Cinderella Story: In this blog, we will open the doors to a world where kindness rules supreme, dreams come true, and every little heart can find hope. stay with us as we take the pieces of a classic story and weave them into a colourful fabric that conveys to today’s children. This timeless tale promises to be a delightful trip for all ages, with everything from glass slippers to pumpkin carriages, magical transformations to the strength of adaptability.
Mirrors have never been my friend. They told me the truth, they showed me all my flaws and didn’t mention anything positive about me. They didn’t know I was a good person on the inside, or that I was kind, they just showed me my pimples, the dark circles under my eyes, and my impossible-to-manage hair. I should have had them all covered, and shown them they couldn’t hurt me. But I knew they could. I knew I was ugly, I had been told that my entire life. Yet I couldn’t do anything about it.
All I could do was hope I found a man to love me for who I was and not who my mother wanted me to be. The door to my room opened and grabbed my attention away from the horrid mirror. I quickly wiped my eyes so nobody knew I had been crying to myself. They couldn’t know, they couldn’t see my weakness. Not in that world. “Good morning, Anna,” my step-sister said in her usual sing-song voice.
“What’s good about it?” I asked, never expecting an answer. I watched her, the one with the fancy name of Cinderella, as she restocked the kindling in my fireplace. She was dressed in an ugly grey dress but still looked breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn’t stand the way she was always so perfect.
Everyone loved her, she was charming. Every time I looked at her I couldn’t help but think of my inadequacies. It was torturous. To make it worse, I was sure she rubbed it in my face. At every chance she got, I was sure she told whoever would listen how horrible we were.
She didn’t like my family – my mother and my sister. She didn’t want to be there with us but wouldn’t leave. Instead, she liked to remind us how terrible and ugly we were. Life had been that way ever since Cinderella and her father entered our lives. At first, it was exciting.
Mother fell in love with him, a real Lord. She doted on him, she thought she had a real shot of happiness forever. I had never seen her so happy. The wedding was magical. My mother wore this dress that shone like a thousand diamonds. All three of us daughters were bridesmaids.
It was probably the first time in my life that I felt beautiful. In the rose-red dress, I couldn’t have felt any different. I should have suspected Cinderella wasn’t happy with the wedding that day. She didn’t smile very much, she just clung to her father like we were taking him away or something. We weren’t, of course, but she feared it anyway.
My sister, Zelly, and I were excited about having a father again. He wouldn’t replace our own who died many years ago, but he was a chance at a new beginning.
I longed to have a father to protect me from all the evil in the world or even just the bullies in town. We were going to be a happy family. Then he got sick. For the few months in between, it was blissful. My mother danced around the manor house singing and smiling to herself. She was full of hope and happiness. For a time, nobody dared to tease me because I would tell my stepfather about them. Everyone was happy and it felt like it would last forever.
But it didn’t. My step-father got sicker and sicker until he passed away. It was one of the darkest days for our family. My mother wailed at his passing, taking to her bed for the months afterwards. My sister and I were left to manage the house, despite the fact we didn’t know what we were supposed to do.
We didn’t get told if we were doing it right, only yelled at if it was wrong. During that time, Cinderella barely spoke to us. I knew she was grieving too, probably more than any of us, so we left her alone.
After a time, I thought it would be helpful if she helped out around the house, perhaps taking her mind off her loss. She agreed, throwing herself into her duties. Before we knew it, our home settled into our new family. Mother eventually left her bed but it was only to boss us all around.
Cinderella continued cleaning, even though I told her she didn’t have to anymore. She liked to think we forced her into a life of slavery but really I know she only did it so that she didn’t have to think of her father and experience the grief all over again. My mother tried to avoid Cinderella, she preferred not to be reminded of her husband.
They did look remarkably alike. I never knew what Cinderella’s mother looked like, but she was certainly the spitting image of her father. I couldn’t help but think of my stepfather either when I saw her. She was a constant reminder of him. Even her mannerisms were the same.
When she ate, when she smiled, when she spoke, everything was a flashback to the man who had changed our family forever. I was sure Mother saw it too which made her sad again. It was not a happy way to live.
I waited until Cinderella finished with the fire before going down to breakfast. She didn’t eat with us anymore, not after my mother told her to chew differently. She took it as a personal attack on her, but we all knew it was only Mother’s way of trying to deal with the memories. She could have come back and eaten with us at any time but she preferred to eat with the help now.
Zelly and Mother were already at the table when I arrived. I took my seat, looking at the breakfast laid out before me. There was barely anything on my plate, just a few tiny slivers of meat and fruit. I said my good mornings, trying to be upbeat for the sake of the others.
We ate in silence, just like every other day in the house. “Is there anything more to eat?” I asked, still hungry from my measly meal. Surely we couldn’t be so poor that we had to ration our food now? “That’s all you’re getting,” Mother snapped at me. I must have looked confused because she continued.
“You need to watch your weight if you’re ever to find a husband. Nobody likes a pudgy woman to hold on their arm.” I knew better than to speak back to her. She always told me what I should and should not do to find a husband. The rules would be a mile long if I wrote them all down.
