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Once Upon a Time

By Helen Lares (New Zealand)


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Well that in itself should be sounding alarm bells of impending stupidity.  Every moment is time.  If you should venture to ponder parallel universes then every “once upon” is happening simultaneously, but I digress already.


Cinderella was a wimp.  She hadn’t yet had the courage to take a look at her baggage and her childhood issues, but they were on the cards, at least according to a mysteriously psychic old dear, who just happened to wander past the picket fence while she was pegging out her washing a few weeks ago, and stopped to chat.  As they do.  They chin-wagged pleasantly for half an hour and then the mysterious old dear moved on.  As they do.


Cinderella’s father was a raging alcoholic with a penchant for cheap sherry, put downs and cruel remarks.  By her 16th birthday, Cinders had little or no self-esteem and believed herself to be a nothing.  A nobody.  Which, I guess she was.  Where the mind goes, the girl follows.  Her father’s foul mood, lies and unpredictability had led her sweet mother to an early grave to escape the awfulness of her life.


McTavvet did redeem himself for at least a week when he met and married Sue.  But as they say, what goes around comes around and she was a nasty piece of work to say the least.  Cinders now had an incompetent father and a stepmother who with one of her looks could reduce you to pond slime.  Her offspring were two little dears. 


Candy and Penny whose aim in life was to make those around them feel small and insignificant.  They did a great job at this, and made the lives of their orthodontists, nail technicians, hairdressers and designer clothing salespersons miserable.  Ugly they were.  On the inside at least.  For now, makeup and coiffure could hide a multitude of sins.  And their shoes were stunning!  They could talk for hours on the virtues of Italian or Brazilian leather.  And they did.  So did their friends.  Don’t ever get caught up in one of their conversations.  You will die a slow brain death.  One of their gossip sessions however, could entertain for hours.  Give it another decade and the ugliness would be showing on the outside of these two, due to lack of integrity, scowling and a variety of unsavory thoughts.


Cinders at this time, was relegated to chief cook and bottle washer, with a wardrobe from The Warehouse , but in true martyr fashion, redeemed herself as competent and willing, much to the disgust of her new family.  By this time McTavvet avoided all responsibility and spent much time on the road earning his ample commission as an insurance salesman and therefore blissfully unaware and detached from his daughter’s plight.  As if he cared. 


What went on in Cinder’s head however, was a different matter.  Her sunny smile and warm disposition alerted no-one to the fact that inside her, seethed resentment and anger that could equal that of a small nuclear reactor and provide enough electricity for all of Bavaria, if indeed they needed it.  She jumped to attention, attended her step-needs and carried out her duties willingly and ablingly.  Her small cat Barry loved her.


Someone else also cared.  A lot.  Boutons the patisserie delivery guy was very aware of sexy Cinders, and listened to her abject and dismal mutterings which escaped her full lips, early every Friday morning after delivering the brioche, alternating his gaze from her needy dependent ebony eyes to her perky breasts, which seemed to have a life of their own, feeling her pain, empathizing with her anguish, wishing he had the dosh to take her away from all this.  His wages were minimal, but his heart was in the right place and he listened with respect and compassion as she poured out her sorry-ass story of oppression and subjugation. 


One sunny Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the ball season, which I recall is in December, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, Candy and Penny received an e-mail.  They realized it was special when they espied the Royal crest and various regal emoticons emblazoned in rich text all over it.  They downloaded with glee and slithered off to show their mother their pretentious invitation.  An invitation from the Right Royal Reginald to attend his ball the following week.  He had an ulterior motive of course.  He was fed up with his girlie magazines and desired a wife.

Reginald was a hottie in the right circles.  In some circles however, he was a dick with a large nose and stupid mind, whose heritage bore a striking resemblance to a thoroughbred racehorse, inbred due to the tide being out in the gene pool.


Candy, Penny and their controlling mother Sue, planned the event with the intensity of one of Napoleon’s battle plans.  They’d read in the local rag that Big Max fashions had a sale on, so armed with a bag of gold the three of them headed off in their rather nice Mercedes for an afternoon’s retailing at the local market, much to the delight of Cinders, who now had a free afternoon and she fully intended to take advantage of this and put her feet up.  Boutons had texted to her, the details of the ball, due to the loose lips of some excitable patisserie patrons, so she was totally aware of the impending event. 


No sooner had our up and coming heroine made her mug of chamomile tea and armed with the Woman’s Weakly, there was an horrific flash and the kitchen filled with a sweetly acrid cloud of purple smoke followed by the manifestation of a cool chick who announced herself as her Furry Godmother.


“Hi.  I’m Celeste” said she.  Cinders was a tad surprised, but smiled an accommodating smile, hoping there wouldn’t be any mess to clean up afterwards.  So they sat down together and made plans to get our young woman to the ball.  Which they did, with a promise to create the opportunity, on the evening of the ball, once our little vixens and chaperone had left the building.


Cinders was of course delighted and excited by the prospect of spending an evening in company way above her station, which made her mundane chores for the next seven days bearable to say the least. 


The days passed quickly with the pampering, adjusting, preening and grooming of the sisters and before long they were whisked away to enjoy an evening of splendid royal indulgence.  Celeste turned up on the dot and set to work without delay.


Barry of course was magicked into a coachman of exotic persuasion.  A fine, figure of a man with a six pack to die for.   The pumpkin for Sunday night’s dinner was turned in the blink of an eye into a carriage fit for royalty and four passing scurrying mice were transformed into fine white Spanish horses, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the fall of Madrid.  Cinders of course wished that Celeste had done all this outside in the garden.  It was suddenly very crowded and steamy in the kitchen, but they managed to squeeze them all through the ample architectural doorway with only slight damage.  Cinders was transformed into a stunning young lady bedecked in a silk Versace gown and crystal slippers which didn’t exactly match, but somehow they did the trick.  Coiffed and made over.  Hardly recognisable.  Elegant and chic.  With a dose of courage to boot.


