by Anxious Owl
What if Cinderella thought she was the ugly stepsister? A twist on a classic fairytale
| I recognized him from his portrait on the banknotes. He had a straight nose, and strong jaw, with chestnut brown hair that just fell into his deep blue eyes. If his identity had not been clear enough, his fine red doublet sown with golden thread, and the two guards that followed in his wake would have assured me that I was in the presence of royalty. Finally, I realized I was being rude- to the prince! And fell into a deep curtsy
“It was my fault your highness!” I insisted, “I was not paying attention. I should not have stood so without watching.”
“No, no,” he said. “It was my fault.” However, he no longer seemed interested in whom the blame belonged to, he was looking at my book. “The Complete Guide to Being a Gracious Spinster,” he read, frowning. “That hardly seems appropriate. I hope you did not find such a book in my library.”
I turned bright red.
“No your highness,” I kept my eyes lowered, “It is only a joke. In truth, it is The Odyssey,” I said. Andrew opened the book and looked inside.
“So it is!” he laughed, and finally returned it to me. “Well, madam I hope you accept my apologies. To express my regret, I shall have an invitation to the ball sent for you,” he said, handing me back my book. He turned to leave.
“Begging your pardon, sire,” I murmured. “We haven’t received an invitation yet, but I believe we, my sisters and I, that is, are already to be invited to the ball.”
“Oh?” he paused. “And what makes you say that?”
“Well, you see, Miss Georgina, er, Mrs. Rudding, the wife of your Mr. Thomas is our governess and she had hoped that…”
“Oh yes!” the Prince brightened. “You must be one of the Tremaine sisters. Thomas sometimes tells me of you.”
The prince knew of us? Did Thomas tell him stories of us the way that Georgina told us stories of him? I could not believe it. The prince knew me! Or, of me, at least.
“Which sister are you?” he inquired further.
“The second daughter,” I told him. I was still unable to meet his eyes, but my heart was beating crazily. He laughed at me.
“I meant to ask your name, miss.”
“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I am Drizzella,” I blushed again.
“Ah, yes of course,” he said. “The studious sister. I should have guessed from your book. Well then, Miss Drizzella, I shall save you a dance at the ball instead. Again, my sincerest apologies,” he smiled, bowed, and left. I curtsied, a bit too late, but I could not believe it. I had spoken to the prince!
The prince knew my name! He knew of me! I was the “studious” sister. I supposed Bella was the beautiful sister, but it mattered not for he knew me! I wondered if he felt like he knew me the way I felt like I knew him, though we had never met. Well it didn’t matter any longer. We had met. And he promised to save me a dance! I couldn’t believe it. Of the few lucky girls that would dance with the prince at the ball, I would be one. As I walked back and it seemed as if I was floating, or dancing. I glided home in a daze.
As I entered the house, Bella was upon me.
“They’re here!” she screeched, handing me my invitation and hugging me. Then she ran upstairs to find Anastasia. I followed her and went into the study, to find Georgina. I hugged her.
“Thank you,” I said.
“My pleasure,” she beamed.
“No,” I clarified. “Thank you for making me the ‘studious’ sister,” I smiled.
“Oh,” Georgina seemed caught off guard. “How did you find out about that?”
I looked around to make sure my sisters, or worse, mother weren’t nearby, then I leaned and whispered to her,
“I met the prince.”
“What?” Georgina’s shock was apparent, and satisfying to me. “How?” she persisted.
“I was outside the library-“
“You didn’t go in did you?”
“No. No. I was simply admiring the architecture,” I said. Georgina didn’t seem convinced, but I continued, “And he was leaving the library, and reading, and bumped into me.”
“You touched the prince?” she threw a hand over her mouth. I nodded.
“And! He has promised to save me a dance at the ball, to apologize!”
“Oh my dear, I am so happy for you! I know how you feel about him,” she hugged me, but I pulled away.
“How I feel about him?” I frowned. Georgina shook her head.
“Never you mind. Just enjoy the ball. It is almost upon us!” she placed her hands upon mine, which were holding the invitation. I couldn’t help but smile back.
