Imagine a world where princesses aren’t what they seem, and life is far from a fairy tale.
For example, Cinderella. According to the popular legend, she was a victim of abuse by a cruel stepmother and stepsisters, but what if I told you Cinderella wasn’t mistreated by anyone whom she herself didn’t mistreat?
What if I told you Cinderella never really fell in love with anyone, either, especially a prince?
The truth is, Cinderella only loved herself.
After her mother died, she gladly stepped into her mother’s shoes ordering around the servants.
I was one of them. One day, I dared to ask for a day off.
“My dear Cinderella, I have toiled away for you as long as I remember, preparing your meals, washing your clothes and tending to your needs, even while neglecting the needs of my own children,” I said while painting her nails in the powder room. “My husband cares for my son and daughter as well as he can, but my darlings are growing up fast, you see, and I miss them so … so … so might I spend tomorrow with my family, oh pretty pleeeeeeease?”
“And neglect me?” said Cinderella, blowing her golden fingernails dry. “Oh, poor you, how dreary life must be! Torn between your duties as a servant and impulses as a mother. Let me end your suffering –”
“Thank you!” I said, kissing her hand.
“Don’t thank me yet,” she said, yanking her hand from me. “I’ll be back soon.”
Cinderella withdrew a sack of coins from her safe and left by carriage to town. When she returned, I met her in the foyer.
I stood shocked as she explained that she had arranged with the local magistrate for my children to be thrown into prison.
“Problem solved!” said Cinderella, brushing her hands of the issue. “You never have to worry about those meddlesome ankle-biters again! They will have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and your husband can live a life of leisure, which I’m sure he deserves, having suffered you and your lot plenty.”
“Perhaps now he can marry a woman of standing, like me,” she said, “and you can focus your attention on us.”
My heart filled with anguish; my head, dizziness. I felt like a sack of dirt ready to fall to the floor.
“But … but … such a life, separated from my family, is not why I toil here in this mansion!” I cried. “I toil so that my family and I might have a better life, together. How dare you come between us … you … you … cruel snickerdoodle!”
“How dare you, calling me by my middle name!” said Cinderella with a slap to my face. “It’ll be five lashings and a week in the dungeon for you, miss.”
As sad and lonely as it was, my week in the dungeon was not wasted. I found an old book of spells, and I cast a curse on the horrible princess, which could only be broken with an apology.
The next time Cinderella saw me, she didn’t see a poor servant. Instead, she saw a free woman sitting in her powder room, wearing one of her dresses.
“Oh, my dear Cinderella, wash the curtains, scrub the floors, and then prepare dinner, will you?” I said, blowing my golden fingernails dry. “I’m off to see the magistrate to take care of some family business.”
Cinderella nodded with confusion as I removed a sack of coins from her safe.
I pointed at two female attendants that stood by my side.
“Listen to your stepsisters while I’m gone — and please, stop sharing with them any more fancy stories filled with wishful thinking,” I said. “When I return, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about a prince coming to save you. It’s going to take more than that to get you out of this mess, my dear.”
“Like what?” said Cinderella.
I was astounded that she needed me to explain.
“How about an apology?” I said. “For the way you’ve treated your servants?”
“Just awful,” said one attendant.
“The worst,” said the other.
“An apology?” said Cinderella. “To you? For stealing my life? I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous!”
She stormed off to do her chores.
I gazed at the attendants.
“It’s hard to feel sorry for someone like that, isn’t it?” I said. “However, I do feel sorry for any prince who has the misfortune of meeting her.”