A Secret Cinderella
Cinderella stood at the bottom of the stairs of her house, waiting for her two step-sisters to finish their long showers and makeup routines. Despite having grown up with them, this was something Cinderella would never get used to. Perhaps it was that she didn’t own nearly as much makeup as they did, or as many clothes, but she could never stretch her time getting ready beyond half an hour, even when time was allowed.
They were going to be late, though. Their father – her father, really, she thought in the depths of her mind – had been invited to a business party after working for the same firm for ten years. He would be bringing his daughters, and wife, along with him. Cinderella knew he hoped to make a good impression and get a promotion, since supporting three teenage daughters and a wife with expensive tastes was taxing to his bank account.
Finally, her two step-sisters came down the stairs, laughing and giggling to each other in new dresses and shoes. They wore glittering silver necklaces that Cinderella suspected were also new. Her throat clenched – thinking of her father and his worry over money. She gripped the thin fabric of her dress, the same one she’d worn to every major event for the last five years.
“We’ve decided,” announced the elder of her two step-sisters, “that you shouldn’t come. There’s still chores that need to be finished, and you know how dad gets. Besides, that dress is so old, Cinders.” The younger of the two nodded her agreement, barely concealing a smirk.
Cinderella’s stomach twisted unhappily, and her heart dropped. She had wanted, despite herself, to actually go to the party. She so rarely went to anything like this – to a party held at the top floor of the building where her father worked, a floor she knew would have the most breathtaking view of the city. She hadn’t thought she would get to talk to anyone, really, but it would have been nice to be surrounded by people – perhaps even polite ones, who wouldn’t take her name and twist it until even her father called her Cinderella, instead of Ella.
She couldn’t say she didn’t see their point, though. There were chores that needed to be done to keep the house running, and her father did stress about that too… and her dress was old. It fit her badly, the shoulders stretched too wide and the hem too high. It tugged and shifted wrong every time she moved.
So she agreed, and watched her two step-sisters leave in a car she knew her father would have preferred not to buy.
But it wasn’t really their fault, she reminded herself, and went to change.
In the kitchen not long after, Cinderella heard a noise. The first thing through her head were the horror movies her step-sisters pretended to not enjoy, where serial killers crept through houses and caught victims unaware. The second thing were the fairytales she so distantly remembered her mother reading her – memories so old they seemed covered in fog.
“You should go to the party, you know.” Said a cheerful, warm sounding voice. Cinderella turned and saw a tall woman with rich blond hair, wearing a sparkling gold dress that bled into a brilliant white at the bottom.
“A girl your age, Ella, should be allowed to go to parties if she likes.” The woman continued, and smiled.
Ella, Ella, the name washed over her like a sweet shower of rain. She missed that name. The nickname her step-sisters had given her was like mud, it clung and spread to everything. Her father, her teachers. She knew most of them didn’t mean it meanly, but it stung every time she heard it. To have someone use her actual name – the name her mother gave her – was a sweet balm.
This was how Ella, for that was her name, met her fairy-godmother, got a new dress, and went to the party. What she did there, and who she met, is another story entirely.