Then suddenly Mother entered the room. Georgina and I straightened up instantly.
“Miss Georgina,” my Mother called. “Come, please.”
Georgina smiled at me and then followed Mother out.
A few moments later, my sisters and I were called into Mother’s study.
“Ladies, I hear you have received your invitations to the ball,” she folded her hands. “You have your gowns, shoes, carriage, horses. It appears everything is in order for next Saturday night. Only a few matters remain.” I shifted in my chair.
“Now, I am sorry to tell you that I will be hosting a very important dinner for your Papa’s lawyer and banker on the night of the ball. It could not be rescheduled. Therefore, I will not be able to be your chaperon.”
Ana, Bella and I each stopped breathing completely. She couldn’t keep us home now! I was going to dance with the prince! “However, Miss Georgina has graciously agreed to stand in for me. She will accompany you to the ball.” The three of us recommenced our respiration. “Though that issue has been solved, there is the problem of preparing for the dinner. This house must be cleaned from top to bottom, the good silver and china polished, the drapes washed, along with the good linens, and dinner prepared all before you each leave. If your chores are not finished, you will not attend the ball. Young ladies who do not live in a well-kept house do not belong at a royal ball. That being said, I have prepared lists for each of you, detailing each of your tasks.”
She handed each of us a sheet of paper with an ominously long list on it.
“Oh my,” I murmured, reading it. Bella positively wilted.
“I’m sorry to put so much pressure on you, but I cannot impress upon you the importance of this dinner.”
I nodded sadly, taking it all in.
“Oh,” Mother added an after thought, “and you will have to dress your own hair. There is no money to hire a hair dresser.” That was not a shock, I had expected it. Bella, however, pouted. Anastasia examined the ends of her frizzy hair despairingly. I sighed.
“Alright, that is all,” Mother messaged her temples as Ana and Bella slunk out.
“Thank you for letting us go,” I murmured to Mother as I left.
“You’re welcome, Drizzella,” she smiled at me with tired eyes. I left the room and read number one on the list.
Beat the drapes. I sighed as I looked up and saw how many pairs of drapes adorned our house. Then I rolled up my sleeves and started working.
That long week I finally began to understand Bella. When I was supposed to be completing my chores, I found myself daydreaming. I would be in the middle of scrubbing the floor when suddenly my mind would wander off. I would daydream about what the ballroom would look like, about all of the fine ladies and lords dancing, skirts swishing, music playing.
But most of all I would dream about him. I kept replaying our encounter in my mind. I replayed the way he stopped to pick up my book, so kindly. I thought often of his laugh. His laugh was so easy and open hearted. There was no meanness in it, even as he was laughing at me. I wished I could laugh at the world that easily. Plus, he didn’t even seem to mind that a woman was reading The Odyssey. And when he called me the studious sister there was not a hint of derision. I wished I could tell Mother, but then she would know I had disobeyed her. So I kept the affair to myself.
At least twelve times a day, I would imagine us dancing. I imagined a million different scenarios, but they all followed the same form: I would be standing on the edge of the room, pretending not to watch him, and waiting. Then, suddenly, he would find me in the crowd, and our eyes would meet. He would smile, and walk towards me.
“May I have this dance?”
I’d nod, and take his out-held hand. My heart would jump into my throat as he led me onto the dance floor. What if I was clumsy? What if I tripped? Or stepped on his toes? But then he would smile at me again and all anxiety would disappear. He put his hand on my waist, the music would start, and we would dance. As he led me around the dance floor, we would talk about books, or the music, or the other guests at the ball. Everyone would watch us with envious eyes.
Sadly, the music would always end. In my mind, sometimes he would come find me for another dance, or we would stroll in the gardens. In my wildest dreams, he sometimes came to call the next day, or next week. And only in the most ridiculous of those dreams, he would sometimes bring a ring, a delicate little ring with a shining star set in a gold band, and offer it to me, along with a future of perfect, lasting happiness.
