by JM Prescott
I don’t know who names their daughter “Cinderella.” I would have thought they would be different from the kind of people who force their children into a life of servitude. But that was her name and that was her life. She was very nice, although I can’t believe she was as perfect as the telltale. No one is that agreeable.
Her two stepsisters (I can never remember their names), were not as ugly as the gossips would have you believe and I think the ”nasty” rumours were a little harsh. (Sometimes I wonder how a lot of these rumours get started.) I’ve heard the gossips whisper, “You would think her sisters might stick up for Cinderella from time to time.”
I have a sister, and she’s never stuck her neck out for me. Not even when our parents were on the rampage. (All I did was let a little of my hair out the window so my boyfriend could sneak in. The way my parents carried on you’d think I blew the house down.) My sister just stuck her nose in her potion book and didn’t resurface for three days. But then, I am no different. I have never butted in when her man’s caught giving her a wake-up kiss.
No, Cinderella’s sisters weren’t so out of the ordinary. In their defence, they didn’t have it easy. They were always being made to be perfect in the pursuit of a rich husband. Sure, being forced into a corset may not be as bad as having to sleep in the fireplace. Sure, they were pampered, spending their days in primping and self-improvement while Cinderella waited on them hand and foot. Maybe in hind sight the sisters could see that what was done to Cinderella was not fair, but they had their own problems.
In most of these cases it is customary to blame the parents. I do. Cinderella’s mother died when she was young, so I hardly blame her. Her father remarried then he just faded away. Some rumours say he died; some that he traveled; and some that he simply let his new wife run the house. The truth is, dead or not, away or silent, he did little to help his only child.
Cinderella’s stepmother, however, did play an active role in the narrative. She forced Cinderella into child labour and then forced every elegance on her own daughters, trying to fit them into some sort of fairytale ideal. Perhaps she had her own issues: low self-esteem or obsessive compulsive disorder. Who knows? The facts are, she did what she did, and no one really knows why.
So, once upon a time, as the saying goes, Cinderella (nice or not) and the stepsisters (nasty or ugly or not) lived with their abusive mother (and maybe a malingerer father) in the kingdom where I live. None of this really mattered to anyone outside their household until the prince gave a ball.
I don’t remember his name, either. I’m sure it was on the invitation, but I threw that out ages ago. (And his name hasn’t been in any tales since before the whole puss-in-boots controversy.) Yes, I got an invitation. Everyone in the kingdom got one, even Cinderella. (I would have loved to see the royal scribe’s face when he addressed that envelope.)
Of course, Cinderella’s stepmother told her she couldn’t go. She wrote her out a list of chores; forced her own daughters into two dresses only your mother would make you wear; and went to the ball with them. (I would rather be forced to spin straw into gold than go to a party that my parents were chaperoning.) Cinderella was left at home.
I don’t know anything about fairy godmothers or birds, but the long and the short of it is that Cinderella went to that ball despite her grounding.
I had on a new dress and was feeling pretty sexy. I’m a little short so I slipped on stiletto slippers made by the shoemaker’s brilliant elves. I was just hanging with the maidens waiting for the guys to get drunk enough to ask one of us to dance and making insensitive comments about Cinderella’s two stepsisters who were hanging back with their mother. (They must have been so humiliated.)
That is when the prince asked me to dance.
I curtsied and addressed him by his title. Then we danced. The royals know all the latest dance steps. I was shaking it pretty well, feeling sexy and all that. I knew my maiden-friends were turning greener than unripened pumpkins. He chatted me up; he was nothing if not a charmer. I’m not sure, but I think he grabbed my butt.
Then Cinderella came in.
She did look good. I’m not sure if she looked as hot as we all thought, but when you usually see someone in rags and covered in dirt, a bath and a pretty dress can do wonders for their image. Anyway, the prince noticed.
So, the prince and Cinderella danced and danced and we all called her names behind her back. (I don’t know why maidens are like that, but it’s just the way of things.)
I got several invitations to dance since all the other guys wanted a piece of what the prince had touched. (I don’t know why boys are like that, either.) I danced with Henry, Luis, Edward and William asked me to dance more times than I can remember.
I was having too good a time to pay any attention to anyone else. William had made a poor choice in tights and he couldn’t dance at all, but he had wit and he made me laugh. I hardly noticed the time pass until the clock began to chime midnight and Cinderella ran out like her dress was on fire. The prince took off after her and that kept the rumour mill buzzing for another two hours. I danced with William some more. It was a great party: by the end of it I’d almost forgotten about Cinderella.
The next day, I was hung over and desperately wishing coffee was more readily available in fairytales. You can imagine my surprise when another message came from the palace: another party. Well, I took two aspirin; dug out an old dress I was pretty sure no one would remember seeing me in, and went off to the ball.
