The ball is today. My dress isn’t finished and my hair is a wreck, but today is the day. Of course Malvolia gave me enough work for three days to be finished in one, but I have finally almost finished all of the worthless and grueling chores she wrote out for me.
The second I came home with the good news, my step family screamed with excitement. Preparations were immediately made for new dresses and accessories to be made and bought, and our carriage and horses were to be washed clean and spotless. Wheels waxed and manes brushed.
My sisters protested at the thought of me going with them, but Madam was strangely okay with it, as long as I got my work finished that is. She wouldn’t buy me a dress or anything, but at least she didn’t say no. All I had to do was endure a carriage ride to the castle with my family and I was free. Daisy would be there along with the other girls that used to work here and I could dance the night away. Carefree for the first time in years.
And Theo could be there. That was just a bonus.
I finally finish scrubbing the floors and slowly get up from my hands and knees. My hands are slightly wrinkled from all the water from the last hour or so and my knees are red from kneeling on the ground. But none of that stops the smile from spreading across my face as I pick up my bucket and scrubber, dump the water and supplies in the kitchen, and race up to my room to get ready.
I still have a few hours until our carriage is to arrive and I’m not going to waste a moment of it. I run upstairs to my attic room and get to work.
Sitting in my little wooden chair, I look at what I’ve done so far. I used one of my mother’s old dresses and just tweaked it up a little to make it more up-to-date. I added some ribbon and took away some frills. All I had to do now was add some tulle underneath the skirt to make it pop more. I sew all afternoon, working my magic to make the old pink dress as beautiful to everyone else as I always thought it to be. I finish my work just as the sun begins to disappear behind the trees.
I quickly slip out of my work clothes and go to my water basin to wash myself off and fix my hair into something that doesn’t look like a rat’s nest. I slip on the dress and look at myself in the old mirror that sits by my bed.
I look just like my mother.
I can’t help but smile. Finally, I slip into a pair of my best shoes and put on a string of pearls that also belonged to my mother. I’m not a princess by any means, but I feel absolutely beautiful.
I hear the horses whinnying as the carriage pulls up into the drive and I rush downstairs so I don’t get left behind. As I’m coming down the stairs, I’m met with looks of shock and disdain from my step-family.
“Mother, I thought she wasn’t coming,” Drisella says as she looks me up and down.
“I’ve finished all my chores. And I’ve cleaned up as best I can. I—“ I stop myself short when I catch Malvolia staring at me.
My sisters are dressed to the nines. Well, at least for them. Drisella has a large, poufy green dress on, all bedazzled and feathered up. Feathers and jewels adorn her hair with her particular color of choice just like her sister. Anastasia looked similar in her purple dress that made her look like a giant grape. My sisters were dressed too gaudy for my taste, but if they were happy perhaps they would leave me alone.
My step-mother looked much more regal and far less gaudy than her two daughters. While her ball gown was still full of jewels and had enough tulle underneath to get lost in, she was dressed for a night of mingling with the royalty she so desperately wanted to be a part of. And she was staring at me in the most distasteful manner I have ever seen from her. I could feel myself start to change under her look, but I focused on my breathing, turning my eyes away from hers. She wouldn’t ruin tonight for me. I would see my friends. I would see Theo.
“She’s not going anywhere, girls.”
I look up into her hateful green eyes which glimmer with utter dislike.
“I have finished my work madam. Just like you said to.” I hate the way my heart races and my breathing constricts as I talk to her.
“You won’t go anywhere looking like that with us. What are you wearing, Cinderella? Where did you drag those rags from?”
My stepsisters giggle, loving every moment of this. My palms start sweating and my head starts racing. “It was my mother’s dress. I fixed it up myself. Using my own money, of course.” Somehow I manage to get out a few sentences.
“Mother, she thinks she looks good, doesn’t she?” Anastasia laughs.
“Tell her how bad she looks, mother. Tell her!” Drisella says, looking up at Malvolia.
“Cinderella. That dress is a disgrace, just like your mother apparently was. You won’t be going anywhere with us. You’re nothing more than a servant girl. This ball is for the prince to find a bride. Do you think it could be you? No, of course not. But my girls, it could be them. Especially if their image isn’t tarnished with your presence. Are those tears in your eyes? What a wretched girl you are. Don’t waste your tears, you’ll garner no sympathy from me. Run off, Cinderella. We have a carriage to get to.”
With that, my “family” laughs and walk out the door, leaving me at the bottom of the staircase crying and utterly alone.
I don’t move until I hear the footman urge the horses forward and the carriage rolls out of sight. I run out the front door and go to my favorite bench which sits underneath a tree my parents planted when they first moved onto the property. I sit on the bench, put my face into my hands, and let the tears fall. A minute goes by before I feel someone else coming near.
Someone peeks around the tree and looks at me. An older woman by the looks of it, dressed in rags and using a cane to hobble her way around the remainder of the tree. When she gets close enough to see, I notice she has wavy, gray hair and a kind face. Probably a traveler who stumbled upon our estate on the way to the town.
I quickly dry my tears and move to stand up, but she puts a hand out telling me to stay seated. “Are you alright, my dear?”
I let out a sigh and try to put a smile on my face. “Yes, I’m fine. Do you need help? Food or directions perhaps? Are you on your way to the ball?”
The old woman smiles but shakes her head. “No, dear, I am not heading to the ball, but you are.”
I know I have to have a strange look on my face, but the lady still smiles. Around her, the air seems to sparkle, getting brighter every second. In a flash, the woman spins and her rags turn into l, sparkly dress of silver. She looks like she’s made of diamonds. Her wavy gray-white hair falls across her shoulders and her clear blue eyes shine in the moonlight. She has to be an angel.
“My dear, I’m your fairy godmother. I’m here to make your dreams come true and get you to that ball. Now, dry up those tears and let’s get to work.”