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            The King was late as she waited through the night. She hoped it was not a rebellion somewhere. She dozed, and in her dreams golden birds sang metallically to headless people.

            Scheherezade snapped awake and hummed to the walls. Her voice echoed back. The tone was clear and unwavering, but she did not know if she could continue much longer. It was her third year, and she was running out of stories.
           
            She had told the King a lie: that stories were immortal.
           
            She had told him a lie: that stories mattered to everyone.
           
            She had told him a truth: that stories changed.
           
            The King said he had fallen in love with her, and she wondered-but did not ask-if he had said that to his previous wives. She supposed he had.

            In the east the sun, majestic, was rising, filling the sky with temporary brightness like words. The King rushed in and sat down. She rose and bowed; he took her wrist and gently pulled her to a rug beside him. Vines and flowers intertwined on the rug.
           
            She finished last night's story and would begin another one. "What story would you like, your Excellency? The one about the forty thieves? Or about Sinbad? Or about the genie?"

            "You've told those already. I'd like something new."

            She sighed and looked down. Outside, the water dripped from the pump; the sun lightened the horizon; children went to their morning chores; their mothers yelled at them to be careful.

            The King drummed his fingers on the floor. "A new story, please."
           
            She touched her throat. "I am not well."
           
            "A short story then."
           
            She cleared her throat. She opened her mouth, but no words came. "I have only the old stories." Tears filled her eyes. She bent her head. "I will be executed."
            He waved his fingers. "Just tell an old story."

            "No stories." She shook her head and raised her hand, heavy with the rings he had given her. "Only life."

            He gazed at her. "Let me tell you a story then. The King felt alone and evil until he met a princess disguised as a storyteller. He gave her his heart if she would take it. Will she take it?"

            "Should she trust him?" Scheherezade asked.

            "With her life. With his life."

            "Will he trust her?"

            "Always and forever."

            Scheherezade thought of her mother's marriage with her father, the separations and arguments and acceptance; she thought of the thousand stories she had told the King, of the unfaithful wife and the wives after the first one; she thought of Sinbad and his adventures, his defeating the giant and traveling across smooth waters, rough waters. She heard a child outside shrieking with joy I found the bean, I win!  The sun was fully up.




Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Grey Sparrow Review, Ghoti, Everyday Genius, Slushpile Magazine, Word Riot, Twilight Zone Magazine, Manoa, Story Quarterly, and New York Tyrant (which also gave her story The Lidano Fiction Award). Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.


 



I began the story on Valentine's day in response to prompts on the website ShowMeYourLits.com, a community of writers and readers. I chose Richard Wright's "I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo...." I'd been writing a flash a week for more than a year, and I felt tired, a little. I also was thinking about Scheherezade and how hard it must have been for her. I revised it and posted it on Zoetrope.com. I revised it and showed it to my writers' group. I revised it and showed it to my husband and my sister. I revised and revised it. I got the acceptance on Shakespeare's birthday.

 





  


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