She lived in the woods where there were only brambles. No one entered or left this place. A spell had been cast and the thorn trees had grown while she was sleeping. Now she was awake and was a grown woman. When she remembered her dreams the truth of who she was came back to her. She was the seventh sister, led into the woods one dark night. Her sisters had been doing their best to get rid of her ever since she was a child. First they left her on the edge of a blue lake that was so cold the water could turn blood to ice, but she held onto a log and made her way back and followed them home. The next time they left her on a mountaintop where the billowing clouds were so thick she couldn’t see the earth. She followed the path of the wild goats and was home before the others were halfway there.
They were her sisters and she trusted them. How could she know how jealous they were? She had no idea that her father loved her best and planned to give her everything he owned one day. She let them blindfold her and bring her into a cave that was so deep everything inside was the color of the darkest night. When they left her she followed fireflies back up to the surface, and then let the stars show her the way home. The sisters did all they could to lead her astray, but she always found her way back. The kinder she was, the more they despised her. On the day she turned thirteen they cut off all of her hair and dressed her in rags, still she was beloved. Her father rejoiced and gave her a new dress, and a ruby ring, and said she had always brought joy into his life.
That was when they went to the witch. They paid for a potion that would put her to sleep. The price was their beauty. They paid even more dearly for the seeds of the thorn trees that were under a spell and grew without stopping. The price was their youth. They took her into the woods and watched their seventh sister drink the potion, then they planted the thorn seeds in the ground and not one of them shed a tear. They were already old and ugly and it was too late for them to undo the price paid for their own jealousy. She might have frozen that first night, and perhaps her sisters wished she had, but the white moths that lived in the thorn trees covered her and kept her warm. For all those years that she slept the moths whispered to her in her dreams. Remember who you are, the Seventh Sister, the one who is loved best of all.
When she awoke she was a woman, but she thought like a moth. She had bright fluttering ideas of what the future might be. She held no bitterness because her heart was light. She could see through the dark, like a moth. She ate thorn apples and drank rainwater. She could hear the trees growing all around her, taller every minute, so dense she could see nothing beyond the ring of grass where she lived. She did not know a town was near, or that there was a blue mountain and a black cave and an icy lake. She didn’t know that her sisters had grown even more bitter because their father refused to grant his land to them, insisting he would wait for his youngest daughter to return. She only knew that above her there was a patch of blue. Above there were no thorns or brambles, only air, and because she thought like a moth she longed for the sky.
And then one day a terrible chill came, the worst winter in a hundred years. The moths covered her to keep her warm, but the cold froze their wings, and that night all the moths dropped to the ground. A wind came from the north, threatening to blow them away. Because she could not bear to lose the creatures that had always protected her, she gathered them together. She took two twigs from the bramble trees and knitted the moths together, even though her fingers bled from the thorns. When she was done, she slipped the cape of wings over her shoulders, weeping for her loss of the beautiful creatures that had always kept her company. She cried as a moth would, in silence, without tears, but with true sorrow. Then she reached her arms to the sky and she rose upward. She moved like a moth, in love with the air, circling up and over the thorn trees. She could see the mountain and the cave and the lake and her father’s land.
She went through the dark, a globe of light, the Seventh Sister, the girl who knew what the moths knew, for following the light always led them home. She followed a candle in the window. She recognized her house and she knocked seven times and the door opened to her, as if the house itself had been waiting for her. Her father was so old he thought he was dreaming. He had lit a candle every day in her memory. He thought the moths had flown in through the window, drawn to the light. But it was his daughter, in her cape, and he was right, she had been and was again the joy of his life.