Lily carefully tucked a fresh clean dishcloth over the basket-full of freshly baked muffins and headed out the door.

“He had better be there this time…” she grumbled to herself. The last three times she’d casually dropped by the bachelors’ home, they’d either been out, or otherwise preoccupied with their royal guest.

“Don’t know what business a princess has interfering in the lives of common folk anyways…” she grumbled again. A squirrel chattered at her, and he took it as the chastisement it was. She knew Snow White was in hiding from the evil queen. She knew the young princess wasn’t to blame. It was just so… insulting. Seeing all seven of them so discombobulated over her.

Lily was ruminating over how Gil had used to get all tongue-tied and flustered every time Lily smiled at him. But an evil cackle from somewhere ahead of her carried over the wind and through the trees. Furrowing her brow, she came into sight of the secluded cottage just in time to see a hooded figure scurry away down the path that led to the castle.

The cottage door was open. Gil and the others never left the door ajar; the squirrels would eat them out of house and home.

Lily hurried to the cottage, and gasped when she saw the young princess sprawled on the floor, a bitten apple in her hand.

“Oh, no… no! Oh, what has happened?” Lily rushed to the young woman, patting her cheeks and trying to get her to wake up. But it was no use; she was ensorcelled. Two very guilty looking squirrels looked on, glancing from Lily to Snow White. One of them sniffed at the apple, but Lily shooed them away.

“No… don’t touch that! It must be poison.” She explained. The squirrels managed to look sheepish.

Lily sighed. “Well, she might be Snow White, but she’s not so bright.” The squirrels nodded agreement.

As carefully as she could, Lily wrapped the apple and hid it in a pot. She  wiped the princess’ lips clean, but the beautiful young woman still did not wake. It took her twenty minutes to tug the comatose princess fully into the cottage so she could close the door. She did her best to make her comfortable, and went in search of Gil and his friends.

There was nothing they could do. Helpless, they encased her in a glass coffin, and the seven of them took turns standing guard over her.

Lily couldn’t help but feel guilty about her jealousy. Each day, when he was done guarding the enchanted princess, Gil sought out Lily. But the attention he paid her seemed like a shallow victory.

“Oh, Gil… if I’d only got there a few minutes earlier, the poor young thing wouldn’t be lying in that coffin, cold as death!”

But Gil would have none of it. “No, Lily, no. It’s not your fault. If it hadn’t been the apple, it would have been something else.” He squeezed her, and smiled, but he never tried to kiss her anymore.

She missed fending him off. She missed those few times when she’d let him succeed in stealing a kiss.

“Lily dear…” said her mother. “Why don’t you go spend a few weeks with your Aunt Agnes? Her herb garden was quite productive this summer, and the poor dear really could use the help.”

Lily knew her mother wasn’t suggesting the trip for the sake of “poor old Aunt Agnes.” Her mother really wanted her to get out of the house for a while, and stop waiting and wondering when Gil would get tired of mooning over the princess and come back to her.

Aunt Agnes was indeed glad to have Lily come for an extended visit, and soon the two of them were knee deep in lavender, gathering it to dry.

“Tomorrow the apothecary is going to come by and see what we have for him to purchase.” Aunt Agnes said with a gleam in her eye. “It’s important we look our best. He’s a very important client!”

Lily had no idea why she should look her best for their visitor, but she put on a nice, freshly pressed dress and a brand new white apron.

Then she realized the truth.

It wasn’t the apothecary who was visiting, it was the apothecary’s son. And he was handsome, and charming, and sweet, and flirted shamelessly with her.

Just like Gil used to.

One afternoon, the apothecary’s son brought news. “Did you hear that the queen was actually an evil witch? And that Snow White didn’t die in a tragic accident after all… the queen tried to kill her!”

Lily turned deep red from head to toe, but only Aunt Agatha noticed. The princess had been a secret of the forest folk. If the city was hearing about it, something huge must have happened.

