Once upon a time, there was a woman who practiced fooling herself every day. She was so good at it that she could go months with no firm grasp of the truth. The truth changed colors in her hands like a kaleidoscope dissembled and sprinkled on her palms. It amused her and puzzled her at the same time. Could other people handle the truth like this, likes marbles in their hands?

One day the woman went to her closet to find the finest clothes to wear to an important gathering. She flicked through her dresses, her suits, her shirts, until she found the perfect pants to wear. The pants made her young, she thought, chic. If she wore the pants, she would hide the truth, cover her age, keep the most telling marble in her closed fist. And so she reached for the pants.

Just as she did, a purple moth flew from deep in her closet into her mouth.

She opened her mouth to let the moth out but there was nothing. She coughed but still nothing. Then she felt the moth gathering up the sides of her throat, braiding the flesh into a chain and twisting and fluttering. She could feel the wings of the moth and the chain tightening and pulling, strangling her. She hacked wildly, brought her hands to her neck and begged the room for air. Air, please air, she thought. I can’t live without air.

She saw herself in the mirror over the dressing table. Choking. She thought this could be how she dies. This would be the way and the day. A purple moth that no one had ever seen before or since will have killed her and she would have no way to tell them the truth even though this was the one time she truly knew the truth.

And then the moth was gone, dissolved, evaporated, vanished, and she could breathe. First, just a little and then more and more until her breathing was just as it was when she was looking at the pants that would make her young and chic.

And then she reached for the shirt, the one she wouldn’t wear because it reminded her of her mother and her aunts and the women at church when she was growing up, and she remembered the line from the famous poem, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.”

And she knew that day had brought her the truth. She was happy for that and glad to be holding nothing in her hands.

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“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” is the first line in the poem When I Am Old by Jenny Joseph.

Written in response to a prompt from The Daily Post to write about something that happened this week using the style of a fairy tale.

Once Upon a Time