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A Girl Renamed Cinderella

Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters weren't evil.

In fact, Cinderella basically just acted like a completely horrible person all the time. She shoplifted lip gloss from the store counters, stole her friends' boyfriends-of-the-week, lied about everything, insulted second graders, ate candy before dinner, smashed anthills, copied other people's homework, watched too much MTV, never washed her face, started intense internet drama, and did everything else that a twelve-year-old girl could do that was bad. She upset her classmates, her teachers, her cousins, her friends, and worst of all, her father. And when she upset them, they weren't too nice to her. And Cinderella didn't really understand why anyone would be mean to her. So she was mean back.

And the cycle just continued like that.

But she wasn't really a bad person. Cinderella had lost her mother when she was eight years old. She remembered it every day—how could you not?—and missed her so much. She missed the way she used to smell (like hyacinth on the first warm day of spring) and the way she used to be just the slightest bit rebellious (like when she drove down roads too fast so that Cinderella could feel the wind). Cinderella's mother even used to make up fairy tales, created especially for Cinderella's ears before bedtime. Like, “Once upon a time, a girl named Cinderella....”

That's how Bella got her new name, Cinderella. She kept the stupid name years after everyone started to think it was old and childish, because it was a way to keep her mother alive...somehow.

So when her father announced that he was getting married to someone who would be Cinderella's new stepmother (emphasis on “new” and “mother”), it was almost like someone was trying to wrestle every last memory of her own, real mother out of Cinderella's tightly clenched fists. And as you can imagine, Cinderella didn't feel too warm and fuzzy when her stepmother moved in...and brought two new daughters for her father to replace her with.

“I hate you,” she made known to Maria and Stephanie. “I hate you more than I've ever hated anyone.”

“Be nice, Bella,” were her father's only words. They enraged Cinderella. She looked frantically around until her eyes landed on Maria and...smacked her.

For that, Cinderella got herself grounded for exactly three months.

Every day, she was to clean every mess in the house—including the ones her stepsisters made. Every day, she was to remind her new family how “welcome” they were. Every night, she was to stay locked in her room, with nothing to do but count down the days to her freedom and plan something...anything.

She wondered what it would be like if her stepsisters had something of theirs taken away from them. She started taking small things from their drawers; first hairpins, then earrings, then bracelets. Gradually, her theft became less and less petty. She took an expensive coat. She took Maria's diary and read some of her precious secrets. And her stepsisters definitely noticed.

One night, she stole a dress. She put it on, left the house without anyone noticing, and headed toward a dance at her school. Just one night of not being grounded, she thought to herself.

When she arrived at the dance, she wondered why she ever thought that would be a good idea. Leaning against the back wall, she watched everyone laugh and talk with their friends; she realized she was alone...when this boy walked over.

“Hey, what are you doing over here?” he asked, and leaned against the wall the same way Cinderella was.

“Nothing really,” was how she planned to respond; instead, her whole story came pouring out. And it shouldn't have, because she didn't want anyone to realize it. How she was such a bad, bad person and how no one liked her anymore. “And I don't really wanna be like that,” she said.

“I don't think you are,” he said. “I think you just need someone to be your best friend, is all. Or something.”

Cinderella smiled and wiped her eye with the back of her hand at the same time. She stood there next to him, peaceful for a moment. This random boy thought she deserved a best friend. Did she? She didn't even deserve this guy to talk to her. A sudden wave of embarrassment washed over her; she quickly muttered, “I gotta go,” and she turned to leave.

“Wait,” he said. “Don't go just yet, what's your name?”

“Bella,” she whispered. But it sounded so fake.

“You sure?” he asked. He noticed. She was avoiding meeting his eyes. “I wanna be able to find you again.”

“Cinderella,” she said, louder this time. She looked straight at him. “My real name is Cinderella.”

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