It was the same story at Cinderella’s house. Her stepsisters were forced into two gaudy dresses and into the carriage with their mother. Cinderella was told to stay home. Having avoided punishment for her first delinquency, she snuck out again. She had another new dress; I don’t know where she got one on such short notice. (I think this is when the birds and fairy godmother rumours started.) The prince was equally taken with her. (She had the new-dress advantage.) After the first few dances we ignored them and just had a good time on the King’s tab.
William had taken my advice and done away with the tacky tights; he still couldn’t dance but he still made me laugh. After a few glasses of punch my headache was gone. I kicked off my stilettos and danced on a table. I was the life of the party until midnight when Cinderella took off again with the prince hot on her heals.
The third morning my headache was back and so was the Prince’s messenger: another party. I wasn’t going to go, but a maiden-friend talked me into it. William was going to be there and I didn’t want to be the one who couldn’t handle three nights in a row. So, I borrowed my sister’s dress (she said two parties were quite enough for her) and squeezed into my stilettos. I pretended to talk my Sister into coming, even though I was already wearing her dress and had no intention of giving it back. To my relief, my pathetic attempts to change her mind failed, (she had to get up in the morning for poison apple cooking class) and I went off to the ball.
It was all the same at Cinderella’s for try number three. (Her stepmother must be nearsighted to constantly be missing Cinderella’s appearance at the ball.) Cinderella had another beautiful dress and the Prince was equally silly about it. The party was louder then the first two (I think) but otherwise about the same. I had a killer outfit to match my killer headache; so William and I forwent the spinning and twirling on the dance floor and made-out in the enchanted forest. For that reason, I wasn’t there at midnight to see Cinderella and the Prince run out like the other nights. Later when I was told about it, I had to agree with what the gossips were saying: The first time she did it; it was surprising, the second time it was interesting, now it was bordering on rude.
Morning four, I finally got hold of some coffee and called in sick. (There was no way I was dealing with my troll of a boss the way I was feeling.) I was home alone, reading a tabloid-tale about the Big Bad Wolf and his latest scandal, when the Prince’s messenger showed up. I was so shocked; I nearly threw my coffee in his face. I was glad I didn’t though, after my next sip. (I discovered that coffee you don’t throw in the face of a king’s messenger tastes much better then it did before you didn’t throw it and I wondered if there was a way to market such a thing.)
I read the message. It wasn’t another party. This was good because I just couldn’t take any more fun. (I needed at least a month and a magic coffee pot to recoup from the last three nights.) However, no amount of time or coffee helped me believe what I was reading. I read the message seven times before I decided I must still be drunk and went back to bed. When I woke up the message said the same thing.
_The Prince will marry the maiden whose foot fits the glass slipper._
After three nights, you think he would know what she looked like above the feet. My sister said she would never marry such an idiot and baked an apple pie for her ex-boyfriend. My maiden-friends, however, thought it would be a lark if we all went to try it on. We packed sheepskins of coffee and little cookies (my sister had made) that said ‘eat me’ and headed down to the palace.
The line was long. Cinderella’s step-mother was there with her daughters and so were a few others. It looked like every sleeping beauty had woken up just to try on the shoe. (You would think they were giving away free Manolo Blahniks.) My maiden-friends and I camped out all day and all night to keep a decent place in the line but Cinderella’s stepmother and sisters were among the first when the doors of the palace opened.
I heard some people say that Cinderella’s step-mother was so obsessed with the idea of having a Prince for a son-in-law, that she cut off the toes and heels of her daughters. I think that’s pretty far fetched (although they were limping a bit after the whole thing was over).
Finally it was my turn.
I’m here to tell you that glass slippers are the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever had on. The entire royal court gasped. (Some of my lower class friends laughed.) I stood blinking on my aching feet. Cinderella wares a small slipper for her height.
“My love,” said the Prince, “at last I found you.”
“Uh,” I stuttered, “I don’t think this is my slipper.”
“What other maiden would have such delicate feet?” asked the Prince, “You are my love how can you be any other?”
“Actually size six is not that uncommon since dwarfs started wearing shows.” I informed him.
“Your wit matches your beauty,” he exclaimed.
“Uh, thanks,” and before I could argue more; he kissed me like no one should kiss someone standing on one high-heel glass slipper. I toppled. He caught me and kissed me again. (All of my maiden-friends were laughing at this point.)
The Queen waited a tasteful length of time and then interrupted her son’s sudden make-out session and asked me my name.
Finally able to talk, I declined the introductions and repeated: “I think I was mistaken, your majesty. I don’t think this is my slipper. It’s very like mine but I do not think it is mine.” I thought it best not to tell her that I had come to make fun of the Prince if I wanted to keep my head.
