It's OK to stare. I'm used to it. You recognize me, don't you? From a book you once read. Or a half-forgotten dream.
I guess I'm not what you expected. That's fine. I get that a lot. A lot has happened, since “and they lived happily ever after.” I mean, there's a reason the story ends there. Only it doesn't really.
After the Royal Wedding, I settled into life at the palace, doing the Princessy things everyone seemed to expect of me. Basically, the equivalent of whatever Miss Universe does these days. Visit people. Cut ribbons, that sort of thing. But right away, I realized my problem. I couldn't quite let go of the way things used to be for me. I would look at these people in the kingdom, these poor people, and I remembered. Remembered every meal of ashy bread thrown on top of the dung heap, Remembered every night that even THAT would have been welcome. I couldn't just smile and nod at them, like that's all they needed to make their lives better.
But every time I brought it up to my in laws, the King and Queen, they smiled vaguely and indulgently at me, and then changed the subject. I expect they were waiting for me to outgrow it, to forget the past. Except I couldn't. Because, you see, except for better meals and clothes (and not that I am discounting that, believe ME), my life hadn't changed a whole lot. I was still waiting for the other glass slipper to fall. Still waiting for midnight to strike. I couldn't get comfortable here—not even with Prince Jim.
All I could think about was Am I doing it right? Do they really like me? Should I drink out of the goblet before or after each bite? It was like my Stepmother and Stepsisters had taken up permanent residence in my head. I was still just little Cinderella on the inside.
I thought no one had really noticed my misery. But one day, as I was staring at myself in the moat, I saw my fairy godmother's face in front of me. “Oh, dear...this is highly irregular. We're not supposed to meddle more than once, you see.” She said, sighing. “But I couldn't stand seeing you this way anymore. I feel..well, I feel sort of responsible.” I assured her that, despite appearances, I was happy with the Prince I loved—well, happy enough. “Enough! Posh!” She snorted in a most un-fairylike fashion. “I didn't go through all of this trouble for enough!” She took a deep breath. “The secret, dear Ella, is that I've been holding out on you. I gave you all of the trappings, but I failed to pass on the most important bit of information.”
“More important than 'Be home by midnight'?”
“Yes, even more than THAT. The secret, Ella dear, is in plain sight. Just a dear, commonplace little word...but more powerful than any magic spell. The word is...” She paused dramatically. “SO!”
“So?” At that moment, I was feeling exceptionally bereft. I'd been longing for my Fairy Godmother to come back and rescue me again, you see, and now here she was and she was...well, obviously daft.
She rolled her eyes. “Did you forget I can read minds, dear?”
“Of course, I am not daft! Go ahead...try it out.” She prompted me. “Oh, Cinderella...you aren't dressing the part, you know. You need to pay less attention to all of those peasants and more to your Peerage! After all, people are talking about you. About where you came from. Wondering if you'll measure up.”
I said the word, slowly, “So?” It didn't come naturally. But it felt exactly like the whisper of a cool silk ball gown against your skin.
With a wink, my Fairy Godmother dissolved back into the water.
I was hooked.
It took some getting used to, but before long, I was saying the word inside my mind all the time. And finally, I felt like I had gotten rid of my steps, mother and sisters, once and for all.
One night in bed, Jim asked me about my newfound, ahem, ardor. I told him my secret. To his credit, he took to it in no time at all.
In fact, it was his idea to leave.
We packed up everything we could carry on our backs, and snuck out the side window of our chamber while the palace snored on.
And of, from that day on, what a life we led! I suppose you could call us a little eccentric. We just called it FINALLY being ourselves. Psychoanalysis in the Swiss Alps, sailing with pirates searching for buried treasure, a year living in an igloo, whirling with the dervishes and reading Rumi for a year, dancing all night in a little club at the foot of a volcano where they named a drink after me...we did it all. We decided we were good will ambassadors from the Kingdom, and so it was our mission to show people how to live...to help all we could. And whenever we caught ourselves caring what people think, or being scared of rolling eyes and sarcasm, we applied our word like a vaccine. “So?” It worked like, well, a magic charm.
My Jim passed last year—snake bite while we camped in New Mexico. You might have seen the funeral on television...I never know how much coverage our lands get in your media.
Anyway, I was sort of numb there for a while...waiting for someone to rescue me again. Waiting for life to start making sense. It's hard to say, “So what?” to death. But finally, slowly, slowly...I realized that's exactly what Jim would like for me to do.
I'm moving a little more quietly now, but I'm still moving. Setting up a school, to teach people to save themselves. And my fairy godmother loves it—says she'll even teach a class!
And one last secret, because I can see you want to know.
Yes, these are the shoes. I wear them everywhere. These glass slippers are stronger than they look.
For more eccentric tales, go here.
Labels: sunday scribblings