Yawning, a young, teenage girl reluctantly got out of her warm bed, in response to the demanding call of her stepmother.
“Just a moment!” she managed to chime, although she desired to respond in a groan. Hurriedly, she slipped her feet into her slippers, dressed in her clothes and apron, and tied her mass of tangled hair into a messy knot. Then she rushed to serve her stepmother, who was found lying in bed, stroking her small grey cat and wishing for her morning tea.
Once the tea was brewed and given to the stepmother, the girl, whose name was Ella, awaited her next task of the day.
“Now, Cinderella,” began her stepmother, “do the laundry, make the breakfast, sweep the house, mop the first floor, dust the windowsills, do the dishes, and tidy the bedrooms.”
“Yes, Stepmother.” Sighing, Ella took her stepmother’s dirty teacup and saucer as she headed down the grand staircase to the first floor to begin her tiresome list of chores that only she had to perform.
Ever since Ella’s mother had died, things had changed. Her father had married her stepmother, and only months later her father had taken ill and also perished. After this sad death, Ella’s stepmother had taken over the household, ordering Ella to do all of the tedious housework and leaving herself to live in rich splendor.
Ella was mopping the floors when Elizabeth and Isabelle, Ella’s stepsisters, entered the room, both dressed in bathrobes and slippers.
“Good morning!” Elizabeth smiled.
“Do you need any help with your morning chores?” Isabelle inquired, taking pity for Ella because she was the only one who had to do any housework.
“Yes, thank you.” Ella responded, a pure look of gratefulness in her expression.
Ella’s stepsisters continued to help with the chores until the sound of the stepmother’s door being creaked open echoed though the halls. Immediately, Elizabeth and Isabelle took off their aprons and returned their mops to the broom closet and acted as though they had not been assisting Ella with her chores.
One afternoon, as Ella was dusting the furniture in the living room, there was a loud knock at the door. Hastily putting down her duster, Ella hurried to the front entryway. She was astonished, as she opened the door, to discover one of the king’s messengers. He handed her a letter, nodded politely, and was swiftly off on his horse again.
Ella headed upstairs to give the letter to her stepmother. Her stepmother snatched the envelope out of Ella’s hands before she could hand it to her. Ella watched as her stepmother recklessly tore the elegantly decorated envelope and grabbed the letter that was inside. There was a look of relish in the stepmother’s eyes as she read the script.
“Isabelle! Elizabeth!” hollered Ella’s stepmother, and her stepsisters came hustling in to see what they had been called for.
“Look at this letter! Apparently, we are invited to the prince’s ball! Every young maiden is supposed to attend. It is time for the prince to marry, and after the ball he will select one young lady to be his wife. The ball is this evening.”
Ella emitted a little gasp, and her stepsisters just gazed at their mother with looks of wonder.
“What an opportunity!” exclaimed the stepmother.
“Mother, I just cannot wait!” squealed Isabelle, resisting the strong urge to jump up and down.
“Me as well!” Elizabeth agreed, also excitedly.
“Well then. Let’s select some of your best gowns and get you girls looking splendiferous! As for you, Cinderella…”
Ella glanced up, startled, her heart pounding. “Yes, Stepmother?” Her eyes were wide.
“As for you, go finish up the housework.” An expression crossed with disgust, hatred, and evil spread across the stepmother’s face, and she grinned with rich pleasure as Ella held back her brimming tears and rushed out of the room, feeling the sensation of immense injustice.
Sobbing, Ella rested her head on the comforter of her bed, imagining how life would be without her stepmother in charge of every move she made.
There was a knock at Ella’s bedroom door.
“Who is it?” she managed to croak.
“Elizabeth and Isabelle.”
“Come in,” said Ella, wiping the tears from her eyes with a portion of her apron.
Isabelle and Elizabeth entered the room, looking sorrowful and sympathetic. A bag was slung over Elizabeth’s shoulder, and she was holding a folded piece of clothing in one hand.
“Listen,” said Isabelle softly. “We’ll make sure you’ll get to that ball.”
“How?” whispered Ella hopelessly, twisting a strand of her wavy blonde hair around one finger as an excuse not to look into her stepsisters’ eyes.
“You can ride a horse to the ball after we have left,” Isabelle said confidently.
“But I don’t have anything to wear, and Stepmother will see me at the ball and realize that I snuck in,” Ella pointed out.
“This is one of my dresses that no longer fits me,” Elizabeth explained, placing a folded piece of clothing onto Ella’s bedspread. “If we dress it up a little, you can wear this. Mother will never know it’s my dress, and if we do something to your hair as well, she’ll never know that it was you.”
Ella’s spirits started to rise, and she looked at her stepsisters with gratitude. “You are so kind.”
The three sisters got to work on the dress. It was an elegant shade of bird’s egg blue, but quite plain. Elizabeth withdrew a few random accessories from the bag she was carrying, including a blue silk ribbon and frilly white lace. Working together, Elizabeth, Isabelle, and Ella sewed the ribbon onto the dress and lined the perimeter of the garment with the decorative lace.
“I have just the thing for my footwear!” cried Ella suddenly, and sorted through her closet until she found a pair of elegant satin slippers that were once her mother’s.
“They’re gorgeous!” Isabelle breathed admiringly. “Now get dressed, and then let’s do something to that hair of yours.”
