An alternative fairytale in bite-sized portions
Suitable for family reading
The herald announced a late arrival. ‘Lady Eleanor of Underwood.’
A crease appeared between the Queen’s eyebrows. ‘Is that one of the newer states?’
‘She has a regal air for one so small,’ said the King. ‘One of the deposed royals, perhaps?’
The Queen’s forehead smoothed. ‘That must be it. What an enchanting gown.’
‘My dear, it reminds me of the one you wore when we first met.’
‘The old fashions are all coming back.’
His parents’ conversation faded as he was drawn to the newcomer like a paperclip to a magnet. He hardly noticed the enchanting gown, or the sparkly shoes reflecting the glitter of the chandeliers. Her eyes were level with his.
She smiled as if she knew him and took his arm.
They were together all evening: on the dance floor, at the buffet, around the garden to meet the peacocks, and again on the dance floor. She said to call her Ella.
She didn’t try to finish his sentences for him.
He anticipated her likes and dislikes as if they had met before – perhaps in a former life. Even her voice felt comfortably familiar.
Buttons sneaked around the building and found a low wall: wide enough to be comfortable and high enough to see into the ballroom. Mistress was in there with the Prince; her shoes twinkled as they danced. The Prince laughed at something she said, but dogs aren’t good at lip-reading. They were well-matched in height and danced easily together. Around the edge of the dance floor, young women gazed with envy in their eyes.
Their mothers looked annoyed.
He couldn’t see a ball anywhere.
The stepsisters sat at a table near his window. Tabitha and Abigail watched the dancers while their mother chatted to a posh-looking gent on the other side of the ballroom. Whenever Harriet rejoined her sisters, her eyes followed the Prince around the room. At least two young men had to repeat themselves before she realised they were talking to her.
Several times during the evening, Prince Alfred spotted his mother heading towards them to cross-examine Ella. As the hours flew past he marvelled that she hadn’t reached them yet.
A footman paused with a tray. They each took a glass and he heard his mother’s voice behind them.
‘…And then some Countess stops me on the way. Or else I have them in my sight, and when I round a pillar, they’ve gone!’
His father’s voice sounded unusually resolute. ‘Leave them alone, dear, and come and dance; they’re playing our waltz.’
When he turned, his parents were gone – like magic!
He was dancing with Ella when the grand clock in the ballroom began to strike. He glanced at its ornate face with both its hands pointing to twelve, as if turning up its nose at him.
‘Midnight already. Doesn’t time fly when you’re–?’
But Ella had stopped mid-twirl, sending the couples behind swerving to avoid them. She ran from the ballroom.
He followed to the reception hall as she sprinted through the door, past the footmen.
‘Stop her! Ella, stop.’
Buttons jumped from his wall and raced to the front of the palace where the limousine stood waiting with its door open. Mistress ran down the steps, stumbling at the bottom.
As the town clock struck its sixth bell, the car began to move.
On the seventh bell, Mistress picked herself up, but the car was gliding away, its door closing. Buttons leapt at the running board, missed by a whisker and rolled sideways into the gutter.
At the eighth stroke, he picked himself up and, ignoring his bruises, raced after Mistress, chasing the limousine. Behind them, a camera flashed, and the Prince called ‘Ella’ from the palace steps.
The ninth bell tolled.
It was a long driveway.
The last echo of midnight faded as they panted through the gates. There was no sign of the limousine; only an old tin can rattled down the road.
Click here to catch up with the story so far.
The Godmother is now available in e-book and print from Smashwords and your local Amazon
90 pages, no illustrations