I would rather go hungry than suffer another one of her lectures. “You’re going to sulk now?” Mother said to me when I didn’t reply. “No, of course not, Mother. I was thinking how wise you were.”
Zelly snickered at me across the table, enjoying my torment. She was naturally thin and tall, although not a beauty in the traditional sense. Her plate of food was at least twice as large as mine. “You should be more like your sister,” Mother said, only making it sting all the more. She didn’t just stab me, she liked to twist the knife too.
As I stared at her, I tried to think of how wonderful she was before Cinderella’s father broke her heart. That was the mother I loved, I knew she was still in there somewhere. “Yes, Mother.” She seemed satisfied for now with my submission. “So what are you going to waste your time on today?” I wished she hadn’t asked, she never approved of my activities – no matter what I did.
“I thought I might go riding, the weather is beautiful today.” “No, you’re not.” “But-” “But nothing, no daughter of mine is going riding like a commoner. You are a lady and ladies do not ride horses,” she rolled her eyes at me. “You will never find a husband if you insist on carrying on like this.” Everything always came down to finding a husband, like it was the most important thing in the world.
Why would I want to go through the kind of pain she went through at the loss of not just one but two husbands? Perhaps I would stay a spinster for the rest of my life, perhaps that wouldn’t be a bad thing. At least I could do and eat whatever I liked. “What do you propose I do instead?” I asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. I genuinely genuinely wished to know what would please her. “You can do your needlework.” I nodded and excused myself from the table. I had some very important needlework to do.
“Oww,” I muttered as the needle pricked my finger yet again. For all the time I had spent doing needlework, I was still not good at it. My pieces never looked complete, only that they could have been done by a five-year-old. Actually, a five-year-old could probably do much better. Out the window, I spotted Cinderella. She was in the vegetable garden, picking out carrots. Mud was caked on the bottom of her dress and shoes. She never had to worry about being ladylike, she could do whatever she pleased on the estate. It was annoying and completely unfair.
If Zelly and I had to have rules, then so should she. But not Cinderella, she was too perfect. “Anna, did you hear?” Zelly burst through the door, snapping my head in her direction. I put the needlework down, glad of the interruption. “What was I supposed to hear about?” I asked, completely in the dark. Nobody told me anything so it didn’t surprise me.
“The king is putting on a ball. Every girl in the kingdom is invited.” She twirled around in a circle with the thought of dancing all night in the palace. “Oh,” I replied, I was sure it wasn’t the answer she was hoping for. I didn’t want to go to a stupid ball where nobody would dance with me. All it would mean would be sore feet from standing around. “I’m not going.”
“You have to! The king has invited us all, we cannot refuse his kind invitation.” Zelly sat on the chair beside mine. “There are rumours he is trying to find a wife for the prince. Can you imagine getting to dance with Prince Charming? It will be magical.” “I’m sure the prince won’t find a wife just by dancing with all the girls in the kingdom.” “Why do you have to be so sour?
It will be fun, can’t you just be excited?” She crossed her arms, already starting to sulk. “I shall be excited when there is something to be excited about. This is not it.” “Well you have to go, Mother has ordered us to. We are to go and be lovely and wonderful and find husbands,” Zelly said defiantly. I shouldn’t have been surprised, of course, Mother would see it as an opportunity to marry off her desperate daughters. Still, I didn’t have to like it. “Fine. Is Cinderella going?” “Every girl is invited.”
We both looked out the window at our step-sister. She wouldn’t have a problem getting twenty marriage proposals if she tried. We had no chance. I spent the next four days hearing every little detail about the ball that Mother had managed to find out. She actually left the house, which I hadn’t seen her do in a long time. She spoke with all the other ladies, trying to find any detail she could that would give us a head start on the other girls.
I knew my mother meant well, but she didn’t understand what it was like to attend those balls. She was always beautiful, she still was even though she was in her forties now. People looked at me and they only saw the ugliness that was on the outside. They never got a chance to find out what I was really like on the inside. Unfortunately, no amount of make-up could hide my skin problems, despite how much my mother caked on my face.
It was humiliating. A ball like the king’s was just another chance for others to look at me and pretend they didn’t see me. Or that one glance at me wouldn’t put them off their meal. It would be a torturous evening, I could say that without being able to see the future in a crystal ball. Yet our dresses arrived anyway and the tailor fit them to our bodies. Mine was too tight, as usual. Mother ordered them that way so I wouldn’t overeat in the lead-up.
I wasn’t fat, I would like that to be clear. But in her eyes, I was. The thought only made me hungry for something sweet like a piece of cake. Or pie. Cinderella also got fitted for a gown. It was not as fancy as Zelly’s dress or mine, but it was still a wonderful butter-yellow colour. She would look good in anything, even if she went to the ball in her house dress she would still be noticed. And she would be sure to let us know all about it. I didn’t know what all the fuss was about for one prince.
