Why is it they always tell the girl’s stories: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and oh yes, Cinderella?
Palace PR will always have the final word. If they ever released the real story, the Charming family might not appeal to the mainstream.
Well, here it is. Not that I think it will ever get published, but I’m here to set the story straight, which is about the only part of the story that is straight, if you know what I mean.
You see, there were two of us. Ella and Elvis. Perfect twins save for a few details and a couple of them not-so-small, if you know what I mean.
It was me, Elvis, clad in a simple but tasteful gown, sobbing at the hearth when Step-Mommy Dearest and the twisted sisters took off for the ball. I’d dressed the trio in the finest silks and jewels our the remainder of our father’s fortune could provide and kissed Step-Mommy goodbye on her freshly shaven cheek. Oh, it was like swathing a pig-sty wall in brocade velvet, but Step-Mommy Dearest assured me that my sister and I would be out on the street if my inimitable style wasn’t enough to capture Prince Charming’s eye. My sister, Ella, was out in the barn weeping because the last of father’s finest bred race horses were consigned to auction to provide clothing for the Royal Ball.
You see, our Kingdom’s Prince was going to choose the fairest in the land to be his bride tonight. I wept as I settled the fireplace to burn for the evening. First, for the loss of our father who’d done his best to understand the son who’d rather have been a daughter and his feminine equivalent. Then, for the loss of my sister, Ella, who I was quite sure would go on the slave market’s block next after she’d mucked out the stalls and Step-Mommy had no further use for her. And, finally, selfishly for me because I would spend my entire life dressing women for events like these but only in my dreams could I wear the finery and dance in the candlelit marble halls.
“I wish I could go to the Royal Ball,” I murmured in a sultry contralto born of so many hours tending the hearth as I set the tongs back in their hook and readied myself to sleep on the rug before the fire until the trio returned and demanded I help ready them for bed.
A bell tinkled and I glanced up, ready to yell at the cat for messing with Step-Mommy’s things when I saw a cheerful faced rotund woman manifesting out of the firelight.
“I’m your Fairy Godmother,” her voice sounded like dawn breaking after a stormy night. “I’m here to grant your wish.”
Then, “Oh my, you’re not….”
“No,” I’d had enough of handsome men looking at my stunning face and then seeing their disappointment and dismay as their eyes traveled lower that I was lacking some of the finer attributes they expected to accompany such a visage. “But, I have dreams just like anyone else!”
“Of course, you do,” she soothed. “It’ll take a bit of work…”
“Let me see that,” I had the Magic Wand before she could say ‘bip’. I started with a dramatic collar of jewel encrusted lace to hide the ‘apple’ at my throat. Then, I clothed my sylphlike frame in a veiled creation that would darken the Northern lights for shame. Finally, I crafted crystal slippers for my great galumphing feet. The Fairy Godmother seized her wand back as I was admiring myself in the gold rimmed stand mirror, one of the few items from our real mother that Step-Mommy had kept. The rest were too small for her and her daughters. In truth, they had to stand back to see themselves in the mirror meant for a far slimmer silhouette.
Ella arrived at that moment, freshly bathed, smelling of hay and the salt of her tears.
The Fairy Godmother stared between the two of us, realizing Mother Nature’s ironic sense of humor. Even clad in faded livery, Ella cleaned up spectacularly.
“What do you think?” I twirled for Ella.
“Lovely,” Ella rolled her eyes. “If you go for frills and romance.”
“May I?” This time, I asked for the wand. I clad Ella in a gleaming suit of light armor accompaniment to my attire. Then, I pull Father’s ring and broadsword from a loose board beneath the woodpile.
“I wouldn’t have let Step-Mommy sell it,” I soothe her. “I just couldn’t have told you…” For all her pretentions at manly attributes, Ella couldn’t hold her liquor or conceal a good hand in cards to save her life.
“I’m not—“ Ella started to say.
“You don’t have to dance,” I tell her. “But no family would let such a prize as me out without a loyal knight to guard her.”
The Fairy Godmother nodded emphatically. “Now, to see you get there…”
Step-Mommy was going to be disappointed when she asked for a fresh pumpkin pie. After I dealt with that, I’d have to have Ella help me replace that quartet of mice I kept around the kitchen so my pet cat would not be turned out, too. On the plus side, we had a carriage and four matched grays that’d be the envy of the kingdom!
“One thing,” Fairy Godmother stopped us before we took off. “Not all of my magic can last forever. You must be home by midnight.”
The Palace was lit up bright enough to eclipse even the full moon. The minute the carriage stopped, I was out and making my way to the dance floor. Oh, those shoes were beautiful, but nearly as cruel as Step-Mommy to walk in.
Prince Charming took one look at me and sashayed down from his throne passing Step-Mommy and all the others without even a glance.
“That gown’s amazing,” he waltzed me out on the terrace away from the assembled toadies and sycophants.
Our bodies brushed close and he came in full contact with the biggest difference between me and Ella. I froze literally three-legged, believing he’d betray me and leave me for a laughingstock.
Instead, his mouth crushed against mine. In a heartbeat, we were ensconced in a private garden alcove. The evening was perfect. I’d never dared dream finding another such as me!
Dimly, I heard the bells tolling the hours. I was too drunk on passion to notice save to mourn the passing of time. But, I felt the sparkle leave me on the first note of the midnight bell…
“I must go!” I broke away from my Prince and rushed through the ballroom as each hour tolled. Only the few determined courtiers remained, the desolate less- attractive girls and their mothers hoping for a miracle. Enough of our magic remained that Step-Mommy only cursed us as we passed.
“Where have you been?” Ella screeched. Her armor was losing its sheen, but the sword in her hand still gleamed brighter than the romantic candlelight. “Hurry!”
Hand-in-hand, we rushed into the darkness taking the narrow ways home. We were breathless, but in place as the rented carriage wheels signaled the arrival of Step-Mommy and our dear sisters.
I did my work and ignored their clamorings. This was the one evening I’d probably get and I wasn’t going to let them spoil it. Oh yes, cynicism crept in. Of course, Prince Charming would choose a wife from among the commoners. She and her family would have no complaint about who he actually took to the bedroom at night. I wished it could have been me, but I knew the Fairy Godmother comes only once. After that, you have to make your own magic.
I didn’t know about the shoe until the royal party came to the house to try it on us. I knelt at the hearth, surreptitiously peeking at my Prince. Did he mean it? Could he love me?
I stared at the pristine glass, bewildered that it alone would remain of all I’d conjured.
First, Step-Mommy tried it on. As big as her foot was, it was still too small. Then, in turn, each of her daughters tried the shoe, naked hope and longing in their faces.
I’d been staring so hard at the floor, I didn’t realize His Highness spoke to me until I felt the prod of my step-mother’s foot. The woman’s face was red as a beet, but she wasn’t about to say the maid before them was indeed a youth!
“Every girl in the kingdom,” Prince Charming’s words held the weight of decree.
Our eyes met as I came forward and stepped my dainty, but overlarge foot into the shoe. Of course, it was a perfect fit. My Prince took me in his arms. We were wed on the Palace steps before the whole kingdom the next fortnight.
Happy ever after? We were gayer than any couple in the kingdom’s history!