"Where were you when I was new?" Molly Grue demanded of the unicorn.
She knew how Molly felt, when she'd lost her dreams years, decades, centuries ago it felt. Now she walked with a cane, and no young prince would sweep her off her feet. Her children and grandchildren had moved on to live their own lives until even the crumbs of their time dried up in a blizzard of "Maybe next week/month/year," and "We're just so busy."
Next week/month/year came and went, and still she sat on the porch of the cabin she'd built on a whim. In as much as the construction of a house can be a whim. With money carefully hoarded from the part time jobs her husband had let her work "so long as they don't detract from the children. Family comes first," and skills gleaned from Foxfire books, the library, and grilling the men who came to remodel their home so he felt it worthy to entertain work acquaintances who laughed too loud, smiled too much, and cornered her in dark, quiet rooms.
When he'd decided he needed a younger hostess, she'd moved out here. A scrap of unwanted land inherited from her parents in the middle of nowhere. How he'd complained about the taxes on it, though she paid those from her carefully hoarded wealth. He'd complained about the state of her hands, and the necessity for manicures before the dinner and cocktail parties where he cautioned her to "be nice" to his associates.
The children stayed with him, because life with the father who couldn't be bothered to discipline them in his big house with its pool, cable TV, cars they could use anytime they wanted, and step-mother scarcely older than they, shone brighter than her snug little house in the wilderness with rooms built for each of them.
Her last big splurge before she slipped away had been on a vintage collection of the entire series of Foxfire books, and the Anarchist's Cookbook. She sold the designer clothes, the jewelry, the shoes, the furniture in the house where they, where she had raised their children, and bought warm, sturdy clothing and boots.
She'd done her best before her eldest's wedding. She'd had her hair done, and her nails. Wore the one nice outfit she had kept from her time before, but the stylish clothes of a decade past hung on her wiry body, and the weather had tanned her skin.
Her other children did not even invite her to their weddings.
The time for fairy tale endings was long since past, so how did she find herself standing in front of her snug little house facing a beautiful young man with movie star looks astride a prancing black horse?
"It's time. You've done enough. They don't deserve you." He extended his hand.
Gazing at that lovely, smooth hand and all it appeared to offer: rest, no more angry calls from the cell phone her middle child had pressed on her, no more being reminded that their father had left them money and things, nevermind he had not kissed so much as one scraped knee, or helped them build one school project.
"I've been used long enough." The words creaked from a throat disused to speech. She pulled the phone out of her pocket, and tossed it on the porch, then reached up for his hand.
When she touched him, she felt a fire hot pain lance through her, and stepped out of the weathered husk of her former life, smooth, unmarked and bright of eye.
"I knew you were beautiful." Her Prince leaned over and helped her pull herself up behind him, limbs strong and steady. "They do not know what they've lost."
She glanced back at what remained of her life before.
He clicked to the horse, and it started deeper into the forest, the shadows closing over their heads.