For jjhunter‘s commissioned Prompt.
The princess had been the first painting Estebana, Adam, and Anselma had shown Rosaria, first because many young girls dreamed of being princesses, first because, as Anselma had said, in her dry, always-amused voice, “this can be the most dangerous of the stories, for everyone involved. Remember that, Rosaria.”
She had, of course. She’d remembered it when Aunt Estebana had told her the story of her Hero, and gone instead for the Farmer, for her Ned. Ned had been a steady man, a serious man, a reliable man.
Roasaria was careful to never tell her own children, he own grandchildren, not to go after the Hero or the Prince or the Knight. Let them learn on their own, not live their whole lives wishing for something they hadn’t had, the flash of blue eyes and a charming smile.
The Hero. That painting had been stacked sideways against two others, the Prince and the Knight. “These can come after this one, or be part of him, or be completely aside from it,” Estebana had explained to a baffled young Rosa. “We start with the Hero. Many boys start here, as many girls start with her.” Her dismissive gesture had taken in the pretty girl with her tiara as if she was a speck of dust or a bad idea.
“The Hero.” Grandma Anselma’s voice was steady, always steady, always smiling. “He’s a nice one. See him like this, his sturdy chestplate and his long sword. See him when you see a fireman on TV, a soldier coming home from war. This is the one who will protect you. That’s his goal and his shining quest, to protect, to rescue.”
Adam never spoke, but he spoke now, his finger hovering over the painting. “That’s the ding in his armor, the crack there, the dent there. That’s what he takes for the protection. That’s the strength he needs to protect, there in his muscles, there in his sword.”
“There’s a hole in his armor,” young Rosa had pointed out.
There’s a place you can hurt him, a much older Rosaria understood.
“There is,” Adam agreed. “Every Hero has that. Never forget that, Rosa.”
“And him?” At the time, a hole hadn’t seemed all that interesting, nor had the way her aunt and grandma weren’t saying anything seemed significant. The man in the back corner of the drawing, the second face of the Hero.
Aunt Essie smiled. “Ah, him. That’s the Father. Like your father, Rosa, he’s a hero, protecting his family, keeping them safe and warm and fed.”
“Why isn’t there a girl Hero?” The young Rosa had found that very unfair. Princesses were pretty and nice, but she wanted to be a hero, with a sword. She wanted to protect her younger sisters and stab bad guys and her armor would be shiny.
“Aaah.” Essie shook her head. “There are, of course, women who protect, girls who fight and rescue. But they are not Heroes, or Knights, any more than boys are Princesses. That is not how the story goes.”
Rosaria smiled through the decades at her long-gone aunt, and shared a memory of a knowing look with her cousin Adam. Stories, she knew, changed. People changed. And if she wanted to, she could be her own Hero, even now.
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