A crescendo of the orchestra’s waltz caused her to close her eyes and tilt her head, allowing the waves of bliss wash over in pounding heartbeats and goosebumps. The prince’s warm hand on her back only added to it — the tingling excitement radiated through her limbs, up her torso and straight to her heart. She smiled, eyes still shut, unwilling to break the imaginary spell. She knew waking would be inevitable. This dream would come to pass. Just one more moment… Unwilling to succumb to reality, she stepped closer to him in their next dance turn, their bodies almost touching wantonly.
The prince did not seem to mind, she thought with a smile. He kept his left hand firmly positioned, hovering just above her behind — his right, clasped hers tightly as they spun around the ballroom once more. Dizziness almost overtook her, but the prince tightened his hold on her back, pressing them together even more. The song slowed, and they swayed to the gentle violins and flutes. She opened her eyes to see the prince smiling down at her. They slowly turned once again. Only because the cool night breeze brushed her shoulders did she realize they were now out a side door of the palace, away from the rest of the ball. The brisk air caused her to gasp, and the prince descended upon her mouth with a kiss before she had time to recover. Refusal wasn’t on her mind. Tonight would be everything she’d ever dreamed of.
It hadn’t started as magically as this, she recalled with a pang. She pushed the meddling thought from her mind as she ran her fingers through the prince’s hair and behind his neck. The memory of her meddling stepsisters and her cruel stepmother’s voice cracked her fragile euphoria. You cannot go to the ball! Only the most important ladies of the realm shall be privy to the invitation! You’re merely a maid. A servant! A nothing! A Nobody! Mummy said sure you can go to the ball if you finish your chores! Now make the fire, fix breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping! You’ll never finish in time!
But she had shown them. Able to finish the chores and restore a gown befitting to any pretty lady in the village, she’d twirled in front of the dingy mirror, with mere hopes she’d be able to stand in the ballroom near the prince, much less be greeted by him or … this…
In a blink, her mind raced with memory of her mother’s favorite gown being torn and destroyed by the two shrews. Her dreams had been dashed once more. Her sisters had burst into the room and ruined the small fire of hope she’d kindled, in uproarious cackles. Their laughter had snapped something deep inside of her mind, her soul. The two harpies pushed her to the ground and left as she cried into the heaps of faded taffeta, toile and ribbon.
She shook her head in attempt to scatter the insidious laughter and stepped away from the prince, out of breath.
“What’s amiss, my dear?” he asked – voice full of concern.
Wiping a stray tear that dared to escape, she turned away so he was unable to see. “Nothing, Your Royal Highness,” she managed, without choking on the words. “I’ve had a trying day and it’s ending so well.”
“I had hoped it wasn’t my kissing abilities that caused your tears,” he said with a chuckle.
His laughter was infectious and she found a giggle bubbling. The idea of his kiss being anything less than dreamlike was simply comical. Her entire life was based upon sorrow and longing and he negated that. The hole in her heart had been filled with the warmth of his presence. The tiny giggle turned into a full-fledged laugh. Unable to control herself, she flung herself back into his awaiting arms. The prince wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. The warmth of his body singed the leftovers of the night’s terrible beginning.
“I was fearful my dream would end.”
“Never, my dear. I shall hold you until the end of time… you are safe here with me… you’ll never have to wake up, my love, my princess… my…
“Cinderella! Cinderella! You despicable, vile, evil, wretch! What have you done?”
The screams of the haggard woman didn’t faze the wide-eyed girl in the floor, rocking back and forth. Blood trickled out of the stone fireplace to the matron’s right, and crept closer to her leather shoes. She sidestepped away from it, screeching anew as she focused on the blood’s origin. Two bodies of her daughters were flickering in the flame’s glow, their faces contorted in horror. A ribbon sash was tied around one’s throat, complete with a garish bow tied at her chin. The other sister dangled from a rafter, having been hanged with corset cord. Cinderella clutched the tattered remnants of the dress before her and smiled. “A dream is a wish your heart makes…”
Elysabeth Williams is an author and writer of romance, paranormal, steampunk, fantasy and probably more things later if the mood strikes her. She enjoys coffee, dancing to embarrass her kids, and being snarky online. She lives with her family in Georgia.