Hello. My name is Arianna. I have decided to finally write my life story, after all these years. I am writing it in this diary, the last present my mother gave me before she left, fleeing in hopes of finding a better life. And, despite all that she has done, to me and to everyone else, I hope she finds love, someone who will bring her joy and happiness like Father did.
I will start at the beginning-my childhood. My twin sister Brianna and I were born into the perfect family. My mother and father adored each other, as well as us. We were happy, and Brianna and I were well liked at school. At first the other children made fun of our matching names, Arianna and Brianna, but I didn’t mind. Unlike most families we rarely quarreled and always enjoyed each other’s company. While we weren’t spoiled, our parents bought us amazing gifts on holidays, and they never had to worry about food on the table or bills that needed paying, due to the fancy hotel that Father ran. Everything was fine, no, better than fine, perfect. Until the unthinkable happened. I was only five the day Father left to go see his family across the ocean. He had wanted us to come, but Mother insisted that we needed to focus on schoolwork, and that we would be fine together. He said he would be gone a month, because he had to take a ship there, and a ship back. The month passed quickly, Brianna and I were kept busy, and Mother did many fun activities with us. When he still didn’t come back a few days after the month, Brianna had asked where he was.
“I’m sure it’s nothing.” Mother replied. “The boat just must have been delayed for bad weather.”
After two additional weeks, she began to get anxious. She was always distracted, and occasionally stared out the window for hours. She began leaving on mysterious errands, and sometimes men in formal suits would come and talk to her for a while, then apologize and leave. After these visits Mother was worse than normal. She would lock herself in her room and stay there until suddenly she would jump up and call someone else. When he was a month late, a man came to our door, and talked with her very shortly. She began crying about half way through, and was so shaken she didn’t even invite him in. However, instead of going to her room she picked up Brianna and me and embraced us tightly. Then she sat down on the couch, told us to listen carefully, and finally told us what had happened. I still remember her exact words.
“Something very, very, very bad had happened. On the way back the boat your father was on was struck by a terrible storm. The boat sank, and there were only six survivors. Your father was not one of them.”
“Does this mean he’s not coming back?” I had asked.
“No!” It was the first time I’d seen Mother yell. “He’s not coming back.” Her voice had quieted to a whisper, and the shear strangeness of it was what had made me start crying.
She went to her room again after that, and we didn’t see her until the next day. After she had left, I think we realized what had happened.
“Father’s dead.” I believe it was Brianna who said it, but I wasn’t conscious of anything other than what Mother had said.
Father had died. That was the first step in the decline of our life.
In the years following that day, Mother invited men over for tea, and occasionally went for dinner with them. She told us that she needed to marry again, and that she was looking for a husband. Brianna and I wouldn’t have minded it, if it weren’t for the way it made Mother. Every time she invited one of them over, she seemed to relive that moment, making her mean, and rude to us. It was first obvious when she began to say that we needed to save our money. We understood this, so we stopped asking or expecting presents, even though it seemed like we still had plenty left. Then Mother fired the maids, saying that we could do the work for free instead of wasting money. From that day on we worked as servants, only having a break from chores when someone else was here, when she would send us upstairs and out of sight. Neither of us knew what to do, we could tell that she was still consumed in grief, and we were as well. So we let her continue using us as slaves, and pretending that she still loved us when anyone else was around. Despite the number of suitors Mother entertained, none of them stayed long, and she never met with them twice, until James. James was a kind man, who smiled at us, and talked softly. He returned several times, and as he came again and again we learned that he had a daughter about our age.
This excited us, and when Mother announced that he had proposed, and she had agreed, we were thrilled. For the first time in ten years, Mother bought us fancy new dresses, and shoes and hats, and jewelry. For a few weeks leading up to the wedding she spoiled us, and I remember one night we were lying in our room, a day before we were to move into James’ house, Brianna whispered to me.
“Is this what love is?”
