Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Cinder-fella"

This poem came out of the October 1, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] meridian_rose, [personal profile] alexseanchai, Anthony and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "cooking" square in my 10-1-19 card for the Fall Festival Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony and Shirley Barrette.

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes fairytale-typical abuse, gender dysphoria, dysfunctional family dynamics, temporary magical sex change, hunger, awkward revelation of birth sex, discussion of surrogate parenting in exchange for magical service, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Cinder-fella"


Something was wrong with Cinderella.

There had always been something wrong,
but it hadn't always been so ... obvious.

It wasn't so bad when she was little,
and her mother was still alive,
but now her mother was gone
and her father had remarried.

Her stepmother and stepsisters
treated her like a servant, and they
were the ones who started
calling her "Cinderella."

It didn't matter.
"Ella" hadn't fit either.

Cinderella didn't know why.

She didn't know why her body
felt less and less comfortable
every day, or what to do about it,
so she just tried to ignore it.

She had plenty of other things
to focus on. There was no end
of cleaning, and the cooking!

She cooked all day, and then
left things to simmer overnight
so they'd be ready for breakfast.

Her stepmother and sisters
were like a swarm of locusts.

Cinderella ignored them too,
when they weren't telling her
what they wanted to eat next.

She hiked up her skirts, rolled up
her sleeves, stuffed her hair
under a cap, and worked.

It made a good distraction.

When they started calling her
"Cinder-fella," that felt ... almost right.

So she kept her head down and
let them think that it bothered her,
so that they'd keep doing it.

Cinder-fella was rolling out
pastry for the pumpkin pies
when she heard the door open.

Her stepsisters came in
squealing about a ball
to be held at the palace.

"Mother, Mother!"
said Drizella. "We want
to go to the Royal Ball."

"We'll need new dresses,
of course," said Anastasia.

"What's this about a ball?"
asked Lady Tremaine.

"The King is throwing a ball for
his youngest daughter Charlotte,"
said Drizella. "All the eligible men will
appear in hopes of winning her hand,
and young women of good family
may present themselves as
possible ladies-in-waiting."

"A position in the palace is
certainly nothing to sneeze at, and
you might make a good marriage
for yourselves as well. All right,
we'll make preparations,"
said Lady Tremaine.

"Oh, Stepmother, may
I go to the ball too?"
asked Cinder-fella.

"As what?" Drizella said,
bursting into laughter.

"Don't bray, dear,"
her mother admonished.
"A lady laughs quietly."

Anastasia snickered quietly.

"The ball, if you please?"
said Cinder-fella.

"You may attend
the ball if you finish
all your chores and
find suitable attire,"
said Lady Tremaine.
"I shall post a list."

The list of chores
filled several pages
of fine, elegant print.

Cinder-fella worked hard
and actually finished them.

Then she pulled out
her least-worst clothes and
did her best to dress them up.

But Lady Tremaine found
a pinch of dust in the hearth,
and Drizella pointed out
a stray thread on her hem.

Cinder-ella wasn't really
good at sewing things.

So she had to stay home
while the other three
went to the Royal Ball.

She was crying in the garden
when a blue light came down and
announced itself her Fairy Godmother.

"You shall go to the ball, my dear,"
the Fairy Godmother said. "For that,
you need a coach and horses and
several footmen at least."

With a wave of her wand,
she conjured pumpkin and mice
into the required elements.

"But I haven't anything
to wear," Cinder-fella said.
"Not anything appropriate."

"That's easily mended,"
said the Fairy Godmother.

Another flourish transformed
Cinder-fella's ragged clothes into
a handsome suit of dove-gray velvet
with splendid squirrel-fur boots.

It also transformed her
into a handsome prince.

And for the first time
in Cinder-fella's life,
everything felt right.

"Oh!" he exclaimed.
"This is just wonderful!"

"Don't get too excited, dear,"
the Fairy Godmother said.
"It only lasts until midnight,
so make sure that you leave
the Royal Ball before then."

"But what good will that
do?" Cinder-fella wailed.

"It will give you a night
of wonderful memories,"
said the Fairy Godmother.
"Who knows what else
might happen then?"

It was better than nothing.

So Cinder-fella climbed into
the splendid carriage and
set off for the Royal Ball.

The ballroom was filled with
rich people in fancy clothes,
the buffet tables laden with
all kinds of delicacies.

Cinder-fella spotted
his ugly stepsisters there.

They seemed more interested
in stuffing their faces than in
applying for the position
of ladies-in-waiting.

At first he worried that
they might recognize him,
but they looked right by him
and chased after a wine-bearer.

So Cinder-fella danced with
the beautiful women at the ball, and
then he danced with the shy ones
who weren't as pretty but were
generally sweeter, and then
he danced with the old maids
lining the walls as chaperones.

He was horrified to realize
that the princess had been
waiting in line for him.

"It's fine!" she said, laughing.
"I'm Charlotte. My oldest aunt
told me what a gentleman you are,
but then I had to wait for the rest
of them to finish their turns."

"You could have cut in!"
Cinder-fella said. "This
is your ball, after all."

"Oh, that would have been
terribly rude," Charlotte said.
"I'd never have heard the end
of it. What's your name?"

"Um ... El ..." he squeaked,
his voice drying up on him.

"El, that's a nice name,"
Charlotte said, smiling.