Then, suddenly, I would realize I was still holding a sponge in the middle of a soapy floor. I would shake my head and try to go back to concentrating on work. But it would not be long before I was again dreaming of Prince Andrew.
Bella was in an equally debilitating daze. Anastasia, though, worked with extreme determination. I’m not sure she cared so much about making sure she could go to the ball as she did about making sure she had time for her equestrian lessons. Regardless, I tried to mimic her work ethic.
As a result, I spent every second outside of lessons and sleep working at my chores. I had not a moment for reading, or leisure. It was exhausting, but as the day of the ball approached, I could see that I would be finished with my chores in time, and began to breathe easier. Now, nothing could stop me from going to the ball.
Bella, on the other hand, seemed to have the opposite reaction as the ball drew nearer. She became more frantic, flying about the house, trying to finish her chores as quickly as possible. I doubted she was completing them well. There were streaks on the windows she had washed and I was certain she had forgotten several items when she went to the market. But I was too busy trying to finish my own work to do more than worry about her.
Then finally, Saturday arrived. It was time to prepare for the ball, so Ana and I reported to Mother’s study.
“Mother,” I said. “We’ve finished our chores. May we get ready for the ball?”
Mother looked up from her papers.
Ana and I looked at each other.
Mother’s face became ashen. Then she put down her things and strode down to the kitchen. We followed in her wake, eyes downcast.
When we reached the kitchen, Bella was covered in flour and sobbing.
“I’ll never finish in time,” she cried. “I’ll never get to go to the ball,” she wiped her nose with her powdered hand.
“Maybe if we all help,” I began to murmur.
“No.” Mother snapped. “You both finished your chores in a timely manner, as we agreed, so you will go to the ball. No reason for all three of my daughters to stay home.” She stepped towards our weeping sister. “Bella, why have you not finished making the dinner for our guests?”
“I, I, I forgot to go to the market this morning, because I was trying to finish the laundry quickly, and then I forgot the eggs because I was hurrying so I had to go back, and then the flour package wouldn’t open and now I have to clean this too and, and,” Bella fell back into sobbing.
“I’m sorry dear, but you know how important this dinner is. If you finish in time, you may go with your sisters. But if not, you must stay and finish. The carriage will be leaving at eight, as we had planned before. Now, I will help you clean up this mess, but then I must prepare as well. Now, dry your tears.”
Bella nodded, chin trembling.
“It’s not fair,” she coughed out between sobs as she tried to steady herself. “It’s not fair.”
Anastasia and I backed out the room slowly.
“Do you think we should help her?” I whispered to Ana once we were out.
“Mother said not to,” Ana answered.
“Mother will help her,” she assured me. “We need to get ready, or we shall be late. I would hate to make a scene by arriving late.”
What would Andrew think if we were late? I thought. I was about to follow Ana upstairs to get ready when the bell rang. I went and answered the door.
“Grandmother,” I said as the small pink clad woman brushed past me into the house.
“Where is Bella?” she asked. She had a package in her hands.
“I-In the kitchen,” I stammered. I hoped she and Mother wouldn’t fight when she saw what had happened.
My hopes were dashed immediately. I heard frightening shouts coming from the kitchen before I even reached the stairs. I was too nervous to try to intervene, though. Instead, I went upstairs to prepare.
I put on my dress and ridiculous shoes. I lined my eyes with kohl and placed a dash of rouge on each cheek. Then Ana came in, and I attended to her hair. After many failed attempts, I managed to make her hair behave enough to stay in a braided bun. I pulled out little curls in front of her ears, which downplayed their size and gave her a soft look.
Next it was my turn. Ana twisted my hair into a beautiful bun, with relative ease. Despite my hair’s determination to remain an even mud color, regardless of how much sun I did or did not get, it almost looked pretty pulled and twisted in so many directions.
“There,” Anastasia said as she finished. I smiled in the mirror, for a moment. Then remembered the gap between my teeth and closed my mouth. I kept smiling with my mouth closed though.
“It’s wonderful Ana, really, thank you,” I squeezed her hand.
