by Ron Vitale
I'm happy to share a brand new prequel story entitled "A Room of My Own" to the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series. If you're new to the series, the premise is simple: What truly happened after Cinderella married the Prince? I'll give you a hint in that it wasn't all "happily ever after." "A Room of My Own" takes place right before book 1, Lost, of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series. I hope you enjoy the story. Thank you.
A Room of My Own
The Prince leaned forward and it took him a few seconds for his eyes to focus on me. “I would have taken the shot but Bennet walked in front of me.” He pounded the table and the wine in his glass sloshed to the top and nearly spilled over. “He walked in front of me. The man had never been on a hunt before in his life. You would think that he would know not to do that. You cannot get good help these days. You cannot!”
Laughter erupted from the men around the table and the Prince picked up his glass and downed the wine fast. The red liquid vanished, as if by magic, and he licked his lips clean of a few remaining drops. Without pausing, he waved over an attendant and pointed at his empty glass for more. “I say that next time I will take the shot anyway and if I hit Bennet then that would be his fault.” He smiled and his charm came through then. Did he really joke or was he serious? I could not tell.
The Prince put his arm around John Nash. “What would you have done if a man stopped you from rebuilding the Royal Pavilion in Brighton? Let him do so?” He shook his head with vigor and refocused on Mr. Nash. “If I man stopped you from your life’s work, you would have him removed, would you not?”
Mr. Nash glanced around at the table and sought help. I chanced to help him and said, “Tell us more about your plans to rebuild the Royal Pavilion. I would love to hear more.”
The Prince turned on me and held out his finger. “Shhh, my Princess and love. I asked John a question and I deserve an answer.” He squeezed Mr. Nash by the arm and brought him closer. “Am I not right, man?”
From across the room, a drum sounded and the pounding became louder until several drummers marched into the ballroom dressed in their uniforms, playing a militaristic beat that caused the audience to stand up and applaud.
I stood up and pulled my friend Carissa up next to me and we began clapping loudly. “Come, let us hear the music!”
Distracted by the spectacle, the Prince lost interest in his boorish conversation. I smiled at Mr. Nash and he tilted his head to me in thanks and he moved slightly away from the Prince. The drummers headed toward us and the audience clapped and cheered as they went by. From out the doors closest to us, several dancers rushed into the room playing flutes. They stormed through the audience, twirling and flipping through the air. We all gasped at the delight. The entertainment calmed me a bit but I expected the Prince would not allow this hold his attention for longer. It never did.
“Bring out more!” The Prince rose from his seat, wobbled a bit and grabbed onto Mr. Nash’s shoulder for support. The dancers rushed toward us and spun around our table. The music swelled and the drummers beat their instruments louder and louder until they stopped suddenly. The crowd cheered and clapped for more.
I applauded the spectacle and then glanced out across the room. The drummers reset their beat and headed toward our table. They stood in front of us and bowed before the Prince, awaiting his instructions.
He reached for his glass and held it high. “A toast to tonight’s revelry! We have music, dancers and a wonderful dinner ahead. Enjoy and let us be merry!” He paused for a moment and the crowd withheld their applause. “But I would be amiss if I did not toast to my beautiful Princess.”
He turned toward me as did everyone in the room. That many eyes on me made me blush. I smiled and folded my hands before me and tilted my head in thanks.
The Prince raised his glass higher. “To Frances …” He stumbled on quickly, “To Cinderella, for her beauty, light and patience. She enriches us all!”
Mr. Nash clapped quickly to cover the Prince’s mistake and the crowd followed on. My embarrassment rose around me and I glanced down at the floor. He had forgotten my name. Many questions swirled around my head. I had to leave the room. Carissa reached for my hand and squeezed it tight. My rock and support, she lent me her strength. The heat rose within me and I knew that my neck must have blossomed with splotches of red from my embarrassment.
The drummers started up again and Carissa pulled me to my seat. I stared at my plate and could not look up. If I did, I might cry and I could not do that tonight. It would only make my situation worse.
“Would you like some water?” Carissa offered me her glass and I accepted. I took a small sip and water did calm me a bit.
I blocked out the Prince’s mindless tirade about hunting and the rest of the dinner went by in a blur. I hardly ate. Carissa kept me occupied with stories and when enough time had passed I announced that I did not feel well and wished to take my leave. The Prince smiled and waved me off and Carissa offered to take me to my room, but I declined.
