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“Lift your arms higher, your majesty.” One of the royal tailors asked softly.
I raised my numb arms. It felt as if weights were hung on them. “How much longer?” I sighed wincing when a needle bit into my leg.
The tailor had been fussing over my suit since after lunch. The ball was tonight and my parent insisted that I came. I didn’t even get the point, all that was going to happen was woman from all over the kingdom swarming me. Most of the duke’s of the land enjoyed that, but I would pass.
“There, finished.” The tailor stepped back to see his master piece. I turned to face the mirror behind me.
A thick, velvety, crimson cape hung from my shoulders, pinned to my overcoat with large, golden buttons. The over coat and trousers were the color of pitch that made the drawn-out white shirt glow. My hair was it’s usual mop of brown hair, my eyes a deeper brown. I didn’t really see why woman would whisper “Prince Charming” when they thought I wasn’t listening.
At that moment, my mother glided in. She wore a lacy, green dress that was studded with diamonds along her breast. Her brunette hair was curled and pinned in a bun, and resting lightly on her scalp was her golden crown decorated in pearls and emeralds. She clapped her gloved hands together in joy. “You look wonderful.” she breathed. “Now come along, the guests will be arriving soon.” she beckoned to him, then quickly drifted from the room.
The tailor bowed deeply as I stepped down onto the floor. I glanced at the window, down at the entrance carriages were pulling up and releasing their passengers then driving away. A sigh escaped me at the scene. This ball will not be a pleasurable one, I knew the real reason it was being held.
To find a wife.
My parents has held two other balls like this and I still have not found one. I could tell they were getting frustrated. Was it my fault that all of these woman are all the same? They don’t think for themselves and are just interested in the way I look. I leaned on the window ledge and closed my eyes. I wished to find someone who would love me, for me.
A cold gust of wind pulled at my hair and stung my face. From behind me, my mother called for me and I knew there was no way out of this. And so that long night began.
I entered the ball room behind my parents while the trumpets echoed through the night. Many woman bustled around, I trying to get to the front of the group. The royal herald straightened his vest and announced “May I introduce King Fredrick and Queen Alice. Along with the crowned prince, Prince Charming!”
Several woman crooned when my name was announced. I looked away, trying to hide my face from them. “Let the festivities begin!” My father cried out to the crowd, his hands raised. The gathered people let their excitement be heard as they broke apart to wonder across the dance floor.
My mother laid her hand on mine and whispered in my ear “Why don’t you go and mingle?”
I knew that her request was a secret demand, so I nodded. “Of course, mother.”
Weaving through the massing crowds, I made my way over to the food table. I was stopped by several people to shake my hand and to thank me for inviting them. Half way across the ballroom, the room fell silent. Confused I looked in the direction everyone was looking.
And there she was.
She gracefully came down the stairs, her dress trailing behind her. Her hair was like flowing gold that was brought up into a bun on the back of her head with a few curls had fallen out and wreathed around her face. The surprise seemed to ebb and everyone began to whisper. But my eyes were locked on her.
Next thing I knew, I had her hand in mine and I was leading her out onto the floor. The band began to play and we twirled across the room. Other’s slowly drifted around us and began to dance. I barely noticed, it felt like it was only us in the whole world. She leaned on me as if I was the only thing supporting her, (I think I was, those glass slippers looked painful).
After two songs, a man approached me and her. “May I, your highness?” he asked bowing.
I looked down at my dance partner, searching her eyes for anything that said she wanted to leave and dance with someone else. Her eyes flicker from me to him, but her grip on my hand didn’t falter. I turned to the man and answered “She is my partner.”
The man bowed and retreated back into the crowd. The music started up again and she didn’t protest as we began to dance again. At around eleven at night, she stumbled. I caught her in my arms and helped her up. “I’m sorry.” she mumbled.
She looked up into my eyes, looking so innocent and I caught a glimpse of fear, as if she was hiding from someone. “Tell me your name fair maiden.” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter.” she whispered softly, looking away. “After this night, you’ll never see me again.”
“I don’t believe that.” I whispered back, holding her slightly tighter as if she would turn to smoke any moment and drift away from me.
Then, the clock struck twelve. Once the first stroke of midnight sounded, she went rigid. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” she cried as she pulled away from my arms. She looked back once as she dashed up the stairs and out of sight. I hesitated for a second trying to catch up to reality.
I dashed after her, calling after her fleeing form. The train of her dress slipped out of the front door and out into the night. When I reached the door, she was climbing into her carriage and it was driving away. My world seemed to cave in when the sound of the last stroke of twelve faded into stillness.
The sound of running footsteps came from behind me but I didn’t turn around. Something reflected the moonlight at the bottom of the stairs. I took two steps a time and knelled down next to the object.
Her glass slipper.
It was so dainty and slim. I gently took it in my hands. “Your highness?” came the voice of one of my royal advisors behind me. “Is there something wrong?”
I shook my head, clutching the shoe close to so I won’t drop it. “Tomorrow,” I vowed under my breath, “I’ll find you. I promise.”
The next three days was devoted strongly to finding this mystery girl. Me and my advisors went to every house, every hillside, every village in the kingdom. My hope was beginning to fail me when we came to the last house in the last village of the nation. I raised my fist to knock, sending up a prayer that this was where my love was living.
I knocked three times. Yelling came from the inside and the sound of something crashing. After about half a minute of waiting, the door swung open. Framed in the doorway was a girl dresses in rags with soot smudged on her face and her hair pulled back in a sloppy braid. Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to say something, but someone behind her yelled “Who is it Cinderella?”
Before she could answer, she was yanked aside by an older lady with a hooked nose and puffed up grey hair. She too looked shocked when she saw me standing before her. “Your highness,” she curtsied, “do come in.”
I nodded and stepped inside. Two girls stood in the main hall, both looking like pigs dressed in laced day-gowns. They both curtsied and said in unison “You highness.”
“What can we have the honor to help you with, sir.” The older woman inquired with her head bowed respectfully.
Even though I knew that neither of the two girls standing before me was the one I danced with, it was my mission to put this shoe on every woman’s feet until I found that girl. With a sigh, I explained to them about the shoe and whoever’s foot fit would become my bride. The girls were quite giddy when they heard this and the old woman sent Cinderella off to get a chair.
The first girl’s foot slim enough, but her toes were to big. She stood in the corner whimpering as the other girl took the seat. This one had feet to wide and the shoe wouldn’t even go on. Then the older woman sat down and extended her foot. I exchanged looks of disbelief with my advisor but I shrugged and tried her foot. The front of her foot slid in, but her heel was to large. “I’m sorry.” I said as I rose to my feet.
We turned to leave, dread weighing on my heart, when someone said behind me, “Wait, try me.”
The girl they called Cinderella stepped out of the shadows by the staircase. She sat down in the chair and timidly extended her foot. The old woman laughed cooly, “Cinderella, stop this nonsense, you never went to the ball.” she turned to me, shaking her head. “She’s not all there in the head your highness. She thinks she went to the ball but she was just dreaming.”
I looked from the woman, to Cinderella. I took the glass slipper from my advisors hand and kneeled down in front of her. She looked me right in the eyes, her gaze unwavering. Gently I took her delicate foot and slipped the slipper on.
It fit perfectly.
The whole room went silent in surprise. The old woman stamped her foot. “It’s not possible!” she screamed. But I ignored her.
I took Cinderella’s hand in mine and helped her to her feet. Smiling, I pulled her away from her old life and out into the sunlight.
You can say we lived happily ever after.
And I’ve never stopped loving her.