wasn’t cut out

for raising a daughter alone,

So he promptly put the word out,
had himself declared

maybe even placed
a personal ad.

Before too long,
he remarried a woman with two daughters of her own.

A cozy package,
a ready-made family.

(He was so relieved to find a new mother for Vasalisa!)

But Vasalisa found herself living in a hostile Hostel,

Her stepmother: hideous.
Her stepsisters: nasty!

Banished to the cinder block basement,
she could see her own breath on the coldest nights,
and huddled with her toes near the space heater to keep them warm.

Upstairs, Vasalisa could hear her stepsisters padding around in their fuzzy slippers,
in their polartek robes,
cackling and making her the brunt of their jokes.

For fun they would draw cartoons
with magic markers on old copy paper
of her as a hag!

The drawings were always the same:
they showed a witch with a long curving chin
and a nose that hooked down to meet it.

There would be a wart at the side of the nose and long greasy hair would snake out from all sides of the bony misshapen head.

Underneath they would scrawl her name:


(they couldn’t even remember how to spell it!)

She would find piles of these cruel
caricatures around the house.

When her father got wind of the stepsisters’ mischief
he shook his head and shrugged:

what can you do with teenage girls?
he thought,
slipping away from the house
for longer and longer stretches.

Sometimes the stepsisters would corner Vasalisa
and coerce her into participating in some game of theirs.

She might be cast in the role of




and ordered to wait upon their every whim.

Other days she might be their doll:

They would spend hours

smearing her eyes with blue shadow
circling her cheeks with rouge


at her golden locks.

The fun never quite satisfied the stepsisters, for Vasalisa somehow stayed sweet and beautiful,
despite their attempts to
reshape her

(The doll in her pocket whispered words of comfort to her
during those hellish days.)

Finally the stepsisters
to get rid of her altogether.

(Even their mother helped them hatch the plan.)

They would fake a crisis

a power outage...
a brown out
a blackout!

and send HER for help.

One very dark night they did it:
pushing her out of the house,

no flashlight
no cell phone
no map
to guide her way.



“And don’t come back until you’ve figured out what happened to our lights!”

“You’ll have to go all the way to
Baba Yaga’s for help.”

Baba Yaga’s?
Yikes! thought Vasalisa,
imagining the legendary


on the other side of the strip mall,
down the darkest back alley,
in the worst neck of the woods...

She eats girls alive!