Ella watched out of her small attic window as her stepmother and stepsisters left in their carriage to the ball. Once she was certain that they were completely out of sight, Ella rushed down the stairs, her heart beating with great force and excitement. She dashed out into the courtyard and retrieved one of the stallions from the stable, swung her foot over the horse’s back, and took off towards the castle, the wind blowing in her face and reminding her how free and jubilant she felt.
Ella entered the castle along with a stream of other young maidens, all dressed in gorgeous, sophisticated attire. They made their way through the long hallway into the ballroom, which was packed with tons of people. One at a time, ladies were called to meet the prince, who was standing on the grand staircase. Ella shyly made her way to the front of the crowd, desiring to steal a better look at the prince. The lights almost seemed to fall on Ella, although she could have imagined it. For one single second, Ella and the prince’s eyes met and Ella could almost feel the pressure of the prince’s eyes admiring her light blue gown with lace and tied with a silk ribbon at the waist; her wavy blond hair pulled up in a loose bun and tied with strand of white lace holding; and her shiny satin slippers, reflecting the light like a royal cake coated in a mirror glaze.
To everyone’s surprise, the prince began to walk down the staircase toward the hoard of people. Ella’s eyes expanded as she realized that the prince was heading in her direction. Her stomach rippled, and her nerves were overcome by delight as the prince bowed to her, and holding out his hand, he asked proudly, “May I have this dance?”
“Yes,” said Ella in a flowery voice that sounded like the first sign of spring, light and elegant.
Ella and the prince began to dance, and inside Ella’s heart rejoiced. It was a dream. Feeling like she was dancing on air, Ella smiled.
Ella and the prince said little to one another, but their eyes conversed as they danced.
Ella continued to dance with the prince until she noticed her stepmother towards the front of the crowd who was watching the dance. It seemed as though Ella’s stepmother was eyeing her slippers with curiosity, a look of questioning printed on her face. Her stepmother proceeded to gaze at Ella, and Ella remembered that she had once shown her stepmother her slippers, back when her father was alive, and Ella recalled that her stepmother had showed great interest in them.
Distracted from her dance with the prince, Ella watched as her stepmother addressed her stepsisters and pointed at Ella. Her stepmother began to inch forward, and a cloud of panic, fear, and stress enveloped her as Ella realized that her stepmother currently had strong suspicions of her identity.
“I have to go,” spoke Ella suddenly to the prince, her voice a little shaky, “but dancing with you tonight was simply wonderful.”
Before the prince could say anything more, Ella dashed down the stairs leading to the hall and inconveniently tripped on her gown and lost a slipper, but didn’t stop. Flinging the doors to the courtyard open, Ella bolted towards her horse, untied him, and took off, her dress soaring behind her.
Instantly after she returned home, Ella sprinted up to her room, took off her gown, stuffed it hurriedly under her sheets, dressed in her normal plain dress and stained apron, and rubbed some dirt onto her face to make it look like she had been working. Carefully, Ella placed her satin slipper under her pillow and headed downstairs.
Ella couldn’t deny that she was nervous at her stepmother’s return, but she kept calm and pretended to be doing her chores as her stepmother entered the house, dressed in her gown and hoopskirt.
She didn’t reveal that she was suspicious of Ella, but her eyes plainly exhibited the fact that she didn’t believe that Ella had been home this whole time.
There had been gossip about the prince’s dance with the curious girl, whose identity was unknown to everybody. There was news that the prince was visiting everyone’s house and having every young maiden in the village try on the lost slipper of the unknown girl. If the slipper fit, then the prince would claim that girl as his bride. Of course this arouse much excitement, especially in Ella’s household.
Ella’s stepmother was steadfast to the idea of one of her daughters becoming princess, and finally there came the knock on the door that she had been impatiently waiting for.
The stepmother opened the doors to let the prince in, and smiled generously, hoping to set a good impression. “These are my daughters, Isabelle and Elizabeth,” Ella’s stepmother announced.
The prince began with Isabelle, and attempted to slide the slipper onto her foot. However, it was extremely small. Next the slipper was tried on Elizabeth’s foot. Again, the slipper did not fit.
Sighing, the prince rubbed his forehead and was about to leave.
“Wait. Please. You have forgotten our sister,” said Elizabeth boldly, unafraid of her mother’s response. She motioned for Ella, who was obscured in the shadows. Everything seemed to freeze, and the prince turned around to see a girl who was obviously a maid.
Ella uncertainly stepped forward, her furious stepmother in her peripheral vision, and seated herself on a chair as the prince gently slid the satin slipper onto her foot. It clearly was a comfortable fit, and the prince, realizing that Ella was his bride, gazed into her eyes, relieved to finally have found the girl he had danced with. Ella beamed and withdrew the other satin slipper from her apron and placed it next to the other. “My name is Ella.”
The day of the royal wedding approached, and Ella’s stepmother decided that she would not be attending the wedding, as it would ruin her pride. On her wedding day, Ella wore a spectacular white gown completed with lace, ribbon, flowers, and many other features. She was overwhelmed with joy as she and the prince were proclaimed husband and wife, and directly after the wedding was over, Isabelle and Elizabeth, who had both been her bridesmaids in the wedding, came running towards Ella, cheering and smiling with happiness for their sister. Ella was swallowed into a gigantic hug.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Why did you do so much for me?”
“Because we love you. You’re our sister, and seeing you free and happy at last is the best thing we could ask for.”