An alternative fairytale in bite-sized portions
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Suitable for family reading
You Will Go to the Ball Cindy-Ella
The girl had lost the will to stand up for herself. Euphemia studied her goddaughter’s eyes as if reading the thoughts behind them.
Whoever married the Prince would automatically command respect.
If Alfie fell for her at the ball – and he was halfway there already – her stepmother and stepsisters would have to curtsey to her for the rest of their lives.
So would the rest of Regalia… and the lands beyond.
‘Harriet said they ought to take me with them to the ball, and they laughed at her.’
‘Harriet stands up for you, does she?’
She watched as Cindy considered this. ‘Not really. She can hardly stand up for herself. She’s terrified of her mother, and her sisters bully her.’
And now they’ve you to bully instead, thought Euphemia. ‘But you have become friends.’
‘She comes down here because I listen and I don’t make fun of her. She’s grateful that I’ve altered her dress for the party. She’d look like a model if only she stood straight and put on some airs, like her stepmother. I’m going to do her make-up for her tomorrow.’
‘You’re not fussed if the Prince notices her then?’
‘Oh, he’ll notice her. You can’t help but notice her; she’s a head taller than most people.’
‘Does she want to be noticed?’
Mistress glanced up the basement stairs. ‘Probably not. Except by the Prince, of course; she idolises him.’
‘Does she realise how short he is?’
Mistress laughed. ‘Like a corgi next to a wolfhound, you mean? Whereas I… am similarly undersized.’
‘Petite is the word you’re looking for, lass. Your mother was like an elf too. She had some bonny clothes; what happened to them?’
‘I’ve no idea. I don’t think Dad would have got rid of them.’
She said, ‘Your stepmother will take her daughters to the hairdresser in the morning. Search the attic while they’re gone and see what you find. And I’ll see what I find.’
She stood and settled her cloak around her shoulders.
‘You will go to the ball, Cindy-Ella.’ Pausing at the door, silhouetted by the streetlamp above, she patted her goddaughter’s shoulder. ‘Sleep well, bairn.’
She turned to mount the basement steps as the door closed behind her.
Her bubbly young goddaughter, overwhelmed by the death of her father and cowed by a malicious stepmother, had lost her spirit.
It was her fault. She was an interfering old woman. Look at that business in Mexico: her friends might have been killed because of her.
All those years ago, she’d interfered, and then left them to it. She had abandoned her cousin to blunder into a disastrous marriage and now young Cindy-Ella was suffering the consequences.
She should have learned by now that being too helpful wasn’t the answer. She couldn’t just wave a magic wand and make problems disappear. People had to figure things out for themselves, so they’d know what to do next time.
Still, it was only fair that Cindy should have the same chance as everyone else.
And if the girl had accidentally given herself a head start over the opposition – good for her!
How much did young Alfie remember of those nursery days, and the things she’d said back then?
After the death of Yu’qub’s accomplice, my superstitious people are convinced that his mission was cursed, and I am the rightful Emir. Yu’qub’s followers have abandoned him, many fleeing or going into hiding.
One sold the story of his treachery to the newspapers and now everyone knows of it. My people were ready to lynch him if he appeared on the streets. The traitor is imprisoned, awaiting trial.
My wedding to Princess Mona has been cancelled, and I can now admit to my relief at this development. My intended bride fled Carmalay with her Principal Lady-in-Waiting. Carmalay’s Chief Investigator is unable to trace them or uncover any useful leads.
Mona contacted me to apologise for abandoning our alliance, and I was able to assure her of my support. We were children when our betrothal was arranged and have met only once since then. We hardly know each other.
She and her companion have changed their names, but I am confident we can rely on your discretion. Should you ever meet Joy Newbold in your travels, please assure her of the good wishes of her former fiancé.
I trust you will not wait on the excuse of a royal wedding to again visit Djalladin and your loyal friend, Djarmin.