“I don’t remember.” I replied. But I did. I remembered Father’s voice when he told us stories, and I remembered Mother’s laugh when we put on plays for her. And even though I know that she wouldn’t admit it any sooner than I would, Brianna did to.
“Do you remember the day we went to the beach and Father announced he was leaving?”
She nodded. “We were playing in the sand when he told us. Of course, we both wanted to go with him, but he said we were too young and we eventually gave in.”
“And then he and Mother talked about what he would bring back for us, just loud enough for us to hear, but quiet enough for us to think it was a secret.”
We laughed at our ignorance, but it was short-lived. A tear rolled down Brianna’s cheek.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I would give anything to have that day back.” She whispered.
I lay my head back down onto my pillow. “I know.” That was all that needed to be said, I knew her grief and I shared her pain. We had lived together through the misery of losing Father, then slowly losing Mother. We would live together through this maybe better life, with the kind man and his young daughter.
We weren’t allowed to go to the wedding, so we didn’t see Ella until we moved into the house. James had helped us carry all our bags from the carriage to the house, and when I walked in all I had in my hands was one small bag. James opened the door for us, and I thanked him politely. Standing behind him was Ella. She saw us come in and perked up. I smiled at her and ours locked. In that moment I could see what she saw. Her mother had died when she was young, but finally her father married a beautiful widow with two twin daughters just a bit older than her. A new family, a chance to leave all the ghosts that haunt her behind, even the ones she’s tried so long to remember. The worst thing is, I know that if things had been different, we would be able to forget the past, all of us would. We would be happy, and we would face whatever came our way together. Little did we know that moment would be one of the last moments I ever openly expressed friendship or love. But, as fate would have it, things weren’t different, it all happened, and I believe I will regret it for the rest of my life.
We got settled quickly, and for a while Brianna, Ella, and I enjoyed each other and ourselves. Mother seemed to genuinely love James, not as much as she had loved Father, but the lines on her face disappeared, and she smiled more. Despite her love for James, Mother didn’t love or even like Ella. I didn’t’ see why, she was pretty, kind, smart, and funny. For whatever the reason, whenever James wasn’t there she would glare or just ignore her.
I never talked to Mother about it; in fact, I didn’t talk to her much at all. She was often busy, and seemed to want to keep it that way.
We were okay at first, happy, even, until James died. It was a plague, a plague that swept through the towns and reached our little country mansion. He was sick for weeks; Mother took him to the hospital in the nearest town, and stayed with him.
Ella was inconsolable, she was terrified of losing both her parents. She never told me this, but I suspect that she was scared of being in sole custody of Mother, and truth be told I was scared of that happening as well.
Finally Mother returned, and the fact that she was alone, as well as that she was dressed the same way she had when Father died told us all we needed to know.
The housekeeper had cleaned out the entire house, and we had been quarantined until she had returned, but Mother took it farther, burning everything that was his. She became bitter, and ruthless. When I went into Ella’s room to wake her up, I noticed that she had kept and hidden a few of James’ precious books.
As the initial grief wore off, Mother began to act downright cruel to Ella.
Our money was slowly dripping away, so she fired the housekeepers and got her to clean and cook instead. Brianna and I tried to help her, but when we did Mother always threatened to make us go back to being her slaves. We were so happy that she was finally acting like we were her daughters, that she cared about us, being mean to Ella seemed like a small sacrifice. Brianna and I believed wholeheartedly that as long as we were mean to her things would be better for us.
Thinking about it now, I can’t believe we were so easily fooled. So easily tricked into thinking so badly of someone simply because Mother did.
That continued for a few years, an eternity really. Every moment that passed we became increasingly cruel.
We were seventeen when received the letter. It was a formal invitation to the King’s ball. The prince was supposed to pick a bride at the ball, so of course Brianna and I were practically jumping up and down with excitement.
