The Shadow of the Bear: A Fairy Tale RetoldRegina Doman
Books by Regina Doman
The Fairy Tale Novels
The Shadow of the Bear: A Fairy Tale Retold
Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold
Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold
The Midnight Dancers: A Fairy Tale Retold
Angel in the Waters
Edited by Regina Doman:
Catholic, Reluctantly: John Paul 2 High Book One
Trespasses Against Us: John Paul 2 High Book Two
Summer of My Dissent: John Paul 2 High Book Three
By Christian M. Frank
Awakening: A Crossroads in Time Book
By Claudia Cangilla McAdam
Text copyright 1997 by Regina Doman (under the title Snow White and Rose Red: A Modern Fairy Tale, published by Bethlehem Books, Warsaw, ND)
Second printing 2003, revised paperback edition by Bethlehem Books, Bathgate, ND
Third printing, 2007, 10th anniversary edition by Chesterton Press, Front Royal, VA
Fourth printing 2008, revised edition by Chesterton Press, Front Royal, VA
Interior artwork copyright 1997 by Joan Coppa Drennen
2007 cover design by Regina Doman
All rights reserved
“Only to Rise” copyright 1996 Nathan Schmiedicke, used with permission
It’s Only a Paper Moon, by Billy Rose, E.Y.Harburg, Music by Harold Arlen, copyright 1933 (Renewed) Chappell & Co., Glocca Morra and S.A. Music Co.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
P.O. Box 949
Front Royal, Virginia
Summary: When Bear, a mysterious young man, lands on Blanche and Rose Brier’s doorstep in New York City, the two sisters have conflicting opinions on whether or not he is dangerous. Even as Blanche learns to trust him, her fears that Bear’s friendship threatens their family prove terrifyingly true. A modern retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Printed in the United States of America
THE TWO GIRLS were alone in their house that night.
Inside was safe enough—the living room crammed full of the books and comfortable worn chairs from their old country home. But right beyond the window was New York City, vast and dirty and dangerous. And a howling January snowstorm was wreaking its fury upon it.
Where was Mother? It was almost an hour past the time when she should have been home. As Blanche gazed at the blank glass square of the living room window, she couldn’t help thinking that if her father hadn’t died, then her mother wouldn’t have to go out to work in the middle of a blizzard. But of course, then everything would be different.
Rose obviously wasn’t worried. In theory her red-haired sister was studying trigonometry, but in reality, she was chanting poetry and drawing lines around the border of her notebook, while her multicolored paisley skirt in a jewel box of colors—blue, purple, green, and gold—lay spread out around her in a perfect half-circle. Blanche seriously doubted that Rose had even noticed that Mother was late.
Blanche, prosaic in a pale yellow sweater and blue jeans, was wondering again if anything mattered—life, faith—specifically, finishing homework assignments. She twisted her fingers in a long strand of her poker straight black hair and tried to read Camus while ignoring the disturbing thoughts that continually circled inside her head, like Matthew Arnold’s ignorant armies clashing by night.
All at once she became aware of the noise of a car—two cars—turning down their street. One car pulled to a stop, and a car door slammed. Maybe that was Mother coming now: but Blanche forced herself to sit still and not jump up to run to the door like an anxious child.
But she did jump an instant later as tires squealed, a woman cried out, and a deep masculine voice yelled just outside their window. Pushing aside the quilt she had wrapped around her legs, she ran to the window, and lifted one of the blinds. The only things she could see in the swirling darkness outside were the window boxes, snow-covered humps where the rosebushes had been. Frustrated, she shoved aside the floral print curtains and the blinds and pressed her face to the pane, trying to decipher the darkness.
On the street, she could just make out their family car. Two shapes were moving around the vehicle. The one that appeared to be Mother was on the ground waving her arms, while the other larger shape loomed alarmingly over her.
“What’s happening?” Rose was looking up from her book, finally aware that something was happening.
“Someone’s outside with Mother.”
Rose got to her feet in one flashing movement, jerked open the door, and dove into the little entranceway, where she began to undo the bolts on the house’s outer door. In two seconds, she was creaking it open while Blanche stood, half-paralyzed, wondering if she should make for the door or the phone.
Rose yanked the door wide, letting the full-blast of the storm inside. “Mom!” she cried out.
“I’m all right, Rose,” her mother’s voice came reassuringly through the wind and snow.
Now Blanche felt safe enough to go to the door beside Rose as their mother came towards them, limping slightly, her arms full of wet plastic grocery bags, her long grey-brown braid trailing out the side of her damp parka hood. But behind her towered a tall dark form.
“A car skidded towards me when I was getting the groceries and I slipped,” Mother explained. “I’m all right, mostly because this man came to my rescue.” She smiled sheepishly at her two daughters and handed the bags to Blanche. Then she turned to the looming shape, which hung back in the dark, out of reach of the house light. “Come on in for a minute, sir.”
The shape approached the steps and started to set down the three plastic bags on their stoop. All Blanche could see of him was a dirty brown winter coat with a furry hood.
