Flash Fiction: Charlene

This week’s challenge at TerribleMinds was to write a 1000 word flash fiction based on a fairy tale. Specifically, to take a fairy tale — any fairy tale at all — and rewrite it in a modern context.

I played around with at least half a dozen ideas before finally settling on the one below. Hopefully the fairy tale it’s based on is obvious when you read it. Enjoy! And remember to hit me up in the comments to tell me what you did and didn’t like. I thrive on comment-love.

Charlene

“She’s green.”

“No she’s not. Well, maybe a little… chartreuse.”

There were three people talking. The man in the white coat was familiar. The other two were new.

“Chartreuse?” one said. The voice was harsh and loud. “She’s green! I paid you good money and I expect a quality product!”

“Oh Chris,” the second stranger said. This one sounded softer. “It doesn’t matter if she’s a little green—“

“Chartreuse.”

“—chartreuse. She’s beautiful. She’s the daughter we’ve always wanted.”

“But she’s—” the loud one said.

“She’s ours.”

White Coat spoke again. “Don’t worry, the chartreuse tint is just a reaction to the chlorophyll used in the procedure. She’ll probably grow out of it.”

“What’s her name?”

“Well, that’s up to you,” said White Coat. ”She’s your daughter.”

The soft one looked me up and down and smiled. “We’ll call her Charlene. Our chartreuse girl.”

White Coat turned back to me. “Congratulations, Charlene. This is your mother and father.”

 ###

“Oh, Mum,” I sobbed, resting my face against her shoulder. “I’m so ugly. It’s not fair.”

“You’re not ugly,” Mum said. She stroked my hair. “You’re beautiful, Charlene.”

“I’m not,” I sobbed. “I’m ugly and hideous and everyone hates me.”

“No one hates you, Charlene.”

I lifted my head and stared at her. She didn’t understand. She was so beautiful, with her soft round face and her brown eyes and blonde hair. How could she possibly understand?  “They do, Mum. They really do.”

“Well, what about Lance? You were so excited when he asked you to Prom.”

My eyes burned. “It was a joke,” I said. “Just a stupid joke. They threw… They threw salad at me. Called me Queen Lettuce. Then Cindy,” the bitch who had tormented me for the last four years, “and Lance were named Prom King and Queen.”

“Oh, Baby. I’m sorry,” Mum said. She hugged me again, and wiped at my tears. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But you just wait, in a few years you’ll look back on this and laugh. You’ll see.”

Eventually Mum went away. I washed my face, put on my pyjamas and climbed into bed.

I was woken by muffled voices outside my bedroom door. It was probably Mum. Not wanting another speech about how things were going to be fine, I closed my eyes and feigned sleep. 

The door opened. “There she is,” Dad whispered. “Just like I promised.”

An unfamiliar voice answered. “I’ll take her. She’ll be perfect for my son. Are you sure your wife won’t mind?”

A damp cloth covered my face and I struggled; tried to scream. Then the world faded and my father’s voice was a million miles away. “She’ll get over it. And we can always make a new one.”

 ###

 His bloated body was covered in warts and bed sores and his face looked like something from beyond the grave. He was lying on a dirty mattress on the floor. I could smell him from where I’d woken up on the other side of the room.

“Come closer, my dear,” he said. “There’s no need to be shy. By tonight, you’ll be my wife.”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. Then the door opened and a woman came in. “Good, you’re awake,” she said.

I knew that voice. It was the one I’d heard in my bedroom right before my father drugged me.

I lurched to my feet and charged at the old woman. My shoulder hit her in the chest and she fell, flailing wildly. Then I was out the door and into a dirty hallway. I barreled along it until I slammed into another door. I fumbled with the door handle and deadbolt, hoping it hadn’t been key-locked.

I was in luck.

A minute later I escaped into an unfamiliar street and slammed the door behind me. Then I kept running.

 ###

“Living on the streets is hard,” the reporter said, “whether you’re an old hand,” the camera panned to a man in his sixties, “or a stripling of a girl like Charlene.”

The camera focused on me and I tried to smile. I never should have agreed to the interview but the reporter, Regina Swallow, had promised me twenty bucks.

“How long have you been sleeping rough, Charlene?”

 I shrugged and pulled my tattered coat tighter around my shoulders. “About five months,” I said. “I think. It’s hard to keep track.”

“And how did you end up on the street?”

I answered a few more questions, not giving away too much. Then the interview was over and Regina handed me a twenty while the cameraman packed his equipment.

“Have you got somewhere to go?” she asked.

 “There’s a woman I know,” I said. “She lets me sleep in her garage when I do her housework. And there’s a man who wants me to move in. He’s got cataracts. I don’t think he knows about my…” I trailed off. “I’ll be fine.”

Regina frowned at me. “You don’t keep up with the news much, do you?” she asked. I looked at her blankly. “Come with me. There’s someone you should meet.”

 ###

It was like any other new development – houses and half-finished landscaping – except for the military-style checkpoints around it. We left the news van outside and entered on foot.

There was no sign of any guards. There was no sign of any people, either. Everything was quiet.

“Back again, Regina?” called a male voice from behind us.

I turned.Regina said something but I didn’t hear her. I was busy staring.

He was tall and handsome and muscular and had the greenest skin I’d seen outside a mirror. His dark green hair hung to his shoulders. His eyes were sea-green. He was gorgeous.

“Welcome to Chloroville, Charlene. I’m Michael Prince.”

It wasn’t love at first sight. That only happens in fairy tales.

But exactly one year later we wed.

 

EDIT: I was fairly convinced that the fairy tale I based this story on would be so obvious that no one would bother reading through to the end. As it turns out, it’s easier to see the plot similarities if you’re the one who wrote the story. 🙂 So, for those who are interested, this is a modernisation of the story of Thumbelina.

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9 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

9 responses to “Flash Fiction: Charlene

  1. Of course I thought it was great. You entertain so well. Unfortunately I have no idea what fairy tale that is. All I keep thinking about is Shrek and Fiona and they’re both green and unattractive but not to eachother. That’s not a fairy tale though, is it?

    • I’m glad you liked it. It’s so not my usual type of story, but I like to play around with different things. As for the fairy tale it’s based on, that’s apparently much more obvious to me than anyone else. But that’s because I’m the one who wrote it. 😉

      In the original, she’s not green. But she is different. I based this on the story of Thumbelina.

  2. I kept thinking Wicked and The Wizard Of Oz, but that’s not a fairy tale either is it?

    No matter, it’s fabulous. I want more…lots more.

  3. Ha! I knew it sounded very fairy-taley despite being in a modern setting, but I could NOT think of what it was. I was thinking along the same lines as Bridget–Wicked. Especially the beginning of the tale.

    All the same, great story. I can totally see how it connects to Thumbelina. I just got hung up on the green. You got a lot across in such a short story. Really fun.

  4. Well it goes to show that I didn’t have to know what it was from to like it. I’m not familiar with Thumbelina. Maybe I should be? I don’t–I haven’t read a lot of the classics.
    This was good. I liked it, and I cared about the character.

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