It’s been five days since the ball and I’m still on cloud nine. I’ve been swaying in my kitchen to the song the prince and I danced to since I got back to the estate. None of it seems real. The fairy godmother. The prince. The horses turning back into my mice friends. If I had both of my slippers, I would feel even better. But, of course I managed to walk myself out of my shoe and leave it at the palace.
Malvolia has been keeping an extra eye on me ever since the night of the ball. Although my fairy godmother assured me that my family wouldn’t recognize me while I was at the ball, a part of me worried that somehow she still knew. She had given me extra chores around the estate every day, never once letting me go to town or to the market. She had made Drisella and Anastasia go once and had hired someone in town to bring us things from the market another time.
I had done my best to hide any evidence of my night with the prince from my family, but a glass slipper is fairly hard to conceal with what little I had to myself. It was in my attic room under a floorboard for the moment until I figured out something to do.
I finally finish another ridiculous chore on the long list of things to do this week and stumble upon my sisters talking to each other about the prince.
“Apparently, they’re still looking for the girl that ran off from the prince. What a stupid girl. Probably some foreign princess who didn’t understand he wanted her to get away from him to begin with.” Drisella was saying.
“I heard that he has the glass slipper she left behind. I bet it’s worth a fortune. Rumor has it that if he can find the girl and the shoe fits, then…well I don’t really know. Maybe she’ll get the shoe back?” Anastasia says back.
“But no one has seen the prince in two days. He’s probably already moved on to someone new. But I think he’ll remember us. From the ball. I mean, he had to have his guard remove himself from us because he couldn’t choose.” I instantly roll my eyes at Drisella’s thought process.
If what my sisters have said is actually true, that would explain why Malvolia would want them to go back to town. And why she would want me to stay away. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that the prince was looking for the girl who lost her slipper.
He was looking for me.
But, how on earth could I get to the prince to let him know it was me he was with that night? I can barely leave the grounds without Madam yelling at me. Not that the prince would know where to look for me.
I pick up my saddlebag and head to the barn. I feel Madam watching me from her window as I saddle up my horse. My hands start sweating which makes it harder for me to tighten the straps needed. The meadow is in the opposite direction of the palace and she was always wanting the herbs and flowers I gathered there. This time, she doesn’t stop me as I finally mount my horse and take off.
I make it to the clearing in record time. It’s beautiful here in the early morning. The sun coming up over the trees seems brighter than usual as it fills the field with its brilliant light. It’s quiet now, except for the birds chirping and taking off from the perch in the trees, flying overhead into the sun and clouds, happy and free. I urge my horse forward as we enter through the trees and find Theo sitting on a log, his horse grazing near him. He looks over to where we’re coming in and I can see his smile from clear across the field. I dismount as he stands up and we meet each other in the middle as I let my horse go to graze.
“So, I heard you were looking for someone.”
“You would not believe how hard it is to find someone with just a first name and a rude name their family came up with to go on. It takes forever. Five days apparently.”
I laugh. “I came here as soon as I heard. My family has been keeping me in the house and away from the town and therefor all news of our charming Prince Theo.”
“Well, you said if I was ever in the forest again you might be there. I was just hoping you would come before winter rolled in.” I give him a playful nudge.
As his horse walks by to come eat the grass closer to my horse, he moves to reach into his saddlebag and takes out my other glass slipper.
I take off the old work shoe I’m wearing and give him my foot. The shoe easily goes on and I can feel myself smile and my heart flutter. When he looks up, his smile matches my own.
“Ella, Cinderella, whomever you think you are, you’ve always seen me as Theo. You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to just be him. When I’m with you, I feel like I’m not just this prince charming. I know we both have our problems and we have things we need to work on. I know it won’t be easy and there will be times when we’ll feel like there’s no way we’re going to get to where we want to be, but you make me want to take that chance. You make me want to get out of my room and that castle and be Theo again. So, with this shoe, I’m asking you to help me and in exchange I will help you. I will be there for you and with you through everything.”
For a moment, I’m awestruck. And then I find my voice. “Theo. You make me want to get that spirit and fire back that my mother and father always asked me to have. I may have lost that along the way, but together, I think we can both find our way back to who we’re supposed to be. I’m not promising anything, and I’m definitely not going to say this will work. But I know there’s no way that I can do this alone. No one should have to.”
With that, he takes my hand, gives it a kiss, and pulls me in to a warm embrace. It’s safe. It’s full of hope and maybe even a glimmer of happiness for knowing that we’re no longer alone in the constant struggle we’ve been fighting.