave safety, or a denial that this isn’t happening. It’s quiet she wants. Tugging on the knob of her closet door, she crawls onto the floor, squished from all angles between boxes of shoes, old stuffed animals, and clothing hems.

The volume lowers, but only by a few decibels.

“Have any potentially successful ways yet?” Marcy asks as she settles.

“Other than faking my own death or the death of someone I know—both of which will take too much work—no,” Autumn responds, ever dramatically and sarcastically—two of Marcy’s favorite qualities of her friend—and a chuckle from Marcy. “You have an echo. Are you in the closet?” Autumn’s sarcasm and dramatism are gone, and Marcy wants to ask how Autumn could know that, but she already knows the answer. Her best friend is so perceptive, she can notice the tiniest shifts in tones and personality. Another quality she loves, and at times, rages inwardly against, wanting, for just a little while, to hold her guise up and not have things seen for what they truly are.


Autumn replies with a “hmm.” No comments, no questions on the how or why of it all. Neither really matters. What does is that the fight is happening, and—once again—Marcy has been placed at the sidelines, forced to witness and wait for the brawl to grow large enough that she’ll be pulled in from the bleachers and directly into the melee. “Want to take a trip?” Autumn asks.

Although Marcy wishes Autumn was speaking of a real, get-out-of-dodge vacation, she is fully aware that neither she nor Autumn will leave their home tonight. The only traveling will come with a computer and sound waves.

“Love to,” she breathes. “Where to tonight?”

“I don’t know. How about the Netherlands?”

The tone of Autumn’s voice takes on the tin of speaker mode. Marcy can picture Autumn shifting from her eyes from their call to the radio app on her computer, where, with just a few clicks, they can listen to radio stations from around the world in real time. With it, they’ve been to Istanbul, the shores of Mozambique, and remote islands in the Indian Ocean, and at least a hundred other places around the globe.

“That works with me,” Marcy says.

The air between them becomes saturated with the voices of two people speaking back and forth in Dutch, drowning out the people 10 feet beneath her. Marcy picks out bits of conversation, words that sound like nose, and drone, and dream, but may mean something else completely; based on the combination alone, Marcy is inclined to think the latter.

The talk turns to music, a soft acoustic melody that no matter the lyrics, Marcy can tell is aching and soulful.

Ten years ago, when Marcy needed an escape, it was always those Disney fairytales she sought out.

Four years ago, she decided the company and all who peddled in make believe were liars. Frauds. Heartbreakers. How could a company sell impressionable, unjaded children something that was untrue? How could they give them hope when they knew they could—and would—be dashed? Corporate greed, surely. Maybe the patriarchy trying to keep girls believing their only goal in life should be love.

Now, Marcy still believes those things, but she doesn’t blame the company for continuing to sell hope either. After all, even with what she’s experienced, she still buys it. But, instead of in a cartoon, she finds it in her own version of fairytales.

Letting her head fall back against the wall, Marcy’s eyes slip closed and her imagination turns on, plucking inspiration from the radio waves. She sees wind mills and bicyclists and canals. She pictures a girl like herself—red curls and freckled skin—in search of a new start, away from the tumult of home. As the girl cries at her windowsill, praying for someone to rescue her—a prince preferably—a fairy godmother appears, and with a sparkler of a wand, directs her toward the tulip fields, telling her there is nothing standing in her way but a pane of glass. The girl throws up the window, shimmies down the drainage pipe, and runs towards the horizon.

In Marcy’s mind, there is the blare of trumpets and fanfare. Words appear again, back in that gold swish of a font: And she lived happily ever after.

Sarah Razner

Sarah Razner is a reporter of real-life Wisconsin by day, and a writer of fictional lives throughout the world by night.

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