This is the fourth in my modern fairytales series – an up to date take on ‘Snow White’
Once upon a time – it would have
been about five p.m. on a
sunny, May afternoon – a young woman named Bianca Snow, was in the living-room
of the house where she lived. She’d just sent a text message to one of her flat
The sunlight pushed in through the slats of the partially closed blinds.
Bianca sat back and relaxed on the big, old sofa. She stretched out her legs
and pushed back her long, black hair. She smiled as she looked around the
pretty room. She loved how she’d got it all cottagey looking – the chintz
armchairs and the old dresser.
For a city girl she had a strange affinity for country cottages. She
reckoned she must have lived in one in a previous life.
The boys didn’t really approve of the décor, but they were prepared to
tolerate it because they all loved Bianca.
Bianca enjoyed this time of day. The housework all done, the dinner
cooking and a little bit of time to herself before the lads got home. She
looked around the room, feeling smugly satisfied that there wasn’t a speck of
dust to be seen.
Just then her phone beeped. It was a message from Grumpy Graham. She
smiled. Poor Graham – he wasn’t really grumpy. He was just plain knackered a
lot of the time. He worked long hours as a nurse at the local hospital. The
message said that he’d be home around six. He’d be picking up Sneeze – Simon –
to give him his real name, which no-one did. Sneeze worked in the allergy
testing lab at the same hospital as Graham. Then he’d also pick up Doc and Baz
from the Uni. Doc had a PhD in mining engineering and Baz was a geologist –
they both worked as researchers in the Earth sciences department.
Bianca went through to the kitchen and popped the casserole she’d
prepared earlier into the oven to heat through. She also put the finishing
touches to the apple crumble. She smiled as she thought of how the boys would
tease her when they found out what was for dessert. Most of the puddings she
made were apple-based. She adored apples – couldn’t resist them – raw or
While she was setting the table, Harry and Pipes arrived home. They
worked together in their own plumbing and joinery business and travelled
everywhere in their white van. Harry – known as Happy to his mates on account
of his laid back outlook and the fact he was always whistling, especially when
working – was the carpenter and Pipes, was the plumber. Pipes was Polish and
his real name was Stefan.
“Hi, Bianca,” said Harry, going to the sink to wash his hands.
“Hi, Bianca,” said Pipes, sitting down at the table. “Dinner smells
“Hello you two,” said Bianca. “The food will be ready soon. How was
“Hard going, “said Harry. “But hey, ho – it should pay well.”
Just at that, there was the sound
of another key in the front door. In walked Clogs – Colin, who was a teacher
and very clever. Colin took off his crash helmet – he rode a scooter to and
from school – and laid it on the table.
“Ahem,” said Bianca, raising her eyebrows and looking at the helmet.
“Not on the table.”
“Sorry,” said Clogs, picking it up and taking it out to the hall to
stash in its proper place by the front door.
It wasn’t long before the other four arrived home and everyone – Graham,
Sneeze, Baz, Doc, Harry, Pipes, Clogs and Bianca – was seated around the table. As usual, the
lads tucked in as soon as they were served. Only Graham paused to speak.
“This is delicious, Bianca,” he said, smiling at her.
She smiled back. “Thanks, I’m glad you like it. Everyone else okay with
There were various grunts, nods and thumbs up as the others kept on
Bianca put down her cutlery and took a moment, from her place at the
head of the table, to look around at ‘her’ boys. She loved them all like
brothers. She’d been so lucky to find them – or rather –they’d found her. She
shuddered when she thought what might have become of her if they hadn’t. Graham
leaned over and put his hand on hers.
“You all right?” he asked. “You’ve gone very white.”
Bianca gave a little shake of her head. “I’m fine,” she said. “It’s just
sometimes, you know, I remember-”
Graham squeezed her hand. “I know. Try not to think about it – you’re
None of the others seemed to notice this little exchange. Pipes was
already helping himself to the apple crumble. “Leave some for the rest of us
mate,” said Harry.
“Some of you don’t need any more,” said Pipes grinning and winking at
Harry. “Isn’t that right, Clogs?”
“What do you mean? You saying I’m fat?” said Clogs.
“Well – it’s not like you get much exercise sitting in that classroom of
yours every day, is it? And we’ve got our big match coming up Saturday,” said
Pipes, still grinning.
“Oh yes,” said Bianca. “I’d love to see that. It’s the final isn’t it?
Seven Dwarves versus the Handsome Princes.” The boys all played in the local
five-a-side-league and had had a very successful season.
“We’re the ‘Under-Five-Foot-Sevens’ if you don’t mind – not the Seven
Dwarves,” said Doc. “That’s just an evil nickname put about by those posh
posers – ‘The Handsome Princes’,
handsome – my-”
“Are you serious about wanting to come and watch?” asked Baz, blushing.
“Yes, yes I am,” said Bianca, smiling at him. “I’d love to see you
scoring goals – I’ve heard from the others how talented you are.”
“Oh, I’m not that talented – it’s just been luck really.”
