True Love's Kiss
A young woman is determined to find her dying sister’s True Love to save her from a terrible curse. Along the way, the young woman redefines her perception of love.
Tropes – Cozy Fantasy Romance, Sibling Love
“There must be something we can do.”
Susie’s labored breathing was getting worse. She was gulping for every breath. Her chest rattled on the exhale.
Leslie pleaded with Doctor Ambros, “Can’t we try a new medicine or get her a blessing? Anything?”
The Doctor sighed as his gaze ran over Susie. She was down 2 more pounds this week. Her face was pallid, her cheeks sunken in, and she could no longer hold her eyes open. “The only thing that can fix this is true love’s kiss. The curse has already settled in her veins. She will die within a forthright without true love’s kiss. I’m sorry.”
Leslie crumpled into the chair beside her sister’s deathbed. The Doctor bid her adieu and made his way out of the house. They decided early on when Susie still had energy to speak and remain conscious that it was best to keep her at home where she would be most comfortable. That was a week ago. Her health was steadily declining and Leslie was spiraling down with it.
What would she do without her sister? They’ve been inseparable ever since their parents passed away when Leslie was 16 and Susie was 7. The town allowed them to remain without a guardian in their ancestral home as long as they didn’t cause trouble. Leslie worked at the local bakery to support them and kept Susie in school. When Susie came of age and graduated, Leslie paid for her to move to the city and apprentice with an apothecary. It was there Susie fell into trouble.
Leslie shot out of her chair and started tidying the room. Her mind was whirling with ideas. She would not let her sister die. If true love’s kiss was the only cure then she would bring it to her. She would hunt down every eligible bachelor within the region. She knew what her sister liked. Surely she could find her sister’s true love by proxy. Susie would never have to lift a finger.
Energized, Leslie went about finding paper to jot down the qualities she would find in Susie’s perfect man and what questions Susie would likely ask a potential suitor. What foods does he prefer? What are his thoughts on child rearing? How many children does he want? Susie was sure to want lots given the loneliness of their childhood. Yes, Leslie could do this. She would find true love’s kiss and save her sister.
That of course was easier said than done. By the 15th interview, Leslie was starting to have doubts. The man in front of her now was slovenly. He picked his nose no less than 3 times during their conversation, and his favorite pastime was horseback riding.
“Thank you so much Mr. Ridley but I don’t think it’s a match. You see, my sister hates horses. She had an unfortunate encounter with a Clydesdale when she was young. There’s nothing to be done about it now. Please see yourself out and call in the next suitor. Thank you.”
Leslie crossed his name off the list before he was even done huffing and puffing his way out the door. She had one more gentleman to interview today. A gentleman by the name of Jean Claude Godeau. If this didn’t work out then she would have to expand the search to the surrounding towns.
When Mr. Godeau walked into the library, she instantly recognized him. “Oh hello, Jean!” He was a regular at the bakery. Tall and slender with a paper thin mustache and deep blue eyes. He was obsessed with her handmade cinnamon rolls. Said they were the best he’d ever had. Sometimes he would come in just to smell them and chat about her baking techniques.
“Hello, Leslie.” He blushed and loosened the cravat around his neck. “I heard you were looking for suitors, something about true love. I was wondering if I might apply for the position.”
“Of course!” Leslie beckoned him to sit on the loveseat across from hers. Why hadn’t she thought of it herself!? Jean was perfectly amiable. He and Susie would get along so well.
“So Jean, how many children would you like?”
“Oh um,” Jean fidgeted in his seat, “I’m not sure. How many would you like?”
Leslie waved him off, “This isn’t about what I want. I’m curious what kind of family you want.”
His face reddened again. “Regardless of what I want, yo—my partner would have just as much say as I, and I would be happy with however many children she wants. After all, she will be the one birthing them.”
“Lovely answer.” Leslie put a check next to Jean’s name. “Do you have any pet peeves? What moves you to anger?”
“Um…pet peeves…well the last time I was moved to anger was when my dog, Ernie, defecated on the kitchen floor.”
“Oh I would hate that too.” She laughed, “Did you give him a good lashing?”
Jean gaped at her, “No, of course not! He’s just a dog. I sent him outside and cleaned up the mess. There’s nothing more to do.”
“Good.” Leslie put another checkmark next to his name. “Now here’s a real question, if you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
Jean’s eyes softened as he held her gaze. “Your cinnamon rolls.”
Leslie squinted at him. That was an odd answer but she supposed she could allow it. Susie also loved her cinnamon rolls. She put another check next to his name. “Alright, last question. Normally I would ask more questions but I feel I know you well enough to say you would make a good partner.” He smiled at that. “So last question, what qualities are you looking for in your ideal partner?”
Jean leaned forward. His gaze was intent on her face, her hair, her eyes. “She is intelligent, well-read, hard-working, kind, bold—”
“Bold? How so?”
“She’s not afraid to ask for what she wants, to take charge. She has a strength of character I’ve never seen before.”
Leslie felt warm all over. Her heart was a flutter. Jean was speaking with more passion about a hypothetical woman than she’d ever heard a man speak about an actual woman. Jean smirked as he continued, “And she’s beautiful, of course, but that is merely a bonus.”
Leslie stared down at the paper with all the checkmarks. He was the one. He had to be. She couldn’t imagine someone not falling in love with him. He was charming and sweet. He would make any woman very happy. But would Susie make him happy? She was certainly intelligent and hardworking and kind with a heart-shaped face their well-meaning neighbors often praised. But she wasn’t bold. She was actually quite timid. Even if she hadn’t been cursed, Leslie would most likely be doing the matchmaking when the time came.
