August entry for Monthly Calendar Contest - A Cinderella Story with a twist - 2268 words
The Female of the Species
Dusty light beamed through the little kitchen window. Ella blinked as it struck her eyes. She wondered how long it would be before her step mother rose; she still had the floor to wash. Wearily, Ella filled her bucket with soapy water. She tutted as a wave sloshed over the edge and onto her toes.
Ella began to clean, stopping every so often to rub her back and take some deep breaths. She had been up since five, scrubbing and cleaning every surface. Just as she did every day. Now and then she allowed herself a moment to pause and dream of a different life.
Once Ella was satisfied with the floor, she listened hard, but there was no sound of any movement from above. So she made herself a coffee and rested her feet for a moment. Once more, her thoughts wandered to a life where she was loved, a life where she could stay in bed until ten if she wanted.
Ella’s thoughts were interrupted by the familiar thud of the day’s post hitting the floor. Bending to pick it up, she noticed something quite strange. There were identical letters addressed to her step mother, her two step sisters, her father and…yes…and her. She was never included in anything, she couldn’t wait to tear it open.
She turned the envelope over in her hands, examining the silver and gold of the paper. Her name stood out in swirly, pink letters; Miss Ella Cinderford. Resisting the urge to tear through the paper, Ella carefully unstuck the glue. As she lifted the treasure from inside, a sprinkling of silver and pink stars floated to the floor. She giggled and read the letter.
“His Royal Highness, Prince Thomas of Gloucester,
Requests the pleasure of the Company of
Miss Ella Cinderford
at the Annual Royal Ball
on 14th February 2015, 8pm onwards”
Ella suppressed a squeal of delight and tucked her invitation into her apron pocket. When she returned to the kitchen, her back seemed to hurt a little less and her feet weren’t quite as heavy. She dusted the cobwebs, which seemed to multiply at an alarming rate, and prepared breakfast for her family.
“Ella!” the sharp voice of her step mother cut into her daydreams. “What are you doing there? I told you to leave our breakfast until we are all here.”
“Oh, s-sorry, Mother, I forgot. Shall I start again?”
“Yes. But wait for the girls. Your father is in London on business, so it’s just the three of us today.”
Just the four of us, Ella wanted to reply. She was always overlooked. As she poured the coffee and orange juice away and cleared the toast from the rack, she felt the shine disappear from her magical invitation.
With her step mother and two step sisters seated around the breakfast table, idly making talk of their day’s plans, Ella produced the shimmering envelopes. “Oh, I almost forgot,” she said, “These came for you earlier.”
Ella’s sisters snatched their letters greedily whilst her step mother eyed her suspiciously before accepting the note.
“Oh, Mummy!” said Joanna, Ella’s youngest sister. “We’re invited to Prince Thomas’ s Ball. Oh, Mummy. What shall we wear?”
Mrs. Cinderford turned to her two daughters, beaming, and said, “Joanna, Susannah, you shall have the finest ball gowns ever made. Your father will see to it when he returns.” She turned to Ella with a smirk on her face and said, “You will be alright to stay here on your own, won’t you?”
The smile vanished when Ella replied, “But I won’t be here on my own, Mother. I am coming too. I received my invitation this morning, just like you.”
“No! I don’t believe you. Show me.” Ella handed over her prized possession and was crushed when her step mother tore it to tiny shreds and said, “So, Ella. You will be alright on your own here, won’t you?”
Ella could feel her eyes burning and her breath caught in her throat. She refused to give her so-called family the satisfaction of seeing her break. Instead, she held her head high and took shelter in her basement bedroom.
Ella dusted away the cobwebs and sank into her bed. It wasn’t long before she had no control over the tears that were fighting their way out of her eyes. She berated herself for thinking something nice could happen to her. She couldn’t have gone anyway, she had nothing to wear. Her clothes were all rags.
Over the next few weeks, talk of the forthcoming ball was a daily event. Both of Ella’s sisters had beautiful ball gowns made for them; matching, baby blue, full length robes. They looked beautiful, even on her sisters who were not blessed with good looks.
The subject which caused most titillation was the reason for the Prince’s Ball. Rumour declared the young Royal was desperate to find a bride. What better way to find one than to open your home to all the eligible young ladies in the county? Of course, Mrs. Cinderford was determined one of her daughters would be ‘the one’.
By the time the limousine arrived to collect the three ladies, anticipation was so high not one of them could stop talking. Ella watched the car drive away and felt a stab of anger, shooting from her chest.
She sat heavily at the kitchen table and crossed her arms. Before long, her head was resting in her hands and she was sobbing ferociously. The worst part was that her father had done nothing to help her. He never did. He always took everyone else’s side before hers. She hated him for it.
The intensity of Ella’s tears gradually subsided. In fact, she had almost stopped crying, when it happened. A flash of white light filled the kitchen and gold glitter fell from the ceiling. Then she appeared. The most beautiful woman Ella had ever seen. She was dressed in a flowing white dress and her blonde hair tousled around her shoulders.
Ella opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
“Ella,” the woman, who Ella had just realised sported wings, said, “My name is Karina and I am your Fairy Godmother.”
“M-my F-fairy Godmother?” said Ella, “But that’s not possible.” She paused, taking in the way the woman was hovering above the ground. “It’s not possible. Surely?” Ella added, more a question than a statement of fact.
“My dear Ella. You have been ill used for far too long, you have forgotten how to believe in magic.”
Ella nodded her head. Used. Yes. Magic.
“I know how much you wanted to go with your family tonight. Well, I am here to make sure you shall go to the ball.”
With a flick of her wand and more white light, Ella’s clothes were transformed into a beautiful, pink, lacy gown, which lightly brushed the floor as it whispered across the kitchen. Ella’s tiny feet were encased in pink glass slippers. She felt beautiful.
