A while back I started working on a Cinderella retelling. It doesn't have a title yet and is far from finished. But, I'm sharing the first chapter with you anyway. So, enjoy and let me know what you think. If enough interest is expressed I'll post more.
But, for now, without further ado, Chapter One of my untitled Cinderella story:
Ella looked away from the carriage window to smooth the pale blue lace of her skirt. The smile that graced her face was uninhibited and radiating. She bounced a bit with joy as she looked over at her mother, who sat beside her.
“The dress is really mine to keep, Mamma?” she questioned for the tenth time since she had first been shown it. “They aren’t going to take it away from me, now that the wedding is over?”
The woman sighed and lifted a gloved hand to her temple. “No, Eleanor, they are not going to take it away from you. And, you shall have many others after we are moved to Whitehall.”
“You’re certain?” The girl sat at the edge of her seat, looking out the window once more as she asked the question.
“My dear, I would not lie to you,” Lady Bannering replied. “Now, do, please try to act like a lady. You must make a good impression.”
Ella sat up straighter, though her smile remained unwavering. “And, I’m truly to have brothers? Real ones?”
“Are there any other kind?” her mother asked, a note of exhaustion in her tone. “And, I would not get my hopes too high, my dear. They are your stepbrothers, after all, and might not afford you the affection of blood.”
But the woman’s words appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. “And, we’re all to live together, like a real family?”
“Yes, my dear,” her mother replied. “Now, do try to let Mother rest for a bit. It’s been quite a long day.”
The girl pulled in her lips and nodded, barely able to contain her mirth. She turned her attention back to the scenery outside the carriage and allowed the next hour to pass in silence.
She was unable to hold back, however, once Whitehall came into sight. As soon as her gaze fell upon the magnificent building she let out a breath of awe and said, “Mamma, did you marry the king?”
Lady Bannering reminded in her seat, not so much as glancing out the window. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course, I didn’t. Now, sit back, you’re acting most unladylike.”
It took every ounce of willpower for the girl to pull herself away from the window. She so badly wanted to take in every glance of this magnificent estate that she could. But, her mother’s words rang in her ears, the ones about making a good first impression and the desire for her new family to love her overtook her awestruck wonder of the place.
She sat back against the carriage seat, straight and tall as her little frame would afford her, keeping her eyes straight ahead.
“Do stop fiddling with your skirt,” her mother instructed. The girl folded her hands, clasping them so tight the knuckles turned white.
It took a full fifteen minute- and more patience than the little girl had- before the carriage came to a stop outside. The girl sat forward to jump out but her mother’s hand on her arm kept her from it. She looked to the woman, question in her eyes.
“A lady waits for the footman,” Lady Bannering instructed. “And, she allows her seniors to proceed her.”
The girl slumped back against the seat, hanging her head. “I’m sorry. How will they ever like me if I’m so terribly ill-bred?”
“Patience and attendance to your manners would improve matters,” her mother remarked as the carriage door was opened. She gave her daughter a pointed look before she accepted the footman’s hand and climbed from the vehicle.
Ella bounce in her seat while she waited for the footman to return for her. It seemed an age before he did and she fairly leapt for him, taking his hand and flying from the carriage.
Out on the gravel drive stood the man she had watched her mother marry not twenty-four hours ago. They had spent their wedding night in the capital and then he had left earlier the next morning to prepare for their arrival.
And now here they were. At their new home.
Ella’s feet hit the gravel and the footman released her hand before she had truly gained her footing. She stumbled and started to fall, when she felt strong hands about her. She was righted and a voice said in her ear, “Are you all right?”
She nodded, feeling her face grow hot to the tips of her ears. “Quite, thank you.”
The hands released her and she snuck a peek at her savior. The first thing she noticed was a shock of wild blond hair. It framed the face of a young man, perhaps twenty-one or twenty-two. At first, she thought perhaps he was a footman, but his clothes, she noted, suggested otherwise.
No, this could only be one of her new brothers. And, he had seen her nearly topple from the carriage! Her face grew even warmer and she looked down at her shoe once more.
“You must be my new sister,” the young man said, his tone not unkind. In fact, it was quite warm and friendly. He had even called her his sister. But then, he was surely only being polite.
“Yes, sir,” she replied in a small voice. “I’m Ella.”
“It’s Eleanor,” her mother corrected. “The girl insists on holding onto her childish nickname.”
Ella felt very small indeed and wished to be anywhere but here at that moment. What must her new family think of her? She shrank back, trying to become as far from the center of attention as possible.
“She is still a child, my love,” Lord Bannering pointed out. The man took a step toward her, bending down to her eyelevel and lifting her chin with a finger. She had no choice but to meet his gaze. “I think Ella is a perfectly beautiful name.”
She blushed once more, but this time from pleasure, not shame. She did not know this man well, as his courtship to her mother had been whirlwind and the two had spent much of it engaged in activities she was still too young for, such as balls and tea parties and the like. But the few times they had met, he had done everything in his power to put her at ease and she could not help liking the man immensely.
