The queen swallowed her disgusted expression as the hut’s door swung open. An old woman stood there with a face like a dried apple, one huge, dark mole under her left eye.
“Yes?” the old woman asked.
“I need your services,” the queen said, sweeping off her hood with a dramatic flair. She entered the hut at the crone’s invitation and took the single chair by the fireplace without being asked. “I am starting to feel my age,” the queen whispered. “I want a way to make my beauty last forever.” She looked up from the flames. “Can you do that?”
The old woman smiled at her, teeth jagged under rheumy eyes. She held out a hand. The queen hesitated, wondering how the crone could even help, and feeling foolish for coming. But the hand was steady, and the queen took it.
Search parties went out to every village when the queen didn’t come back. The king himself walked the streets, searching. At mid-morning on the seventh day, he stopped at an apple seller’s cart. The girl tending it flashed out from behind her wares, slim and graceful. She gasped when she saw her customer.
“Anything for you, your majesty.” Her voice was as sweet as spring flowers. She beamed a perfect smile at him, dark eyes bright as a hawk’s, lips red as fresh blood.
“Come back with me,” the king said, breathless with desire. She reminded him of his lost queen, but she moved with a promise in her glance and hips that the old queen had never offered.
And so, the king took the apple seller home and made her his wife. Word of her beauty spread far and wide, and inside a month, no court lady’s makeup was complete without a beauty mark placed just below the left eye.