I saw him once, at the palace. Mother took us there for the winter feast celebrations. He sat on his throne and didn’t talk to anybody. It appeared he liked to sulk just as much as Zelly – perhaps they would make a good couple. I knew I certainly wouldn’t be suited to him.
If I were to marry, which I had to because I didn’t get a choice in the matter, I wanted a man who was strong and adventurous. I wanted a husband who was fun and didn’t care about what his wife was wearing or how she must be ladylike at all times. I wanted a partner in crime, someone to enjoy life with. Not someone who told me I must be something I was not.
Prince Charming definitely didn’t fall into that category. I was certain that all the men my mother had tried to introduce me to didn’t. Perhaps I was destined for spinsterhood. “I hope you’re not daydreaming again,” Mother interrupted my thoughts, reminding me I was trying to sit still while she fussed with my hair.
“Dreaming is for peasants. Now remind me what you must say to the prince.” I wasn’t exactly paying attention to her lecture, what was it I was supposed to say? Something about my stepfather? “I must say… that my step-father was Lord Trevane and I am pleased to meet him?” She pulled my hair a bit harder than was necessary. “Say he was your father, it will make it sound better. Lord Trevane was a friend of the king, he will think you are somebody special.
You have to fool him to reel him in like a big, fat fish.” “Yes, Mother.” “Oh, my dear girl, do you even want to please your mother?” She sighed as I wondered what I had done wrong this time. “Of course I do, but I fear nothing I do will please you.” I searched her face in the mirror, trying to determine how the rest of the conversation would go. Half the time I expected her to give up on me and try harder with Zelly. She had a better chance with her.
Mother finished with my last curl and took a step away, making sure my hair was sufficiently bound for the ball tomorrow. “You can please me by finding a husband tomorrow night.” I turned around to face her. I was either incredibly stupid or incredibly brave, I wasn’t sure. “Why is it so important that I find a husband? Do you not love me as I am? Do I need a man to make me lovable?” She looked me directly in the eyes with a love that I hadn’t seen for a very long time.
Perhaps the mother I knew wasn’t completely lost to her grief. “I want you to find happiness, just like I did. A husband gives you comfort and security. Something I fear I cannot offer you for much longer.”
“What do you mean?” A pit was forming in the bottom of my stomach. What was she talking about? I feared to hear the answer and yet I needed to know at the same time. “Our money is running out,” she cast her eyes downwards, staring at her hands. “This house is expensive to keep. We need new money and I am too old to remarry. It is up to you and Zelly now.”
“What about Cinderella? Can’t she get married too?” “You know her loyalty was to her father, she doesn’t care about this family like we do. We can’t count on her to save us.” I nodded, understanding. If the roles were reversed, I would probably have felt the same. “Would it be so bad if we had to live in smaller accommodations?”
Mother looked horrified, I had my answer before she even needed to speak. “We have Lord Trevane’s memory to uphold. We will continue with the life we have grown accustomed to.” I let it go, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk her around. We had lived in a much smaller house before her marriage, I’m sure we would be able to again. She squeezed my shoulder.
“Sleep well tonight, my girl, tomorrow will be a big day.” I let her go without another word. At least I now understood why marriage was so important to her, yet I still couldn’t help but feel it was her dream and not mine. I didn’t want to marry a man just for his money, it wasn’t right. Nor was it fair to him or me. Not that I should have been worried anyway, no man came near me. Our futures depended entirely on Zelly.
“You’ll have to do,” Mother said as she stood and did a final check of my gown. I stared at myself in the mirror. The dress was a beautiful light green, embellished with cream lace and ribbons. I had never worn anything that stunning. When I twirled around, the dress swung too, creating a wonderful swirl of colour. I felt pretty and delicate, perhaps for the first time in my life. Still, I didn’t want to go to the ball, but the dress did sweeten the inevitable just a little.
“Don’t spin around, you’ll mess up your hair.” “Yes, Mother.” She dressed Zelly next. Her dress was a deep red, the colour of fresh apples from the garden. Its lace and ribbons were black, making the red even bolder. With her hair in curls, Zelly looked very nice too. Mother had gone all out, trying her best to make us noticed. The last dress in the package was Cinderella’s. I helped Mother pull it out and we held it up to take in its beauty.
“Mother, what’s happened to it?” I exclaimed, seeing the rips through the back of it. It looked like it had been dragged through a bed of muddy nails. “I don’t know, it must have been damaged when it was delivered. This is terrible,” Mother agreed. It was such a tragedy seeing such a beautiful butter-yellow gown broken like that. It was heartbreaking.
“The tailor is going to hear from me about this, we need this dress tonight.” “What did you do!?” The shriek came from behind. We all looked around, seeing Cinderella with her eyes wide open in horror. “That was my dress, you ruined it!”
“It wasn’t us, the tailor has done something, they made a mistake or had an accident,” Mother said, trying to calm the girl down. “You did this,” Cinderella pointed directly at Mother, making it clear who she was accusing. “You didn’t want me to go to the ball and take the attention away from your little ugly princesses. Now I can’t even go! How could you do this to me?”