“Don’t move,” she said, as she ran into her room. When she returned she was holding a yellow rose. “I picked this for you in the garden,” she said. She tucked it into my hair at the base of my bun. It's sweet smell wafted down to me. “I thought it might distract people from the velvet ones on your feet.” I forgot all about hiding my teeth and laughed.
“Thank you,” I said. It added just the right touch. “It’s perfect.”
“Thank you for letting me have the blue shoes!” she hugged me from behind. I laughed again, and then she left to find her handbag.
I faced off with my reflection in the mirror. I was plain, at best. There was no getting around that fact. My eyes were small and boring, my nose a little too big, and my lips thin. But I was the best I had ever looked. Not beautiful, but almost pretty. It would have to be enough.
After a moment I frowned at my reflection. Bella had never come up. I went downstairs and stepped into the kitchen.
“Bella?” I said gently. She was flying all over the kitchen, stirring different pots and pans, and checking the oven. Grandmother sat in the corner, beating some eggs. No one answered me.
“Bella?” I tried again. “Do you want us to wait? We can wait a little longer if you like, I won’t tell Mother,” I hated to leave her. It didn’t seem right.
“Just go,” she snapped.
“Just leave! Have fun! I won’t be done any time soon. It’s no use! Just go!”
She finally turned and looked me in the eye.
“Leave,” she repeated.
“Drizzella?” I could hear Ana calling me from the door. “Drizzella are you coming?”
“Ok,” I said quietly to Bella and tiptoed out of the kitchen as she went back to furiously cooking dinner. I joined Ana at the door and we walked out to find the carriage waiting for us.
Fred was there to open the door for us, and I swear the poor fellow’s jaw almost came off. He stood staring at Anastasia for a full minute. Ana blushed and swished her skirt around bashfully.
“How do I look?” she asked.
“M-m-miss A-” Fred stammered. He could barely pronounce her name. He gulped. “You look,”
Anastasia giggled nervously. Fred cleared his throat.
“You look beautiful miss,” he finally said.
“Thank you,” Ana said, still blushing.
“You look beautiful as well, Miss Drizzella,” he said to me. I smiled knowingly at him and got into the carriage. Georgina was waiting there for us. Ana could not stop smiling throughout the entire ride to the palace.
When we had almost arrived I said to her,
“Would you stop smiling like a fool? He only gave you a compliment.”
“But did you see the look on his face?” she beamed. I shrugged. She was right. I would give anything for a boy to look at me that way. As the thought crossed my mind, we arrived.
My heart beat faster as I took in the sight of the palace. Hundreds of torches illuminated hundreds of windows. They were like little fireflies spiraling up the towers, which one after another grew taller and taller. The tallest tower grew out of the top of the castle like a great sword thrust into the sky. Music could be heard drifting out of windows and the great door to the ballroom. Steps led up to a door that seemed to have been made for a giant. It was made out of huge wooden beams, and covered in ornate wrought iron designs. The humongous doors had been flung open for the occasion, with two guards on either side, and light from the ball pouring out through the middle like a beacon. Fred came around and opened the door for us, but I stayed sitting, mesmerized by that great light. Somehow, my daydreams had stepped into reality.
“Miss Drizzella?” Fred called, holding out his hand. I could not move a muscle. It was like my arms and legs had been locked in place.
“Miss Drizzella?” He called again. Finally, I shook myself, and taking a deep breath, took his hand and stepped out of the carriage.
Carefully, I ascended the steps and stood in the doorway. Before me lay the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
The ballroom was crowded with lords and ladies dancing. There were dresses of all colors, pale greens and blues, bright reds and oranges. They swirled and swayed this way and that in time with the music. They looked like the rainbows you see in glass when the light hits it. Everything else was gold. The chandeliers were gold, the walls were painted in gold leaf, the thrones were guilt, and the crowns atop his and her majesties’ heads were made of solid gold.
And, there, in the center of the dance floor, in a golden doublet, shining like the sun, was the prince. Everything in the room seemed to come back to him. The ladies at the sides of the room followed him with their eyes, the other couples dancing took their lead from him, and the girl he was dancing with looked as if she would burst with sheer happiness at any moment.