“Just bring those things inside,” Mother said, and the shape reluctantly straightened and shuffled up the steps behind them. A moment later, the bulky hooded form filled the little entranceway. Blanche could see that there was a face beneath the fur-trimmed hood—a red face, surprisingly young looking, with large brown eyes, a straight nose, and a scrub beard.
“Here’s your groceries.” His rough, deep voice sounded embarrassed.
“I really appreciate this,” Mother said, pushing the door shut, squelching the noise of the storm. “Could I give you some money?” She fumbled in her pockets for her wallet.
“No, I’m fine,” the hooded form murmured, ducking his head as Rose took the bags from his arms. “I just wanted to help. I couldn’t leave you on the ground there, could I?”
Mother eyed him critically. “You look as though you’ve been outside for a while. Why don’t you come in and warm up?”
Blanche, who had been carrying the groceries to the kitchen in order to be closer to the phone, heard this and groaned inwardly. Her mother was determined to be a ministering angel. If their dad had been alive, Blanche wouldn't have minded so much. But her mother and sister seemed to forget the serious fact that their family was alone in New York City, with no strong masculine presence to defend them. It was foolhardy to bring this burly stranger into their home under these circumstances.
“I’m okay,” the man said. “I’ll be all right.” But he did seem a little reluctant to plunge back into the cold.
“At least get your breath back,” Mother said. “That was impressive, the way you dashed to pull me out of the way of that out-of-control car.”
“No problem,” the stranger muttered again. “I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”<
“Yes,” Mother said thoughtfully, looking him over. “What did you say your name was?”
“Bear,” the young man said, after a faint hesitation.
Blanche mentally raised an eyebrow. What kind of name was that?
“I very much appreciate what you did, Bear. If you don’t mind my asking —do you have someplace to go now to get out of the weather?”
“Oh, yeah. Don’t worry about me.”
“How far is it from here? Do you have to walk?”
“It’s a little ways, but I’ll make it.”
“How about if I give you a subway token? It’s very cold out there.” She turned to Rose, who was hanging on the doorjamb. “Go get me a token from the can, please.”
Rose dashed obediently to the kitchen but Blanche had already dug one out of the tin by the phone and handed it to her. Looking surprised, Rose took it.
“Bear, you’re only wearing canvas sneakers!” Mother exclaimed suddenly just as Rose swirled dramatically to her side with the token.
“Um, yeah.” Bear, who had been scuffing the snow from his feet, looked awkwardly down. Blanche saw that his feet were caked with frozen ice.
“Can you feel your feet?” Mother demanded, kneeling down to examine them.
Bear turned red but sounded nonchalant. “Well, sort of.”
“How long have your feet been numb?” asked Mother.
“Well, maybe a couple of hours.”
“That’s very dangerous! Bear, come inside this house at once,” Mother said imperiously, her blue eyes snapping with authority.
Bear hesitated, and then gingerly came into the living room. Mother shut the apartment door and waved him towards the couch.
“Take off your shoes while I get some water from the kitchen,” she said, hurrying past Blanche.
“Sit down,” Rose said, unconsciously imitating her mother’s anxious tone, and Bear meekly obeyed, sitting down on the very edge of the sofa. After a moment, he pushed off his hood, revealing a head of long, dark, matted hair in twisted dreadlocks, and a familiar face.
Blanche drew in her breath sharply, and Rose, perched next to Bear on the arm of a chair, looked at her. He’s here, Blanche thought numbly to herself. We’ve let him in…
Rose was feeling sorrier and sorrier for this person called Bear, who looked a bit overwhelmed at having been dragged into a strange living room and being told to take off his shoes. And right now, he couldn’t even do that. He groped clumsily at his laces, and he paused to try to take his grease-spotted gloves off. It was clear he was having trouble getting enough of a grip to pull off the first glove.
“Are your hands frostbitten, too?” Rose asked, almost wanting to lean over and help him.
“I don’t know. They hurt a bit, so that’s a good sign, I guess,” he said, easing the second glove off and then starting to work on his laces with red fingers. Rose, stealing a glance at him through the concealing drape of her hair, decided that he would be good looking if he weren’t so scruffy.
“How long have you been outside?” Mother asked as she came into the living room with the basin full of water.
“Since sometime this morning.”
Mother’s brow was furrowed. “It’s been terribly cold out. Several homeless people with severe frostbite were brought to the hospital today.” She knelt on the floor and began to help him with his sneakers.
There was silence while she eased off his shoes and peeled off his grubby sports socks in her best emergency room manner. The large feet were red, and the tips of the toes were slightly blue. Rose found herself struck by how much larger a man’s feet were than her own. She’d forgotten.
Mother shook her head. “My goodness, I’m glad I made you come inside. If you’d walked home, you’d have had some permanent damage.” She sunk his feet into the basin of cold water and began to rub them gently. “I’ve got to warm your feet slowly or I’ll damage the tissue.”
The young man said nothing, but his face was as red as his feet. “I’m sorry you’re having to be bothering about me—”
“Nothing to be sorry about. This water isn’t cold enough. Rose, get me some ice cubes from the freezer.”