We knew we were both beautiful, and quickly ordered Ella to get us dresses. I felt a small stab of guilt when we purposely gave her so many things to do she couldn’t possibly be able to sew a dress of her own, but she was also beautiful, more so than we were, and any chance of competition had to be eliminated in my eyes.
We prepared endlessly, and Ella was caught up with so many ball presentations I was sure I was safe.
The night of the ball Ella came down the stairs dressed in her own gown, and she was absolutely breathtaking. I was flabbergasted, and obviously Mother was too.
“When did you make that?” Mother laughed. “When sorting out the rags?”
When Mother began to laugh at the thought that she could come, we eagerly joined in.
“ Imagine, you coming to the King’s ball. Did you think you could meet the prince?” I asked sarcastically “Maybe even marry him?”
Brianna joined in as well. “Of course such a stupid girl like you could think that. Just look at you, one look and anyone will know you spend most of your time cleaning the fireplace.”
Mother laughed again. “Oh, so true. We should call her that, ashesella.”
I thought for a moment. “No, Cinderella!”
Brianna smiled. “That’s perfect! Absolutely perfect.”
When Brianna grabbed at a sleeve and ‘accidently’ tore it, I followed suit. Before long her dress was ruined, and her spirits dashed.
The look on her face as she ran off haunted me all the way to the ball, and all the way during it. Unfortunately for us, the prince never so much as looked at either Brianna or I, even after Mother introduced us to him.
Soon after the ball started, a gorgeous woman arrived. I recognized her as soon as she stepped through the door, but Mother saw her as nothing more than competition. I would have told her that Ella had somehow arrived, however when the prince asked her to dance, I saw her face light up like I’d never seen before. For once she looked happy, and I couldn’t bring myself to ruin that. Obviously Brianna felt the same way, because she pulled me aside.
“We can’t let Mother ruin her life any longer!” I whispered urgently.
“I know, but she won’t listen to us.” She shook her head. “Mother isn’t sane anymore! No matter how you look at it, she won’t reason.”
I closed my eyes hopelessly. “What if the prince proposes to her, she’ll be safe, right?”
Brianna nodded. “That seems quite likely,” in the background the prince and Ella were still dancing and laughing. We watched them for a moment, then turned back towards each other. “If we can nudge the prince in that direction, it will have to happen!”
I nodded. “Come with me.”
Carefully maneuvering around people until we reached the edge of the dance floor, I waited impatiently for the song to end. Luckily it had been going on for some time, and nearly as soon as we arrived it ended. Brianna knew what I was doing and rushed forward, heading straight for the prince, while I made my way across the floor to Ella.
“Ella, it’s me, Arianna.” I half whispered.
She looked around fearfully and whimpered, “Please don’t tell stepmother that I came!” Her eyes were full of pleading. “Please, I beg you!”
“It’s all right Ella, I’ve come to apologize, on behalf of me and my sister.”
“I know we’ve been rotten to you, but we were scared, Mother treated us just as badly as she’s treating you now, and we couldn’t bear to go back to that. We were cowards, and now we want to make it up to you. Are you willing to listen to our plan?”
“Yes, of course.”
I explained that Brianna was going to encourage the prince to propose, and that all she needed to do was go introduce herself, then accept his proposal. When Brianna came back she said that all she mentioned was that Ella was amazing, and mistreated.
“Go on now, he’s waiting this dance out for you.” She said, her eyes shining at a chance to play matchmaker.
Ella nodded. “All right. I just need to be home by midnight, what time is it?”
I looked at the clock, and my expression instantly changed to one of alarm. “It’s five to!”
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go!” She exclaimed.
Brianna grabbed her arm. “Why? What’s happening?”
She pulled away. “I can’t explain now, my fairy godmother, and a spell, and I’ve just got to get home!”
I stood stunned. “Fairy godmother? Spell? What do you mean?”
She didn’t answer, just ran off out the door, leaving one of her dainty glass slippers behind. The prince had just been approaching, ran out, grabbing the shoe and starting after her before staring down the empty street, shoe in his hand.