“I didn’t, I-” She was cut off as Cinderella stormed for the door. “I hate you all. I hope you all die in a nasty and horrible way.” The door slammed closed behind her. I felt bad about her dress, but she didn’t have to overreact like that. “She can have my dress, Mother,” I offered. “I’m sure she’ll have a better time than I will.”
“Nonsense, you will do no such thing. There are a hundred dresses in her wardrobe that her father bought for her. She can wear any of them if she chooses.” “Should I go calm her down?” Zelly asked. “No, let her cool off.”
With a shadow now cast over our preparations, we continued to put the finishing touches on our outfits. Mother put a jewel in my hair, which I thought was completely unnecessary. “It will distract people from your face,” she reasoned. reasoned. I couldn’t argue with her. Finally, we were ready for the ball. Well, physically anyway, I still didn’t particularly want to go.
I counted twenty-nine times that my mother had reminded me to find a husband. Zelly got thirty-one reminders. We bustled down to the waiting coach. “What about Cinderella?” I asked as Zelly and I climbed in. “Should we tell her we’re leaving?” “I called up to her but she didn’t reply,” Mother said. “Just go and I’ll send her when she’s ready. Unless she’s changed her mind and is continuing to sulk in her room, anyway.” “Ready, ladies?” Angus, the coachman asked.
“Certainly,” Zelly replied. He flicked the reigns and the horses started their trot up to the palace. The road was bumpy and seemingly too long. I felt like jumping out and fleeing into the woods, at least I could have a few moments of freedom before Mother sent out the hounds to search for me.
The lecture and punishment probably wouldn’t be worth those few moments though. So I stayed put and only exited when we reached the palace and the entrance to the ball. I had to admit, it did look amazing. The king certainly knew how to put on a party. Fairy lights were strung everywhere, creating even more stars than in the sky. Flowers tied with ribbons were everywhere, their delicious scent filling the air with magic. Zelly and I walked up the stairs that were draped with red carpeting.
Lord Fenley greeted us at the door, bowing low. We both curtsied back and stepped inside. The grand ballroom was even nicer than outside. The chandeliers twinkled with the light of a thousand suns and the orchestra played a song that could only make feet feel like dancing.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad, I was actually glad to be there. Unfortunately, it only lasted for a mere second. “Anna? You think the prince will even look at you?” The voice belonged to Lady Lilybeth, a girl I had known nearly my entire life. “I’m just here to dance,” I replied, finding it difficult to look her in the eyes.
I knew she would be smirking at my gall for believing I was good enough to be in the presence of Prince Charming. “As if he’d want to dance with you,” she giggled as if it was the funniest thing in the world. It wasn’t, but I never expected anything else from her. I turned away, trying not to let her get to me. All the girls around her – Lilybeth’s gaggle of girls – were laughing so hard it was difficult.
I knew that would happen, I tried to tell Mother they teased me so but she never listened to me. Unfortunately, I walked directly into Tesslyn Montgomery – the one most expected to capture the Prince’s heart. “Anna Trevane?” “My apologies, Tesslyn, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
I wanted to sink into the stone floor under her scrutiny. She was looking at me from head to foot. Any prettiness I felt before was long gone, left in its place was a deep feeling of inadequacy. “You should be more careful, you know you scare people if you suddenly appear before them. We all need to see someone like you coming so we can turn away.” I didn’t reply, I didn’t have anything to say to her. Instead, I curled and started walking.
The giggling was still louder than the music, or perhaps it was just echoing in my head, I wasn’t sure. I headed for the food, at least I could have something to eat without criticism. I was famished after all, Mother hadn’t let me eat all day lest I wouldn’t fit into my gown. I did – just.
I had to pass a line of boys to get to the food. I slowed slightly, just in case a miracle occurred and one would ask me to dance. How I wanted that so badly, more than anything in the world. I wanted to twirl on the dance floor, a gentleman glad to be on my arm, and prove to everyone I wasn’t just Ugly Anna.
But silence only greeted me. I placed some food on a plate and found a wall to stand with my back to. Nobody could sneak up on me that way, and I was out of everyone else’s way. Nobody would have to be confronted with my ugliness. Zelly joined me, having the same idea. “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?”
“Yes, very.” We stood in silent comfort for each other, both of us knowing how the other was feeling without even having to voice it. “Oh my gosh, look, it’s Cinderella,” Zelly pointed to the door as she entered. Our step-sister had found another dress, this one a brilliant light blue. Her blonde hair was perfectly tied up in a bun, surrounded by a tiara covered with diamonds.
I had never seen her more stunning. And neither did she. Spotting us in the crowd, she gave us both a look that could kill. She knew how beautiful she was and wanted to make sure we knew it too. I don’t know how one look could convey so much, but it sure did. I felt like a pile of mud compared to her.
I suddenly didn’t want to be a wallflower any longer. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was good enough to be there – even if I was only bluffing. “Hold my plate,” I said as I shoved the piece of ceramic into Zelly’s hands. Her mouth was too full of food to warn me to stop whatever I was planning.