“Ladies Anastasia and Drizzella Tremaine, and Mrs. Rudding,” the crier announced as Ana and Georgina came up beside me.
Just breathe I told myself as we descended the stairs together. Andrew seemed to have heard our names and looked up. He smiled at me. I nodded, blushing. Maybe it was the room, or the music, or his smile, but despite my horrible yellow dress, despite my ugly velvet shoes, and despite my nervousness, I felt beautiful.
We arrived on the dance floor and took a spot in the corner.
“Did you see the way he looked at me?” Ana sighed in my ear.
“The prince?” I said dreamily.
“Oh. Yes,” I answered distractedly. I was trying to look through the crowd to see Andrew.
“He, he- I can’t describe it,” she sighed. “Izzy it’s like I’m floating- or dreaming. What am I going to do?”
A man in a purple doublet emerged from the crowd at that moment.
“May I have this dance?” he asked Ana.
“Oh, um,” Ana looked at me desperately.
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
“I suppose so,” she smiled weakly and took his hand.
Once they had gone, Georgina stepped closer to me.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” I said.
“It is,” she nodded. “It’s a shame Bella couldn’t be here.”
My mood suddenly came crashing down. I had entirely forgotten. Guilt washed over me.
“It is,” I replied.
Luckily, at that moment a gentleman arrived and asked me to dance as well. I smiled and accepted. Dancing restored my mood quickly. It was like being in a kaleidoscope. Everything swirled around in so many bright colors that it was impossible to be sad.
Soon the dance ended and my partner left me on the edge of the dance floor again. I stood with Georgina watching the spectacle as I waited for another man to come along. One song ended, then another, and another man did not come. It seemed forever that I waited. My happiness began to fizzle out again.
Just as I was going to despair of ever having another dance, he appeared. He emerged out of the crowd, smiling his charming smile. At first, I thought he must have been coming for the girl next to me, or in front of me, but his path never diverted and in a moment, the prince himself was before me.
“Miss Drizzella. There you are. How did you manage to find yourself so far in the corner?” he asked. I looked around. I was quite far back.
“I don’t know,” I murmured.
“I had quite a difficult time finding you,” he told me.
“You looked for me?” I could not wrap my head around the idea.
“Yes. I did promise you a dance after all. But if it hadn’t been for the color of your dress,” he motioned down at my obnoxiously bright gown, “I’m afraid I never would have found you.”
I smiled again. Thank you! Wonderful dress! I thought. Before I could believe it was happening, the prince and I were whirling around the dance floor. Everything else seemed to blur as we moved around the room. It was as if all the world were out of focus, except for him. He was perfectly clear to me.
“How are you finding The Odyssey?” he asked.
“Oh, well I haven’t had very much time for reading lately. But I have really enjoyed it so far,” I said.
“I’m glad,” he replied. “And how did you find The Iliad?”
“Yes. It precedes The Odyssey,” he informed me.
“Oh well, I haven’t read it,” I blushed. He must have thought me ridiculous.
“I will have to have a word with Georgina then!” he laughed. I loved his easy laugh, “and I will see that you get a copy. I can have it bound for you as well. What would you like as the cover? A Lady’s Guide to Living Alone perhaps?”
“The Young Spinsters Almanac? Or a Lonely Lady’s Index of Feline Companions?”
I continued to laugh. He was funny, just as Georgina had said- just as I had imagined him. He thought I was going to be a spinster, of course, but there was no meanness in his voice. He had wanted to make me laugh! For a lady of no wealth or beauty, that was quite something.
“However it is bound, I shall love it,” I told him.
“Good. I shall have it delivered tomorrow,” he said, smiling.
“Thank you,” I said. He grinned.
“What book did you take from the library, your highness, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. I-“ All of a sudden he was no longer looking at me. His words seemed caught in his throat and he was staring up over my shoulder. His jaw was open in a look of wonderment. The dancing around us slowed, and stopped. Chattering started up all through the floor as the guests began to whisper:
“Who is she?” “How dare she come late?” ”Wow she’s beautiful” ”Who is she?”