“One more thing,” Ella’s celestial friend added, “You need to make a spectacular entrance.” Another flick of the wand and this time, a shimmering, silver carriage, pulled by four white horses, appeared outside. Ella gasped and turned to thank her Fairy Godmother.”
“Just make sure you leave before midnight, Ella. The magic wears off once it hears the beating of the clock. Now, off you go and have fun.” With that, she was gone and Ella was climbing into her own horse drawn carriage.
As Ella waited to be announced at the Ball, Prince Thomas glanced towards her and their eyes locked. Ella’s heart raced as the Prince walked her way. Gently taking her arm, he walked her into the ballroom with the announcement of her name. Ella’s family, who were hovering around the edges of the Society, snapped their heads to see their servant girl arrive.
Ella’s father beamed and touched his hand to his chest. But his wife scowled at him and his face drained of emotion. “What’s she doing here? And where did she get that dress from? Was it you?”
“No,” Mr. Cinderford replied. “I have no idea where she got it.”
“She can’t be here, Harold. You know that. If the Prince falls for her, we are all in trouble.” The words hissed from the woman’s mouth and Ella’s father felt his heart fall through his stomach.
The music began at precisely 8pm and Ella was honoured to be Prince Thomas’s first choice of partner. Together, they swirled around the floor to a perfect Viennese Waltz. Ella’s dress sparkled and shone with fairy dust, encasing the pair of dancers in a magic spell.
Prince Thomas refused to take another dance partner all night. He couldn't draw his eyes away from this beautiful vision in pink. They danced, talked, fell into love with one another.
It was only as the clock began to strike midnight that Ella remembered her Fairy Godmother’s warning. She knew she had to leave straight away. The Prince stretched his arms after her in an attempt to keep her close, but it was too late. His Love was gone. All that remained was a tiny, pink, glass slipper.
Returning to the Ballroom, the Prince declared, “I shall search this land until I find the angel whose foot fits perfectly into this slipper. When I find this beauty, I will make her my wife.”
Excited chatter spread like fire across the room. In particular, between members of the Cinderford family. Both girls were convinced they would be the one, despite their hideously misshapen, giant sized feet.
Prince Thomas searched from house to house, eager to find the girl who had left with his heart. When he came upon the Cinderford residence, Joanna and Susannah shoved and pushed and squeezed their feet, trying to convince the Prince it was them he loved. But the slipper just didn’t fit.
“Are there any more unmarried women in this house?” the Prince asked Mrs. Cinderford.
Quickly, she replied, “No. That’s it. Now, go.” She took the Prince’s arm and began ushering him towards the door. Just as she reached for the handle, the Prince stopped dead, lilting his head to one side.
“Who is that sweet voice I hear?” he asked, turning towards the voice and walking, as though pulled by an invisible thread.
“Oh, that’s nobody for you to worry about. Just our servant girl. Come on, I’ll see you out.”
Ella entered the hallway, sweeping dust and cobwebs as she moved. She stopped when she saw the Prince’s shiny black boots and looked up to his face. “It’s you,” said Prince Thomas. “There is no need for you to try this slipper on. I would know you anywhere.”
The two kissed, stares of venom landing on their backs. Kneeling on one knee, Prince Thomas said, “Marry me, Ella. I love you, I want you for my wife.”
Ella melted into the prince and they kissed once more. Somewhere on the outskirts of his consciousness, the Prince could hear Mrs. Cinderford scolding him, warning him he would be sorry. But he just kept kissing his fiancé.
The day of the wedding was declared a national holiday. Celebrations rang throughout the land. When Ella glided up the aisle, on her father’s arm (despite his wife’s objections), there were gasps all over the cathedral. Ella was beautiful. Her inky black hair coiled around her face, her indigo eyes were alight with love. The wedding was perfect in every way.
The reception was filled with merriment and dance. Wine flowed freely and a sense of hope hung in the air. Thomas and Ella waited until a suitable moment, then announced they were leaving for their honeymoon.
Their first night together was in the Royal Hotel. The Prince had commandeered the entire building. He brought his own personal waiter from the palace. Champagne was chilled, a night of love was on the menu.
As Ella undressed, Thomas gasped when he saw his bride’s torso. Right in the centre was a shocking red hourglass. Ella saw her Prince looking and covered her stomach. “It’s my birthmark,” she whispered, her dark eyes fluttering. “It’s hideous, isn’t it? My mother had exactly the same mark. I’m very like her, you know.”
Taking Ella’s hands, the Prince led her to the enormous heart shaped bed. “It’s not hideous, Ella. Nothing about you could ever be hideous.” Lying back, the couple brushed each other’s lips, then consummated their marriage.
The Prince quickly fell into a warm, fuzzy stupor. But he was awoken by his bride nibbling his neck. He responded in a haze, turning to face his beauty. At first, all he could see was her eyes, more red than blue, staring intently at his face.
The next thing Prince Thomas saw were the fangs; razor sharp, bright white, sparkling fangs. He didn’t have time to recoil in horror before his Love sank her teeth into his flesh, filling his veins with Lover’s Poison. The Prince’s last words, “I love you Ella,” were lost in the gluttonous actions of his bride.
She ate quickly, hungrily, and devoured his entire body, licking her lips in satisfaction.
By the time the Prince’s waiter knocked on the hotel room door, he found poor Ella huddled in the corner of the room. Her shoulders were shaking with the force of her grief. “He’s gone,” she said, her hand brushing her stomach absentmindedly. He left me, just like all the others.”
Placing a protective arm around the new widow, Prince Thomas’s waiter found himself falling in love.