“Don’t listen to him, Bianca. He’s just being Baz, the bashful – as
usual. He’s a brilliant striker and he’ll show those soft lads how it’s done on
Saturday. Won’t you?” said Harry, giving Baz a playful punch on the arm.
“Yeah, you should come and watch,” said Clogs. “You’d be quite safe.”
“All of us will be there. It’ll be fine,” said Harry.
“Yeah, they don’t know you’re with us and even if they did, they’re not
going to try anything in a public place and it’s five a side – so two of us
will always be with you,” said Sneeze.
“You’ve not been out of the flat for ages – with us all off to work so much. It would be good for you,”
Bianca blushed and bit her lip.
Clogs frowned at her “What’s wrong? What did I-”
“She’s been out,” Graham stood up, pushed back his chair, ran a hand
through his hair. “You have, haven’t you? You’ve been out alone – in spite of
everything we said. In spite of promising you wouldn’t.” He thumped his hand
down on the table.
Bianca couldn’t look at him. She nodded her head. “I’m sorry,” she said
“Sorry!” Graham shouted. “How stupid can you get? Don’t you understand
how dangerous these people are? Don’t you?”
“Steady, mate,” said Happy, putting his hand on Graham’s arm. Graham
shook Happy’s hand away and walked out of the kitchen. Seconds later the front
door of the flat slammed shut behind him.
A sob from Bianca broke the
ensuing silence. Sneeze reached into his pocket and produced a white
handkerchief which he passed to Bianca.
“Thanks,” she said.
“It’s just because he cares – that’s why he gets Grumpy, said Doc. “He
promised the police we’d keep an eye on you until they catch those people.”
“Where did you go?” asked Baz, softly.
“The park – I went to the park. It was such a beautiful day. The birds
were singing. I wanted to feed the squirrels and the ducks and smell the
flowers. I was really careful and I took my phone.”
“Look, don’t worry,” said Happy. Grumpy’ll get over it. I’ll have a word
with him about the match. It will all be fine.”
And it was. Later that evening Graham returned. He found Bianca in the
kitchen and apologised for shouting at her.
“It’s just that I get scared, you know?” he said.
“I know and it’s nice that you care – that you all care. But part of me
wishes they would show their faces – that they would try something and get
caught once and for all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really grateful that Woody
didn’t kill me when he was ordered to. He took a big risk – had to go on the
run himself. And it goes without saying I’m thankful to all of you for taking
me in. But I just want a normal life – have a job, meet someone, settle down.”
“Yeah, that would be nice,” said Graham, smiling at her.
“Come here you,” said Bianca, holding out her arms.
They hugged each other. Graham looked serious for a moment, like he was
about to say something important, but they were interrupted by Happy.
“Glad to see you two have made up,” he said.
And so it was that on the Saturday, Bianca and
her seven flatmates were at the playing fields for the final match in the Grimm
Brothers’ Brewery Football Cup.
Graham had alerted the police that Bianca would be out and they had a
few plain clothes officers scattered throughout the spectators.
Bianca was on the touchline flanked by Happy and Doc. The boys looked
good in their football strips, complete with the logo of their sponsors, the
Myth & Fable pub, across their chests. Happy and Doc had just been
substituted by Graham and Pipes.
The ball came bouncing across the line
and landed at Bianca’s feet. She stooped to pick it up. As she took hold of it
two hands covered hers and she looked up into a most handsome face. It was the
striker from the Handsome Princes. As they stood up, both still holding the
ball, they looked into each other’s eyes.
“Well, hallo,” said the handsome one. “I’m Charlie – known to my mates
as Charmer.” He smiled a gorgeous smile. “What’s your name, pretty lady, I’ll
bet it’s something as beautiful as you are?”
“Bianca – it’s Bianca Snow.” She was surprised to find herself scarcely
able to speak. Her usually acute radar for this kind of mushy nonsense seemed
to have broken down and her witty comeback lines had deserted her.
“Well clear your diary, beautiful Bianca Snow, because from now on
you’re my girl.”
“Oh, I, I-”
“Mine!” shouted Graham, running up to them. He grabbed the ball from
their grasp. “Our throw in,” he said glaring at Charlie.
“See you later, my lovely,” called Charlie as he ran back onto the
The score was one – nil to the Handsome Princes.
Bianca stood grinning. Happy and Doc were rolling their eyes and shaking
their heads. They teased her about Charlie, but were soon engrossed in the game
Bianca had been surprised by Charlie’s declaration and she’d enjoyed the
compliments. He was very nice-looking. However, her radar had kicked in again
and she saw the chat up line for what it was – something he probably said to
all the girls. But it had been fun having someone flirt with her, and to tell
the truth she was a bit bored by the football.
Then she heard it. “Toffee apples, get your lovely toffee apples here.”
She turned. A few yards away an old woman had set up a stall and already there
was a small queue. Before she knew it, she was walking over to join it.
When it was Bianca’s turn to be served, the old woman smiled at her.