“The shoe fits you, my dear,” said the Queen.
“It’s a tinny bit tight, your majesty.”
“Well, my dear, after dancing all night, that is to be expected,” reasoned the Queen.
“I don’t think mine was quite this polished,” I ventured, “my slippers are more faux-glass than actual crystal.”
“Where did you lose your shoe?” asked the Queen.
“I beg your pardon, your majesty?”
“When did you first notice your shoe was missing,” repeated the Queen.
“I had had a lot to drink,” I explained, “over three nights…”
“If you had to guess…”
“Well,” I stuttered, and then I had a brainwave. (It must have been the caffeine kicking in.) Having not really lost my shoe at all and knowing when Cinderella probably had; I told the Queen: “sometime after one, I think.”
“No, my love,” piped in the Prince and I worried about the state the kingdom would be in if he were ever king. “You lost your slipper on the steps at midnight.”
Things were getting perilous. I had, in my intoxicated condition, stumbled into the wrong story and I wasn’t sure how to step out of it again. The slipper was getting tighter and tighter as the conversation progressed and I struggled to stay standing.
“If it pleases your highness;” I turned toward the voice. It was my sister. She curtsied and winked at me at the nadir of her bow. In her hand she had my stiletto slippers.
“Who are you?” asked the Queen.
“I am this maiden’s sister, your majesty,” she told the Queen. “She hastened this morning to claim her slipper which, she believed, she lost last night at the ball so graciously given by your majesties. However, shortly after her departure, the coachman returned from cleaning the carriage and delivered to me my sister’s lost slipper. I made great haste to come to the palace and inform her of her mistake.”
“Thank you,” I told my sister then bowed before the Prince and Queen. “I am sorry, your majesties, for my error. I will not detain you further.”
I wish I could say that I made a graceful exit at this point, but I’d be lying. It took a few minutes to pry the slipper off my foot. In fact it wouldn’t budge. I hopped on one foot, lost my balance and fell on my butt. In the end, my sister pulled while I lay in the dirt like a moron, and when the blasted thing finally did come off, I did a backward summersault out of it. (My foot was swollen and blistered for days.)
When we were at a safe distance, (which took a considerably long time because of the length of the line and my limping,) I threw myself on my sister in relief and joy I cannot express to you.
“Take your shoes,” she pushed them at me, “of all the stupid…” but she smiled.
Then we laughed. We laughed at the stupidity of the Prince and at the foolishness of the maidens lining up to be his bride and at my own idiocy for being among them. We laughed at a woman who was Queen and had all the benefits of that position, but had not used her power to attain any aesthetic knowledge of shoes. We laughed until we fell over and laughed at the ground.
Eventually Cinderella showed up in her rags and joined the end of the line. She was the last maiden in the kingdom to try the slipper (minus my sister) but still the Prince was reluctant to let her have her turn before she bathed. The Queen was tired of the foolishness and overruled him. When the shoe fit perfectly, the Prince embraced Cinderella with the same enthusiasm that he had me.
Cinderella accepted his proposal. Why? I don’t know. Maybe she really loved him despite his faults (of which, I could name many) or maybe she wanted to be Queen. Many say it was simply to get away from her horrible family. (She wouldn’t be the first maiden who married for that reason.) In any case, Cinderella married the Prince and they lived happily ever blah, blah, blah.
At my sister’s ex-boyfriend’s funeral, she and I were talking. She wanted to know why I went to try on the shoe in the first place. I thought I went for a lark, but in hind sight, I think I was just a little stupid. The truth is I didn’t really give it any thought. I’d like to blame it on too much fun and drink or a caffeine and sugar high but the truth is; I was in more control then I’d care to admit.
I sipped my punch and shrugged.
My sister smiled down at the corpse of her ex-boyfriend. He looked peaceful and preserved, lying there in his glass coffin. It was hard to remember the scoundrel he had been and he was handsome, aside from the dead thing. I don’t know why I did it; if it was the punch or if I was simply doomed to cross story lines, but I knelt over him. I kissed his still mouth and a crust of apple pie fell from his lips. He woke up and smiled at me.
“My Love, you’ve broken the spell,” he gushed.
My sister smacked me upside the head.
JM Prescott’s brain, forged by Mary Shelley somewhere north of Toronto, was wired to respond to shiny objects and to enter every shoe store she passes. She lives in a cave lined with twinkle lights, with a cat that is also easily distracted. She only comes out when it’s sunny or the roads are dry enough for the pretty shoes. Check out all things shiny at The Glass Coin [http://theglasscoin.com] or accept her dare at A Reader’s World [http://jmprescott.blogspot.com].