The clock rung midnight, and it all flooded back into my mind. This dress, my carriage, it was all going to disappear. And I ... I was dancing with the Prince.
Of all people the Prince would never accept me for who I really was - a commoner, a servant.
I pulled back. The Prince stared at my in awe. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I - I must go," I stammered as I curtsied. "I'm sorry." And with that I pulled up to bottom of my dress and fled up the stairs and out of the castle. Past the guards, I flew out into the night.
As I darted down the dirt driveway, I tripped over a rock, sending me sprawling. Now spewed with dirt, I stood up again and sprinted away, leaving my glass slipped behind.
As I ran, I felt my dress change into my raged cloths.
Nearly a mile from the castle gates, I heard the galloping of hooves behind me. Beginning to pick up speed, I wobbled unsteadily on my one shoed feet, and again fell.
Just as I was about to hit the ground, two arms appeared and caught me.
I looked up to see a young man, about my age, with choppy blond hair and a handsome face. He held one finger to his lips and grabbed my hand with his.
Leading me behind him, he pulled me into the bushes beside the road.
We watched in silence as three horses galloped past where we were hiding. Although we could only see their shoes, it was evident that the prince was in front, due to his black polished shoes.
Once the sound of the horses' hooves disappeared in the distance, the boy and I stumbled out of the buses.
"So, you're running from the Prince and his guards!" the boy laughed. "Impressive!"
"No. It's a little more complicated. Anyway, the Prince can never know who I really am." I dusted myself off, even though there was no point, for my dress was always covered with ashes.
"I must go. Thank you."
As I turned to leave, the boy's voice stopped my short. "Wait," he hollered. "What's your name? I must know." I turned around, a smile upon my face.
"And I'm Eric."
The next morning, I was woken by the shrill shriek of my evil step-sister. "Who is she," Caddy screeched.
Rubbing my eyes, I ambled downstairs to find my step-sisters, Caddy and Natick, and step-mother gathered by the door, around a small piece of paper. I knew I shouldn't ask what was wrong.
If there's one thing I've learned with all my years living here, it was don't ask questions and do as you're told.
I waited till my step-mother and two step-sister retreated to the living room to snag the paper.
All ladies are subjected to try the shoe of the maiden that
danced with the Prince at the ball. The Prince wishes
to marry the maiden whose foot fits the glass slipper.
My jaw dropped. The Prince was looking for me. He wished to marry me. Of course, I reminded myself, he didn't wish to marry me; he wished to marry the girl he thought I was.
Calls from the living room screeched at me to pick some flowers for the new center piece. Gladly I picked up a basket from beside the door, and left for the garden across the lane.
"Cinderella," a call came from behind me. I turned on my heel. Eric was strolling towards me, and in his hand he held a copy of the note the Prince sent out. My smile quickly turned into a frown.
"I'm surprised to see you hear. I would've thought you were at the palace waiting to try on your glass slipper, like all the other ladies around here."
"Why would the prince want me? I'm just a commoner - a nobody." I heard him mutter something that sounded somewhat similar to I think you're somebody.
"Well, if you wish not to marry the Prince, who do you wish to marry?"
"I don't see why that mattered. I am domed to wait upon my evil step-mother forever." I frowned. And if not my step-mother than I would have to wait upon my step-sisters. Eric laughed.
"I doubt that you will wait upon her if you were given the opportunity to marry, if you gave her something in return," he said casually, twirling a flower between his fingers.
I turned towards him.
"Are you implying something here?" I asked
"Maybe. Maybe not," Eric flirted.
Over the next few months, whenever I had free time, it was spent with Eric. Although, I thought my many silly chores would bore him, he never complained.
If I was sent to find flowers, Eric would find the prettiest and he would give it to me. He was always joking around when I was forced to collect the chickens' eggs.
Wherever I was, Eric was there too, always making my day just a little bit better.
My relationship with my step-mother and step-sisters changed also.
As I was now spending a good portion of my day outside with Eric, they began to pay less attention to me and whatever I did wrong.
One spring day, while Eric and I were dancing in the rain, he leaned in to kiss me. After the kiss, he whispered in my ear, "I love you!" I was overcome with joy.
Unlike those snotty kingdoms where 'I love you' was just said for fun, in this kingdom when someone said 'I love you' they really mean it.
The very next morning I found myself sitting on my step-sister's bed with Natick and Caddy in front of me, and my step-mother by the door.
For twenty minutes, I told them ever little detail about the ball and my dance with the Prince.
"So you were the girl at the ball!?" Caddy shrieked.
"Yes, I was. But I don't have to be anymore," I replied.
"What do you mean?" Caddy snapped.
"Natick and I have the same size feet," I began,
"And so does the half of the kingdom. The Prince already knows this, and that every girl will be trying to pass off as the girl he danced with." Caddy interrupted.
"Exactly! The prince will ask questions - questions only the girl he danced with will know. Don't you see, Natick can become me.
I don't wish to marry the Prince for I have fallen in love with someone else. However, the Prince will not rest till he finds his true love. But Natick, she can become me.
With my help, she can pass off as the Princes true love." A grin spread across Natick's face.
From the doorway, my step-mother's voice asked, "What's the catch?"
"I have fallen in love with Eric Benson. Eric has offered me a place in his house. I wish to move in with him. After Natick's wedding, I can disappear, and live with Eric."
I knew my step-mother didn't want my happiness, but I was her key to the prince. She agreed.
Nearly a week later, I found myself in front of the castle once more, this time accompanied by Caddy, Natick and my step-mother.
I had spent every day that week teaching Natick everything that happened at the party. Together, we strolled up to the castle door.
There we were met by the Prince's guards, who took us into the throne room.
After a shoe fitting and a few quick questions, the Prince asked, "For nearly four months I have tried your shoe on every maiden in this kingdom. Now finally you wish to come forward.
Why now, not before?" I froze. Did the Prince suspect something?
However, without hesitating, Natick replied, "Why push against the crowds, when I knew you wouldn't find me. I could simply sit back and relax.
Wait till the crowds disperse, and then I can come forward." And with that Natick was declared the Prince's bride-to-be. Caddy and I were to be here brides maids.
The wedding was glorious - big and white. Nearly the entire kingdom was there, including Eric, and half of the girls seemed to be reduced to tears. I left the reception early with Eric.
For an hour we rode by horse back to the nearby kingdom of Lewisica. There we found a small church, and were married.
Now, five years from that day, Eric and I are live in a cozy cottage in the woods, happily ever after.
Meanwhile Natick and the Prince argue constantly and Natick is forced to wait on him hand and foot.