I barged through the crowd, making a beeline for Prince Charming. I may have no interest in the guy, but everyone else did. The king promised he would consider every lady in the kingdom. And wasn’t I one of those ladies? I stood before him, in all my green glory, trying to pretend I was confident and desirable. I was beyond caring what others thought by then. “My prince.” I curtsied low, making sure he could see all my assets and not focus on my face. “Lady Anna,” Charming replied.
“Glad you could make it.” His words were kind but his eyes were not. I quickly realized he was humouring me. Perhaps he would have preferred it if I had slunk away from him then and there, fearing I wasn’t good enough to be his betrothed. But I wasn’t going to, not when I had a hundred eyes on me. “It’s a fine ball tonight, my compliments to the king.”
“It will do, I’m sure his heart was in the right place when he thought up such a tripe scheme.” He had a way of making everything seem so trivial and stupid, with just a few words and a scathing look around the room. I felt silly for believing I could be good enough, or even wanted, by the prince. I yearned to shrink away more than ever.
I glanced to my left and saw Cinderella. She was watching us with a smirk across her face, waiting for me to fail. I wanted so badly to prove her, and everyone else, wrong. I took a deep breath. “Shall we dance, my prince?” I put out my hand, waiting for him to take it. A gentleman accepted a lady’s request, no matter what. But apparently, Prince Charming was no gentleman.
Instead of taking my hand, he laughed at me, keeping his own firmly by his side. “I’m not dancing with you.” My face burned with the humiliation. My life was practically over. To be turned down by the prince in front of everyone in the kingdom?
I would never be able to recover from that – Never Ever. “I’m dancing with her,” Prince Charming muttered as he pushed me aside. I turned around to see who he was talking about, already knowing deep inside my heart. I watched as he went directly to Cinderella. He bowed low and asked her to dance.
The look of happiness that washed over her face was sickening. A part of me wanted to tear them apart and tell my step-sister what a fiend he was. But would she listen to me? Absolutely not. More likely she would blame me for trying to ruin her life. “What were you thinking?” At first, I thought the voice might have been inside my head, but it was worse.
Tesslyn was nudging me, amusement in her eyes. At least she found the humour in my annihilation. I could feel the tears starting to well in my eyes. I couldn’t stay there a moment longer, I was a laughingstock. For a moment I wondered what Mother would say when she found out.
Someone would tell her everything, I knew that was a certainty. My feet started running for the door, better to leave them to gossip and stab me in the back rather than watch them with my own eyes. They would hurt me either way. Outside, the air was cool. It would still be hours before Mother allowed us to leave so I needed to find somewhere to hide out. Unfortunately, the breeze was too chilly to wait in the courtyard.
But I couldn’t go back inside either. Then I saw our coach, awaiting the return of its owners with all the others. I stormed over to it, opened the door and climbed inside. I was surprised to see I wasn’t alone. Angus, our coachman, was settled inside. Instantly, he was alert. “I’m so sorry M’Lady, I wasn’t expecting you to return so soon.
I will leave.” I placed my hand over his arm to stop him. I didn’t want him waiting outside in the cold, it would be a miserable wait. It was bad enough that he had to pass the time in the coach. “No, don’t be silly, Angus. I would be grateful for the company.”
He nodded and allowed himself to relax back into the purple velvet seat. We sat in a comfortable silence for a time, neither of us requiring conversation. When I wiped away at my tears, Angus noticed. I felt embarrassed all over again. “Sorry,” I apologized, not really knowing why but feeling like I had to.
“A beautiful woman like yourself shouldn’t need tears,” Angus said softly. I turned to look at him, wondering if I had heard correctly. “I am neither beautiful or a woman, Angus. I am merely an ugly girl.” He shook his head side to side slowly. “Now you are a liar.” I couldn’t help but smile, it was the kindest thing anyone had said to me in a long time.
“If only everyone inside the ball was as nice as you, there would be no need for tears or lies.” “It seems to me that if they bring you tears, they are not worthy of your time.” His green eyes sparkled with the glint of the moon high in the sky. “Try telling my mother that.” “Oh, I wouldn’t dare, she would have my tongue cut out.” I nodded in agreement, she probably would. I let the moments pass until I was certain my tears had dried up. “Do you really think I’m beautiful?”
“As beautiful as a thousand rosebuds just ready to blossom in the springtime.” The smile could not be torn from my lips. I settled into the seat and watched glimpses of the ball through the open doors. Without looking at Angus for fear I may die of embarrassment, I mumbled: “You’re pretty wonderful yourself.” He shuffled in the seat beside me.
“Lady Anna, I-” “What’s going on?” I cut him off, not meaning to be rude as I saw movement on the steps of the palace. Cinderella ran from the ball, gripping her gown to stop herself from falling down the stairs in her haste. She caught her foot on the step and lost her shoe. She looked back for a moment, just as Prince Charming appeared at the doorway to chase after her.
