Quiet was good. Quiet was safe. Rapunzel bent over her garden and smiled at the flowers blooming there- summer had finally come and it was so different to the city. There nothing changed and everything was so loud. Cars thundered along streets and people pushed past her without looking twice no matter what the season or the time or the weather. It broke her heart but then again so did many things. She had missed so much. When she had arrived, blinking and exhausted, into the city the noise overwhelmed her; she had never seen so many people in one place all at once. They shouted and pointed things at her, flashing lights in her face that made her eyes ache and vision blur. She hadn’t known what to say. She still didn’t. They had all desperately tried to get her to speak, to tell her side, to give them some great story and silence was the only deterrent she had. The focus waned eventually; no one wanted to take her picture or ask her questions when there were fresh horrors to expose. Her slow rehabilitation was of no interest to anyone.
Her parents, the people she had been told were her parents, cared of course. Shocked and amazed their missing infant had come home she had been welcomed with open arms, celebrations, wonder and amazement. However, a year on, the rhythms of their lives had returned to normal- they were busy and countries didn’t just run themselves. But Rapunzel was good at being independent. So she moved away, got a cottage in Scotland, far from anyone who immediately knew her parents. There she lived alone and in relative peace, going for walks in the forest whenever the feeling took her, swimming in the lake, growing what food she could and buying whatever else she needed from the nearby town. It was a good life.
Somewhere not far off, in between the birdsong and rustle of leaves, came the rhythmic thudding of hoof beats. She hoped the rider would pass her cottage- she liked horses, they always seemed so intelligent. Rapunzel crouched in the mud and began to pull weeds. Everyone in the town came to her for flowers. They were kind as well, no children pulled petals off her daisies or picked her daffodils, no farmer drove their animals too close to her fences, often she would have visitors just wanting to drop her in a cake or a bowl of stew they had made. It had taken a while to get used to the accent, as thick as it was, and the unusual weather but Rapunzel knew that Scotland had been thhe best choice. It was so far away from her old life that it felt like a different planet.
The hoof beats had gotten much closer. As far as she could tell they weren’t travelling along the asphalt but on the forest floor. Rapunzel straightened up, wiping her muddy hands on her dress, and hoped she would be able to catch a glimpse through the trees. It was as she was just about to give up and go back to her work when a scream froze the blood in her veins and frightened the birds into silence. The hoof beats had stopped. Quiet was good; quiet was safe. But not this time. Quiet meant pain, danger, someone who had fallen and hurt themselves so badly they couldn’t even call out. Rapunzel wanted to pretend that she hadn’t heard it and go back to what she was doing, she just wanted peace, but there was no one else around to help. Picking her feet and being careful of thistles she made her way towards where she last heard the horse.
There were clear tracks so she followed them. The scene unfolded before her; a makeshift jump, skid marks in the loose soil, a low hanging branch, and a figure on the ground clutching their arm and letting off a ceaseless string of swear words.
“Hello?” Rapunzel tried.
The person turned to face her. One blue eye bored into hers, a hood obscured the other. They were trying to be aggressive but it was hard to be threatening when your eyes were clouded in pain.
“I’m fine.” They said. The girl’s accent revealed her to be a local, though Rapunzel was sure she had had never seen her before.
“Are you sure? There’s blood.”
“Absolutely.” The girl spoke through gritted teeth. She then tried to get to her feet, hissed in pain as her injured arm jolted, and sat back down again.
“Don’t move.” Rapunzel knelt down beside her. “I think your arm might be broken.”
“No. No definitely can’t be broken.”
“It definitely can. My cottage is just over there, we could call for help.”
With her help the girl struggled to her feet. She cradled her right arm in her left and winced as the bow slug across her back shifted and bumped it.
“Angus.” The girl had turned very pale and had turned back towards the horse. “Don’t forget Angus.”
Rapunzel scooped up the reigns and the massive horse followed with no protest. The short walk seemed to last a lifetime. With every step she was sure that the stranger was going to faint, or at very least throw up. Blood flowed freely from the wound and Rapunzel was sure she could see bone. Tying the horse up to the front fence was impossible without letting the girl go- she swayed on the spot and her eyes fluttered.
Once inside Rapunzel sat her down as fast as possible and ran to the phone, thanking the stars that she had agreed to get one installed only a month ago. It wasn’t as if she really had anyone she wanted to call but her parents were worried about her being too isolated. It only took a minute- the man on the other end was polite and efficient.
“It’s okay. Help’s coming.” She took a seat beside the stranger.
“Can I get you anything? Water? A blanket?” The girl was shaking.
“My name’s Rapunzel. What about you?” The man on the end of the phone had warned her about not letting the girl go to sleep in case she had been hit on the head.
“Why haven’t I seen you around? I thought I knew everyone here.”
“Been away at school.”
Why do you board? There’s a school in the town over isn’t there?”
“It isn’t a finishing school.”
“A place where you learn to be a lady. Mum made me go.”
“That sounds like a pretty strange thing to teach. So you’re on your holidays then?”
“What do you mean?”
Merida smiled; it was thin and wan. “I ran away.”
In the distance sirens blared and Rapunzel breathed a small sigh. In seconds they were at her door. Noise was good. They put the girl on a stretcher and carried her out. She had her eyes closed and her jaw locked. They asked if Rapunzel wanted to come in the ambulance but she knew the hospital was in the city. It was only afterwards, when she pictured Merida alone and afraid, that she felt bad about the decision.