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Cinderella-A Retelling
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By Amanda Breck

Chapter One
My momma died today. It wasn’t unexpected as she had been sick for a long while before. She told me not to be sad, that she would watch over me from Heaven. I’m trying not to be sad, but it’s hard. Daddy isn’t helping, either. He has locked himself in his study and refuses to come down. He says he is packing for his trip, but I don’t believe him. I hope he comes out soon. I want him to sit on his big chair and hold me close like he used to.

There was a knock on my door. I turned my head quickly towards it, squinting through the heavy darkness of my bedroom “Come in,” I said quietly. I was proud when my voice didn’t quaver. My nurse, Mary Ellen, peeked her head in. She looked at me, her face full of sadness and her usually bouncy brown curls were hanging flat around her face. “Come here, child,” she said, holding her arms out. “Come let me hold you.”

I got up from my window seat and ran into her arms. When I had buried my head in her soft hair she rocked me. “Oh, Eleanor,” she said, stroking my white blond hair. “It’ll be alright, don’t cry, child, it’ll all be alright.”

I let her hold me and rock me for a while until I’m no more tears will come and feel a little better. Mary Ellen always makes me feel better. She took my face in her warm hands and wiped my tears away with her thumbs. She gave me a small smile and I give a watery one in return. She hugged me tightly to her then stood up again. “Come with me, Ella darling.”

I put my hand in hers and we left my dark room behind and began down the hall toward the grand marble staircase I used to play on. “Where are we going?” I asked. She squeezed my hand and said “The orchard. We are going to plant a tree.”
She led me through the big empty house and into the little kitchen where she was so often found making delicious pies and pastries. She took a small green watering can with painted flowers on it and filled it up with water from the sink. She took something small from a crystal dish beside the stove and put it in her apron pocket. After she was satisfied that she had everything she led me out the service door on which an assortment of brooms and mops were leaned against.

It was a warm spring morning outside and I could hear birds chirping in the trees. The cherry trees of the orchard were in full bloom and the blossoms smelled delicious. Mary Ellen led me through the trees deep into the heart of the orchard orchard. We stopped in a small clearing where the sun poked through the branches and she took a small seed and a little trowel out of her apron pocket. We knelt on the soft brown earth and she set the seed softly on the ground. I helped her dig a hole in the soil until she sat the trowel back on the ground. She handed the little brown seed to me. I placed it gently in the hole then smoothed the dirt over it. She then gave me the watering can and as I tilted it water gently sprinkled over the dirt. We stood up and brushed our dresses off and she took my hand again. She looked down at me and smiles. I smiled back at her and we walked back to the house.


Chapter Two
Two weeks later the maids were in a frenzy, cleaning and re-cleaning the rooms, scrubbing the kitchen and washrooms until they sparkled, making the beds and fluffing the pillows. Mary Ellen was overseeing the work, a grim look on her face and her eyes pinched. When I asked her what was happening she just forced a smile on her face and told me my daddy was bringing home a surprise. I could tell she didn’t approve of this surprise by the way she gritted her teeth when she said it.

I snuck outside through the service door when Marry Ellen wasn’t watching to escape the meticulous maids and to visit my tree. The dogwood was up to my chest now, and pretty white blossoms were opening. I marveled for a moment at how fast it seemed to be growing then sat in the scanty shadow cast by the tree and leaned my head softly against the trunk, thinking about my mother and the way she would wrap her arms around me and stroke my hair. I smiled as I remembered how one day she had been remarking about how blond it was. “My dear! Where on Earth did you get such pretty blond hair!” she had said, sweeping me up in her arms. I remember giggling as she swung me around in circles and how we collapsed laughing on the floor. Then my father had come in the room, his eyes twinkling as he took in our figures sprawled on the floor.

I sighed as a wave of sadness over my mother’s passing threatened to engulf me. I bit my lip and thrust my chin out to hold back the tears. “Ella!” I heard someone call. I ignored it. “Ella, child, come on now, you must get ready for your father’s arrival!”
I sighed again and stood up. Mary Ellen always wanted me to look presentable for my father. I knew my father wouldn’t care if I turned up in just my skin, but Mary Ellen always would. I dusted my skirts off then traipsed my way through the orchard and back to the house, holding my head high.

Mary Ellen was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She gave me an appraising look then nodded and ushered me in the house. She grabbed my arm and steered me into my bedroom.
“Mary Ellen, what is daddy bringing home?” I asked again. She paused in her search through my closet and sighed. “A very lovely surprise, I’m sure,” she said turning to face me. I didn’t believe her. She turned back to my closet and pulled out a lovely orange dress my mother had made for me with ribbons and little beads. She eyed it carefully then turned back to face me. She held it up to my face then nodded in a satisfied way. “Yes, this will do. Alice!”
Alice, a maid not much older than me with wildly curly orange hair rushed into the room and curtsied. “Yes ma’am?” she said while brushing a curl behind her ear.
Marry Ellen nodded at me. “Help me dress her, please.”