An attendant led the way and we made a quick exit. I did not wish to talk about what had happened with Carissa. She would ask questions that I did not wish to answer or consider. It had been a long day and I simply wanted to be left alone.
When in my room, I dismissed everyone and sat on my chair avoiding my face in the mirror. I let my hair down and brushed it, taking comfort in the work. I had grown my hair long and enjoyed feeling its silkiness. Outside I could see the moon high in the sky. Not quite full, but sending its light on the palace grounds. I just did not wish to think. After a while, I grew tired, curled up on the sofa and fell asleep.
Hours later I awoke to the Prince. “Are you awake?” Why he said that when he knew I had been deep in sleep was beyond me.
“Yes, I fell asleep as I did not feel well.” I rubbed my eyes and yawned.
“Come to bed.” He pointed to the large bed and I tried to gauge his intentions. He saw my hesitation and sat on the other end of the sofa and put his hand on my ankle. “Are you still upset with me?”
The moon had risen high in the sky and its light shone through the room illuminating the Prince. “Yes, I am.” I sat fully up and pulled away from him. “Who is Frances?”
“A slip of the tongue that I made. Does it truly matter?” He leaned forward but I pulled away from him.
“Tell me true. Who is Frances?” I crossed my arms and shivered from the night’s cold.
“Will you play this game with me in the wee hours of the morning? Come, let us to bed and we can discuss in the morning when we are both more awake and sensible.” He stood up and began to undress, preparing for bed.
I could have let it go. I could have, but not tonight. How many times over the last year had I not spoken when I had truly wanted to, but not this evening.
“I would like to know who Frances is. Who is she?”
He did not respond for a moment and then he stopped undressing and turned toward me. “I told you that now is not the time to discuss. The conversation is over.” I detected no slur from the drink left in him.
“But I wish to discuss it now. I am your wife and Princess to the realm. It is important to me.” I spoke softly but with firmness even though my voice shook a bit.
“Princess and my wife?” He chuckled at me. “These are titles that I have given to you. It would do you well to remember that. Now drop this nonsense before you truly anger me.”
He threw his clothes onto a chair in the corner and put on his nightshirt. I watched him and all the beauty that I had once seen in him had gone. All of it had vanished and in the moonlight I saw him for what he truly was and it saddened me.
“I deserve to be listened to.” I went over to confront him. “Who is Frances?”
“Enough!” His temper flared hot and quick. “I will not be hounded.”
“If she means nothing to you, then why will you not tell me about her?”
“Woman, have you lost your wits and can you not hear? I said that I will not talk of this tonight.” I had pushed him past any of our other arguments. Tonight of all nights, I did not wish to back down. I had done that far too often.
“Is she a whore of yours?” I shouted the words at him and in my mind I could see them together. He kissing and loving her and her smiling all the while.
Before I could react, he rushed toward me and raised his hand to slap me across the face and then hesitated. I could see the crazed look in his eye and I wilted before him. But then he laughed and scoffed, dropping his hand to his side. “She is more woman than you ever will be. I will not waste any more time with you tonight.” He grabbed his clothes and left me.
He slammed the door behind him and my heart beat fast still. So much had happened in the last few years. My fairy Godmother had given me the glass slippers and the Prince had rescued me. But life had been harder in the royal family than I had thought. What had I done so wrong? I had tried everything I could think of to be a good and loving wife, but the Prince had always kept me at arm’s length. Even the words I spoke never seemed to be right to him at times. It was as though he wanted me for show only and I did not wish to really think about that. I needed to get away. I need some time to think, but the hour was late.
I put on my robe and then climbed underneath my bed. Hidden in a box, next to some other gifts given to me at our wedding, were my glass slippers. I took them out of the box and hid them in the folds of my robe and left my room. I walked, no, near ran, down the hallways toward the library, thinking that I would find a place to stay quiet and still. The books would help me calm down and then, when it was light outside, I would head back to my room and feign sickness for the day. My maids would understand after tonight’s dinner. No one would blame me for wanting to hide in my room after such an embarrassment.
I entered the library and saw that the moon’s light lit up a chair in the back. I went over and sat there and, I will admit, cried. I kept my voice low and let my tears flow into the folds of my robe. But after some time I grew tired and started to head back to my room, but stopped. A tiny mouse darted out from under my chair and went between two bookcases. I thought nothing of it, but in walking by, the light of the moon illuminated a piece of metal on the one shelf. It caught my eye and I went up to it and realized that it was a hook. I undid the hook and the bookcase moved slightly. With a gentle push, the entire bookcase moved away from the wall and I noticed a small opening.