She left her slipper there and started running as fast as she could down the path. I watched as the prince stood there, the clock overhead starting the slow chiming of midnight. He appeared confused, worried even. Good. He deserved to have bad karma thrown back at him. He walked down the steps and retrieved the shoe, looking at it like it was a precious possession. I had no idea what he wanted with a lady’s slipper, but he took it back inside anyway.
It was kind of creepy really. I didn’t know how Cinderella got to the ball, so I didn’t know how she was going to get home. By the way, she was running, she could probably have made it home in less time than the coach. Suddenly, the door to the coach burst open beside me and I jumped.
I was so absorbed in the dramas going on outside that I didn’t notice Mother had found my hiding place. “Anna, what are doing out here? Get back inside. You’ll never find a husband in the coach,” she scolded, grabbing my arm and leaving me no room to argue. I was dragged back inside the ball, to relive my idea of hell for the second time that night.
I was dragged from my nightmares by someone shoving at me. For the few precious hours of sleep, I managed to get, my mind had swirled with the laughing faces of everyone in the town. Their taunts and teasing still echoed in my head, even when I was trying to awaken. “Anna, get up this minute.” It was Mother, she was standing by my bedside and insisting I follow her commands.
“Mother, what is it?” I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes, trying to make the world un-blur. “Prince Charming is here, he’s visiting every house in the kingdom.” “Why would he do that?” Now I knew it was the prince waking me from my slumber, I was even more annoyed by it. “He’s talking something about a shoe. Get up, make yourself presentable, and get downstairs. We can’t leave him waiting.”
Mother threw a dress on the bed before leaving me with one last warning look. As much as I didn’t want to get up, or care about damn Prince Charming, I obeyed my orders. I quickly wriggled into my dress, ran a brush through my hair and took one last look in the mirror.
I wasn’t exactly royal family worthy, but I would do. I doubted any more time or effort would have improved my appearance. I hurried down the stairs to see Mother and Zelly already waiting. The Prince was with his valet and he held a shoe tightly in his hands, like it might slip away from his grasp.
The memories from the previous night came tumbling back at seeing him. Like the events were photographs in my mind, they flashed through it like lightning. The teasing, the prince embarrassing me, the way he pushed me aside to dance with Cinderella, the coach, my step-sister running away, and then the shoe.
I knew immediately the slipper held by Prince Charming belonged to Cinderella. What I didn’t know was why he was standing in our reception hall holding it with such veracity. “This is all of us now,” Mother prompted. I looked around, but Cinderella wasn’t anywhere in sight.
I gave Mother a questioning look and she just shrugged. She was probably sulking in her room like she normally did. We couldn’t insult the prince by telling him she wouldn’t come down. The prince looked around as if just as suspicious as I was. “Okay then.
I fell in love with a woman last night, one that I danced with. But at the stroke of midnight, she ran from the ball without giving me her name. All I have is this slipper that she dropped. I need to find her so I’m going door to door until I try every maiden’s foot in the kingdom. I must find my love.” “How romantic,” Zelly swooned. “Perhaps I am your fair maiden?” I had to suppress a laugh.
Zelly was completely wonderful in her own right, but her big foot would never fit inside that little, delicate slipper. Anyone would be able to tell that just by looking at the thing. “Oh, do try it on Zelly first,”
Mother commanded, trying not to sound too excited. I sat quietly and watched, waiting for the inevitable. The prince knelt on the floor in front of Zelly. She held her foot out as he slipped her toes into the shoe. Her toes were about all that would fit. “I’m afraid it does not fit,” the prince muttered. He took the slipper back and turned to me. I momentarily panicked.
Cinderella and I had the same-sized feet, we had shared shoes on more than one occasion back when we were all one big, happy family. “Don’t be shy, Anna,” Mother smiled. It wasn’t a reassurance, it was an order.
I put my foot out and waited, praying that I was wrong. Perhaps my feet would be swollen from the hours spent in uncomfortable shoes the previous night. I hoped it would be so. Prince Charming held my leg as he slipped on the shoe.
It went on with ease, fitting perfectly. I quickly scrunched my foot, doing everything I could to make it appear like it didn’t fit. “Looks like it wasn’t me,” I said, taking my foot back before he could truly examine it. The prince stood, probably relieved it was neither of us. “It looked like it fit to me,” Mother said as she grabbed the shoe from him.
Before I knew it, she was bent over my foot and shoving the slipped back onto it. I wriggled my toes, trying to keep them from going inside the slipper. I writhed and twisted, doing everything to ensure it was not a good fit. Unfortunately, the more I struggled, the more Mother tried. Suddenly, the fine threads holding the slipper together tore apart. The entire shoe fell into pieces.
All she was left holding were rags of material. “Oh, I am sorry.” Mother stood and handed back the few remnants. “I guess it wasn’t of good quality.” The prince looked at what was now just a bundle of rags. I looked at my poor foot which was covered in red scratches from the attack. He was momentarily speechless before recovering. Undeterred, he continued like nothing had happened.
