Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cinderella (pt. 1)

I've decided to retell an old favorite. Don't you worry, there'll be adult content soon enough.

I stood on the balcony and looked down at the garden. It was an elaborate affair and neatly manicured. It was like something out of a story. The stiffened fabric of the collar of my gown did little to resist the cool evening breeze that was freshening out of the west. The glass of champagne in my hand was warming up but I decided to have a drink of it anyways.

The corset and stays were as uncomfortable as I feared. This was the first time I had ever worn them and I questioned how someone could do so everyday. Behind me, dancers swirled about on the ballroom floor in perfect time to the music. My silver slippers pinched my toes uncomfortably and I questioned again if I should have even come.

My half sisters moved amongst the throng blissfully unaware of my presence. My stepmother was comfortably ensconced in a conversation near the musicians. They did not see me enter. If God was kind, they would not see me leave. As I tore my gaze away from the lushness that I could glimpse from where I stood, the movement of a figure nearby caught my eye. I turned to see a short man dressed in an impeccably pressed and tidy uniform.

The man made a slight 'come hither' gesture. I walked towards him, my heart hammering as I found myself certain that someone had discovered my illicit attendance and I was to be ushered to my stepmother for summary judgement. I kept my gaze down and unintentionally attempted to make myself as small as possible. The small man started to move through the press, clearly expecting me to follow.

I did so, feeling my palms begin to turn clammy and my stomach clench with dread. The man before me abruptly came to a halt. I stopped and swallowed hard past the lump that rose up in my throat. A linen and lace clad servant came up on my right, spiriting the glass of champagne out of my hand before I could spill or drop it in my rising anxiety. The uniformed man gave a deep bow and I dared to raise my eyes.

Before me, there stood a tall man dressed in what appeared to be a military uniform. The crimson of his coat seemed almost lurid compared to the pale white of his gloved hands. Two rows of gold colored buttons marched up the center of the coat. A wide sash of a deep, dark blue relieved that scarlet expanse as I looked from his feet up to his eyes.

His square jaw was cleanly shaven, unlike the men who stood attentively to either side of him. Intelligent, curious eyes met my gaze with their pale blue depths. The intensity of his look made my cheeks sting and I looked away. The soft buzz of conversation stilled as the small man moved aside, keeping himself bowed low. Deciding that I should also show obeisance to this man, I did my best to give the deepest curtsey I could in the unfamiliar gown I wore.

The dark haired man's gloved hand came into my field of view. He placed two fingertips beneath my chin and lightly pushed upward. Taking the sign as it was intended, I lifted my gaze. At the edge of my view, he motioned me to stand. I did so and a few voices whispered behind me. He held offered his hand and I tentatively set mine in it.

He moved purposefully towards the center of where the dancing was going on. As the people parted like water, my eyes widened somewhat and I restrained a gasp. He turned and faced me. "I..." I stammered quietly, "I don't know how to dance. It.. It was forbidden." The Prince arched an eyebrow with a wry smirk.

"She speaks," he said, taking my right hand in his left. I inwardly shivered at the sound of his voice. It sent a thrill through me that I had never encountered before. It both delighted and terrified me. "I shall teach you," he said, "If you would tell me your name." My mouth went dry.

"I.. I can not," I said, my voice coming out in a terrified, tiny squeak, "I'm not even supposed to be here."

"Oh?" he said, giving me a charming smile. "That is a strange name," he continued in a droll tone and I blushed. "No one but my father might tell you to leave now," he said, "And if you speak, none will hear you. You are so very quiet, I should have to step closer to hear you even." He let go my left hand and stepped closer to me. As he set his hand at my waist, I found myself terribly uncertain of what I should do. "Move the skirts aside so that I do not tread on them, maiden," he instructed.

Awkwardly, I took hold of my gown and lifted it slightly so that the billowy silver silk did not spill over his polished black boots. I realized as I did so that the music had stilled. Realizing that I was about to look away, the Prince said, "They await for us to begin. I await your name."

"Please," I breathed, "I can not say it." The wry look turned wary as he looked me intently in the face. After a moment he gave a small nod. He took a tiny step towards me and the musicians played. I stumbled back a pace and his sober expression turned to a controlled look of amazement.

"You truly do not know how to dance?" he rumbled.

I colored and gave a tiny nod, afraid that this would incur his displeasure. Instead, his hold upon me subtly became more firm. "I shall teach you," he said, "A woman as fine as yourself must know such things. Move with me and do not fight me." I stumbled a bit more and bit my lip as the whispers of conversation became slightly louder. "Close your eyes," the Prince said, "It will help."

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