Moonlight shone into the hole and I saw that it led into a small room. A table, several chairs and a few bookcases filled up the room. To the right, there were two windows that looked out to the gardens. A thick coating of dust covered everything. I brushed the chair off and sat down. I could see outside to the rose garden. In summer’s full bloom, the view would be breathtaking.
A book had been placed on the table and I reached over to browse through it, but it was filled with blank pages. A pen rested next to the book. I could see myself working here. I could write and no one would know what I was up to, and for all the sufferings that I would go through, I could write them in a diary and keep my secrets close.
I placed my glass slippers on the far end of the table and picked up the pen. Being left-handed, I held the pen and pretended to write in the book. A long time had passed since I had last written a word. My father had taught me how to write. Being a merchant, he wanted me to know how to do math and to keep track of all things so that I could get by in the world. My mother had taught me how to read. Between the two of them, I had a good sense of how to read and write, but I feared that I would be like a young child who learned for the first time. Yet it would make me so happy to write and to let my feelings out on the page and then to hide what I wrote so that no one would know. It would be my little secret. My writing would be a little rebellion that I could hide from the Prince so that I would not need to die a little each day with him.
I would be free until I could figure out a way to solve my problems with him. I was married to him and doubt that I could easily get out of that now. The King and Queen wanted heirs. They still needed me and I had a duty to perform. I waved the pen in the air like a magic wand and then started writing on a blank page. No ink came out, but I closed my eyes and just wrote. For how long I did that, I cannot say. But a bright light caused me to open my eyes.
There in front of me, the glass slippers glowed in their pearly white magic. I had not seen them light up with magic since the time the Prince had placed my missing slipper on me. In all that time, so much had happened and my Fairy Godmother had moved on to other things. I had married and then everything else happened. But there had been no magic since.
I could hear the birds chirping outside, announcing the approaching sunrise, and watched as the light from the slippers slowly faded. I needed to get back to my room before anyone noticed. I also needed time to plan and gather some ink, pens and books. Gathering the glass slippers, I left the room as I had found it and closed up the hidden room and crept back to my room. No one had noticed me missing and I climbed into bed. The Prince had left for his chambers and my maids had not come back. I fell asleep for a few hours and at mid-morning one of my maids woke me.
“Good morning, your Highness.” She smiled at me and handed me a wet, but warm, cloth.
I accepted and washed my face, enjoying the warmth. For not having many hours of sleep, I felt better than I had expected. “Thank you, Mary.”
“You are welcome. Would you like for me to bring you breakfast in bed today?”
“Does not the Prince want me at breakfast with him this morning?” I sat up concerned that our argument would spill over into other parts of our lives.
“You need not worry about that. He and his friends left before sunrise this morning to go hunting. You’ll not see his royal crankiness until late today at the earliest.”
“Mary!” I stifled a laugh.
Mary put her hands on her large hips and shrugged. “No man who treated you as he did last night at dinner gets respect from me. Pardon my being too familiar with you, but we will take good care of you. You are our Princess.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” I reached out and patted her hand.
She paused and then leaned forward. “If there is anything you need, let me know and I will help you.”
“Well, there are some things with which I could use your help. Can you get several bottles of ink for me, blank books and a pen?”
Mary raised her eyebrow. “I thought you might ask for a decent man for me to sneak into your bedchamber and here you are asking for books and writing utensils. Are you writing a novel or a play?”
I shook my head and kept my voice low. “No, it’s better than that. What I’m writing is a secret. I doubt anyone will ever read it.”
Mary crossed her arms. “Then your secret will be safe with me. I didn’t get to where I am by telling long stories about who did what when. I will get you what you need and keep your secret.”
I hugged Mary and smiled. “Thank you. I have a lot of work to do and I do not know if my writing will be good or bad, but it does not matter. It will be for me. And right now, I need that.”
Mary nodded in understanding. “A little hard work might do you good. And, who knows, maybe you will be a famous author one day?”
“Maybe.” I thought of the little hidden room and smiled. “But it does not matter. I simply want to write to be free. Does that make any sense?”
“Of course it does. Now let me get on with the rest of my day and you need to get dressed.” Mary took the wet washcloth from me and left the room.
I watched her go and hope filled my heart for the first time in a long, long while. I would go and write. And whatever I wrote in my secret diary would be for me and me alone. I bounded out of bed to get changed and started to get dressed. Today would be the start of a new day and it would be one for me and me alone.