Alice curtsied again then rushed over to me and helped me pull the old faded blue dress over my head. Marry Ellen then pulled the lovely orange one on. The smooth silky fabric felt nice against my skin. Alice fastened the back up the grabbed a brush off my bureau and began dragging it through my hair. She sighed in envy. “Your hair is gorgeous,” she said. I smiled. “Thank you,” I said quietly.

I hear the sound of a carriage approaching through my opened window. Mary Ellen shrieked. “They’re here!”

I scrunched my brow in confusion, wondering who ‘they’ were then winced as Alice pulled my hair too tight into an orange ribbon. “Hurry, hurry, hurry,” Mary Ellen said, wringing her hands and almost dancing in anticipation, or was it frustration? When Alice was done Mary Ellen grabbed my arm and steered me back down the stairs and parked me in front of the door. She smoothed her skirt then looked at me. “Don’t slouch, child,” she said sternly, though not unkindly, while brushing a stay hair back up into the ribbon. She gave me an encouraging smile, and then the door opened.


Chapter Three
I stood there with a foolish grin on my face, expecting my father, when a tall woman with dark hair and cold eyes I’d never seen before in my life peered through the door. I felt the grin slide off my face to be replaced with a look of confusion. I glanced at Mary Ellen, the need for an explanation clear in my eye, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes. She stared resolutely at the door, her gaze fixed on the strange woman.

The door opened wider and I saw behind the women two small girls about my age, one with flaming red hair and the other with a more tame auburn shade. They both had expressions of polite curiosity on their faces, but I could see the greedy glint in their eyes. I scrutinized their faces carefully, wondering who they were. They glanced over their shoulders then stood to the side. My father walked through the door and stood beside the woman and put an arm around her waist. “Hello, Eleanor. Mary Ellen,” he said, nodding at us. “I would like you to meet your new mother Tara, and her lovely daughters Priscilla and Halona.”
All of the sudden I couldn’t think. I stared at my father, whose kindly face was once a source of comfort, in disbelief, lips poised to speak, not that anything would bother to come out. I tried to make sense of the situation, of anything really. I managed to stumble out a bewildered “What?” And then I couldn’t stand. My legs gave way underneath me and I dropped into a helpless orange heap on the sparkling marble floor. “Ella? Are you alright? Ella? Ella? What is wro-“

I woke up in my bed with Mary Ellen at my side. The sky outside my window was purple twilight. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t appreciate it. I could tell Mary Ellen knew I was awake but she kept on stroking my hair softly. I looked up at her and her brown eyes met my blue ones. I don’t know what she saw in reflected in them but she said, “Oh, Eleanor, my little Eleanor.”

I felt my eyes well up with tears and she scooped me up in her arms with a soft embrace. “Oh, Mary Ellen, why did he have to go and marry her?” I said, “Why couldn’t he have just stayed home and been happy with me? Is he angry with me? Did he bring those girls home because he doesn’t like me anymore? Oh, I’m sure I’ve made a very bad impression on her! Surely she hates me!” I was dangerously close to hysteria and she knew it. She held me and rocked me like my mother used to do and said, “Ella, child, come dry your tears and look at me. Look at me.”

I did. I saw the tears in her eyes and suddenly I didn’t feel as alone as before. I wiped my tears and sniffed. Mary Ellen held me tighter. “I wish he had been more tactful about this,” she said to herself, and I knew she was talking about my father. “In fact, I wish he hadn’t done this at all. He didn’t even consider the position he would put you in. But no, my dear, he is not angry with you, just worried. I am sure he thinks you are ill and doesn’t suspect anything else. And as for what She thinks, well I don’t really think that matters, or at least it shouldn’t matter to you. She is not your mother, and she never will be.”

“Oh, Mary Ellen,” I said again, and I buried my face in her shoulder and cried. “I miss mother,” I said, “I wish she were here.”

She resumed stroking my hair and said, “Me too, child, me too,” then she rocked me to sleep.
The next morning my father came in quietly, thinking I was still asleep. He came over to the side of my bed and knelt, then stroked the hair covering my face once. I closed my eyes at his touch and for a second I believed he still wanted me to be his daughter. But then I heard a call from downstairs, presumably my new step-mother. “Darling, will you come help me for a moment?”

He stood up and left my room without a backward glance and suddenly I knew I hated her, and everything about her, especially her voice, calling my father away. I clenched my fists under my covers and decided I would never allow her to be my mother or even try to be my mother. Mary Ellen called my name outside my door and I slowly unclenched my fist, letting the anger leak out of me. I sat up in my bed. “Yes, Mary Ellen?” I called back, a little shocked at how scratchy my voice was.

“Put some sturdy clothes on and come meet me in the kitchen. I think we need a day in the orchard.”



Brian Falkner Books