An alternative fairytale in bite-sized portions
Suitable for family reading
What Are You Going to Do About Buttons?
Lady Eleanor emerged from the cupboard. Her hair was tangled, and her pyjamas covered in coal dust, but she was his Ella. And, it appeared, his Cindy too. Something inside him relaxed. Everything was as it should be.
She didn’t seem surprised to see him. Her foot slipped easily into the shoe Buttons had dropped.
‘So,’ he said, ‘this is Buttons. Pleased to meet you, Buttons. I’m Alfie.’
How long had Cindy known who he was?
He recalled their one-sided video call. Deciding to think about this later, he lowered himself to one knee.
The two older stepsisters watched from the stairs. The reporter elbowed his way between them, and his camera flashed.
Without a stutter Prince Alfred said, ‘Cindy… Lady Eleanor… whoever you are, will you marry me?’
Silent tears trailed down Harriet’s face. The camera flashed again, and Buttons wondered how the palace dogs would welcome a terrier of uncertain family.
Mistress’s voice was steady.
‘Dear Alfie… I’ll always treasure our friendship, and our magical evening at the ball, but I’m not ready to marry yet. I want to travel the world with Aunt Phemie.’
‘Oh!’ Harriet’s hand covered her mouth.
Buttons whined. Fincham House without his Mistress was an even worse prospect than the palace dogs.
The Prince backed into a chair and sat, speechless. The camera flashed again.
‘Y-your Highness.’ Harriet curtseyed. ‘Cindy, can I suggest the privacy of the study?’
‘Good thinking, Harriet,’ said Mistress. ‘Tabitha, could you bring us up some tea please?’
Everyone stood back as Mistress swept up the stairs, followed by the Prince and Buttons, who slipped into the study behind them. When Master was alive, the study had been their favourite room.
They all agreed the tea tasted awful.
On his way out, the Prince invited Mistress to the palace. Buttons approved. With a better idea of what she was turning down, Mistress might change her mind.
The Baroness declared it was an excellent idea and she would accompany her stepdaughter as chaperone. But when the time came, Mistress took Harriet instead.
Their visits became a regular event.
The basement was lonely without them.
‘I’m pleased Alfie’s given up trying to change my mind,’ said Mistress one afternoon on their return. ‘He seems more settled since Aunt Phee’s visit to the palace last week.’ She went to fill the kettle.
Harriet paused before replying.
‘He’s asked if I’ll still visit him, after you’re gone.’ Her face looked hot. ‘Do you mind?’
‘Mind? I’m delighted,’ said Mistress, turning on the tap. ‘I can tell he likes you.’
Harriet drooped. ‘If only I weren’t so tall.’
‘A queenly height.’
‘But it’s you he wanted.’
Mistress turned off the tap and paused. ‘I don’t think that matters.’ She set the kettle on its base and flipped the switch.
‘It takes two, after all. Aunt Phee says it’s like birds’ eggs.’
‘Um… I don’t know much about birds. But Alfie’s teaching me.’
Mistress came to sit beside Harriet, and Buttons settled at her feet.
‘A hen bird can lay an egg without a mate, but it won’t hatch.’ She bent to rub Buttons’ ears. ‘It takes two birds to make an egg that will grow a chick.’
‘Oh. I see what you mean.’
Buttons didn’t, but Harriet sounded happier.
Mistress nodded. ‘Just as it takes two to grow a relationship.’
The kettle turned itself off and she went to make tea.
As she brought two mugs to the table, Harriet said, ‘What will you do about Buttons?’
He cocked an ear for her reply, but their voices were low, and dogs aren’t good at lip-reading.
So, Mistress still planned to leave Regalia.
He resolved to run away, but Mistress had other plans.
She took him to the vet.
Buttons trembled in the waiting room. A cat hissed at him from its travel cage, but he was too worried to bark at it.
Mistress tried to cheer him up with a dog biscuit. After a moment’s hesitation he took it, just as they were called in for their appointment.
The vet waited while he ate it. ‘What a lucky dog,’ she said. ‘It must be your birthday.’
And then she stuck a needle in him.
If that was what happened on your birthday, Buttons didn’t want another one. If he ever got out of there, he was going to run away.
But the vet said, ‘When you bring him for his second vaccination, I can sign his passport form. Then you can complete his travel arrangements.’
And Buttons understood.
They were taking him too. Travelling the world with Mistress and Aunt Phemie would be one long birthday treat.
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