In honor of National Tell A Fairy Tale day, Feb. 26, I wanted to put my spin on the classic Cinderella fairytale. I would like to thank the Grimm Brothers for writing down the Cinderella tale as well as Disney for making the animated version that we know and love. As well as the live-action version which was my inspiration. And now on to our tale…
“Mommy, will you tell us a story?,” my six-year-old daughter asked as I pulled the covers up to her chin.
“Which one would you like to hear?” I asked, sitting on her bed facing her.
“Can I hear the one about the princess?”
“Of course… Once upon a time, in a land far away, a young girl was born. Now, her parents loved her very much, and she thought that she was the happiest girl in the whole world. But her happiness didn’t last…
Third Person POV
A girl with chestnut hair and emerald green eyes sat looking outside the window of her basement room. From her place, she could see the carriages rolling up to the front door. More well-wishers for the widow in black upstairs. The girl’s father had just died, and his friends were coming to pay their respects to his wife. Very few of them remembered that he had a daughter.
Long after the appropriate time to mourn, the Widow turned her gaze to the soft child. The girl’s days of running through the garden, playing at the edge of the forest, and reading with her father were long gone. Instead, she was doing the laundry, preparing all the meals, cleaning every nook and cranny in the modest two-story house. Her two stepsisters, Joane and Ammy, tried their best to make her life miserable. They would dirty what the girl had just cleaned, rip their clothes so she had to mend them and break things and blame them on the girl.
Try as they might, the two sisters were unable to shake the girl’s spirit. The girl found solace in the silence. To amuse herself, she made friends with the farm animals on the family property. And every evening, after she finished her chores, she would take the family horse, Andreas, and go riding in the forest. She never strayed too far from the house, but those moments made everything worth it. In those few moments of freedom, she would wonder what it would be like if she just started riding. She would wonder if her family would worry about her or if they would be happy that she was gone. She would wonder what the real world would be like. Would it be scary, adventurous, or just better than what she was living in now?
Ten short years later, and the girl blossomed into a beautiful young lady. She would often make trips to town to get the endless supply of dresses and make-up for her sisters. Her walks were another reprieve from the chaos that resides inside the brick house. I suppose her story starts one fateful afternoon on one of her typical walks.
I bolted up when the sound of ringing woke me up. I got off my “bed”; it’s really just a hard pallet on the dirty basement floor. I ran my fingers through my chestnut hair and splashed some cold water on my face. In the small mirror, I could see emerald staring back at me as I scrubbed the dirt off of my face. After patting my face dry in my last clean apron, I went upstairs to get started on my chores.
I quickly made breakfast before setting it on serving trays to take upstairs. I knew that Stepmother would want hers first so she can tell me what chores she wants me to complete today. After setting down the silver serving tray, Stepmother gave me a list of things she wanted me to pick up from the market. She also told me that she wanted the great room cleaned from top to bottom, as well as the front entryway and the staircase. She was planning a party. Most of the things on her list were special foods that she only ever purchases when she wants to impress those she brings over. At the bottom of the list was the dress shop in town. Stepmother explained that she had three dresses made up for the party.
She dismissed me, and I went back to the kitchen to get two more trays ready for Joane and Ammy. I left them in their rooms before finding a list from each of them with makeup and perfume they wanted me to buy. I went to my bedroom and found my rucksack and tiny coin purse. I saddled Andreas and rode into town.
My first stop was the seamstress’s shop. Thankfully, she had the order ready. I placed the intricate dresses in a bag to protect them from dirt on the ride home before heading to the market. I placed the various vegetables and the loaf of bread in my rucksack, transferring my coin purse in the hidden pocket of my dress. The last thing to be purchased was the meat. The butcher had a separate bag that I could borrow to take the meat home. Going back to the market, I purchased an apple and carrot. I fed Andreas the carrot while taking a bite out of the apple. When I was done with my few bites, I gave Andreas the rest of the apple.
I wrapped all the bags around the saddle before we began our walk home. I kept Andrea’s pace at a slow trot as to not sully the food or wrinkle the dresses. I learned that lesson the hard way. Stepmother banished me from a proper meal for three days because her dress tore on the way home. Andreas and I were taking the shortcut through the forest when the unexpected happened.
A giant stag darted out in front of us, frightening Andreas. He went on his back two legs before steadying himself. I kept my hands tight around Andreas’s mane, and I watched the stag. The two of us circled each other before I heard the tell-tale horn of the hunting party. The stag took off but Andreas and I stood still. Moments later, six or seven horses raced past the two of us. A final, pure white horse followed behind but was slower than the rest.
“Are you alright?” the rider asked. “I do hope we didn’t frighten you.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about,” I answered. “I worry for the stag you are hunting.”
“And yet, you carry meat.” He pointed to the rucksack.
“It’s not for me. My stepmother is throwing a party. It’s for the guests. If you’ll excuse me I must be going.” I tried to usher Andreas around him, but the rider followed me. “Aren’t you meant to be hunting?” I asked.
“I don’t much care for the sport. I only came when I saw what I would be riding.”
“So horses are your passion?”
“No, sailing. If I never had to come to port I would never leave my ship. The open water, the endless call of adventure… What about you?”
“I’m afraid since my father died I haven’t had any time for the things I used to enjoy.”
“It doesn’t matter. One day I will do them again.” I looked ahead and saw that we were nearing the edge of the forest. “Thank you… for walking me home.”
“But I don’t see anything?”
“I live at the house just on the other edge of the forest.”
I continued my walk but I could no longer sense him by my side.
“Do I get to know your name?!”
“Cristine!” I hollered back as Andreas and I breached the forest line.
