A Snow White retelling set in 1920s Germany
Old Photos and the Smell of Good Tobacco
Ingeborg didn’t move from her position for a few moments after Elsie had left. Moving just her head, she looked around. Her heart ached to notice that nothing had changed. It was still her room. Her place. Her refuge. The big four-posted bed where she had read so many books before going to sleep and the little desk where she would do her homework. Her tutor would meet her in the library, but she would do her homework here. And sometimes Dad would tutor her instead… especially when she went and asked, pretending to not understand something. Dad always had time to dedicate to her.
Dad. Her heart warmed and ached.
Her eyes stung as her gaze looked for the vanity. The mirror was big, too big for a kid. But she had fallen in love with it the moment she saw it at the Christmas market and Dad could not refuse her. Branches of apples ran all over its carved frame, with leaves invading the glass in places. Her young self had imagined it to be a window looking in on a special place of sweet smells and buzzing bees. Somehow, it reminded her of the maze.
She walked to it and brushed the polished, empty tabletop with light fingers.
It had been the last Christmas with Dad. She was becoming a big girl. Dad was going to leave.
Tears welled in her eyes.
She turned, grabbed the lamp, walked out and up the corridor to the door she knew so well. It had never been closed, so not for a moment did she think it would be. The handle gave. She walked in.
The studio was darkened, only a little light came in from the curtained windows. She crossed the room to the desk and placed the lamp on the polished desktop, beside the electric lamp that no longer worked.
Contrary to her vanity, this desktop was full of things. Her dad’s things. The writing desk. The inkwell. Many pens in their cradle. A letter opener. And photos.
Ingeberg rounded the desk and sat at the big, carved chair. She had only seen this side of it when sitting on her Dad’s lap as a kid. Only one of these photos had been there, back then, the one with her, Dad, and the smiling young woman Ingeborg knew was her mother.
She took up the photo and looked down at it, brushing the tarnished frame gently with a thumb. This was her Dad, as she had always remembered him, even if her mind knew she was mistaken. This photo had been taken nine years before he left for war. It was on the day of her mother’s last birthday. Ingeborg was four, even in the photo, she could tell she had been restless from posing. Dad stood with a stern face, but laughter in his eyes, undoubtedly aware of little Ingeborg being undisciplined. Mother downright smiled, her eyes on the girl rather than on the photographer. They were happy. Never had they dreamed that mother would catch pneumonia the following winter and nothing would save her.
She held the photo in her hands a little longer, looking at mother’s face. It was so uncanny how much she looked like her mother. The same oval face, the same small, plump lips. And those eyes, big and dark. The same unruly hair escaping everywhere no matter what style you tried to give it. It had been years since Ingeborg had last looked at this photo. She had never realised.
Ingeborg replaced the photograph and picked up the one beside it. There was Dad again, so smart in his wedding attire. And at his side, a hand hooked at his arm, was Grete. Young and smiling, as Ingeborg had rarely seen her. She was a beautiful bride, with a long veil and laces on her white dress. And flowers. So many flowers, she who now considered them so unfit for a businesswoman. Ingeborg was there too, beside Dad, who had an arm around her shoulders. At ten, Ingeborg had been small, like her aunt, even if then she had become quite tall for a woman. She had a big bouquet in her hands and looked sternly at the photographer.
But I hadn’t been sad."THE FROZEN MAZE – Episode 4 – Only one of these photos had been there, back when she was a kid, the one with her, Dad, and the smiling young woman Ingeborg knew was her mother #fairytaleretelling #fantasy #magicrealism Click To Tweet
No, she hadn’t. She remembered so little of her mother, even if Dad always talked about her. On her mother’s birthday, they would sit in the library with the album of their photos and Dad would reminisce about things from the past. It had made Grete very uncomfortable, Ingeborg could tell, even young as she was. But Dad never abandoned the practice.
What if she forgets? Ingeborg had once overheard Dad telling Grete. She shouldn’t forget her own mother.
The door clicked. Ingeborg snapped her head up.
Dagmar stood in the doorway. She slid inside, almost noiselessly and walked to the desk, a faint smile on her face illuminated by the golden lamplight on the dusk.
“When I come to the manor, I always come here first and last of all, too,” she said.
“It seems as if he should come into the room any moment,” Ingeborg said through the lump in her throat. She reached for the box of tobacco in the corner of the desk. Lifting the lid, she smelled the good aroma she still remembered so well.
“Did you buy this?” she asked, surprised, looking up at Dagmar.
Dagmar shrugged, almost apologetically. “I always buy his favourite tobacco on his birthday, if I can.”
Dad’s birthday had been a couple of months back, Ingeborg suddenly realised. In September, the beautiful season of firing colours when the world changed for the night. Mother’s birthday was in the bloom of spring.
Ingeborg clasped her hands tight, then lifted her gaze to Dagmar.
“Why do you do this, Aunty?”
Dagmar furrowed her brows.
“Why do you keep this place going, even if nobody lives here?”
Dagmar pondered the question for a moment. “Maybe I wouldn’t if it were mine. But it’s yours. I should keep it living, at least until you decide what to do with it.”
It was a simple statement. Still, it upset Ingeborg. Dad had entrusted the family business to Grete, with the only requirement that she shared the income with the two of them. But he had left Scheezwerg to Ingeborg, the ancient family estate. Dagmar had the orchards and the piece of forest inside the estate. She had asked for nothing more since – she said – she already had her home.
So what about me? She seldom thought about Schneezwerg when she was in Berlin. It was far in the past, it belonged to a different life. Sitting now in Dad’s studio, she realised this would probably be the place where she would run the estate, if she—
A honk blared outside and she started.
Dagmar walked to one of the windows and opened the curtains.
She gave a surprised laugh. “Oh, Got hilfe!” she said, and chuckled again, covering her mouth with both hands.
Ingeborg rose and joined her. Down on the lane to the main door was a convoy of cars, four of them. People were getting out, and a tall woman in a luxurious coat stood in front of all of them directing the action.
Grete had arrived.