We didn’t need to talk, Brianna rushed over to the prince, and immediately began talking to him, telling him what happened and who she was.
“Why did she run off?” He asked, confused and hurt.
“I don’t know!” She cried exasperated. “I don’t know any more than you do, but you’ve got to go find her, before she’s starved to death by my Mother.
“All right, I’ll go in the-“ He began.
“Excuse me!” Mother had quickly cut in from where she had been listening from the side. “We really must be getting home!” She smiled sweetly than dragged Brianna and I off. I shot the prince a pleading glance, but he made no move to stop her.
Before we had a chance to scream or cry out, we were out the door and down the steps. She pulled us into the carriage and growled at the driver.
“Take us home!” She demanded. “What did you think you were doing?” She yelled at us. “You think you can betray me, your own mother?” She slapped Brianna hard across the face. “Well you can’t! You can’t and you never will be able to! And Cinderella will suffer too.” She slapped me next, her hand leaving a stinging pain behind. “You stupid girls! You stupid, stupid girls!” She shook her head. “You should have died with your father!”
The driver was obviously trying hard to pretend not to hear, because we pulled into our driveway a minute later, and he stopped the carriage without saying a word.
Mother stalked out, grabbing us tightly by our arms and leaving white marks where her fingers were. She pulled us inside, than grabbed Ella, who was back in her rags standing by the door, and pulled us all into the little attic that served as Ella’s room, locking the door loudly behind her.
We sat down on the sagging mattress and settled into a depressed silence. Ella was the one who broke the silence.
“I’m sorry,” was all that she said.
Brianna started. “Why would you be sorry?”
Tears rolled down her cheeks. “You tried to help me and you got in all this trouble! I should never have gone to the ball. At least I was fed and housed here, and you two were treated well.”
I shook my head vigorously. “We couldn’t let that happen. You don’t deserve that, no one does.”
Brianna nodded. “This was bound to happen eventually, and I’d rather be mistreated and friendly to you than spoiled and rotten to you.”
More tears stained Ella’s cheeks. “Thank you! We’ll find our way out of this mess. Together.” Her face lit up. “And maybe the prince will come! Does he know who I am?”
“I told him right after you left.” She replied.
“Good.” She smiled. Why might be saved after all!”
I doubted it, but didn’t say anything. The prince hadn’t done anything as he watched Mother drag us away, but I didn’t want to crush her hopes. “It’s possible.” I added, feigning hopefulness.
We didn’t receive supper that night, or the next morning. Ella was somewhat used to it, and all though we’d been pampered recently, we also had our fair share of neglect, so none of us were particularly hungry the next morning. I began pacing, trying to figure out how we were going to escape.
I didn’t believe that we were going to be rescued by the prince, but midway through the second day I was surprised. Mother had given us a few bowls of thin soup and a jug of water earlier, but never unlocked the door or let us out.
When we heard commotion downstairs I originally thought it was just another one of Mother’s guests, until I heard the voice of the princes’ royal footman.
“It’s the prince!” Ella exclaimed, “He’s coming to save us!”
I will admit that I was surprised, and I felt a little bad at having so little faith in him and his love for Ella.
“What do you mean, my stepdaughter was at the ball? She’s been at home sick in bed all week!” Mother feigned ignorance.
“I have proof that she was at the ball and in this very house!” He replied triumphantly. “Look at this glass slipper, the other shoe must be here somewhere.”
She sniffed. “I have no such thing. Try searching the house, you won’t find it.”
He nodded to his footman and guards and they proceeded past the pair and into the house, presumably to find the slipper.
Ella desperately pounded and yelled at the door, and Brianna and I joined her.
“It’s no use!” she cried. “We’re to high up to be heard, and stepmother probably broke the slipper when she found it in my room!”
I knew she was right, however much I wished she wasn’t. The prince wouldn’t be able to find any evidence, and there
was no way he would find the trapdoor that his stairs leading to the attic room we were locked in.