“Ah, I have a special one for you, my dear. I can tell how much you enjoy a
good apple.” She reached down and produced a gorgeously plump apple dripping
with soft, golden toffee. “For you,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Bianca. She bit into the apple as she handed over her
money. It tasted gorgeous. She was so absorbed in the beautiful taste that she
didn’t notice the two men approaching, didn’t hear the old woman’s deep, low
laughter. She felt light-headed, then she started to choke and then –
“You saved her life, Graham,” the
doctor said, as he checked on Bianca. “That was a powerful toxin they put on
the apple. Your friend Simon’s report just came through – and he confirms it.
It made her throat swell – if you hadn’t been there to keep her breathing till
the paramedics arrived…”
Graham looked at Bianca. Three days, he’d been at her bedside and she
hadn’t regained consciousness. She was as white as the hospital sheets. She lay
so still, it was hard to believe she was alive. But the beeping and tracing of
the monitors confirmed that she was. Graham had prayed that Bianca would be all
right. He promised that if she survived, he’d try to be less grumpy, he’d not
get in the way if she wanted to go out with that Charlie, he just wanted her to
live and to have a happy life.
“Is she going to be all right?”
“I hope so.” The doctor, who was a friend and colleague, squeezed
Graham’s shoulder. “Take a break, mate,” he said. “Let one of the others take
I’m not leaving her. Are the others all still here?”
“Yeah – cluttering up our relatives room – they’re refusing to leave.
And that other bloke – Charlie is it? He’s hanging around as well.”
Graham turned to look at his colleague, instantly forgetting the deal
he’d made with God. “Can he not take a hint. He’s wasting his time. Bianca’s
“Oh, isn’t she?” The voice was hoarse and very quiet but it was her
voice – Bianca’s voice.
Graham turned back to Bianca, his heart thudding. She was holding the
oxygen mask away from her face and trying to sit up.
“I thought he was rather nice actually,” Bianca whispered.
“Bianca – you’re awake!” Graham turned to the doctor. “She’s conscious!”
“I can see that,” the doctor laughed. “Now go and tell the others and
let me check my patient over.”
A little while later, Graham was back, seated at Bianca’s bedside. The
others had just left, having reassured themselves that she was okay. Even
Charlie was gone at last. Bianca had asked to see him on his own and now it was
Graham’s turn. He didn’t know what she’d said to Charlie and he tried to tell
himself it was none of his business.
“So, how are you doing?” he asked, softly stroking her hair back from
“I’m doing fine – thanks to you.”
“Oh, I didn’t-”
“Yes, yes you did. You saved my life. I’m so grateful, Graham. The boys
told me. They told me how you realised immediately what was happening – that
they – that they’d found me and had come to kill me.” She gave a little laugh.
“I wish I’d seen everyone’s faces when you rugby tackled the old witch.”
Graham smiled. “Yeah – and Baz and Doc made a good job of flooring her
“So they’re really no longer a threat.”
“No – they’re in custody, under arrest and the police say they’ve plenty
evidence to convict the lot of them. It’s over Bianca. It’s over and you’re
free.” Graham’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat and looked away before
continuing. “You can get a job and that place of your own that you’re so keen
on. You can even go out with that prat Charlie.”
“Yes, I can, can’t I? It’s a great feeling. I’m free. My life’s my own –
a job, a flat, romance. Brilliant isn’t it.” She beamed at him.
Graham tried to smile back, but didn’t quite manage it. He was so
relieved she was okay, but he knew there was a price to pay. “Yes, we’ll miss
you though – when you move out.”
“Oh, I’ll be back for lots of visits – checking up that everyone’s okay
– all eating properly, keeping the place
“At first maybe – but you’ll forget us – you won’t have time for us.
You’ll have a new life – and you’ll want to be in your own place and spend time
“Yeah, my visits will probably tail off. And it’ll be cool setting up my
own home. But you’re wrong about Charlie.”
“Am I?” said Graham.
“Yes – I told him – thanked him for the flattery – but told him I wasn’t
“You’re not? But why – he’s a good looker – so I’m told – and he’s got
lots of money, apparently.”
“Yeah – but he’s shallow, self-obsessed and sees women as princesses.
Not for me. What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing – nothing at all. I’m just happy you’re all right.”
Bianca recovered from the attempt
on her life and she decided to train as a nurse because she liked looking after
people. She got a student placement at the hospital where Graham worked and
they used to meet up for lunch whenever they could. If it was a nice day they’d
take their sandwiches to the park and have a bit of a walk. She missed all the
boys now that she had her own flat but it was Graham that she missed most of
One day, as she and Graham strolled back to hospital after one of their
lunchtime walks, Bianca grabbed hold of his hand. “Stop,” she said. “Wait a
minute. There’s something I want to say.”
Graham stopped and the two of them stood facing each other.
“What?” said Graham, looking down at their linked hands and then back at
“Actually, I don’t want to say anything. I want to do – this.” And
Bianca stepped closer and kissed a surprised – but very happy – Graham right on
the lips. “I think it’s time we went on a proper date, don’t you?” she said.
“I thought you’d never ask,” said Graham smiling.
And ever after? Well, that’s