And that actually fit.

If he gained nothing else
from this night of illusions,
at least he finally learned
who he really was.

"Are you having fun?"
El asked as they danced.

"Mostly," said Charlotte.
"Some people are tiresome --"
She looked at his stepsisters.
"-- but others are delightful."

"Have you found any candidates
for your ladies-in waiting?" El said.

"A few," said Charlotte. "Some of
the princes brought their sisters.
I quite like Madelaine and Gerde,
but I think Gerde wants to be
a bodyguard, not a maid."

"Is that a problem?" El said.

"Not really," said Charlotte.
"I need bodyguards too, and
this ball is a great opportunity
to make all kinds of connections.
What about you, are you having fun?"

"I am now," he said. "Shall we
pause for a snack, though?"

They'd been dancing
for a while, and he hadn't
gotten to eat at all today.

"Something light, perhaps,"
said Charlotte. "I don't like
to eat heavy things when I'm
dancing, it makes me queasy."

Having already seen Anastasia
sidelined with a stomachache,
El considered this good advice.

So instead of gorging himself,
he followed behind Charlotte
to take bits of grilled chicken
on sticks and tiny love-apples
stuffed with cottage cheese.

They enjoyed another dance,
talking about themselves and
each other and the people
they saw on the dance floor.

Then they switched partners,
because it wasn't fair for anyone
to monopolize the princess.

They kept drifting back to
each other, though, and
people began to notice.

"Enough," said Charlotte,
leading him to a balcony.
"Let's get some air."

"What's this about?"
El wondered as they
stepping into the night.
"Is everything all right?"

"More than all right,"
said Charlotte. "You're
not like other men, and I'm
charmed, but I wonder why."

"I'm ... really not like
other men," El said.

"In what way?" she said.
"I'd love to hear more, El.
I like you a lot, and I think --"

The clock began striking twelve.

"Well, it was fun while it lasted,"
El muttered. "Hang on, Charlotte,
you're about to find out why."

The clothes reverted first,
and then his body, making
El groan in frustration as
his boobs popped back.

Charlotte gave a squeak
of surprise. "What -- how --"

"Magic," said El. "If you
don't mind, I'd very much like
to flee over the balcony now.
You needn't scream for
the guards to throw me out."

"Don't go!" she exclaimed,
clutching his sleeve. Then
she looked down and giggled.
"I see that your boots survived."

"Oh, that's just perfect," El said.
"How am I supposed to do
housework in these?"

"You won't have to,"
Charlotte said. "I've
made my decision."

She pulled on a silk rope,
and instantly a servant
appeared to ask, "What do
you need, Your Highness?"

"Fetch the gray velvet suit
that Thomas has outgrown,"
Charlotte commanded.

The servant bowed
and hurried away.

"Charlotte, what are
you doing?" El hissed.

"Finding you some clothes,
love, you can't go back out
in that," Charlotte said.

"Why not?" El asked.

"Because I'd like to marry you,
and that means announcing
our betrothal -- if you agree,"
Charlotte said softly.

"Oh," said El. He hadn't
thought he had a chance.
"I'd love to, but ... I'm not
the man you fell in love with."

"Of course you are," she said as
the servant returned with clothes.
"Here, put these on. They should fit."

They fit quite well, and they weren't
so far from his earlier outfit that
anyone was likely to notice.

Everyone had been
admiring his fine boots.

"Thank you," El said.
"Is this what you really want?
I can't give you children."

"El, I could choose anyone
in the ballroom tonight, and I
chose you," said Charlotte.
"As for the other problem,
I may have a solution."

"Fairy magic doesn't last,"
El said. "Well, except the boots."

"I know someone who can
cast transformations that
last," Charlotte said.

"Are you sure?" El said.

"He likes to spin straw
into gold," she said.
"I'm pretty sure."

"Yes, but does it stay
gold?" El asked her.

Charlotte hooked a finger
under her necklace and lifted
the delicate web of gold strands.
"I've had this for a year."

El smiled so hard that
his face hurt. "It sounds
too good to be true. What
would he want in return?"

"Well, he can't have children
of his own -- really can't -- so he
offered me any boon I asked in
exchange for my firstborn,"
Charlotte said. "I always
wanted to help out a friend,
but I never needed anything
that I couldn't simply buy."

"Until now," said El.
He didn't mind the idea
of helping a friend start
a family, but it wasn't
necessarily that easy.
"Won't your parents mind?"

"Not at all," said Charlotte.
"First, Rumplestiltskin has been
a family friend since my mother
was my age. Second, I'm likely
to be as fertile as her side -- I'm
the youngest of twelve, and you
danced with all of my aunts."

It sounded like a wonderful plan,
and El quite liked Charlotte.

"In that case," he said, "let's go
make the announcement."

And if Lady Tremaine
dropped her wine goblet
on her dress when she
heard the news, that was
just the icing on the cake.

* * *

Notes:

Lady Tremaine is the stepmother in Cinderella.
Anastasia Tremaine is the younger daughter of Lady Tremaine, with red hair.
Drizella Tremaine is the older daughter of Lady Tremaine, with brown hair.
Prince Charming is Cinderella's love interest.
-- Cinderella characters

People debate whether the glass slippers were originally fur.

Love-apple is an old word for tomato.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, magic, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing
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