Immediately I went to the stables. I unloaded the cargo as a few day laborers came to collect the food and dresses to begin preparations for tonight’s festivities. Once the saddle was off, I brushed Andreas down as he ate a bucket of oats. Thomas, a loyal stablehand, told me that Stepmother wished to speak with me and that he would continue taking care of Andreas. I thanked him before walking inside.
Stepmother was waiting for me in the parlor. “You wished to speak with me?” I asked, keeping my gaze on the floor.
“Yes,” she said. “We are having important people over and some of them have asked how you were doing. So after you prepare tonight’s meal you will take a bath and you will wear your best dress.” I heard footsteps approach me, but I dare not look up at her. I felt her hand grip my arm, nails digging into my skin. “Do you understand me?”
“Good. Now get back to your chores.”
I bowed my head and continued with the list that she gave me earlier. After the entryway was spotless, I noticed that it was time to check on dinner. A quick check and everything was perfect. I went to my room to find a bath drawn and waiting. The water was freezing so it was a quick shower. I searched through my mother’s old trunk to find one of her dresses. At the very bottom of the trunk lay an elegant baby blue dress. I picked it up and put it on. Perfect fit. The dress billowed out from the waist while the corset hugged my frame perfectly. It was held from two thin straps across my shoulder blades. I found a pair of white heels that also fit perfectly. After getting my dress on, I braided my chestnut hair and draped it across my shoulder.
Beatrice, a former employee of my father, came downstairs holding a gold mask. She told me that my stepsisters insisted on tonight’s soiree being a masquerade. I gently held the mask before placing it over my eyes. Beatrice tightened the lace behind my head before handing me a cloak. She told me to sneak out through the kitchen and “arrive” through the front door like all the other guests. I gave her a great big hug before heeding her advice and sneaking out through the back.
Carefully and quietly, I walked around the house and headed towards the front door. Thankfully, no one asked questions as I walked through the front door. A man took my cloak and I could hear a few faint gasps rumble among the crowd. A man wearing an all-white tux made his way through the crowd before stopping in front of me.
“May I have this dance?” he asked, holding out his hand.
“Of course,” I replied, taking his hand.
I let him lead me to the giant family room as the music began to flow. He set one hand on my waist while holding the other out to his side. I placed my hand in his and rested the other on his shoulder. He moved to the beat of the song as we swayed across the room. Between the soft melodies and the slow movement, I lost myself in his brown eyes.
The clinking of glassware broke me out of my daze. The two of us stopped mid-step to focus our attention to the grand staircase. Stepmother and the girls were standing on the stairs. I stayed rooted in my spot despite my stepmother wanting to prove that I was alive and healthy. She made a speech about family. How family was the most precious gift a person could ever have; not that she knew what she was talking about. She called my name before looking over the crowd. I took a few small steps towards her before our guests understood what I was trying to do. They parted, making a path, and I walked closer and stood next to the staircase. I kept my gaze trained on the floor. I didn’t want to see the expression of the man I was dancing with.
Stepmother ended her speech before descending the staircase. When she got to the bottom she roughly grabbed my arm and excused the two of us. She dragged me down to my room before shoving me on my pallet.
“How dare you upstage my daughters? Do you have any idea the embarrassment you have brought upon this family?” She ranted.
Before I could get a word out, she bolted up the stairs and locked the door behind her. I raced after her, but it was too late. I walked over to the small window and a sense of deja-vu washed over me. Just like when I was little, I was trapped in the one place no one would look… and my father wasn’t here to protect me. I’m not sure how long I stared outside before I heard the lock click on my door.
The door opened and a dim light came down the stairs. The man in the white suit was holding a lantern and standing only a few feet from me. He took his black mask off, and I instantly recognized his face. He was the man from the forest.
“Is she always like this?” He asked, taking a step closer.
“No,” I answered honestly. “Sometimes she’s worse. May I ask why you care? No one else does?”
“Because it isn’t right. No one should be treated that way.”
“You know you never told me your name.”
“Forgive me, I’m Prince Nicholas. At your service.” He bowed at the waist.
I moved away from the window and gave him a curtsey. “A pleasure to meet you, your highness.”
“They spent the entire night talking. At the end of the night, the prince promised to sweep the girl off her feet the following morning. She eagerly awaited his return and spent most of her time packing. True to his word, the prince arrived the next morning and he helped the girl cart her most precious memories of her parents to a carriage. Afterward, she went to the stables to retrieve her horse and hooked him up to the carriage. I’m not sure exactly what happened between the prince and her stepmother, and the prince would never tell her–”
“It’s not something that you need to know,” a familiar voice said from behind me.
“Daddy!” Ella, my daughter, yelled before jumping out of bed and running to her father. Nicholas picked Ella up before hugging her to his chest. “When did you get back?”
“A few moments ago. I didn’t want to interrupt the story.” He walked over to Ella’s bed before tucking her back in and sitting on the other side. “Hello,” he whispered, pecking me on the lips.
“Mommy, the story. How did it end?” Ella asked.
“Well, the girl and the prince were married and the two of them lived happily ever after with their daughter, Ella, and their son,” I said rubbing my swollen belly.
“I like that story.”
“Me too, princess,” Nicholas said.
“Daddy, will you tell me a pirate story next?”
“Tomorrow, I promise. Good night.”
He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. I placed a gentle kiss on her forehead after he was done before grabbing the candle and walking out of the room. Nicholas wrapped one arm around my waist, and we walked down the hall to our room. Who would’ve thought that one fateful evening out would change my life? Despite my troubles, I wouldn’t change it for the world.