*This flash fiction story started as a prompt at a meeting with my writing group a while back. Since then, I've found myself returning to it from time to time until today when I decided that I am ready to put it out there. I hope you enjoy it!*
Cinderella, the Pragmatic Princess
She could not quite remember when it was exactly, but once upon a time, Cinderella had grown used to her mean stepmother and awful stepsisters playing cruel tricks on her. By that point, she expected whatever they offered her to be laced with menace and ill-will but that night, she was determined not to let them get the best of her.
The beautiful gown she was supposed to wear to the Grand Ball had been torn apart by her rude stepsisters, apoplectic at the idea that someone as common as her could even be entertaining the idea of attending the same regal ball as them. But little did they know, Cinderella had been taking sewing lessons on the sly. She had become quite proficient at turning tattered rags into beautiful, one-of-a-kind creations. That night would be the culmination of her seamstress skills coming together. Ever the pragmatist, not only had she started creating a backup gown several days earlier but she had been working on it in the wee hours of the night then telling her horrible stepmother that the squeaking from her room had been mice when it had really been the work of her sewing machine.
Cinderella’s backup gown was really only about an hour from being finished, forty-five minutes if she hustled. So as soon as her wretched stepmother and devious stepsisters had departed for the ball, Cinderella brought out her frock and got straight to work. There were several small woodland creatures gathered at her window, seemingly watching her work but Cinderella barely had time to pay them any mind because she had work to do.
Her fingers flew and stitches materialized at a rapid rate. She was soon standing in front of her mirror dressed in the most beautiful gown she had ever laid eyes on. Who would have thought such beauty could come from some old bedsheets and discarded cleaning rags?
Cinderella looked out at the moon rising in the sky and knew it was time for her to make her way across town to the castle. She did not have a magical carriage or any fairy godmother to aid her (as if such things existed, she chuckled to herself) so she commenced the trek in her most sensible shoes. Hoofing it all the way across town, Cinderella took a moment to catch her breath outside the castle walls. She was intending for her entrance to be her big moment.
She entered the castle and descended down the staircase, heads turned to stare as she made her way towards the party. By the time she reached the bottom step, Prince Charming had materialized by her side and was extending his hand to guide her. She placed her hand in his then steadied him as he tripped, so distracted was he by her presence.
He told her that her dress was beautiful. She looked him in the eye and laughed. “This old thing? I made it from some old rags that were gathering dust around the house.” Prince Charming laughed at what he purported to be her false modesty. So she simply said, “Why thank you, that is a lovely thing for you to say.”
Not one to like staying up late when there was so much work to be done the next day, Cinderella kept an eye on the clock as it approached midnight. She had spent the past few hours talking to other ball attendees and dipping in and out of the Prince’s company. She quite liked being around the Prince but did not want to be rude by monopolizing his attention. Besides, she was having a grand time tasting all of the delicious food, dancing, chatting with the waitstaff, and making the acquaintance of people she had never spoken to before. Though she did take note of the ones who usually pointedly ignored her when she was in her regular clothes trailing after her neglectful stepmother on the occasions she was actually permitted out of the house.
As the clock began to chime midnight, Cinderella turned to the Prince and said, “Well, this has been a wonderful evening but I’m afraid I must call it a night.”
“Why, do you become a pumpkin at midnight or something?” he joked.
She smiled and said, “Not quite, but I do like to turn in early. I am a busy woman with a lot to do each day. You’d be amazed at how much work it is tending to my stepmother and stepsisters. It’s just not practical to stay up late. The chores and housework won’t get done on their own.”
With that, Cinderella turned on her heel and ran up the staircase as the Prince called behind her, “Well, aren’t you quite the pragmatic princess?”
Cinderella turned and called over her shoulder, “Pragmatic, yes, but princess… Well, I’m afraid that part’s up to you!” She winked and hurried on her way as the final chime rang midnight.