Cinders settled into her cosy carriage festooned with lush velvet pillows.  Celeste warned that the magic would inexplicably wear off at midnight and that she’d better hurry home before then or embarrassment may occur.  She agreed she would and giggled with excitement and swooned at the prospect of flirting inanely with Reginald.  Fortunately the journey was not long and tedious and not a hair was out of place as Barry helped her out of the carriage in her elegance to the red carpet which swept up to the door of the palace.  Their eyes met.  A thrilling energy shot through her body and she reluctantly let go of his warm, manicured, yet strong hand, his countenance shining at this unexpected exchange, brief but intense.


Cinders floated past the guards into the alabaster foyer.  One of them blew her tiny mind with his charm and stature.  He was built.  She knew it.  She smiled.  She took the bubbling, rather expensive Moet offered to her and vowed and declared to herself that she’d stay under the limit this very night.  She’d been there many times before.  We’d see.


Feeling tipsy with the atmosphere and heady with the music and wafting and palpable haze of French perfume, she spotted her step-family and headed in the opposite direction, her glass slippers hurting now and making an indiscreet clatter on the marble floor.  Before long, His Royal Highness, Prince Reginald saw her and made a beeline.  The crowd of elegant, eligible women faded from his peripheral vision as he drank in her beauty and being. 


With a twinkle in his eye, upon request, he transported her willingly to the dance floor to the audible sighs of the gals who had missed out.  They hit it off, much to the disgust of the intensely jealous and jilted Candy and Penny, who did not recognize their younger step-sibling, due to the fact they barely looked at her at the best of times, and with the makeover to make the Queer Eye lads smile.  The pair danced all night long with several missions to the balcony for more drinkies and a ciggy.  She never really trusted men who drank champagne, but she was young and inexperienced.  What did she know?  By this time she was feeling positively legless.  Her intuition and good judgement sadly impaired by the influence of the bubbles and she fell deeply in love with him.


Suddenly, and why she did this was anyone’s guess, she took a peek at Reggie’s regal and fascinating, highly accurate German striking timepiece suspended from his fob chain.  She realized she had 10 minutes to bid her farewells to Prince Reggie (as only she would ever be allowed to call him), make haste and hurry home before the magic would wear off.


As she ran, she took a second look at the guard and while uttering some guttural sound that only she knew where it came from, she tripped and her glass slipper flew off, nearly taking someone’s eye out.  She fled to her carriage where the incredibly handsome valet had parked it at her earlier instruction.  With Reggie in obvious distress calling from the great steps for her to text him, and realizing he didn’t even know her name, and with Barry at the reins, they returned frantically to the McTavvett estate just down the road in the moonlight.  Fortunately, it did turn midnight and just as she arrived home, carriage, horses and Barry the driver turned into their respective insignificant selves.  Fortunate in that who knows what might have happened with Barry’s new found manly libido and Cinder’s obvious attraction.


Things returned to abnormal quickly, as they often do once you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and felt the fear for a while.  Reggie frantically declared and vowed he would marry this beautiful girl, if he could but just find her.  He spread the word with spam and junk mail, the likes which hadn’t been seen since the Great Berlin Uprising.  One of his advisors recommended he take the slipper and try it out on all the young ladies of the kingdom.  So he did, with the blessings of his really nice family. 


Boutons, who hadn’t really thought of the consequences of telling Cinders about the ball, was relieved it was all over and pilfered for her an extra croissant on Friday morning, which he knew she’d enjoy and all he cared about after all, was her pleasure.  And his, but I digress.  


While Cinders was relating her story of her most pleasurable night to Boutons, there was a knock on the door and a Royal trumpet sounded the Royal Fanfare for the Royal arrival of Royal Reggie and the glass slipper, who demanded to see the young ladies of the house to find the owner.


Cindy and Penny of course attempted in vain to put their portly plates into the shoe of slender means, when Boutons, who realized with sadness and reality that Cinderella’s long-term happiness could only be provided by a man of regal means with wads of cash, pushed Cinders into the reception room.  Reggie insisted of course that she try the slipper, which she did, and you know that it fitted.  The ugly sisters and their mother screamed and fainted. 


Reggie gazed longingly at her and uttered an apology about not immediately recognizing her.  As she looked at him, she realized deep in her heart that this was not the man for her, not matter how rich, how attractive his power and wealth made him look, he really was a boring, simple-minded twerp, without strength of character who didn’t think twice about wasting time and kingdomly resources in getting what he wanted. 


We end our story here.  As you probably already know, the sisters grow old and ugly and become avid fans of The Young and the Restless.  They never do find husbands.  Sue was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after the ball season ended, joins the local church and makes saints out of her tolerant Sunday friends.  McTavvett?  At some stage, he joins AA for a few weeks, goes on the wagon, falls off the wagon, and shortly before his death at a not so ripe old age, realises the terrible truth of his miserable existence and the loss of all that he could have held dear. 


Who knows what will become of Cinderella, but she knows she has a million choices.  Will she pursue a career and reveal her talents in the service of humanity?  Will she ask her Furry Godmother to restore Barry to his humanly handsomeness?  Will she finally see Boutons for the kind, sweet gentle confidante he has been, who loves her dearly and who wouldn’t hurt her in a million years?  Will she go back to the palace and hang about the Grand Steps of a Saturday night?   I guarantee she will live happily ever after with just a few major life crises along the way, but her disposition will become warm and sunny because she took a good look at herself, not just her needs and her desires but also the courageous discovery of her failings and she turned into a beautiful woman.




Helen Lares

March 2004


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