Snow White went to bed a happy girl. The little house was tidy, and she had discovered that a clean house was peaceful. Even Grumpy wasn’t as grumpy as usual, sitting by the fire and enjoying his pipe. Her little room had been fairly good, as she had no possessions of her own, other than a spare gown Happy and Doc had surprised her with the month before. She slept deeply and peacefully.
In the morning she stood in the door of the cottage and waved as the cheerful crew of Dwarves marched off to the mines. When she went back in to take care of the messy leftovers of breakfast time, she too was humming their little tune. She scrubbed the dishes clean and made them disappear, amusing herself for a time with arranging flowers on the tables in vases she didn’t know the dwarves had had.
She was discovering that when she called for something she only had to think about where she wanted it. Then it would show up there. Sometimes it was dirty, or upside-down, and she guessed that was the way it had been when Mrs. Beauchamp vanished it. She made the house look clean, smell good, and filled with pretties, then she went outdoors to play.
For all that she looked grown-up, Snow White was very much a child at heart. She hadn’t had a proper childhood, in the palace. She’d often looked out the tall, mullioned windows in envy at the peasant children playing games in the dirt below. Here in the forest there were no children to play with, but the woodland creatures responded to her gentle heart and played silly games like hide and seek with her.
When her stomach rumbled she decided it was about time to not only get herself a little lunch, but to begin dinner preparations for the dwarves. She was still learning to cook, and although Sneezy had been giving her lessons, she really was only comfortable making bread and roasts. Tonight she was going to try making a pie with the leftover meat and potatoes from the night before.
Back in the house she held out her hand. “Sneezy’s cookbook, please.”
A book fell into her hand and she stared at it in confusion. It wasn’t his cookbook, in fact, she had never seen it before. She set it aside and said firmly “Sneezy’s cookbook!”
Six books later, Snow White sat on the floor with her head in her hands. Something had gone wrong. She was getting books, just not the one she wanted. She didn’t know what to do. She sniffled, wiped her nose, and stood up, resolute. Her father had always told her magic came with a price, and now she was beginning to understand what he meant. She carried the books to the empty bookshelf and put them on it. She held out her hand and called for another one.
She didn’t know how much time had passed when she finally got the book she needed, but she was tired, hot, and dusty. She took it into the kitchen and started making the pies.
Dinner was late that night, and she put the dishes in the cupboards when they were washed, instead of disappearing them. The dwarves went to bed, but Snow White sat on her bed and thought hard. In the morning, she pulled Doc and Happy aside after breakfast. They heard her out and nodded. Happy hugged her and she smiled. Sometimes that was all it took to make her feel better about herself.
While they were gone that day she stayed inside all day, pulling things out of midair and putting them away carefully after cleaning them. She knew she didn’t have everything, but that would have to wait for the dwarves help, as they knew what they had. That evening at the table she explained what she was doing, and that she was going to need their help.
“We need more room, or less things.” she told them. “I asked Doc and Happy about building an addition on the house, and they say it can be done. But I don’t even know if I have everything back yet. Can you help me?”
The dwarves, who had been collecting odds and ends for more years than most humans had to live, and who expected to live at least that many more years, looked at each other thoughtfully. She had a point. It was nice to live in a house where you weren’t tripping over things whenever you moved. Having books neatly on shelves meant they could find one when they wanted it, instead of being surprised when they discovered a title in a stack they wanted to read.
Grumpy slowly said “I’d like my pipe, so I can think about it. Too much change is risky…”
Snow White held out her hand and summoned it. A blob or sticky red stuff appeared. “Oh, dear. Strawberry jam?”
She tried again and got it, to her immense relief. She went to wash the jam off her hand. This was getting bad, she really had to get everything out of storage as soon as possible. They all stayed up late, reminding her of what they owned and making plans for an addition.
In the morning, Snow White waved as they went to work, then rubbed her tired eyes. The house was piled again, but it was temporary and much more organized, at least. She looked at herself in the mirror, seeing dark shadows under her eyes. She jumped as Mrs. Beauchamp materialized at her shoulder.
“Hello.” She managed. “I had to take it all back out of wherever you put it.”
“I see that. What happened?”
“Well, it wasn’t coming when I called, or the wrong things came.” The girl explained plaintively.
“Oh, dear. You have a very disorganized mind.” The old lady tsked and flew over to the shelves and ran a finger along them.
“I was trying to keep track. And I’ve cleaned….” Snow White pointed out as the sprite rubbed her fingers together.
“I see that, at least.” The senior sprite reached out and made a circle with her hands, then slowly pulled it bigger, spreading her arms apart. Snow White could see a faint glow coming through it. “Hold onto my foot, my dear. I may never come back out if I get lost in there.”
The girl obligingly took the bony ankle of the old woman and held tight as she dove into the hole. She pulled Snow’s arm in with her, and the girl felt her arm tingle as it passed through the glowing circle. The sprite’s voice echoed back hollowly.
“Ah, here’s the problem. Don’t let go, dear.”
Snow White wasn’t sure what she was doing in there, but she seemed to be flying in every direction. The girl held on determinedly, but her arm was being jerked about rapidly.
“Do, please come out, Mrs. Beauchamp. I don’t need it, really. I’m going to take care of it myself.” She finally called, holding onto a chair with her free hand to keep herself from being pulled bodily through the hole.
“Almost done, dear. Really, this is the secret to properly done housework!”
Then with a violent twitch that twisted her arm painfully, the little old woman twisted out of Snow White’s grasp. There was a burst of violet light and a sprinkle of glitter, or perhaps stars, and the girl was thrown backwards as the hole closed with a sound like a clap of thunder.
Snow White sat on the floor with her ears ringing and rubbing her arm for a few moments, waiting to see if the sprite would reappear. There was a profound silence in the house. Tenatively, she held up her good hand and called “Mrs. Beauchamp?”
Nothing at all happened. She tried again, and then asked for something else. She might as well have been speaking to empty air. The portal to whatever it was had closed off entirely, it seemed.
Snow White stood up, rubbing herself where she had landed hard enough to bruise, and went outside to call the old woman’s name. After a while she gave it up and simply stood in the sunshine, feeling tears roll down her cheeks. Evidently, housework done correctly could kill you.