“The window!” Brianna had been leaning against it when it shifted slightly. “The house is so old it’s come loose!”
Ella and I rushed to her side and together we pushed as hard as we could. It shifted slightly again, but didn’t budge.
“It’s to stiff.” Ella complained.
An idea came to me, clicking in my mind as a plan formed. “Ella, do you have any oil or anything like that up here?” I asked.
She thought for a moment. “Yes, I always keep some so that I can oil the door hinges!”
“Great!” I crossed the room to the big trunk and opened it up. Everything inside was neatly organized and I found the can of oil quickly. I crossed back to the window and dripped some around the frame, placing the can on the floor beside me when I finished.
“Try now,” I said, returning my wait to the window. At first it seemed to not do anything, but then we felt a push as the window gave and fell to the ground.
The wall below us was smooth and un-climbable, Brianna and I both backed away from the empty window in fright. Ella did as well, but for a different reason.
She dug around in her trunk for a while, and then returned with a few long scarves, each twice as long as I was tall, and plenty long enough to reach the ground if we tied them together.
“I use these tied together sometimes when I need to haul things from one floor to another. There’s a strong, easy knot in one of Father’s books that I grabbed before they were burnt, and I know how to do it.”
Brianna smiled at her. “Perfect, we can make a rope ladder!”
I nodded my agreement, and we settled back to let Ella tie her knots. She finished soon, just as we heard the prince and his footman reluctantly leaving. Even from way up in the attic I could hear the smugness in Mother’s voice.
We lowered one end to the ground and tied the other to the side of the window frame, giving it an experimental tug to test the strength. It held, and only dropped a few feet off the ground, which was fine for us. The princes’ carriage began to pull away and without another word I began to climb. We had agreed I would go first, in case it didn’t hold, and Brianna would go last, in case all of us couldn’t make it. We insisted on Ella being the safest, because we owed her at least that.
The climb down was terrifying, Ella had tied more knots in our makeshift rope so that I had handholds, but I was very aware of the height. Without ever looking down, I made it to the bottom of the rope before jumping off. I landed in a crouch, but on my feet and unharmed. I started to watch Ella climb down, but then realized that the prince was leaving and chased after it. Ella had joined me by the time I reached the road, and we could see the carriage just driving away.
“The horses!” She exclaimed.
We turned around and headed towards the stables, where we found Brianna already waiting. All three of us had ridden often growing up and I jumped onto the horse with ease, not bothering with a saddle or bridle. We rode them onto the rode, galloping after the tracks of the carriage.
Because we were racing, and they were just leisurely riding, we arrived at the carriage before they reached the palace.
“Stop!” I yelled. “It’s us, the glass slipper girl and her sisters!”
The prince turned and gestured for the driver to stop the carriage. He did so, and the prince dismounted.
“Ella?” He asked, skipping over Brianna and I and heading straight for her. “Where were you when I came looking for you?”
“Stepmother had us locked up!” She said indignantly. “We need your help.”
“Desperately!” Brianna added.
He agreed to help us and brought us to the palace where we were fed and dressed up for another ball that night.
As if it was a story tale, he asked Ella to the first dance, and just as the song ended, he dropped to one knee and proposed.
Of course, Ella agreed, and everything was happily ever after for them.
Brianna and I were offered places at the palace, and we agreed, not wanting to have to stay with Mother any longer.
However, the prince was so enraged at her treatment of his beloved he planned to have her executed. Ella learned of this and told us, for some strange reason that I will never understand.
Our Mother made life miserable for poor Ella, and yet she still saves her.
We slipped her a note, and she fled, leaving behind a diary for me, and a journal for Brianna.
Her last gifts. Her parting gifts. For she is now dead to me, but I can only hope that she will find life somewhere else.
Maybe a life that will treat her so well she will forget all this. I can wish her that much, after all, she still is my mother.