…and they lived happily ever after…
Cinderella had everything a girl could want. Her marriage was wonderful. The prince treated her fantastically. Otherwise, she was bored. A year after marrying the prince, the girl who was so used to working hard, had everything done for her. She tried to stay busy but there was nothing to do.
She loved animals; after all, her best friends were mice when she lived with her step mom. She found solace at the palace stables. She loved to ride and take care of the horses. Eventually the stable hands accepted her when they realized that she worked hard and truly cared for them and the animals.
She had heard whispers before about the prince and wild ways. She thought of it as gossip and silly rumors. He always had been good to her she didn’t care if he got a little crazy on his trips away. He was the perfect gentleman when she was with him. It was at the stables one winter afternoon when she started to give it some real thought.
She was brushing a fine mare when she overheard the stable hands. They were unaware of her presence.
“Crazy he is, I say. He will get himself caught a fooling about like he is.”
“Yeah, they all the same them damn royals- all gussied up and proper and yet they behave like common riff-raff. I daresay peasant ruffians treat their womens better than they.”
Cinderella repressed her doubts as the prince spent most of the spring at the palace. The affairs of the kingdom were apparently in order because he did not leave for many weeks. They enjoyed many days and evenings together riding coaches about, dining with friends and spending evenings together. The prince did not share Cinderella’s interest in horses. He was a fine horseman but he did not fuss over the animals. He preferred to ride in a coach and only rode if training or duty demanded it. Cinderella told him that she rode daily and loved the animals but she her work in the stables never came up. She thought he would be unhappy with her. He told her once to stay away from the kitchen staff because it wasn’t a place for a princess.
One spring day Cinderella spent a glorious afternoon riding and caring for the horses. She was finishing up and about to head back to the palace when she heard some commotion at the far end of the stables. She rarely went down there; it was where the coaches were kept. The horses were always led down to the other end after the stablemen had unhitched them from the coaches. Normally she enjoyed walking but today she was tired and hoped there was a coach heading back to the palace. She walked down the center of the stables towards the coaches. She heard his voice. She heard giggles and squeals mixed with his laugh. Her prince stepped out of the coach behind three girls that she had seen here and there about the palace. He playfully spanked the nearest girl and all four of them laughed obnoxiously. Cinderella stepped to the side behind some gear and no one saw her. She was perplexed, anxious and upset. She walked back to the palace and cleaned up, grasping for some reasonable explanation. She met the prince for dinner and they dined with the king and queen and the family. He said he was tired after a long day and declined to visit on the veranda as was customary. Cinderella followed him to their quarters and asked about his day. He said he had been inspecting the building of a bridge in a nearby parish. He repeated he was tired and fell asleep.
Margery was Cinderella’s personal servant. She was pretty and pleasant young woman whose family had served the king for many years. Her mother was one of the queen’s servants. Joan was another servant who helped Cinderella, especially with teaching her the dos and don’ts of a princess. Joan was older and a rather plain woman.
One day, soon after the spanking incident, Cinderella asked Margery and Joan, “You don’t think the prince would ever deceive me do you?”
“Why would you ask such a thing?” an indignant Margery asked.
“I have seen and heard some things that make me wonder that he might be spending time with other girls.”
“Certainly not!” shot back Margery.
Joan glared at Margery and said, “Easy now my dear, your tone is not how you speak to our lady.”
Margery turned and said, “I have laundering to finish.”
Cinderella and Joan shared a puzzled look.
“Now dear, don’t you worry,” Joan said. “Your prince just has some innocent fun with his friends, he is very happy with you.”
Joan cringed inwardly. She knew how the men of the royal family behaved. Cinderella was so naïve. She would find out someday- she just wasn’t ready yet.
Two days later, Cinderella was to accompany the queen to visit with some other royal ladies. The prince was to train with his men, practicing their swordsmanship. Cinderella awoke, as she had for several days, feeling nauseas. She got ready, meeting the queen at the coaches to depart. Her stomach suddenly cramped and she doubled over as she was about to enter the coach. The queen, meticulous about her coach, was very concerned. Less so about the princess’s health and more about if she might soil the elegant seats and carpets if she was to be ill.
“Maybe I better stay here, I am sorry your lady.” Cinderella groaned.
“Yes my dear, rest and maybe you can join us this evening.” the queen said relieved.
Cinderella excused herself and headed back to the palace with Joan’s help. Joan left to get some tea and she climbed the steps to her quarters and stopped short of the bedchambers. She heard a giggle and a familiar moan. She was terrified but nonetheless eased open the heavy door. The prince’s clothing, armor and sword were in a pile as well as a dress and dainty shoes. She witnessed a scramble of sheets and flesh in the bed. She picked up the sword. In doing so she clanged it against the armor and the inhabitants of the bed shot up and looked at her. The sword felt surprising light in her hands and the nervous tension in her legs and arms made it quiver.
The girl slid out of bed and said, “Oh my lord, my lady!”
As she scraped up her dress and tiptoed towards the door Cinderella swung the sword and smacked it broadside on Margery’s naked backside. Margery screamed, thinking she was cut, and ran wailing down the hall. Cinderella turned to the prince who was sitting up in bed. She said nothing.
“What can I say my princess?” The prince said meekly.
Cinderella glared- her hurt turning to anger.
“My dear, you don’t understand, I…, well.” the prince stammered.
“You deceived me.” Cinderella said flatly. “I trusted you.”
“Now, now my dear, it is not a big deal. She is nothing to me; it is just how things are, let me explain.” the prince pleaded.
“This isn’t the first time is it?” Cinderella uttered.
“Yes, no, I mean- why? What do you know? Have you been checking up on me?” said the prince, slightly impatient.
“I have heard things, I ignored them. I thought they were absurd. Now I see that they were true.” Cinderella’s voice broke.
“I am the prince. There are things you do not understand. It is none of your concern. I provide for you. I took you away from that miserable life and gave you all of this. You should be thankful.”
He slid towards the edge of the bed. “You should be happy with this life I have given you, you were nothing but a lowly scullery-maid, how dare you question me and stand here with my sword.”
That sneer was the same look she had seen many times before from her step mom and stepsisters. That sneer shattered of all her dreams. To be swept away by a prince, to be treated like a lady, to escape a life of drudgery and mistreatment. Yet he was no different. He stood up at the foot of the bed with a look of disgust. Joan entered the room behind her with a tray of tea. All of the abuse and cruel words that she had so pleasantly dealt with for so many years that she thought she had been rescued from and now her savior stood in front of her, no different from the others. He stepped towards her with a shout and, that sneer. The sword flashed forward and buried deep. He fell. Joan screamed. Cinderella stepped back and fell to her knees. She was still a princess- she was however, a princess scorned.