My story starts out a long time ago, in a far-off land. I lived in a house by the sea with my widowed mother and sister. Some would call our light blue house a mansion; it was certainly grand. Father designed the house himself ; taking inspiration from an Alexandrine merchants house . As a Sea Captain he traveled the world, and had seen many houses. But one stormy night, the sea claimed him.
For ten year’s mother was inconsolable. Her ball gowns rotted in grand wardrobes, fancy slippers wore out and were not replaced. Dressmakers and tailors took their business elsewhere, when accounts were not settled.
We played like urchins, climbing trees, making camps from old furniture and drapes. My sister, fashioned books from scrap paper and string. We were both avid readers, but the library became our winter fuel. Each Christmas we were allowed one extravagance and invariably we chose the puppet show.
Dante’s puppeteers travelled the land with their show, but every Christmas Eve they stopped at our town. It was said that his oldest son was conceived in the local tavern. So the Christmas show was his way of saying thank you.
It was at one such show that mother met Mr Gaines. There was something familiar and reassuring about the handsome stranger who blocked her view. Much to our annoyance they fell into a deep conversation. But the smile on mothers face made it impossible for us not to forgive his intrusion.
Later we learnt that he was a Sea Captain, like our dear departed father. His wife had died during childbirth, leaving him a daughter to raise as best he could. Wet-Nurses would never replace her mothers love and for most of the year the sea claimed her father. So our little families were joined. Mother and Gaines married in April. We played the part of bridesmaids and little Cinderella Maid of Honour.
You may have heard a version of Cinderella’s story. The glass slipper, pumpkin coach and handsome prince. You will certainly have heard of the ugly sisters and wicked Stepmother. Mother died before this story became common currency. My sister and I have not been so fortunate.
Gaines abandoned mother for the sea soon after the wedding. He paid the bills and put food on our table. Gave us a step-sister who was unused to the rigor of everyday life. Our stepfathers idea of a household budget did not stretch to maids or serving girls. We continued as before, sharing the housework.
Cinders dreamed away her days, rather than help out. She allowed the kitchen to become infested with mice. Dressed in rags, rather than mend her clothes. But she always had time for this charming man and that charming man; who was always going to sweep her off those dainty little feet.
Life changed for us all when Cinders met James Dante. She performed beautifully for the puppeteer’s son, who reciprocated with a proposal of marriage. Nine months later, they exchanged vows at twelve midday. As the hour was struck, Cinder’s drew her father and husband close. We looked on, threw confetti and wished them well.
As time passed, stepfathers allowance grew smaller. His attention shifted to new grandchildren, and a business partnership formed with Dante. We made excuses for him, disguised our poverty as best we could. But it was difficult to ignore the gossip, spread by people who revelled in our misfortune. The Cinderella story, being the most untrue, was also the most popular.
Stepfather lived to a ripe old age, he saw mother buried in a pauper’s grave and his Grandchildren read the Cinderella story to their children. His will made no provision for the old family.
You may be surprised that I wish my stepsister well. As one of the ugly-sisters, I have many reasons not to. But she remains to me, the spoilt little girl who liked Pink dresses and glass slippers. Our lives had perfect symmetry, when we all lived together in a light blue house by the sea. It’s just a shame it was not happily ever-after.