“I could never explain how a story could be worth more than a dance with a prince”
“PERFUME SCENTED the air as my stepsisters left the house, trading names of princes they longed to dance with at the ball. My stepmother, Vivienne, crossed the room behind them, taking Papa’s hand with a small, elegant smile. ‘There’s still time, Cinderella,’ she told me. ‘We’ll hold the coach while you dress.’
“I shook my head, and Vivienne frowned. I knew what she was thinking. Ungrateful child-after all I do for you. She often spoke such words aloud, when my father couldn’t hear.
“I frowned back while Papa glanced between us, looking trapped. But he said only, ‘Be good, Cinderella,’ before following my stepmother outside. Papa spoke little, so I sometimes wondered how he’d found enough words to ask for Vivienne’s hand.
“I closed the door behind them, listening as the carriage bells faded into the night.
“Alone at last! I reached beneath the sofa, grabbing the book I’d hidden there, and settled down to read in one of my mother’s patched old dresses. I thought of Charlotte and Jeannette, squeezing tighter and tighter into their bodices. What was the point of clothes if you couldn’t do anything in them?
“I sighed. Six hours until they returned, assuming they left the ball at midnight as planned — six hours during which Vivienne couldn’t snatch the book away, hand me a mop or dust rag, and tell me to make myself useful …”
Originally published at https://www.simner.com on November 30, 2022.