“There are no other ladies in the house?” He looked around like one could just spring out of nowhere. For just a moment, I was about to tell him about Cinderella. After all, I knew it was her slipper he clutched so tightly. But then I remembered how awful he had been to me and how effortlessly he had humiliated me in front of the entire kingdom. I didn’t want Cinderella to be with such a man. She deserved better, she deserved a kind and gentle man. Not one who would so easily hurt another.
Plus, she had run away from the ball as fast as her legs could take her. What had the prince done to elicit such a horrifying reaction? Whatever he did to her, he would not do again, I would make certain of it. If Mother found out Cinderella was the owner of the slipper, she would force them together to save our family. The prince would be able to give us plenty of money to ensure our survival. But she would be nothing more than a sacrificial lamb.
It would be far better for Cinderella and the rest of us to be poor than a miserable princess. I couldn’t do it to her. “That’s all of us,” I replied when no one else was willing to. The prince and his valet wished us a good morning and left us in peace. I breathed a sigh of relief, he wasn’t going to get his hands on my step-sister. I had saved her from a life of unhappiness.
Mother dismissed us angrily, apparently upset that we weren’t the ones who stole the prince’s heart. It only solidified my resolve that I had done the right thing. Cinderella deserved to find the true owner of her heart, not be forced into a marriage of convenience. After having some breakfast, I returned to my room.
The rain was starting to drizzle outside, cancelling any of my plans to sneak away and do something interesting for a change. I picked up my needlework and got to sewing, thinking how pleased Mother would be. During the mid-morning, the door to my chamber opened.
Cinderella stepped through. “Good morning, step-sister,” I greeted her. She let the few logs she was holding fall into my fireplace before sitting in the chair across from me. “Did you have a nice time at the ball last night?” She asked. I wanted to be snarky and tell her exactly what I thought of the ball, but for once she was being nice to me so I decided against it. Perhaps she had not recognized me as the woman the prince had tortured before running to her.
“It was fine. Did you?” Cinderella gasped, obviously, I wasn’t supposed to know she was there. So she had snuck out to go, I don’t know why she bothered. Mother told her she could go. “I wasn’t at the ball,” she lied. “You and I both know you were. You danced with the Prince and then lost your slipper when you ran away.” Her eyes grew wide, it kind of made me happy to know I had caught her in a lie.
I was the all-seeing step-sister. “It’s okay, I’m not going to tell anyone,” I assured her. She visibly relaxed into her seat. “But why did you run away like that? Did the prince do something awful?”
I completely expected to hear some horrendous tale of how Prince Charming had been any but. So what I heard next took me completely by surprise. “Something awful? No, he could never do that. I love Prince Charming, he makes my tummy flutter and it’s like I can’t even breathe when I think of how wonderful he is,” she gushed, I wanted to vomit. “So why did you run away then?”
“I had to, it’s a long story.” She shook her head and clamed up. I didn’t really need to hear the explanation, I didn’t want to be pulled into her dramas. I had enough of my own. “Do you really love the prince?” I asked, obviously missing some quality in him that only she saw.
Her face was a picture of happiness with the memory of him. I felt a pang of jealousy at seeing her so happy from just a thought. “I love him with my entire heart. I never thought I could feel this way but when I’m with him it’s like nothing else matters.” “Prince Charming? We are talking about the same guy, right?” She nodded. “The same. But it doesn’t matter, it’s not like I can ever be with him. I’m sure he found many other girls after I left.”
A noisy debate raged inside my head. I had the power to unite Cinderella with Prince Charming, all I had to do was tell her of his visit earlier that morning. I was the only one in the world who knew about them, the decision was purely mine. I wanted to protect my step-sister, I truly believed that Prince Charming was arrogant and couldn’t love anyone more than himself.
But perhaps I was wrong. Maybe it was just me that found him to be so. By trying to protect her, was I just denying her the happiness she deserved? Did she deserve it? She had never gone out of her way to be kind to me, but perhaps I could have done more too. In so many ways, Cinderella was just as arrogant and sulky as the prince. Perhaps they deserved each other, making a perfect couple.
All I knew was that it shouldn’t be up to me. I shouldn’t be the one deciding on two people’s future happiness. It was time I lifted my burden. “He didn’t find anyone else after you left the ball,” I said evenly, trying to keep my own emotions out of it. “Prince Charming loves you too.
He kept your slipper and has been trying to find you all morning.” “Seriously?” She watched me nod in confirmation. She sat up straighter in her chair, I could practically hear her fastened heartbeat.
“What should I do?” I wanted to tell her to forget about him, but I kept my tongue. Instead, I decided to do the right thing – again. “If we leave now, we can probably find him before nightfall.” “You’d do that for me?” She clutched my arm with both of her hands. I couldn’t back out now.
“Gather your things, let’s go get a Prince.” She grinned from ear to ear as she rushed away. I rolled my eyes, I hadn’t seen anyone that happy since my mother’s wedding day.
“We’re going into town, Mother, we won’t be long,” I said quickly as Cinderella and I crossed the foyer. We moved so swiftly that she didn’t get a chance to stop us. If she knew what we were up to, she would only ruin everything. Angus took us directly to the palace with haste.
