The Real Cinderella Story by Casey Sacco
A dream is a wish your heart makes… but what if that dream isn’t so easy to decipher? I mean, how many times have you had an odd dream that you couldn’t put into words to save your life?
Oh, now look at me! I’m talking to a blank-paged book about dreams… But I have to get this out somehow, and no one at the palace would understand, not even the animals. So I guess writing all of this down is my only option. Maybe then I can finally get some closure.
It’s been a year since I married my very own Prince Charming. That’s my pet name for him, but of course his real name’s Henri. I love him, I do. He’s my best friend, and I’ve always felt so incredibly grateful that he chose me out of all the other women at that famous ball where we first set eyes on each other. Unlike what most people assume, however, – and I might be to blame for this, because it’s what I wanted them to think – it was not love at first sight. At least not on my part.
I didn’t go to that ball to meet Henri. I didn’t go because I wanted to meet a prince who could sweep me off my feet and take me away from my stepfamily. Of course, that seems like the most plausible explanation, but how come people don’t realise that that’s the stuff of fairy tales? It wasn’t a fairy tale, it was my life, and lives aren’t all black and white; there are many different shades of grey in the mix.
The truth is, I went to that ball because of my stepsister, Anastasia. I wanted to impress her because I – wow, it’s just as hard to write it down as it is to say it out loud. I wanted to impress Anastasia because I was in love with her.
Of course, at the time, I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. I tried to convince myself that I wanted to go to that ball because I wanted a change of scenery, or because I really did want to meet the handsome prince that my stepfamily had been raving about. However, deep down I knew that those were all excuses, because every time I heard Anastasia swooning over him, my heart felt like it was being squeezed by an invisible hand. It wasn’t because I wanted him, but because I wanted her, and moreover I wanted her to swoon over me the way she did over Henri.
I know it sounds stupid. How could I have ever fallen in love with someone who treated me so badly? I know this is the age-old story, but Anastasia really is different. There’s so much more to her than what she pretends to be in front of her mother and Drizilla. There were even times when she tried to stand up for me, but they never let her get a word in edgeways. I guess that’s probably why I fell in love with her in the first place; she was the only person in my very limited circle who had ever shown even a smidge of compassion towards me. One time I accidently spilt her morning coffee on her favourite stockings and she didn’t rat me out to her witch of a mother.
I’d thought that the ball would be a chance for her to see me outside of my filthy work clothes. For the first time in my life, I had felt genuinely beautiful as I made my way down the shining staircase (I would know, I’d waxed it that very morning) of my late father’s house. The smile on my face must’ve been so pathetic to them, especially to my stepmother. I was too busy staring at Anastasia’s chocolate brown eyes and flowing auburn hair, admiring the way her dress clung to her chest and torso, to realise that my stepmother was about to ruin my mood within the next few seconds. This is because, sure enough, a sly remark from her made both Drizilla and Anastasia start tearing the dress I’d found in my own mother’s old closet. So not only did they ruin my cheerful mood, but they also ruined the last thing that I had of my mother’s.
I’m not going to go over how I eventually made it to the ball, because I’ve gone over it in my head one too many times, but just in case she can somehow read this – because I still have no idea how all that magic business works – I will always be extremely grateful that I met my Fairy Godmother, and thankful for all that she did to help me. Even in those few minutes that I had with her, she was a better mother to me than my stepmother had ever been.
When I eventually arrived at the palace, I was still feeling hurt by the fact that Anastasia had helped Drizilla ruin my dress. In hindsight, my assumption that she wouldn’t was probably a symptom of the high I had felt upon seeing her looking so beautiful that night. I might have romanticised the situation in my mind a bit too much. So when I realised that a jaw-droppingly beautiful man wanted to dance with me, I thought it would be the perfect way to make her notice me. Of course, with my never having had much contact with the outside world, I had no idea that the man I was dancing with was actually the Prince. Poor Henri, I don’t think he’d ever met anyone who didn’t know who he was. We joke about that a lot now, but at the time, I would never have imagined how different my life would look like in less than a year.
Needless to say, my thoughts were wrong, again. The next morning, Anastasia couldn’t care less about me; she was too riled up about some ‘random girl’ who had been dancing with the Prince instead of her. Oh, the profanities that came out of her mouth about that girl. Unbeknownst to anyone in that house, myself included, that ‘random girl’ was me.
Now, this is the most damning part for my conscience, the part I really want to write down so that I can banish it from my memory forever. It’s about why I really married Henri. While I do love him now, I truly, regretfully, didn’t at the time. Heck, I’d danced with him all night and I had no idea that his eyes were a mesmerising hazel, almost gold. I only found that out on our wedding night.
I married him, as stupid as it might sound, because of the glass slipper. Yes, I based such a life-changing decision on footwear. I’ve always been one of those people who believe in things that are ‘meant to be’, especially when it comes to love. So despite feeling like I was smashing my own heart into a million pieces, the fact that the glass slipper remained intact even after everything else turned back to what it had been before Fairy Godmother’s enchantment, felt like a sign. Henri wanted to marry the girl who fit the slipper, and that was me.
So, the reason I’m writing all of this down now, a year into our marriage, is this: this morning, as I looked into Henri’s hazel eyes staring lovingly into mine, I realised that I do love him. For the first time, I said the words ‘I love you’ to him without wishing I had been staring into Anastasia’s dark brown eyes instead.