MEMORABLE DRESS: A CINDERELLA FAN-FICITON STORY
By Hannah Skipper
Word Count: 1391
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: A retelling of Cinderella with particular focus on the dress
Ella carefully worked the rusty lock open and gently lifted the lid of a large trunk in the attic. The thrill of magical memories raced through her veins as she pulled her mother’s favorite pink chiffon dress from underneath old clothes and blankets. As she brushed away the dust and lint, she couldn’t help but smile; to have the opportunity to wear her mother’s beautiful gown at the Prince’s ball tonight made her feel her parent’s special love all over again. It would surely be worth all the years of drudgery that had been forced on her by her cruel stepmother and mocking stepsisters.
Surveying the dress with the eyes of a practiced seamstress, she noticed with some bemusement how old-fashioned it looked. Then again, she laughed to herself, it had been locked away for nearly ten years! Shaking out the wrinkles, without wasting any angst on her step-sisters for being greedy with the only iron in the house, Ella took careful note of the few small holes and other loose or frayed threads. Then, smoothing it onto the middle of her lumpy mattress in the attic, she began working quickly and expertly to make the dress as presentable as she could for a royal ball.
As she worked, her small animal friends, the mice and birds, gathered around to watch as if they were curious about her joyous mood despite the fact that, at any moment, she may be forced to leave her personal chore to assist in Lady Tremaine’s daughters’ atrocious-looking preparations for the ball. At first Ella sang to her animal companions as she sewed, her sweet airy voice rising to the high attic rafters and out its tiny window, but gradually her voice quieted as long-suppressed memories bubbled to the forefront of her conscious.
She remembered when her father had brought the dress home for his wife’s birthday. Ella herself was barely four years old then and she’d hidden at the top of the staircase, watching her parents’ happy, loving banter with thrilled innocence. Somehow, the moment still managed to fill her with its magic even though she’d seen enough heartache and unfairness in her life to pervert and sour such a beautiful scene.
Smiling once more with gladness, she broke into song again, her mind returning to the present. How wonderful it would be to honor her parents by wearing this dress to the Prince’s ball tonight! But yet again, her songs only lasted so long before more memories overtook her. The one that assailed her now had a sadder tone, though it still held beautiful magic; like a vivid sunset at the close of a beautiful day. In this memory, Ella was a lonesome and heartbroken ten year old, having watched for several months as her mother’s once vibrant health had declined dramatically after a sudden illness refused to let go.
Ella’s world was much changed after her mother had taken sick and now the entire household’s schedule revolved around the bedridden woman’s care. No longer did the young girl enjoy lazy strolls in the sunshine with her parents. No longer did the cooks laugh and tease her when she tried to steal a freshly baked cookie or slice of bread from the kitchen. No longer did anyone carefully undo her knotted stitches when she muddled an attempt to sew fashionable clothes for her dolls. No more did anyone help her practice fixing her long, silky, blonde curls into the ornate styles that took her childish fancy.
Sometimes she felt invisible to the rest of the humans in the house but, she recalled, her animal friends had remained faithfully at her side. Tears of gratitude misted Ella’s cheeks as she surveyed these same faithful friends. Reaching out, she gently stroked their velvety heads with her thumb and singing them a quiet song before her mind drifted back to the past and the memory continued.
For her mother’s birthday that year, she had demanded only one thing: that her husband must take her dancing. He, of course, had protested vehemently and Ella remembered peeking nervously around the doorway of their bedroom as they’d almost gotten into a real fight about it. She couldn’t remember a time when her parents had disagreed so passionately and, even now, it made her involuntarily shudder.
Eventually her mother’s grave condition and passionate argument had exhausted her father’s determination, and he’d relented. Young Ella had scooted away when he began to help his wife dress in this favored gown. Not long afterward, she’d heard his deep bass voice breaking into a gentle song and she couldn’t help but reappear, this time peeking around her own bedroom door.It had been ages since she’d heard him singing! She watched, barely able to contain her glee as he’d waltzed with his frail wife secure in his strong arms, down the staircase and into their home’s large foyer. Dashing to the top landing in her socks, Ella watched their dance with joy.
It was, she thought, her most treasured memory of her parents.
Barely an hour later, Ella stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching her cruel stepmother and stepsisters hurrying out the door on their way to the ball. Her mind was so numbed by the shock and horror of what had just happened that she could not, would not, follow. Her mother’s beautiful dress, now hanging off her shoulders and clinging loosely to her chest, had been torn and shredded by the hands of the three wicked women who laughed as they boarded their coach and went away.
Ella’s inner destruction matched that of the torn dress. But the tears that stung her eyes were not merely for herself. Yes, without a doubt, she knew that her own dream of going to the ball was now shredded beyond repair,but what really cut her heart was realizing that her treasured memories also lay in a tattered heap on floor.
How could she ever associate this ruined dress with her parents again? Looking down at herself, she knew that whenever she saw it she’d only remember the cruelty of the last few minutes. Every ounce of joy that this dress had ever been associated with had been taken from her.
Finally becoming unglued, she dashed from the steps and flew out of the house, a torrent of tears streaming down her cheeks; she ran blindly, not caring where she ended up.Her feet suddenly became tangled in an exposed root and she fell, just catching herself before her face struck the brick well. There she remained sobbing into her hands until the kind voice of an elderly woman drew her attention.
“Excuse me, but why are you crying?”
Several hours later, having scooted off the road just in time to avoid getting run over, or, even worse, stopped and questioned by the palace guard that had pursued them from the castle, Ella couldn’t help but put her hand to her mouth and giggle madly. It was all so unbelievably and wonderfully grand that she wouldn’t have believed it if it had come from one of those nonsensical fairy tales that her mother and father had read to her when she was a child. Staring down at herself in awe, she could still see the brilliantly shimmering blue gown that her fairy godmother had created from the shredded remains of her mother’s pink dress. It didn’t matter that the lovely dress had disappeared; it would be in Ella’s mind’s-eye forever.
“There are so many memories locked up in this one dress,” she quietly told her little friends as they gathered around her, having returned to their natural forms after conspiring so brilliantly with her Fairy Godmother to get Ella to the ball. “And I shall always remember the good.”
A bright smile suddenly lit up her face, and she added, “Why, even the bad part of tonight was just a part of a plot to become something wonderful.”