I followed Andrew’s gaze and turned.
Bella was standing at the top of the stairs. She was more gorgeous than I even imagined she would be. Her pale pink dress swished gracefully around her, and sparkled in the light of the chandeliers. Her hair was perfectly coiffed and crowned by a small tiara of pearls that I had never seen before. A matching set of pearls hung around her neck. And, of course, her perfect little shoes glittered just beneath her dress.
She hesitated nervously at the top of the stairs, the crier was gone and she wasn’t sure how to proceed. But then she began to descend. Prince Andrew let go of my hand and his other hand slipped off my waist. He murmured some excuse and then I watched him walk away from me, as if in a trance, to the edge of the dance floor where he met my sister. Just as he reached her, a new song began. Wordlessly, he held out his hand, and Bella took it. Then they were off. Just like that, he was spinning her around the dance floor.
I stood there, in the middle of the room, by myself. For a moment, I could only stand, watching them. As I had anticipated, no man looked at me while Bella was in the room. Whatever claim I’d had to the attentions of the prince was gone. He was under her spell. He’d completely forgotten I existed. I stood, rooted to the place where he had left me, as if the thought weighed me down.
Bella laughed and smiled. There were stars in both their eyes. My heart twisted in my chest. After a moment, a dancing couple bumped into me. The woman glared, and the man harrumphed. Then another couple bumped into me. The next thing I knew, Georgina was dragging me off the dance floor and out of the way. My eyes never left the prince and my sister though.
The music suddenly seemed discordant, and the colors garish. Georgina was saying something to me, but I wished she would just let me alone. I couldn’t comprehend a word she was saying anyways.
“Bella’s here,” I said, over her. How could I have imagined that he was interested in me beyond mere acquaintance?
“I know,” her words finally pierced the fog around my brain. “I was just asking you about that. How did she get here?”
“I don’t know.”
“She looks lovely.”
“She’s the most beautiful girl at the ball,” I said.
Georgina paused for a moment.
“Did you have fun dancing with prince?”
“Yes,” I whispered, watching him lead my sister about the floor. “He was wonderful.”
Then we were silent again, and watched them.
“Oh, it appears the song is ending. Perhaps Bella will come here and tell us about her night,” Georgina said. Bella and Andrew were on the other side of the floor. As the music ended, though, Bella did not come back to us and the prince did not let go of her hand. Instead, they stepped out into the garden, alone.
“Well that is not proper at all!” Miss Georgina gasped.
“But it’s the prince,” I said. There was nothing she could do. When they were gone, however, I noticed girls all around the ballroom watching them. The question of who she was kept circling around the room, each time with more jealousy and anger, until it became “Who does she think she is?” which was quickly followed by “Why should the prince waste his time on her?”
Girls began gathering around the entrance to the garden, like wolves preparing to pounce. They made me nervous, so Georgina and I went over to watch them. After a while, Bella and Andrew could be seen through the gate.
“It has been a pleasure,” Andrew said, kissing Bella’s hand.
“But I must be getting back,” he said.
“Do you really have to?” Bella asked. Andrew laughed and touched her chin.
“I’m afraid so, but I shall see you later, I hope?”
“As your highness wishes,” Bella curtsied.
“Call me Andrew,” he said. Bella blushed.
“Andrew,” she said softly. The prince smiled, and then left her. He hardly seemed to notice the crowd of women that had amassed around the garden door. Once he had left, Bella sat on a bench in the garden and looked dreamily at the stars. There would be no peace for her, however. Slowly the gaggle of jealous girls began to filter into the garden.
“Who are you?” the first asked.
“I’m Bella,” she smiled. “Who are you?”
“That’s none of your business,” the woman shot back. Another woman pressed in. “Why would the prince dance with you?” Another crowded in after her.
“Who are your parents?”
Bella’s eyes widened as she took in the crowd pressing in on her.
“Um, um I’m no one,” she said, standing. She began to back up. I tried to press in closer to her, but only received several elbows for my pains.
