‘We are told from an early age that we are special,’ she says, her hands punctuating the air dramatically. ‘Or at least that we are destined to be special. We are told that we are beautiful, and that so long as we are sugar, spice and all things nice, then one day a handsome prince will sweep us away to his castle. There will be a fantastic wedding where we will be admired and adored by all – since any who might disagree would be thrown in the deepest dungeons never to be seen again, which does add a hint of dystopia to an otherwise perfect dream.’
‘Fairy tales,’ I sigh, rolling my eyes in disapproval. ‘They don’t tell you that the prince is having a secret incestuous relationship with his sister, or that Cinderella is a sex-repulsed asexual who will be so traumatised by the wedding night that she will never look at the prince again with anything except mute horror.’
‘I was being serious,’ she says. ‘Trying to, anyway. My point is that we’re told we’re special little princesses and that if we’re good then the universe is on our side. And then we grow up and realise that all the girls are special little princesses, all waiting for a charming prince – and, frankly, there aren’t so many princes out there.’
‘What about me?’
Alina snorts at this, and ignores it. ‘Millions of girls waiting for Prince Charming, and meanwhile all the cute boys are obsessed with sex. They don’t care about romance and marriage and fairy tales, although their lying words learn the script well enough. They talk about love and destiny, and charm the pants off you, and before you know what’s happened they’re waltzing off into the sunset twirling your panties and telling all their friends that you’re a crazy nympho – which, to be honest, wouldn’t be so bad if they’d actually figured out how to really pleasure a woman. I guess that’s asking too much.’
‘Are you talking from personal experience here?’
‘Mind your own damn business,’ she snarls, only to break out into laughter. ‘I was sweetness and light, innocence itself. Keeping myself a virgin, pure as the driven snow, for my husband-to-be. Because that was the rule. The promise. How else would Prince Charming recognise me? We were all doing our best to be the sweetest and purest and most beautiful girl. And yet it was the impure girls who snared the princes, time and time again. We were lied to! Princes don’t want purity. They want the appearance of purity.’
She shakes her head sadly. ‘One by one we angels fell from grace. Behind our masks of perfection we yielded to lust and jealousy, and learned to hate others whose sweetness and purity and beauty eclipsed our own, for what chance had we of finding our princes when such creatures inhabited our circles?
‘We faced the world with faces fair, and with poison we attacked those sublime beings. We tore them from their carefree existence and left them bitter, their masks of purity tarnished and their beauty scarred.’
Alina glares at me through eyes simmering with rage. ‘We are told from an early age that we are special, but how else can we be special except by destroying the competition?’
‘Or,’ I say, ‘we could find one perfect Prince Charming, and then clone him.’ This gets a smile from her.
‘Even better,’ she says, ‘make a machine that grows princes to customer specifications, and then every girl can get her own special prince. Or princess.’
‘Or princess,’ I agree with a smile.