Adrenaline coursed through our blood, we had to get to the prince before he found another. He didn’t have the slipper anymore, Mother had seen to that, but any number of ladies could have come forward and pretended they were Cinderella. The poor fool would probably fall for their ruse.
The coach pulled up outside the castle and Cinderella bustled out as Angus opened the door. She turned to face me. “Are you coming?” I shook my head, if I went too I would probably end up kicking the prince where it would hurt. “No, you go. Good luck.” She smiled before she turned and hurried away, holding her skirts so she didn’t trip over them.
I stayed in the coach, I had a good view of the castle foyer and I didn’t have to stand around awkwardly as the third wheel. Through the doorway, I could see Prince Charming as he spoke with my step-sister. Her hands waved around as she explained herself. Finally, she pulled her slipper from her purse. The prince took it from her, examining it in detail.
It matched the one he had – at least before it fell into pieces anyway. All of a sudden, Prince Charming wrapped Cinderella in his arms. They kissed more passionately than was polite in public. I couldn’t help but allow my lips to turn into a smile. They did make a good couple, even I had to admit it. “Love is wonderful, isn’t it?”
Angus commented, watching from the side of the coach. I had forgotten he was there, I was too caught up in the show. “It certainly is,” I replied. “Do you think they’ll marry?” “I’m sure of it.” “Lady Anna, there is something I need to tell you,” he started. I turned to face him, curious at his serious tone of voice. I didn’t think I could take any more drama for one day. “Then please do, Angus, you can tell me anything.” “It’s just that, well, you see…” “See what?”
He took a deep breath as he hesitated. “I love you, I have ever since I first saw you. You are truly the most beautiful, wonderful, extraordinary woman I have ever met.” I was struck dumbfounded. Had he really spoken those words to me? About me?
Nobody had ever attributed those words to me before, only him. My heart soared but not because of his compliments. My heart soared because I had only ever dreamed of him returning my feelings before. I had fallen in love with him when he arrived at our house for employment, I had just never dreamed he could love me back. “I’m sorry if I have overstepped my boundaries, Lady Anna, please forgive me.”
He turned to leave, but I grabbed his arm so he couldn’t. I leapt out of the coach, falling right into his arms. The kiss we shared was a thousand times more passionate than between Cinderella and Prince Charming. It was like fireworks had exploded over our heads, illuminating the kingdom for all to see.
When Angus looked at me, I felt more beautiful in that moment than in my entire life combined. It was magical, wondrous, spectacular. I never wanted to forget that feeling, it was the best gift he could have ever given me. “Run away with me,” Angus said. I stood in his arms, never wanting to leave them. I knew just as much as he did that if we returned home, Mother would never allow us to be together.
She would send him away and I would never see him again. Instead, I would be forced to marry someone else for convenience. I couldn’t live like that, not when I felt alive for the first time in a very long time. “It would be my pleasure to run away with you,” I replied, truly meaning it. Mother would be fine, she would have a true princess in the family with Cinderella. Zelly would marry soon too, it would only be a matter of time. They didn’t need me any longer, I was free.
Angus jumped up on the driver’s platform of the coach, picking up the reigns to begin our journey. “You’d better get back inside if you wish me to steal you away.” I looked at him, my heart leaping with joy, and then I looked inside the coach. I knew where my place was and it wasn’t inside. Instead, I climbed up on the platform with him. He laughed at my effort and the clumsy way I climbed in my dress.
It wasn’t made for such daring activities. “Surely you would be more comfortable inside the coach?” I laughed, feeling giddy with the excitement. “I belong right here, next to you. I will never leave your side.” Angus put his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. He held me there while he used his other hand to guide the horses along the cobblestone street. I put my head on his shoulder, feeling more happy and loved than I had ever felt before.
We rode out of town that day and never returned. I sent my family a letter explaining everything and why I made the decision I did. I didn’t leave a reply address so I don’t know if they ever fully understood my actions. Angus and I found a little cottage to live in after we married in a tiny chapel at midnight. We had four children, each one as happy and chubby as the next.
I never had to spend another second worrying about finding a husband who would love me, I knew I had found him already. I heard Cinderella went on to marry Prince Charming, just like I had predicted. I was happy for her, I only hoped she had found the kind of happiness her father had shared with my mother. Everyone in the world deserves to find that kind of love. Zelly found a wonderful Lord soon after. They met at the royal wedding and instantly fell in love.
She was the last sister to marry but I’m sure her marriage celebrations would have rivalled our step-sisters. I plan to reunite with her soon so our children can play together and get to know their cousins. Mother never remarried, her heart too broken by Cinderella’s father.
Her grandchildren keep her very busy and I’ve heard she spends much time at the palace annoying all the ladies-in-waiting. She’s probably trying to find them all a husband. So that was my story, I know Cinderella would tell it differently. She always was a drama queen who liked to be the hero in her tales. But everything I have spoken was the truth, believe what you will. And whatever you do, I hope you have a happily ever after, I know I did.
🔚 The End 🔚