After Happily Ever After

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Once when she was a child, her stepsister locked her out of the house. It didn’t snow in Keondar, but it rained often. By the time she could find an open window Ella was soaked through. She almost fell into the fireplace trying to keep warm, and that was how she got her new name, to match her new family: Cinders.
She tried to forget about them.It was hard. They lurked in the ashes that filled the fireplaces. Sometimes she would get up to start some chore she no longer had to perform. And the servants would swear they’d never seen a noble as kind to their staff. But gradually Ella grew used to being a princess.
Then Stepmother came for her.
“Your sister is sick.” She said bluntly. “And her husband can’t afford the medicine for her. It’s your duty to help her.”
“Don’t speak to me about duty!” She hissed, and as far as Princess Ella was concerned that was the end of it. She buried herself in her duties as the heir’s wife and almost managed to forget, but it was a circle of darkness that kept her up at night, staring into the fireplace. She’d broken the circle, hadn’t she?
The next time their names snuck up it was because the king thought she would want to know about the death, and would she like to attend the funeral? Ella wished Godmother had been there, to untangle the knot in her heart.
She didn’t even know Stepmother had been sick as well, not until the girl showed up on the castle steps, all of nine.
The guard who brought her looked uncomfortable, his arms full of a suitcase of dresses. “She says she’s the daughter of your step-sister. Where shall I put her things?”
She was sopping wet and clutching a doll in a princess gown. The child was the spitting image not of her mother, but of the princess’s. “We’ve never met,” She said nervously, trying to curtsy. “My name is Elle.”
Cinderella stared in horror at the girl and in the corner of her mind a voice whispered that destiny didn’t like being thwarted by happy endings.





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