“Why would the prince take 'no one' into the garden?” they began to ask.
“What have you done to him?”
“What is your plan?”
“Where did you get that tiara? How insolent!” One of the women grabbed pearl crown from her head.
In that moment Ana was beside me. She had been drawn over by the crowd.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Go call for Fred,” I told her.
“Why? What’s happened?” she craned to see what was going on.
“It’s fine. Just go get the carriage,” I told her. Without further questions, she turned to fetch the carriage. When she had gone, I employed my own elbows and forced myself to the front. Bella was fighting over the crown with the woman.
“It was my grandmother’s!” Bella was squealing.
“Ma’am,” I interjected. “Please give my sister back her tiara.”
“Why should I?” she sneered.
“Because if you don’t I will have to tell the prince,” I looked her in the eye.
The woman frowned at me but let go of the tiara. Bella took it back and then stood behind me. The crowd of women were staring Bella down. In her, they saw their dream of marrying the prince slipping away. From the hungry look in their eyes, I could tell that they had thought of nothing else for a long time. It was frightening, even to me.
“These really are terrible sleeves for a gown,” the first woman said, running her hand over my shoulder. I shrank away from her. “Not appropriate for a royal ball at all,” She continued. “Disrespectful really. Especially in that tattered state,” with no more ado, she ripped the sleeve of my gown. I gasped. I was instantly furious, staring down at the frayed yellow sleeve. I took a deep breath to calm myself.
“Let’s go Bella,” I said, and turned. I began to drag Bella behind me,
“Where do you think you’re going?” one woman called. She grabbed the string of pearls around Bella’s neck and pulled. Bella screeched as she was choked for a moment, then the string snapped and pearls fell all over the floor. They bounced away under everyone’s feet and Bella and I began to slip. The mob had lost all restraint, then, and began tugging at Bella’s dress. Palace guards noted the disruption and made their way toward the fray, but upon arriving, balked at the idea of man handling the wives of their patrons.
“Izzy!” Bella yelled, beginning cry as the crowd grew more frantic. I dragged her by the hand began to run. Georgina joined us as we fled. The women followed us, chasing Bella, the threat to their dreams.
Across the room, I saw Andrew look up at the disruption. His brow wrinkled, though somehow he still looked handsome when he was concerned. Immediately he began making his way toward us, but we had no time to stop.
I hurried Bella up the stairs. Both the prince and the mob of ladies were trailing behind us. I was breathing heavily and Bella was gasping between sobs. I could tell the run was hard on Georgina as well. It didn’t occur to me until then to worry about her condition, but I could do nothing at the moment.
We were half way up the stairs when I heard Bella cry out. I turned, afraid the women had caught up to us. They had not. Instead, one of Bella’s shoes had come off. It lay glittering on the steps behind her.
“My shoe!” Bella cried.
“Go,” I told her, letting go of her hand. She hesitated. “Go! I’ll get it!” I told her. She nodded and ran with Georgina. I turned back for the shoe.
I had just gotten back to it and had it in my hands, when another hand landed on it. I looked up, ready to rip it away from a jealous duchess. But when I raised my head, I was nose to nose with the prince. He had caught up, and bent to pick up the shoe, just as I had. His eyes flicked from my face, to my ripped dress, and back again, confused.
“What has happened?” he asked. But there was no time, as the women from the garden drew closer. They slowed as they saw the prince, but did not seem as if they would stop. They had lost all reason.
“Here,” I thrust the little shoe at Andrew. “It’s custom,” I told him. “Ask the cobbler, find us.” Then I turned and fled.
Fred and Ana were waiting for us at the palace steps, and we all piled quickly into the carriage. Then Fred whipped the horses and we sprinted away.
I could hear the bells of the castle chime midnight in the distance as we rode away. I sighed.
“Hi Bella you made it!” I said, turning to her with fake enthusiasm. She ignored my attempt to lighten the mood and burst into a fresh set of tears. I gathered her in until her head was on my shoulder. Ana gently rubbed her back and whispered with Georgina.
She cried the whole way home while I watched the palace fade into the distance.