He went on “Well, the evil queen is gone now. Dead or banished, I’m not sure which story is true. But Snow White and her handsome prince are now ruling over us, righting many of the wrongs that the evil queen has perpetrated over the years.”

“Huzzah!” shouted Aunt Agatha. Soon she was chattering with the apothecary and his son, hypothesizing about all that had and might still happen.

All Lily could think of was Gil. How long ago had the prince rescued Snow White? If Gil and his friends no longer had to guard her, then…

There was a soft knock at the door, even though it stood open.

It was Gil.

Aunt Agnes drew herself up to her full height (which wasn’t much, but it was imposing nevertheless) and addressed the young man. “Why, hello there Gil. What a nice surprise to see you here! I’d thought perhaps you might come by for a visit sooner, but apparently you’ve been… preoccupied.”

Gil shrank. He was holding a pretty bouquet of lavender, but upon seeing the flower everywhere in Aunt Agnes’ cottage, he hid it behind his back and shrank even more.

“Is Lily here?” He asked. His voice was almost too quiet to hear.

“I’m here.” Lily said, stepping out from behind the apothecary’s son.

Gil’s eyebrows raised as he watched the apothecary’s son subtly raise his arm and put it around Lily’s shoulders. “Who’s this?”

“This is Mr. Wagoner, the apothecary, and his son,” said Lily, ducking carefully from her new suitor’s arm. Really, who did he think he was? Not even two weeks of innocent flirtation, and he thought he could put his arm around her so possessively?

“Hello Gil.” Really, she didn’t know what to feel. Her heart was leaping to see him there… but her head reminded her that he’d all but abandoned her while the princess was around. Even when Snow White was comatose, Gil couldn’t stop talking and worrying about her.

“Why don’t you and Gil go take a little walk? See if you can find any more of those mushrooms I need.” Aunt Agnes actually gave Lily a little shove towards the door.

She led him off down the path towards the edge of the woods. “I went by your parents’ house when I couldn’t find you. They told me you’d come here to visit Aunt Agnes for a while.”

“Well, yes. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now. Did it really take you that long to figure out I was gone?” She tried not to sound petulant, but wasn’t sure whether she’d succeeded.

“Aw, Lily, don’t be mad!”

“Mad?” Lily gave him the sweetest, most innocent smile she could muster. Yes, she was mad! And hurt. But she didn’t want to let him know that. “Why should I be mad? My life doesn’t revolve around you. I’m not sitting at home waiting for you to come around.”

“No… you’re staying with your Aunt Agnes, and flirting with the apothecary’s son.” Gil’s tone was pathetic. The jealousy in his voice made her smile, and she hid it by turning away, supposedly to see if there were any mushrooms in the shade of a great oak.

“Aunt Agnes needed a little help, and I had the time. And what if I do flirt a bit with that nice young man? He’s very sweet. And attentive.” With that last remark, she made direct eye contact with Gil. His lips drew into a tight line, and he looked down at his feet, shuffling them in the dirt.

“Lily…” he paused, even though she didn’t interrupt. She simply regarded him with a patient glare. “I’m sorry I haven’t been as… attentive as I used to be. I’m sorry I was so caught up in Snow White’s predicament. I’m… sorry. About everything.”

She tortured him by not answering. Instead she busied herself with picking the mushrooms she’d found and placing them gently in her basket.

“Um… is there anything I forgot?” asked Gil.

Lily laughed. The poor young man seemed so forlorn, so lost. “Oh, my poor sweet Gil,” she turned towards him and closed the distance until only the basket was between them. “I think “everything” covers it nicely.” She leaned over the basket and gave him a quick, sweet peck on the lips.

Gil grinned. “I… I… I… ummm…”

Lily took him by the hand. “Come along, sweetheart. I’ll let Aunt Agnes know that you’re walking me home.”

There are two previous stories under “Fairytale Collateral Damage.” Sleeping Cutie, and Cutie and the Beast.

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