When Rose went into the kitchen, Blanche slipped in next to her. “Rose. Mom shouldn’t have let this guy in the house,” she said in a whisper.
Rose stared at her sister, amazed at how rude she was being. “Why not? He’s got frostbite! Didn’t you see?”
“Don’t you recognize him?”
Rose glanced at Bear and stared blankly at her sister’s white face framed by her black hair. Blanche was always pale, but now she looked tense and almost scared. “No. Should I?”
“He’s one of the guys who always hang out around the entrance to the school parking lot,” Blanche whispered, and waited. “Don’t you know who I mean?”
“The drug dealers,” Blanche’s voice was a bare hush. “He’s one of them. I’m sure.”
A drug dealer. Well. Rose pursed her lips, then shrugged, scooping ice cubes into their pottery salad bowl. “Well, I don’t think he’d have any luck trying to sell drugs to us.”
Blanche slouched against the counter, exhaling, “That’s not exactly the point.”
Rose whisked back into the living room and handed the ice cubes to Mother. But despite blowing her nervous sister off, Rose had decided to investigate. Sitting back on the arm of the chair, she smiled casually. “So — why do you call yourself Bear? Is it because of your hair?”
Bear gave her a faint smile. “That’s part of it.” Rose decided he had nice eyes. But she pushed on.
“What’s the other part?”
Bear stared at the floor for a second. “Well, actually, I spent some time in juvenile detention. I sort of picked up the name there.” He looked at her with a half-jesting expression, but his remarkably dark eyes were serious.
“Sounds like you’ve had a pretty tough life,” Mother said.
There was a noise from Blanche that sounded like a groan and a snort. Rose knew that Blanche was afraid they were setting themselves up for a con artist to spin them a tale of woe and self-pity.
But Bear didn’t seem any more anxious to talk about himself than Blanche was to hear it. He cracked his knuckles apprehensively. “Yeah, in a way. Look, I don’t want to make you nervous. I could just go to the emergency room.”
Mother laughed. “Bear, believe it or not that’s where I work, though I did think I was done for the night. But really, it’s better for you not to go outside yet.”
Rose was grateful for her mom’s cool handling of the situation. She felt proud, watching Mother as she knelt there, still wearing her coat, rubbing this stranger’s feet with practiced efficiency.
“What were you in juvenile detention for?” Mother asked.
A long breath escaped Blanche, but Mother didn’t look either surprised or perturbed.
“Funny,” she said, squinting at him thoughtfully. “You don’t look like someone who uses drugs.”
Bear looked her in the face. “I don’t.”
“Hmph,” Mother said. “I’m glad to hear it. Blanche, fill up the spaghetti pot with cold water and bring it out here. And put some water on low heat on the stove. Rose, I’ll need you to get me another basin and a coffee mug. I’m going to start taking these ice cubes out and put in some less cold water.”
Blanche seemed a little less scared when Rose went to the kitchen, but she kept looking at the phone, as though wondering if she should call the police, just in case. Rose ignored her, collected the items her mother needed, and returned to the edge of the sofa.
“How was it, being in juvenile detention?” she asked, hoping to get Bear talking again.
“It was pretty bad,” Bear admitted. “I was glad to get out. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t go back again.”
“So why did they start calling you ‘Bear’?” Rose persisted. “There’s got to be a story in that name
Bear rubbed his chin. “Well, one day these guys were beating up my brother. When I found them, they had his head in a sink full of water. It looked like they were trying to drown him, just for kicks, though they denied it later. I never used to fight anybody, but I just saw red and threw the three of them against the wall.” He winced, whether from the memory or from the pain in his feet, Rose couldn’t tell. “I knocked the one guy out and the other two were scared pretty bad. I got sent to the disciplinary unit for two weeks, but nobody ever picked on my brother again. That’s when they started calling me the Bear.”
“Wow,” Rose breathed. “So your brother was in detention too? What’s his name?”
A closed look appeared over Bear’s face. He shrugged.
“Was he in juvenile detention for the same reason?” Rose asked.
“Yeah. Same as me. Drug possession with intent to deliver.” Bear paused. “But I’d rather not talk about that, sorry.”
Blanche came out with the pot of water, her dark hair falling like a curtain around the sides of it. She knelt by her mother as she set it down, avoiding Bear’s eyes, then retreated back to the sofa arm. But at least she had come into the room.
“What does that mean—‘possession with intent to deliver’?” Rose wanted to know.
“Possession with intent to sell.” Mother explained, sitting back on her heels for a moment. “It means they were caught with a large amount of drugs on their person.”
“Gee, Mom, you know all about this stuff!” Rose said.
“She probably sees a lot where she works,” Bear said.
Mother tested the water with her hand and put Bear’s feet into some slightly warmer water. “Yes, I do. Too much, unfortunately.”
“Have you lived here in the City all your life?” Bear asked.
“I was born here, but I moved out when I got married. My husband died last year, and my old supervisor offered me a staff management position in the hospital. So we moved back.”
“I’m sorry,” Bear said quietly. “What did he die of?”
“Cancer.” Mother added some warm water to the basin from the pot Blanche had brought.