Ruth snuggled more deeply into the hollow between her mother’s arm and her side. They were just getting to the good part, the part with the prince, and Ruth always liked to get all cozy at the good parts.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair,” her mother read.
Rapunzel lowered her hair down, and the prince started climbing up. Her mother’s head jerked toward the window, bonking Ruth on the head, and she let out a loud, “Ow!” right in her ear.
“Mom! Stop yelling in my ear!”
“Ruth! Stop pulling my hair!” Claire said at the same time.
“I’m not pulling your hair!”
Claire’s face smooshed into Ruth’s as her head was jerked toward the window again. It wasn’t until that moment that they realized they were no longer in Ruth’s bedroom but in a round, stone room with only one window and no door. Claire’s hair, which had been only shoulder length moments before, was now trailing out that window, a long, golden braid snaking, ropelike, across the windowsill.
Ruth thrust her head through the opening and yelled, “Stop pulling my mom’s hair!”
Claire threw one arm against the window sill and another around Ruth as her head was, once again, jerked violently toward the window, and she slammed into Ruth from behind. If not for her arm around Ruth, Ruth would have gone tumbling out of the window.
“Mom, look!” Ruth pointed down, “The prince!”
Claire looked, and, sure enough, there was a “prince” climbing up her hair. He looked just like the prince in the book they had just been reading before she flung it across the room to keep from going out the window. Of course, he looked like any prince from any children’s book or any Disney movie, for that matter. Lots of reds and purples. Flowing cape. Gold circlet around the brow. The thing that made it creepy, though, was that he looked he disturbingly both like and unlike her husband, Will. The face was his, and, yet, it was not his. The expressionless eyes and maniacal grin probably had something to do with that.
“Mommy?” said Ruth, “Is that daddy?” She looked both repulsed and intrigued.
“I don’t think so,” said Claire. “The more important questions is what are we doing here?”
Ruth blushed, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean to!”
Ruth wiggled out from under her mother as Claire braced herself with both arms, the prince continuing mindlessly up her hair.
Claire gasped out, her head twisting around from the weight of the thing hanging from her hair, “I know you didn’t mean to… You have to mean not to!”
“It was an accident!”
“We’ll talk about it later…”
“Mommy! The wicked witch!”
Claire tried to turn her head so that she could see, but the weight of the prince was too much, and she couldn’t twist her head around.
Ruth watched as the witch ran from the tree line toward the tower with the same expressionless grin on its face that the prince wore.
“It’s going for your hair!”
Claire braced her body against the windowsill as she started to go out, “I know!”
Ruth stared as the witch and the prince continued to climb up her mother’s hair, leaning far out of the window to get a better look.
“Ruth! Get back in here! The last thing I need is for you to end up hanging off my hair, too!”
Ruth wiggled back over her mother and back inside the room, “Sorry, Mommy.” She thought for a moment, “Maybe we could cut off your hair?”
“With what!” Claire was getting desperate as she began to slip more and more out of the window. She was going to go down head first if she fell, and that would probably be fatal no matter how far the fall. It made her panic worse that she was forced to look exactly away from the danger due to the weight on the back of her head. “Ruth, how far down to the ground is it?”
“I don’t know,” she started to climb back over her mother to look.
“No!” said Claire, “Don’t do that. Just stay where you are.”
“But I can see…”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s far enough for two people to fit on my hair, so it’s too far.”
They sat there completely at a loss until they began to hear the scraping sounds of the prince climbing outside. Claire looked at her daughter, “How do you and the boys get back when this happens?”
Ruth looked down at her lap and shrugged, “I don’t know.”
“Think about it, Ruth. What do you do?”
Ruth started to cry, “I don’t know, Mommy! Sam is the one that knows how to do this, not me!”
Claire hated seeing her baby girl crying and being unable to do anything about it, but she would go out the window if she quit keeping herself braced for even a moment. She wasn’t sure how much longer she was going to be able to hold on as it was. “What about before Sam knew how to do it? The first times. How did you get back, then?”
“Mommy, I need a hug!” Ruth flung herself at her mother, throwing her arms around Claire’s middle.
“Ruth… Baby girl… I can’t give you a hug, right now. I want to, but I can’t. I need you to remember for me.”
Ruth grabbed her mother tighter, growing frantic, “I don’t know! I don’t know!”
Suddenly, the weight was gone from the back of Claire’s head, and she and Ruth went tumbling off the bed onto the floor of Ruth’s room with a loud thud and clatter.
“Ow! Mommy! You landed on me! Usually, it’s Tom that lands on me.” She sat up rubbing the tears out of her eyes.
“Are you saying this is how you get back?”
“No… Usually, I think we are fighting.” She paused for a moment, “Sam says it’s because I forget to keep us there when we start fighting… I think.”
Claire wrapped her arms around her daughter, “Well, I’m glad you forgot to keep us there.”
There was a pounding up the stairs and, then, Will was in the doorway, “Is everything okay?” He stood there blinking at the mother and daughter wrapped in each others arms and the mounds and mounds of hair all over the room. “Um…, Claire? What happened to your hair?”
Claire looked around, realizing only then that her hair had not returned to normal when they came back, “Help me gather it up, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
Many minutes later, after all the hair gathering, the tucking Ruth into bed, the making the boys go back to bed, the laughing about all the hair, and the repeating the bed process with all the children several more times, Will and Claire were finally alone downstairs. With the hair. A tiny voice called out from upstairs, “Mom…! Where’s my Rapunzel book?”