If the Shoe Fits
Eleanor's ReverieDreams are an escape from the cruel reality that Eleanor is trapped in. They are the one place where she can be happy without needing permission. No one to push her around, or treat her poorly. Everything was in her own imagination, and in her control.
She had the most wonderful dream, where she danced with Prince Charming at a masked ball. He had no idea that she was some peasant girl, and they floated around the ballroom, with only the sight of each other’s eyes. Her gazing into his green eyes with her blue ones, like the grass meeting the sky at the horizon. Not even the enigmatic masks could shield Charming’s beauty.
She was dressed in a gown that she would never see in her lifetime, the sandy muslin dress resting neatly on her slim figure. Her golden blonde hair was styled in an updo without flaw, and her light complexion was clean from the dirt collected after a typical day’s work. Her shoes sparkled with a translucent white, like diamonds on her feet. And the coy smile on her lips allowed the effects of her beauty to radiate across the ballroom.
The prince and she twirled around with an exquisite grace, capturing the envy of many a woman. But they paid no mind. The pair conversed with a natural flow, a teasing banter flitting between them. As they danced and chatted, Eleanor could feel the weight of her work disappearing into oblivion.
"Eleanor! Get your indolent butt off the bed and get to work!" The dream was shattered by her stepmom Sophalia’s commands, the relic of cruel reality. Eleanor rolled off the bed, wishing for at least another hour of rest.
"Stop that," she ordered her brain. She could not afford to be lazy in Sophalia’s presence. She’d simply have to work until she was dead. After all, life has been like that for the past nine years. Eleanor walked slowly down the stairs to stall today's work, even for a few seconds.
"What do you wish for, Mother?" Eleanor asked, making every effort to sound chipper.
"First of all, you must wash up. You're utterly filthy, and I cannot stand the stench of your commoner blood." Eleanor reached for her tattered shirt sleeve and sniffed it. She was definitely not as rancid as her stepmom suggested.
“Stop that.” Sophalia gave Eleanor a sharp glare. “You ungrateful wench, do you know what I do for you?”
Eleanor bit her tongue back, knowing very well what would happen if she answered, truthfully or not. She counted down in her head for Sophalia’s rampage. It was repetitive, and Eleanor could recite the rant from memory. If it wouldn’t result in her dire punishment.
“I give you housing, food to eat, and most importantly construction of your character! After your father died, I was generous enough to take you under my wing instead of shipping you off to an orphanage, where you belong. If you cannot appreciate that, then I just may have to force you to stop taking things for granted.”
Eleanor has already lost just about everything. No breaks, no new clothing, no interaction with the outside world. Next, Sophalia’s going to be cutting meals for her.
“Lunch privileges are suspended for a month!” Sophalia smacked her hands together. “That ought to teach you respect. Now work!”
Eleanor nodded and walked lightly up the stairs, struggling not to trudge. She prayed that the scowl on her face was not evident. As the small girl trotted up the stairs, a pair of girls stampeded down, knocking over poor Eleanor. She huffed as she climbed up the stairs again, stopping at the obscured top to listen to the topic of conversation.
“Mother!” The nasally redhead approached Sophalia as the brunette one trailed behind closely. “Prunella said that Molly said that Trixie said that--”
“The Prince is hosting a ball!” Prunella blurted out excitedly, and the girls grabbed onto each other and squealed.
“What is this ball?” Sophalia raised an eyebrow in interest. If one of her daughters could marry a prince...
“King Sigismund and Queen Josephine are hosting a ball so Prince Charming could find a princess!” The ginger, named Adriana, swooned at the news, and Prunella rushed forward to comfort her sister. "Which means ALL young ladies in the kingdom have been invited!"
Eleanor’s ears picked up on the news, the lass sensing an opportunity. Just an hour ago the ball was a dream, but now reality is revealing it to her with a tempting offer. A genuine smile crept onto her lips, almost foreign to the real her. But the next words shattered her.
“Mother, we must definitely go!” Prunella spoke. “And don’t let that servant girl go! She will ruin everything!”
“Eleanor is your sister, whether you like her or not,” Sophalia said, her mouth pulled into a taut frown. “We must treat her with a circumspect attitude and consider how she feels.”
“But surely she doesn’t deserve to even set eyes on Charming!” Adriana protested, having recovered from her dizzy spell.
“Don’t you think that Eleanor should go?” Sophalia rested a dainty hand on the table as she schemed. “Or maybe keeping her home would be more prudent. She’s rarely been out of the house, and attending an extravagant ball may overwhelm her.”
“That is true, Mother!” Adriana bobbed her head enthusiastically, and Prunella gave her a look that said, ‘Do you have neck malfunctions?’
“And it’s best not to get her hopes up, letting her believe that the Prince would actually notice her. After all, she’s filthy and possesses no clothing worthy of a formal Ball. It is decided. Eleanor will not be attending the ball, for her own safety.”
Eleanor choked back a sob, feeling foolish that she could even consider going to the ball. Of course the Steps would find every excuse to prevent her from attending. And unfortunately, most of what they said was reasonable. Reasonable but false.
‘You must go, Eleanor,’ the romantic side of her brain coaxed. ‘This is your chance to let Charming know about you. No one will have to know but you and him. It will be the night of your life if you let it.'
'Don't be so silly!' The reasonable conscience stepped in. 'The Steps will never let you go! And they'll never go easy on you if you ask! They'll torture you until you can't sleep!'
'But the Prince! You two were destined to be together, and don't let three ugly hags get in your way. You can always sneak out, go to the ball, and dance with Charming. And they will finally treat you right when you become the next Princess of Cantia.'
'You are merely one of thousands of girls! What makes you believe that the Prince will choose you? Don't get your hopes up, or you'll risk disappointment.'
'But isn't the risk worth it? To have just one dance with Charming? Just one. Dance until midnight, so you may return before the Steps.'
Eleanor smiled, rather listening to her reverie rather than her reason. She will go to the ball, share one dance with Prince Charming, and leave with satisfaction. Just one will do.
"Eleanor!" Sophalia called from downstairs. "I have an important task for you!"
"Coming, Mother!" Eleanor responded, her mood lightened by her plan. She practically flounced down the stairs, but Sophalia's disdainful glare dampened her mood.
"I wish for you to make three ball gowns for your sisters and myself."
"For what occasion?" Eleanor feigned a naïve tone, as if she had no idea.
"For the Royal Ball, darling!" Sophalia chuckled lightly. "The Prince is searching for a maiden's hand in marriage, and Adriana and Prunella are destined to capture his heart. They need to be exquisite and absolutely stunning, to take away the breaths of all young men!"
"As you wish," Eleanor said.
"And Eleanor, you must understand that you cannot attend. I don't want you out shining my daughters."
"I know, Mother." Eleanor made an effort not to sound upset. "It's my duty."
"Good," Sophalia answered. "Now get to work. Don't dawdle!" She pushed Eleanor aside dismissively and returned to her business.
'Don't worry, Eleanor,' her mind consoled her. ‘You will figure it out, and you will go to the ball.’ Eleanor couldn’t help but agree with her mind.