So this is not the magical fantasy you might expect. The one where the beautiful girl gets rescued and them lives a wonderful, happy married life.
For this is the real tale of Cinderella, and it all began here, in a small cottage, damp, filled with piles of clothing waiting to be mended, and three handsome, arrogant sons who treated her like a skivvy. Don’t ask about the husband.
It had all been so wonderful – a real dream for her. The handsome prince, the glass slipper, escape from the manor house.
But that hadn’t been enough. It hadn’t been right. Cinderella had been deceived, deceived herself.
She had to be rescued to live happily ever after by an illiterate stable-hand, raise three sons – living in a cottage. That’s how her story was supposed to go. Embarrassing, looking back, having to have been rescued. Spare me the homely cottage – what was the difference between a damp, insanitary cottage and the castle? Only fewer gifts and a much longer term to serve.
Her husband – name doesn’t matter, just generic male – bred horses in the fields: not all he bred in the fields, Cinderella suspected. Always having to check on this stallion or that mare: more likely checking on some local filly, she reckoned.
Cinderella had loved the rescue – and her rescue from the dungeon, hardly surprising really. White horse, thundering hooves, big, strong swain, what’s not for a girl to like?
But the stories she told her sons …
Cinderella was a survivor. She knew what it had been like, flogging her guts out, day after endless day, serving her mistresses – starting early, finishing whenever they chose to cease braying orders. Working nine to five? Dolly Parton hadn’t a clue, thought Cinderella bitterly. Cinderella didn’t sing much now.
So she wasn’t happy with that rescue. Ok, she was happy she’d been rescued, but not about what had happened after.
She thought about her sons. Big, strong lads – they always are in these stories she thought, no getting away from it. And she? The wonderful wife? The amazing mother – some alliterative appellation anyway. Or rather a banshee, screaming at her sons, her husband.
The washing needed doing, just like old times. Now her sons demanded a clean shirt, ironed shirt, clean underwear. And Cinderella had to work. And seamstresses don’t get paid much. Breeding horses was a chancy business – husband off to market, then home reeking of beer, perfume? So it was Cinderella’s endless, monotonous sewing that kept the food on the table and the bills paid.
Another load of washing. Out goes Cinderella with the load. The sun is shining, her spirits lift a little and she sings. Then she sees him.
There’s a man standing just outside her gate. This a cottage in the middle of rolling fields: men don’t turn up at the gate, unless it’s the postman with another bill, or an Amazon delivery for her sons. So what’s he doing?
He’s on the phone. And he is not happy. Cinderella can hear the edge in his voice, the tone of cold command. She also noticed his chiselled jawline, the sheen on his black hair and a very expensive silk jacket. Then she realised she was staring at him and he was staring at her.
He put the phone away. He smiled at her. She saw he had black eyes, as black as his hair. He also had a very expensive car she saw as he moved to speak to her.
Why did she go with him? Why not? She was bored. She had done the fairy story thing, now she wanted a flash apartment, good food, no more work. The man? Who cares!
Cinderella had found what she wanted.