For a second, a fraction of a second, Leslie thought about courting Jean herself. Then she had a vision of her sister laying in bed upstairs struggling to breathe. This was no time to be selfish. Leslie put aside her pen and paper and got up from her seat. Jean followed suit.
“Please come with me, Mr. Godeau.” She marched out of the room before he could respond. His footsteps followed her out and up the stairs into her sister’s bedroom.
Once she reached her sister’s side, Leslie turned to face him. Jean was staring quizzically at the unconscious girl. “This,” Leslie pointed towards her sister, “is your true love. She’s my younger sister, Susie Hamilton. I believe you two would fall deeply in love if you had the chance.”
“What!?” Jean’s eyebrows flew up. His wide eyes snapped to meet Leslie’s blank stare. “I thought you were my true love?”
Leslie blushed, “You are perfect,” Jean smiled and his face brightened until she continued, “for my sister.” His smile fell. “The whole point of these interviews has been to find my sister’s true love. She was cursed about a month ago to slowly wither away by an angry customer at the apothecary where she apprenticed. She will die soon unless she’s kissed by her true love. That is you. It has to be.”
“I—I can’t be her true love. I don’t even know her, nor she knows me.” Jean took a step back towards the door.
Leslie grabbed his hand in both of hers and got down on her knees. “Please Jean, you must try. She could die any second. I know you two could love each other. Please try.”
Jean stared down at her for a long minute, rife with indecision. “You really want me to kiss your sister?”
“Yes, please.” She nodded emphatically. “I know it’s odd but it could save my sister’s life and then you could live happily ever after.”
Jean glanced between Leslie and her sister then his face settled into a determined frown. “Okay, I’ll do it. For you.” He held her gaze for another moment then helped her stand and moved to her sister’s side.
Jean took a deep breath then lowered his face to Susie’s. Their lips met in the barest peck. Jean held still for 3 seconds before pulling away.
Leslie waited with bated breath for the magic to take hold. Seconds ticked by with no improvement. In fact, Susie got worse. Her breaths were seesawing in and out as if she couldn’t fill her lungs fast enough. Her grey pallor turning blue. Her eyelids fluttered but didn’t open.
Leslie pushed Jean aside and held her sister’s shoulders. “What did you do!?”
“I—I did just as you asked! I swear it!”
“Could this be part of the curse!? Could a kiss from someone other than her true love speed up the process!?”
“I—I don’t know! What should I do!? What do you need me to do!?”
Leslie looked back at Jean with tears falling down her cheeks. He was wringing his hands, shifting his gaze between Leslie’s defeated countenance and that of her dying sister. “Just go. There’s nothing more to do.” Her voice broke at the end. His expression broke with it.
“I—I’ll go get the doctor. I’ll be back soon.”
As he rushed out of the house, Leslie leaned over to hug her sister’s convulsing chest. “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, “I can’t save you. My poor baby sister.”
Susie’s convulsions slowed down. Her shallow breaths barely moved her chest. This was the end. “Go in peace, Sweet Susie.” Leslie brushed a strand of hair off Susie’s forehead then placed a kiss on her brow.
Susie gasped. Then took a deep inhale, then another. Her cheeks turned a rosy pink. When her eyes opened, the dark red veins that clouded the whites of her eyes since the curse began were gone. “Leslie?”
“Susie! Oh my—How!? Jean’s kiss didn’t work! How are you—” Leslie couldn’t believe it. Her sister was healing right before her eyes. This should be impossible.
Susie’s breaths evened out as she sat up. “What happened? The last thing I remember is being checked by Doctor Ambros. Did you find a cure?”
Leslie couldn’t take her hands or her eyes off her sister. She held Susie’s hand and patted down the hair sticking up on the back of her sister’s head. “That was a few days ago. You’ve been out ever since. The doctor said the curse was too far along. Only true love’s kiss could save you. I found someone I thought would work but his kiss made you worse. You were dying, Susie.”
Susie blinked away the flash of fear at the thought of her own death and tightened her grip on Leslie’s hand. “But I’m not dead. I feel fine. Better than fine. You must’ve found another way to break the curse.”
“But I didn’t! Susie it all happened so fast. One minute you were struggling to breathe, then I kissed you goodbye, and—”
“You kissed me!?” Susie’s smile was radiant. She looked nothing like the sickly girl she was 5 minutes ago. “Leslie, that’s it! You are my true love.”
Leslie let go of Susie’s hand to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “That doesn’t make any sense. We’re sisters.”
“Yes, you’re my sister, and my best friend, and the only person in the whole world I can rely on. We’ve been everything to each other since mama and papa died. Of course you’re my true love. It doesn’t have to be romantic. Love is love. And I love you, sister.”
“I love you too, sister.”
Leslie and Susie were crying into each other’s hair when Jean and Doctor Ambros burst into the room. The Doctor took one look at Susie’s smiling face and pronounced her cured. He left without another word. Leslie stopped Jean before he could follow the Doctor out.
“Thank you so much for everything you did, Mr.Godeau. I am forever grateful.”
Jean gave her a small smile and a nod. “It was nothing. I would do much more than that for you.”
Leslie blushed and avoided her sister’s curious gaze. She stood and moved closer to Jean. “Really? Would you take me on a walk tomorrow?”
“Yes, any time.” He replied without a second thought. Leslie smiled for the first time in weeks.