Beauty from Ashes, Part 5

(Read previous chapters here.)

Today. Today I’m going to the Prince’s ball. Me, Cinderella! The thought was so unbelievable that even after it had circled around and around in my head for hours, I still felt a sense of shock as I waved goodbye to Druscilla, Anastasia, and my stepmother. I would see them again soon – at the ball. I smiled as I imagined their stunned faces when I would  stride through the palace door.

But now. The sky above me deepened and darkened; sparkling stars punched miniscule holes through the black velvet cloth of night. The stars were my companions. They too twinkled and sparkled, bubbling over with barely restrained joy. It was time.

When I reached the rosebush, the Prince’s grandmother was there waiting for me. She was old. Very, very old. Her long, pure white hair rippled down her hunched back like an avalanche of snow. Her hands held out to welcome me were grotesquely bent and twisted with age, and wrapped in translucent, paper-thin skin. Her face was dotted with dark age spots and moles, turning her otherwise pale skin almost brown. Her eyes were cloudy blue skies, but they snapped and twinkled like the stars above us. She was beautiful.

“Come, Ella, my dear,”she said eagerly, in a soft voice. As I drew near, she gazed at me, smiling the Prince’s brilliant smile. “Yes, yes, he was right about you.” She laughed, a surprisingly loud and hearty laugh for such a frail body. Perhaps she wasn’t as old as she looked.

Grandmother, as she told me to call her, looked me over appraisingly. “We share the same eyes, don’t we dear? Blue eyes, blue skies. We must choose your dress accordingly.” Suddenly she closed her eyes, dropped her head, and was still for a very long time. I was startled, then puzzled. Had she dropped off to sleep? I stared at the ground uncomfortably, but when I raised my head to speak, I let out a most un-princess like squeal instead. The old woman held out the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. It was the same shade as my eyes, with white lace trimmings and a line of pearl buttons all down the back. In her other hand she held out a long pearl necklace and matching pearl earrings.

“Oh,” I breathed, “is it really for me?”

“It really is,” the  old woman replied happily. She seemed even older, even  tireder than before,  as if doing the magic had taken something out of her.

“M-may I try it on?” I whispered in awe. She nodded, her eyes sparkling with delight at my joy.The dress fit perfectly.

“Now for your hair,” she said. Her bony fingers proved gentle and skillful, working a magic of their own with my thick caramel curls. She braides and looped and twisted until finally she was satisfied.

“And you must not forget your shoes,” she warned with a smile.

I had forgotten about the perfect glass slippers the Prince had given me, but now I slid them on quickly. I felt like a real princess.

Grandmother led me to a hidden lake in the forest, a lake whose waters were as smooth and clear as the glass of my slippers. I saw my reflection looking back at me in the moonlight. My hands flew to my mouth. That was me? My hair was done up high on my head, curled in braided coils and intricate twists. A few strands of hair hung down like dripping caramel. My dress and slippers were too beautiful to be true.

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “I can’t… it’s so… I just…Oh THANK you ever so much, Grandmother!” I flung my arms around her neck with such force that I nearly knocked her into the pond, but she just laughed and hugged me back.

“One last thing,” she said, drawing back from my embrace. She paced the shore of the lake, the wrinkles of her brow deepening in concentration. After a while she threw up her hands and sighed. “I suppose this will have to do,” she murmured to herself. “It will take all I have, but it will be worth it.” She picked a small yellow pumpkin off its vine, and abruptly closed her eyes and bowed her head and was still for a very long time. But this time I watched. I watched the pumpkin transform before my eyes, watched it grow bigger and bigger until Grandmother set it on the ground, where it grew bigger still. A door appeared, then a window. Two horses appeared in front of the pumpkin, which was now the size of a carriage, and a plump stagecoach flicked the reigns. As the finishing touch, a door opened, and out came a footman to usher me in. As soon as the transformation was complete, Grandmother crumpled to the ground in exhaustion. I ran over to her to help her up, but she shooed me away.

“Go,” she whispered faintly. “It’s time to meet your prince.”

******************

There we go! I hope you liked it! Thanks for reading, my friends. ♥

***Allison***

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