The man righted himself. “Now, then to properly introduce you, dear Ella, this is my son, Edward. I know not where his brother, Henry, is.” He glanced around, as if to see if the boy was somewhere nearby. “That boy…”
“Last I saw him, he said he would be down directly,” Edward informed him. “He should be but a moment.”
They saw no reason to wait for the young man out there on the gravel drive and so they retired inside.
“I’ve had your rooms prepared,” Lord Bannering informed them. “If you would perhaps like to freshen up before we tour the house.”
“Oh, yes please,” Lady Bannering requested. “I must look a sight after that ride.”
“You look beautiful,” her husband told her, an arm firmly about her. He drew her to him and kissed her nose. The woman blushed with pleasure and the two became wrapped up in themselves, leaving Edward and Ella alone.
The girl tried to shrink away, hoping that if Edward had better things to do, he wouldn’t feel obligated to remain with her instead. But, he did not forget her. Instead, he turned to her, offering her a smile. “I suppose that leaves me to show you to your room.”
“I don’t want to be of any trouble,” the girl said in a small voice, looking down to the hem of her rich gown.
Edward mimicked the motion his father had used not long before, tilting up her chin with one finger so that she was forced to meet his eyes. His own blue eyes danced merrily as he said, “But, what are brothers for, if not to assist their little sisters?”
She bit her lip and tried to look away, but it was hard, with his finger still under her chin. “Mamma said I’m not to get too attached to the idea of having brothers, as we’re only siblings by marriage, not by blood.”
“Well, it’s always good to listen to your mother,” Edward agreed slowly. “But, I think even she would agree this is a much better arrangement for everyone.” Then he offered her a smile so contagious she could not help but smile too.
A ruckus was heard on the stairs and both turned their attention in that direction to find another blond young man descending the stairway. His face was flushed, as if he had run in a great hurry, and he was younger than Edward, perhaps fourteen or fifteen, Ella would guess. Whatever the case, both were a good deal older than her nine years.
“Wherever have you been?” Edward demanded of his brother.
Henry skipped the last three stairs, hopping straight to the floor. He made the last few steps to close the gap between himself and Edward and Ella. He began all in one breath, “It took me longer than I thought. I was in the library and-”
“Never mind, I don’t want to know,” Edward said, holding up a hand to stop him from saying anything further. “You missed the new Lady Bannering, but this is our sister, Ella.”
Henry offered her a lopsided grin. “Oh, hello. I’m Henry. Do you think Father’s mad at me for missing them coming, Ed?”
“He probably was,” his brother replied. “But, he’s too caught up in his bride to care about much else right now, so you’re good.”
The young man let out a sigh of relief. “Thank heavens.”
Edward offered Ella his arm. “Well then, shall we show this young lady to her new room?”
Ella bit her lip in embarrassment but took the offered arm all the same. The house was much bigger than the one she had lived all her life and certainly more splendid. It was all she could do to keep up with
Edward while they walked, as she wanted to keep stopping to admire every beautiful thing. Only the thought that she did not want to embarrass herself further and that this home was to be hers and she would have amble opportunity to enjoy it kept her from doing just that.
They finally stopped outside a room and Edward opened the door. Ella stood in the doorway, her eyes wide and mouth open. “Is- is this really to be mine?” she breathed. “Surely you are teasing me.” She turned to Edward, hurt and pleading in her eyes. “Oh, please don’t tease me so.”
“I’m not teasing,” Edward said with a smile. “They’re yours, for as long as you are to live here.”
The girl could not contain herself, so overcome with immeasurable joy was she, that she threw her arms around her new brother and squealed.
After a moment she realized what she had done and jumped back as she released him, her face redder than it had been all day. “Oh my. I- I am sorry. I- I wasn’t- that is- I didn’t- Oh, I’m sorry.”
Edward offered her that grin of his. “There’s nothing to be sorry for, little one. I told you, I am to be your brother. And, Father will be very glad to hear the room is to your liking.”
“Oh, it is,” she hurried to assure him. “I’ve- I’ve never seen a room so fine before. And, it’s to be mine? Truly?”
“Those are your trunks, are they not?” Edward said, nodding to the luggage on the far side of the room.
The girl had not seen them before, in her awestruck examination of the room, but indeed they were hers. “I can’t believe it.”
“Believe it,” Edward said, clucking her chin. “And, while you’re at it, why don’t you freshen up? Luncheon will be soon and then Father will no doubt want to give a tour of the estate.”
He left her then, and Ella danced over to the bed, jumping up and flopping herself down on the mattress, which she discovered was softer and more heavenly than any she had ever slept on. She closed her eyes and drew in a contented sigh.
She had never known life could be very, very perfect.
And there you have it! Let me know what you think. And, make sure you get your questions in for this Friday!