I definitely look amazing! She looked down. Fairy godmother sure knew how to conjure up a dress. But the shoes… With a frown she looked at her feet. Glass? Seriously? She took them off and put them in a plastic bag. No need for those in the carriage.
Now what was she going to do? Being left with a pumpkin and two mice at 12 o’clock wasn’t a practical arrangement. She decided to take things into her own hands, and beckoned the coachman. “Change of plans”, she said. “I’ll ride, and you go sit in the back. We take as many children as we can into the carriage. Two penny for a ride.”
The children flocked towards the carriage like fleas to a cat. It was gold, and shiny. And a real princess was riding it! Rumour spread through the town, and the waiting list grew and grew. The market filled with children. When they became too many, Cinderella changed her plan. She knew many parents in town really wanted to get the children off their hands while they were preparing for the ball. She might as well cash in on that.
She invited some of the maids she knew, and promised to share the profits with them. Together they turned the market into a children’s paradise. They told stories, taught the children dances for the ball, created a play involving a prince and a princess who lived happily ever after… Keeping order was not a problem. The children loved to do what the princess asked of them.
In the meanwhile, the prince had heard of a beautiful princess who was riding through town. Her beauty was beyond measure, and she was spreading joy wherever she showed up. He was curious, but not impressed. Probably just good marketing of one of the foreign princesses, he told his footman. “Let’s wait and see. She will surely show up tonight”.
At supper time, all children went home. Cinderella sighed a happy sigh as she was waving them goodbye. This had been one of the best days of her life, but she needed a rest. She sent the coachman to get her a pint of ale, and slumped down in the corner of an inn. She carefully made sure that she got no stains on her dress, and fell asleep instantly. “Wake me up half an hour before the ball starts”, she said.
So he did. Cinderella asked around who would like a ride to the palace. Twelve pence one way. Though many ladies weren’t happy to have such a beautiful coachwoman, they agreed. Their shoes were killing them, and well, it does look good to arrive in such a beautiful carriage, doesn’t it? So off and on Cinderella drove, making lots of money. The whole town was headed towards the ball.
In the palace, the prince was wondering if the beautiful princess had arrived already. He had danced with many women, but none of them stood out. They treated him like gods gift to women, but he knew they were only chasing a dream. The ball was quite boring, really. When he inquired after the foreign princess, he heard she was still riding through town, delivering guests to the palace. He sent his footman to talk to her when she arrived the next time.
The man waited for her to empty her load before he spoke to her. “Milady, don’t you want to come to the ball?” he inquired. “Yes, I want to” Cinderella replied. “The prince invites you” the footman said, wondering if that was the problem. “I can’t, not just yet”, was the answer, and Cinderella drove away again.
After another hour of graceful dancing and boring conversations, the prince sent out his footman again. “Why don’t you come to the ball”, he asked. Cinderella smiled. “I’m building a future for myself. When I’m done, I’ll come and dance”. The prince looked puzzled when he heard her reply. Building a future, what did that mean? He didn’t know what to think of it.
An hour later he was bored to his wits, and went out himself. When she arrived, he took a good look at her before he stepped out of the shadows. As he’d expected, she was not as beautiful as people had said. Great dress, plain face. Not a trace of a foreign accent, when she was joking with her coachman. He liked her. “Milady, will you come inside and dance with me?” he inquired.
She smiled. “I’ve heard your serving the best food people have ever tasted. All this work has made me hungry. Can I eat first?”. It was not the answer he’d had expected. “Right, food first then, he replied, and offered her his hand. She saw him raising an eyebrow when he saw her bare feet. “The dress came with glass shoes”, she explained. “Not very practical”. She put them on to walk to the castle, and took them straight off when she reached the steps.
“Why didn’t you come to the ball sooner?”, the prince asked when she was emptying a plate. “Don’t you like to dance”? “I do”, she said. “Lots. But normally I can’t. You see, I’m a maid and I sweep ashes. I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life. When my godmother gave me a carriage today, I used it to make money.” The prince politely didn’t look baffled. “I need to be home pretty soon. My dress will turn into rags at twelve. If you want to dance, I have five minutes left.”
So they danced.
When she left, the prince asked her if she would like to rule the kingdom. “I’ll think about it”, she said. Do you think it can be turned into a practical job?”